NEW YORK – A new and unproven program that opens against the season debut of the NFL’s Sunday Night Football, the US Open Men’s Finals and the return of Fear of the Walking Dead might not be expected to draw a large audience, but Univision’s La Banda defied expectations by pulling in 2.6 million viewers in the US and earning the distinction of being the most tweeted about program in its time slot when it premiered on September 13. Of course, it helped that the Simon Cowell-produced reality show, which searched for the next Latin boy band, had stars like Ricky Martin on its panel of judges, was brimming with vibrant young talent, and featured a scintillating Tom Sutherland-designed lightshow.
Sutherland and lighting director/programmer Craig Caserta used a large and varying collection of CHAUVET Professional fixtures to spice up the set and support the performances of the aspiring young artists during La Banda’s three-month inaugural season. “We wanted to create bold looks for each of the performers who competed during the course of the show,” said Sutherland. “So naturally we wanted to change up the design from episode to episode, while still remaining consistent.”
Although the exact number of fixtures in the La Banda rig varied from one episode to the next, it included an average of 16 Nexus 4×4 COB LED panels, 40 COLORdash Accent RGBW fixtures and 20 COLORado 1-Tri Tour par style units, as well as a variety of hybrids, moving beams, spots and washes. In keeping with the designer’s goal of constantly changing looks, the fixtures were positioned differently on structures that were reconfigured for every episode.
A key contributor to the variety that enlivened the La Banda set were the Nexus panels. Using a grandMA2 full-size console, Caserta controlled each of the 27-watt RGB cells in every Nexus unit individually to create patterns and shapes that morphed throughout the performances. (Chris Delorenzo, a programmer on the design team, used a grandMA2 Lite to control audience and dancer lighting packages.)
“Nexus gave us great eye candy that not only looked good live, but came off very well on camera,” said Caserta. “We got a wide variety of colors from the panels, and we used them all to match the lighting and video for each particular song. So just by playing with different patterns and changing colors, we got a lot of different looks from the Nexus without having to go to a new fixture, which really helped make life easier for us over the course of the entire season.”
The COLORdash Accents also added flexibility to the La Banda rig. Sutherland counted on the compact quad-color LED fixtures to dial back the intensity level on slower, more romantic songs, using them to create a twinkling star-like effect for the camera.
“We used the COLORdashes and COLORados to reflect varied moods on the set,” said Sutherland. “While the COLORdash fixtures created this soft mellow atmosphere, the COLORados added some real punch. Their colors were deep and intense. For some episodes we placed the COLORado fixtures on downstage truss to give the set a very definitive and bold structure. Don Winters, our gaffer, set up the COLORados and the COLORdashes in a 1.5-minute video package or a 3.5-minute commercial break every week, which was quite a feat. ”
A runaway hit, La Banda reached an impressive 18.8 million total viewers in its first season. (Univision has already renewed the show for next year.) All the stops were pulled out for the final episode, which featured guest performances by Pitbull and Wisin. The excitement level was turned up even higher as the winners of the reality show competition were announced on December 13. More lighting impact was needed for this climatic final episode — and the show’s flexible lighting rig was most definitely ready to deliver.