It's through live shows that the Zac Brown Band connects most strongly with its audience. Not only does Zac Brown like his audience to be seen, he wants them to feel they are a part of the show. Consequently, a quality tungsten audience blinder always has a role in a Zac Brown Band show.
Traditional tungsten 2-Lite blinders were a staple on the band’s early outings but on last year’s “Welcome Home” tour, which played shows across the U.S. from March to December, those discharge-based lights gave way to high-impact Elation Professional Cuepix Blinder WW2™ LED-based white light fixtures.
Production and lighting design for the tour was by UK-based production design company Okulus Ltd., who also handled creative direction and scenic design. Scott had been introduced to the Cuepix Blinder on another design tour, Passenger, in 2015, an outing where power consumption limitations were a concern and an LED fixture the solution. “Looking at the sheer quantity of blinders that Zac Brown wanted to use on this show, having all those dimmers and cabling didn’t make sense. We had to go LED and again chose Cuepix,” Scott commented.
The Cuepix white light fixtures not only give the classic look of a 2-lite or 4-lite blinder, they do it at a fraction of the power requirements. “The benefits were substantial from saving on infrastructure - cables and dimmers - to fewer man hours and eliminating bulb changes,” Scott said. The switch to LED not only adds up to reduced weight and money saved but the Cuepix Blinders are a more eco-friendly option for audience illumination.
The design included Cuepix Blinder WW2s, 22 on a front light truss downstage, 16 on a mid-stage truss, and 4 per side above a curved LED screen. A row of Cuepix units also worked from the floor in lighting carts that could easily be wheeled on and off the stage. The carts, which housed strobes, blinders and spots, were specifically designed to also be used as a festival floor package. Working with the Cuepix fixtures out on the road was Touring Lighting Director Chris Cockrill, who stated that the LED blinders were “rock solid night after night” and that “the WW2’s were a great addition to the tour design!”
More than just a blinder
Housing 2 or 4 long-life 100W warm white 3,200K COB LEDs for a bright, high-density output that mimics the look of an incandescent source, both the Cuepix Blinder WW2 and Cuepix Blinder WW4 feature individual pixel control as well as preprogrammed effects macros. “The color temperature from the Cuepix Blinders matches tungsten well, which makes it a direct swap out for a traditional blinder. They give that low-end color temperature tungsten feel, that warm fuzzy glow,” Scott said, adding that he used the unit’s in-built dimming curve but also created a custom dimming profile for them on the lighting console. “But the best thing about the fixture,” he says, “is its ability to strobe. It’s more than just a blinder. It’s incredibly bright and we used them to do some heavy strobing in the show.” Another good thing about them being LED, Scott says, is that the blinders could stay attached on top of the truss, directly next to all of the cable infrastructure, without the worry of heat causing any damage. “That made them easy to transport and we didn’t have to worry about things like heat or broken bulbs.”
Lighting supply for the “Welcome Home” tour, which was described as ‘wildly successful’ with most dates selling out, was by live event production company Special Event Services. Jeff Cranfill at Special Event Services says they have been pleased with the Cuepix fixtures since adding them to inventory. “We have had great success using the Cuepix Blinders as an alternative to traditional DWE fixtures,” he states. “The output and coverage work well in a variety of venue sizes. The color temperature is warm and the dimmer curve represents an incandescent fixture very well. The speed of the LED source has given our programmers new options with effects not available with traditional blinder fixtures. The savings on dimmers, cable and power needs is another benefit. The fixtures have been very reliable indoors and outdoors and with all of these great qualities we will continue to add them to our inventory.”
Photos: Courtesy of Okulus