LED Automated Fixtures Enter the Cage on Bellator

In recent years, the sporting world has seen a meteoric rise in interest in Mixed Martial Arts, and television production companies have responded. Joining the competitive arena of MMA broadcasting, MTV produces the action-packed, 12 week tournament named Bellator, a single-elimination event that features some of the best fighters in a winner-take-all competition.  Behind the scenes of the nationally televised series, lighting designer David Zeffren and assistant Amy Harper of Frank Gatto & Associates, have created a unique lighting design that is unlike any other MMA broadcast.

“The Bellator Fighting Championship is a one-of-a-kind event that puts top fighters into a single elimination tournament and allows the fighters themselves to control who is named champion in the end,” began Zeffren.  “And like the competition itself, our lighting design is also unique in that we are the first MMA broadcast to use a fully automated rig for our TV lighting instead of conventional tungsten fixtures. This year, as we were getting ready to launch the Season 5 tournament, we wanted to look at new automated lighting that would give us more accurate color temperature control and better optics.”

At a product demonstration in New York, Zeffren was introduced to the VLX Wash from Philips Vari-Lite.

“The most significant aspect of the light that initially struck me was the flatness of the beam field. We use multiple cameras from multiple angles, and it’s difficult with other automated fixtures to get a true flat field across the whole space that you are lighting. The VLX Wash is extremely even from the center of the beam to the edge. There is literally no level drop and this translates to a better shot for TV.

“But the characteristic that I like most about the VLX Wash is that you can literally dial-in any color temperature you want. This means I can give the video engineer an exact and consistent color temperature to work with – and that goes a long way on a television shoot, especially when a color temperature other than the common 3200 Kelvin is being used.”

The VLX Wash has become the workhorse of the Bellator lighting rig. “During a summer event in Ft. Lauderdale, we rented a VLX Wash package from Zenith Lighting, and this was the first time that the full production team would get to see them in action… It was requested that I bring the VLX Wash units back for the full Bellator production, which I did, with 30 VLX Wash luminaires from Scharff Weisberg who has been providing gear and tour support since the first season of Bellator.”

For HDTV, VLX technology offers an advantage over other LED fixtures, Zeffren explained. “With the VLX Wash, the colors are completely merged before they ever leave the fixture. And you need to be very careful when using a large number of other LED fixtures because the colors might merge outside the light, and when dealing with high definition cameras you might not be able to get a consistent color temperature.”

Now airing on MTV2 on Saturdays at 9:00 pm EST, Bellator continues to pit some of the world’s most dynamic and exciting MMA fighters against one another. But while the live crowds and fighters themselves may only be aware of the mounting excitement, Zeffren knows that for HDTV, the VLX Wash is a contender.