After 15 seasons on FOX, American Idol moved to ABC this year where the show’s longtime lighting designer, Kieran Healy, added 50 Ghibli fixtures, Ayrton’s first LED spot luminaire with a factory-equipped framing system, to the rig. ACT Lighting, Inc. is the exclusive distributor of Ayrton lighting in North America.

“This year’s design for the American Idol studio shows has a moving ceiling with eight different panels,” says Healy. “I don’t have fixed lighting positions to key the judges since the ceiling can be in many different positions. I was looking for a new moving head spot fixture with an even field to put in the rig so I could take any pair of lights and key the judges from any angle.”

Healy opted for 50 Ghibli fixtures, five of which are dedicated to keying and backlighting the judges while the balance serve as performance lighting. The fixtures were provided by PRG.

Ghibli delivers a light output of 23,000 lumens in a highly compact format. Its proprietary optical system produces an extremely uniform fat beam with no hot spot. Ghibli’s selection of gobos and colors was made in collaboration with lighting designers to meet the needs of the entertainment industry.

ACT Lighting arranged a demo of the new Ghibli and other moving head spots for Healy at Volt Lighting. “LED spotlights are really just coming up to speed,” Healy notes. “Ghibli immediately struck me as a great instrument. The output, even field, colour rendition and framing shutters were all important to me. It stood out amongst the other lights.”

Given the Ghibli’s many attributes, “the main thing for me was the evenness of the field,” he says. “You need that for key lighting faces on TV, especially three judges. The colour rendition was important too: We’re using 4700º Kelvin as our key colour temperature. I love how once we set one Ghibli fixture to that temperature we’re able to copy it to all the other units. That’s an incredibly timesaving feature. You don’t want have to set 50 units individually.”

Healy also likes that “the framing shutters help contain any spill around the subjects,” and he enjoys the Ghibli’s “colour, gobos and speed of movement” as theatrical lighting.

Healy uses other Ayrton fixtures on American Idol as well. “The upstage vertical screen splits four ways horizontally and vertically to expose three different light walls when the screens are in different positions,” he explains. “Ayrton MagicBlade™ and MagicPanel™ fixtures, hung vertically, are revealed to create beam effects and eye candy for various numbers.”

Healy has had an enviable career in lighting design. He was lighting designer for The Who at the age of 22 and soon counted The Rolling Stones, Genesis and ELO among his touring clients. Since he left the nomadic life for television, Healy has been nominated for 16 Emmy Awards taking one home in 2009 for American Idol. He served as a Television Academy Governor representing the Lighting, Camera and Technical Arts Peer Group from 2012-2017.

So it’s high praise indeed when Healy calls the Ghibli “definitely a go-to light” in his lighting kit from now on. “It’s not just a theatrical luminaire,” he says. “It’s a moving spot head that’s able to key light people. And the reliability of the LED engine is very important, knowing you’ll get exactly the same white light out of each unit.”

Healy’s team on American Idol includes Programmer Harry Sangmeister and Lighting Director Don Winters.

Photos: © ABC/Eric McCandless

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