Alabama’s Mars Music Hall opens with Elation
Tuesday, 19 May 2020
mars-music-hallMars Music Hall debuted its Elation Professional lighting rig in early January
USA - Mars Music Hall in Huntsville is changing the landscape of the music scene in northern Alabama. The latest success in an ongoing expansion project at the multi-purpose Von Braun Centre (VBC), Mars Music Hall debuted its Elation Professional lighting rig in early January, an occasion that set an upbeat tone for the next eight weeks of shows before the venue went into COVID-19 hibernation.
The inaugural show, a 3 January sold-out performance featuring Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, highlighted the intimate character of the venue’s broad design with its wrapping balcony overlooking a 50ft wide stage. A variety of events ranging from concerts to comedy acts and everything in between play the new venue.
Justin Young, production supervisor at VBC, designed the lighting system for the new space and worked with Freed Sales to secure an Elation lighting package. Having developed a relationship with the rep firm that goes back many years, he says he knew Dustin Pesnell and his team would take good care of them.
“At the theatrical lighting shop I was at before I came to VBC, I saw how well Freed took care of us and over time we bought a lot of Elation gear,” he comments. “I know the brand well and knew I wanted to deal with a company that I could trust. I’m perfectly happy with the equipment but that wasn’t my driving factor in choosing Elation. Relationship and experience were key.”
First opened in 1975, Von Braun Centre, with an indoor arena, concert hall, playhouse, convention spaces, banquet halls, and a full-service restaurant has grown to be one of the busiest event centres in the country. Production in its 34 individual rental spaces, be it a wedding, prom, convention, corporate event or high-profile touring act, can all be handled in house. The additional 1,575 capacity Mars Music Hall has filled the need for increased concert demand.
“It’s the only space at VBC with a fully automated lighting system and I knew from the start that I wanted to go with all LED,” Young says. “Not only did we not want to mess with lamps but we’re trying to get our power draw footprint down as far as we can and this was an obvious area to help with that.”
Wanting to create a malleable rig, “something that has a little bit for any type of programmer,” Young started with colour wash possibilities. “A big focus of that and something I knew I had to have was a good stage wash and I knew the Fuze Wash with its RGBW COB LED engine would be ideal for that. It’s also important to me to have a good colour wash because we have quite a few acts that come through who are a bit old school and they want a lot of colour wash.”
Filling out the rig are compact DARTZ 360 LED beam/spot moving heads used for powerful aerial beam effects from overhead truss and floor positions; SixBar 1000 LED battens hung across the upstage truss to downlight the curtain or frame out the stage; Cuepix Blinder WW4s providing high-impact white light from the midstage truss; and SixPar 100s populating every stick of truss as colourful truss warming effects.
On each side of the stage are LED screens running Arkaos media server content. Harkening back to his days as manager of a production house, Young says the rig is all tour grade equipment. “It’s basically a road rig in a permanent application. We could literally take the whole rig down, pack it in a truck and set it up somewhere else.”
Colour Pendants installed by Axis Productions of Muscle Shoals, Alabama provide a dynamic house lighting solution above the audience, allowing for more dynamic house looks and more immersive designs. “Because we are the Mars Music Hall, in theme the doors and intermission look is house at red. Even if we didn’t do any other effects, being able to do that with the Colour Pendants definitely pulls the whole room together,” he concludes.

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