Robe Dances with the Stars in the USA
Friday, 16 October 2020
robe-dancing-with-the-stars-usa-img9283The set was designed by Florian Wieder (photo: Tom Sutherland)
USA - The 29th series of the popular TV dance competition Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) returned to ABC this month with new host Tyra Banks and 178 x Robe MegaPointes on the lighting plot as part of lighting designer Tom Sutherland’s precision-crafted epic look for the first series performed without a live audience.
It is being broadcast until the end of November from CBS Television City, West Hollywood, California.
Tom’s company DX7 Design was initially asked to develop lighting for the 2019 season by executive producer Andrew Llinares. He, Tom, and director Phil Heyes - who has been on DWTS USA for five years - have also all previously worked together including a while back on X-Factor in the UK.
The set - including the extensive video elements like a giant LED panel chandelier filled with lights - was designed by Florian Wieder.
Felix Lighting also supplied 16 Robe BMFL WashBeams to the show plus four BMFL Blades which are running with four separate RoboSpot base station systems for remote operation. Additional Robe products are brought in weekly as extras for specific routines, joining around 900 lighting fixtures being utilised by Tom in total, all supplied by Felix Lighting.
The absence of a live audience threw up the massive challenge of filling the studio space and evoking the vibrancy and atmosphere of having real people there, a goal that is being achieved with additional lighting and screen elements.
A large upstage video wall tracks open / closed for host entrances and exits, while a large LED PAR can wall behind it is a nod to classic dance hall style. Downstage of this are some art deco scenic towers which also track on and offstage.
An angled LED pros arch is flanked left and right by slanting video screens covering some of the audience seating, and their shape is mirrored lengthways along the dancefloor by the pairs of angled scenic beams - all with MegaPointes rigged to the undersides.
“MegaPointes are the workhorse fixture of the show,” stated Tom who chose them because he needed a dynamic multi-purpose fixture able to deliver a wide and almost endless range of effects needed throughout the series, in which the creative team can imagine over 150 different signature looks for different dance routines, each of which has to be beautiful, appropriate and distinctive.
The BMFL WashBeams are rigged on two vertical towers left and right of the pros arch, ideally placed for assisting in closing the set down for more intimate and dramatic moments. Tom needed a light source that was “Bright, powerful and versatile” to fill these back-of-camera shots.
The four RoboSpot controlled BMFL Blades are positioned in the four corners of the dancefloor.
Tom is working alongside a DX7 Design team comprising lighting programmers Joe Holdman and Nate Files, and they are using a grandMA control system, and Hunter Selby is his assistant LD.
The lighting gaffer is AJ Taylor, best boy is Danny Vincent, the Felix lighting techs are James Coldicott and Dominic Adame and the account manager at Felix is Nicole Barnes.
Working in a Covid-safe environment has been a galvanizing experience for everyone.
The crew are all tested weekly and the studio has been zoned so artists, crew, celebrities and other staff ‘bubbles’ all utilize separate green rooms, eating areas, bathrooms, entrances and exits, etc., and can avoid mixing. Masks are worn at all times and they also rigorously social distance.

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