‘The performances spanned the breadth of what country music is today’ (photo: Rick Kern/Getty Images)

USA - Lighting designer Tom Kenny utilised Elation lighting for both the indoor and outdoor stages at the 2024 CMT Music Awards earlier this spring. The lighting package, supplied by 4Wall, included Proteus Excalibur, Artiste Mondrian, and Dartz 360 luminaires, among other fixtures.

Broadcast live from the Moody Centre on the University of Texas campus in Austin, performances took place inside and on an outdoor stage in front of the University of Texas Tower. Lighting direction for the indoor show was by Felix Peralta, David ‘Fuji’ Convertino, and Michelle Griesmer, with Han Henze and Matt Piercy handling lighting direction on the outdoor stage. Production design was by Anne Brahic, her 15th year working the awards show.

Kenny was in his 12th year designing for the CMTs and his experience and proven approach are integral to the successful team effort. After familiarising himself with the songs, he works closely with the production team regarding camera angles to make sure the lighting looks compelling for the millions of at-home viewers, and after rehearsal time tweaks the lighting to ensure the artist is fully satisfied.

Kenny says he strives to make the lighting unique each time, adding drama while staying within the architectural look that Anne Brahic and her team have created. Video, naturally, was a dominant aspect of the look and the designer worked purposefully with colour to blend lighting with video, harmonizing the LED screens with complementary lighting.

Elation lighting was prominently featured, especially outdoors at the UT Tower stage, where IP65-rated Proteus Excalibur beam effects were required to withstand rain while lighting up the entire skyline. “I love these fixtures,” Kenny said, emphasising that the Texas weather was always a factor, making IP fixtures a priority on the outdoor set. He placed the Excaliburs upstage on the deck, behind the band. “Their power and luminance had to be dialled back to avoid overwhelming the scene,” he said. “It’s great when a light is already too bright and it’s all up to the designer to correct it.”

Additional to the Elation package were Dartz 360 LED beam/spot fixtures, small moving heads that feature a tight three-degree beam. Their compact size and light weight allowed Kenny to position them throughout the house and on the University walls in the outdoor rig. Kenny says the Dean of the University loved how they lit the buildings and foliage, remarking that they even asked for his contact details post-show so they could acknowledge him personally. “It’s always an interesting life being a lighting designer for CMT as they’re always breaking the rules on where a location should be,” Kenny comments. “It’s what makes these shows fan favourites.”

The CMT Music Awards made their return to Austin for a second consecutive year, after more than 20 years in Nashville, fully embracing Texas’s current status as a hotbed of country music. Inside at the main show, production designer Anne Brahic highlighted the city of Austin and its Congress Street Bridge with an asymmetrical set that extended to the heights of the venue and into the audience.

To cover the space, a large lighting package was used to light both set and talent, and included Elation’s 51,000-lumen Artiste Mondrian LED profile fixture. The Mondrian, with its strong beam and seven-flag SpectraColor system, were used both in the main show and throughout the outdoor rig at UT tower. “The Mondrians cut through the strong video sources with the strong palettes created by Trevor Burke and Kat Folts,” Kenny remarked.

Onstage, the celebration of country music featured a host of performances that thrilled fans and spanned the breadth of what country music is today. Behind the scenes, a collaborative production team worked tirelessly to ensure another year of success.

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