The three-hour event was broadcast on CBS
USA - The 2023 CMT Music Awards moved from Nashville to Austin this year. The three-hour event, which was broadcast on CBS, radiated a fresh, vibrant energy that instantly captured attention with its distinctive colour schemes, boldly outlined stage, and dramatic catwalks.
Tom Kenny, who created the lighting design for the event at The Moody Centre, credits the change of venue with inspiring him, production designer Ann Brahic, and the rest of their team to reach deep into their creative wells to come up with their bold, and highly original, looks.
“The whole process of moving to the hip city of Austin gave us all a big hit of adrenalin,” said Kenny. “Everyone jumped in to have fun and worked hard at getting the show into a great place. We began the week outdoors, at the stage off Congress, with a big show by Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban that put the whole city in a extra intense music mood.
Working closely together, Kenny and Brahic focused on designing looks that were massive, but also clean and direct. To do this, they built their concept around linear arrangements of lights and video walls, displaying carefully selected and uncomplicated colour palettes.
A defining element of the design was the configuration of variously shaped video walls, mostly rectangular strips. Arranged vertically and horizontally, these walls displayed a variety of colours, often bold, vibrant hues like fuchsia, to reflect the personalities of the performing artists. Adding to the impact of the walls were Chauvet Professional COLORado PXL Bar fixtures, which like the rest of the rig, were supplied and installed by 4Wall Entertainment.
Kenny used 64 of the colour-coordinated motorised battens to outline the walls and the catwalks. “Having the bright and colourful COLORados accent the key elements of the design gave it a very modern look for both the live and TV audiences,” he said. “They were great for the colour changes that we used to create fresh looks for each act.”
Creating those diverse looks for the show’s performers, a group that included Carrie Underwood, Jelly Roll, Kane Katelyn Brown, Gwen Stefani and Carly Pearce, and Lainey Wilson, were lighting directors Felix Peralta and Fuji Cortina.
The Z-shaped catwalk that extended well into the middle of the seating area made it easier for the design team to conjure up their unique looks, as did a second platform positioned stage right. In keeping with the designers’ vision of fostering inclusivity, this arrangement also created a greater sense of intimacy in the arena.
Pulling the crowd in the spacious venue even closer together, were the dramatic aerial effects that ran over the entire seating area. The rig’s 144 Maverick MK3 Washes were used to produce inviting aerial washes and were also counted on to accent the stage. Additionally, the RGBW washes helped serve up evocative audience lighting. Kenny and the design team often washed the crowd in out-of-the-ordinary upbeat moody colours like light blue, resulting in more memorable live and televised scenes.
“We wanted people to feel they were watching something special, whether they were at the Moody Centre or viewing the show from home,’ said Kenny.

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