Veteran lighting designer and Vectorworks software user Jeff Ravitz knows a thing or two about being the boss. After all, Ravitz is not only the Emmy-award winning founder of lighting firm Intensity Advisors, but also has been the lighting designer for The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, for three decades.
Ravitz recently spoke to Live Design for an exclusive webcast, “Lighting Perspectives with Jeff Ravitz,” about his experiences creating and evolving the vibrant shows for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, as well as lighting tips and techniques for other designers.
Here are three of Ravitz’s most enlightening pieces of industry wisdom:
Know Your Artist: Since partnering with the band for their Born to Run tour in 1984, Ravitz has learned the general flow of a Springsteen show and mastered techniques that accent the show’s energy. “For me, it was always about lighting the band and then creating the environment of light around them,” Ravitz said. “I took it as my obligation to not get in their way, but rather enhance what they’re already doing.”
After 32 years working with The Boss, Ravitz knows exactly what lighting Bruce loves in his live shows — and also what techniques to avoid. For instance, because Springsteen loves making sure all audience members in the venue can see the stage clearly, Ravitz has avoided using backdrops that might obscure the sightline to the stage. For Springsteen’s latest tour, he mounted vertical strip lights to the upstage railing to add depth to stage while still empowering Springsteen to make use of as much of the space as possible.
Go With What Works: Ravitz says that while the band’s performances have retained the same basic framework over the past several decades, new songs have been added to the band’s roster and the technology has improved greatly. He is always looking for new lighting technology that will complement the show and meet the performer’s needs.“I’ve always been a big fan of keeping what works and improving the rest,” he said. Ravitz’s designs for The River Tour 2016, which celebrated the re-release of Springsteen’s 1980 album “The River,” demonstrated that while lighting technology evolves, designers can still draw from classic styles to create a wow-worthy show. In fact, Ravitz specifically worked to emulate lighting techniques that would have been used at the time of the original album’s release with modern technology.
Refine Your Style: Throughout the years working and touring with Springsteen and a number of other performers, Ravitz has gotten his designs for shows down to a method. Knowing what styles work for different types of songs and shows, and how different lighting equipment affects the stage, helps Ravitz to “sculpt” the performers out of the darkness with carefully composed displays that enhance a mood or moment.
Ravitz has refined the composition of his shows so that a great deal of attention is paid to the three key elements: toning vertical surfaces, creating a color environment, and separating the musicians from the color. Ravitz uses all the tools at his disposal, including floor lighting, back and side lighting, textured and patterned washes, and a bold color statement on the stage surfaces, to help set a mood, direct the crowd’s attention, and create interesting visuals for audience members who view the stage from a variety of angles.
“Utilizing the tools at our disposal, we really can make each song look individual and unique,” Ravitz said.
Ravitz also gave webinar attendees a look at some of his preferred lighting fixtures and past lighting plots, as well as insight into how he uses Vectorworks Spotlight:
“It allows us to put all the data for every light onto the plot, create paperwork that goes out to everyone for patching purposes, as well as the team putting the system together in the shop, and we can share that back and forth with one another,” he said. “If I want to move a truss six feet higher or lower or closer or further, I can do it in a couple of seconds and I love that.”
Watch a recording of the full webcast and learn more of Ravtiz’s rocking techniques for painting stages with light over on Live Design. And if you’re going to be at LDI this week, stop by booth 337 to learn more about all of the tools and features in Vectorworks Spotlight software that empower Ravitz to design.