May 01, 2023
LIVE OAK, Florida—To provide powerful and immersive visual experiences at Suwannee Hulaween 2022, production designers Michael Smalley and Chris Ruppel partnered with Music Matters Productions to deploy an impressive rig featuring a range of Martin lighting fixtures.
Founded in 2013, Suwannee Hulaween is an annual music and camping festival hosted by The String Cheese Incident (SCI) at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida. Hulaween’s long running tradition is that SCI plays multiple sets on each night of the festival. The 2022 edition of Suwannee Hulaween was held on October 27 – 30 and featured performances by Sylvan Esso, Margo Price, Portugal. The Man, Black Pumas, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Louis the Child, Fearless Flyers, STS9, the Disco Biscuits and many more.
To ensure a multisensory experience for festival goers and guest artists alike, festival producer Etix turned to SCI’s trusted lighting designers Michael Smalley and Chris Ruppel of PHNTM Labs to create a rig that would be suitable for the headliners and bright enough for the daytime sets, in addition to visually supporting SCI’s multiple performances. With the help of Atlanta-based production company Music Matters Productions, Smalley and Ruppel devised and deployed an impressive stage lighting rig featuring a large quantity of Martin fixtures, including the new MAC Ultra Performance.
“With a festival like Hulaween, we have guest lighting operators with headliners and up-and-coming artists alike,” said Smalley. “I’m a firm believer that if you give someone top-notch tools, it’s going to bring out the best in their work. The audience gets an enriched experience when the operators are inspired by the gear they’re using. The overall goal was to make the lights bright enough to see during the day. It’s easy to make stuff look cool at night, but many acts are playing during the day and we want something that would look equally good at day and at night.”
Built to support the biggest live events, the MAC Ultra Performance is a high output LED moving head profile fixture based on Martin’s all new 1150 W, 6000 K proprietary LED light engine, and pushes an incredible 46,500 lumens in projection. The fixture’s benchmark output across the entire zoom range helped Smalley and Ruppel achieve their goal of creating a lighting rig powerful enough to provide stunning visual experiences at the festival even during the daytime performances.
“This was my first time using the Ultra Performance fixtures,” said Smalley. “I was impressed when I saw a demonstration of them, but I never really trust a light until I get to run it myself in real world conditions. We used MAC Ultra Performances where I would usually put a spot fixture. The MAC Ultra Performance is super bright and punchy, even when running rainbow effects and other things that generally decrease your output. With lights that bright, you don’t even need haze to get the full experience, even during the daytime sets. To be able to see the Ultra beams during the day was completely amazing. Ten out of ten, will do again.”
To complement the MAC Ultra Performance’s unmatched brightness, the lighting team rounded out the rig with MAC Axiom Hybrid and MAC Viper Profile fixtures providing beautiful washes and creative eye candy. The MAC Axiom Hybrid is a true all-in-one fixture, combining beam and spot into one compact unit that also offers diffused wash functionality. This versatility helped Smalley deliver unique looks that disrupt a traditional wash approach with more defined beam and visible coverage patterns. Smalley also praised the Viper Profile’s vibrant color mixing and linear CTO design, helping to deliver a superior palette of colors including authentic tungsten, true reds, rich ambers, primary green and deep blues.
“We used the MAC Axiom Hybrid fixtures in a more supportive role,” said Smalley. “Like what a wash would do, without the washiness. I like to see a tighter beam come down. The Axioms can get nice and right beams. The Viper Profiles were our downstage wash fixture, one for each band member. I’m relying on LED stuff less and less. I don’t like LED lights that look like LED lights. Switching over to the Viper gave me that lamp feel I like. I get the full spectrum. I have whole looks that are very warm, with amber and tungsten feels, and then I have hyper cool looks, like midnight blue. All of the lights in the rig need that kind of flexibility. That’s why I like lamp-based fixtures like the Viper. It’s a real lamp with CTO in front of it, instead of using LED color corrections and doing advanced math just to get a warm color.”
Smalley and Ruppel both expressed a longtime confidence in using Martin fixtures for their productions. They noted reliability and consistency in Martin fixtures’ performance, programmability and ease of maintenance, in addition to Martin’s commitment to quality customer support.
“When I get to use a new Martin fixture for the first time, I can plug it into the console right out of the box and it works,” said Ruppel. “Maintenance on Martin fixtures is phenomenal. They actually really thought about how to pull a module out, repair it and put it back. Other manufacturers don’t even think about that kind of stuff. Martin’s technical support is always great. I have two reps I can call at any time and they always make sure we have what we need as lighting professionals. We even asked them to add a control channel for an upcoming show and they got it to us in time.”
“Ruppel and I have been heavy Martin loyalists for a long time,” added Smalley. “Martin puts mindfulness into how a programmer and designer is going to utilize these lights. The way they set up their DMX channels is intuitive. The less time we have to spend learning the ins and outs of a new fixture, the faster we can get to work on the artistic side and make magic. On a personal level, Martin was busting out hit after hit when I was coming up. For me, there’s a deep aspirational quality about getting to use Martin gear. I’m always rooting for them to make something new for me to get super excited about—and that’s the MAC Ultra Performance right now.”
Smalley also related his enthusiastic appreciation of the role played by Music Matters Productions in ensuring a successful festival experience for everyone involved. Music Matter Productions supplied and deployed the audio, video and lighting rigs at Suwannee Hulaween 2022.
“The Hulaween rig was provided by Music Matters Productions out of Atlanta,” said Smalley. “They did all the lighting, video, rigging, audio, and they have fantastic in-house operators. We made the drawings, handed it over and they smashed it. People really enjoyed the lighting rig. We’re always trying to do something unique. People appreciated that there was an overall aesthetic that tied the festival together. The overall look and feel of the theme came across really well.”