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Sharpy performs ‘brilliantly’ on X Factor USA
Lighting Designer
Tom Kenny
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Clay Paky Sharpy fixtures are gaining in popularity in the USA with extensive exposure on Simon Cowell’s music talent show The X Factor as well as the recent MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) telecast.

Already one of the most in-demand moving heads on the touring market – Sharpy is currently on tour with Usher, the Foo Fighters, Peter Gabriel, Keith Urban, Gretchen Wilson, Bruno Mars and others – Sharpy is now being recognized by the TV production community for its small footprint, fast response and laser-like beam, a hat-trick of attributes perfect for televised productions.

The much-anticipated X Factor, whose franchise originated in the UK, marks the return of Simon Cowell who created the high-stakes singing competition’s format and is one of four judges who each mentor a finalist in a particular category while judging contestants in the other categories.

Lighting designer Tom Kenny traveled with lighting director Brian Klunder and programmer Dirk Optende as the new show made talent stops across the country in Chicago, New York, Miami, Dallas and Seattle.  Then they settled into LA’s Pasadena Theater for two weeks of production with four trucks of lighting gear from PRG.

Kenny was introduced to Clay Paky Sharpy moving heads in London and was eager to use them on The X Factor. “They are such a small unit and very easy to put anywhere,” which comes in handy with set designers and directors who don’t want to see lighting units on camera, he notes.  But the small footprint of the Sharpy belies their power. “The output of the Sharpy surpasses any other light,” Kenny says.  “I had them alongside 3K and 4K units, and they just cut right through.”

Tipping the scales at just 16 kg, the Sharpy produces a perfectly parallel, laser-like beam with an incredible output of 5,100 footcandles at 65 feet.  Sharpy also produces a pristine beam, sharply defined and free of any halo or discoloration around the edges.  It offers an interchangeable color wheel with 14 fixed colors and an interchangeable gobo wheel with 17 fixed gobos, allowing users to change the shape of the beam and create an array of mid-air effects.

For The X Factor, Kenny deployed 18 Sharpy fixtures on the floor and another 18 on the rig“They provided this big, graphic, powerful, stadium look that the producers wanted,” he recalls.  “The days for the live auditions were very long, but the Sharpys performed brilliantly – they would be on for 16 hours with no problems.  Their focusability and shape were amazing.  The judges were very impressed with the look of the show.”

Kenny also decided to use Sharpy fixtures on the MTV Video Music Awards show, which aired live from LA’s Nokia Theatre on August 28.

“I had 6,000 bulbs on the VMAs this year, so the show had a lot of lumens,” he says. “VER purchased 40 custom-made platinum Sharpys that stood out against the white set.  The compact size of the fixtures also helped with the low-profile lighting plan that production designer Florian Wieder and I came up with.”

Kenny notes that “the Sharpys cut through all the masses of lighting I had on the VMAs.  They outshone most of the other lights with their sharp beams and great color.  In fact, many of the artists and entourages commented on how gorgeous they were and how so much punch could come from the little platinum guy.” Kenny teamed with programmers Mike Appel and Dirk Optende on the awards telecast.

“I plan to use Sharpys on all my future shows – they are just great to work with,” says Kenny. “They punch through at any height, even without smoke.”