Behind the Scenes with Fixtures Foreman Damon Liebowitz
The Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy series follows a futuristic, adult themed amusement park intended for rich vacationers starring Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden, Ed Harris and Jimmi Simpson. The Old West themed park is looked after by robotic hosts, allowing its visitors to live out their fantasies as they interact with the hosts in various, scripted scenarios. Like another of HBO’s other hit shows, Game of Thrones, it’s the kind of series that will captivate you, draw you in immediately, and make you think. Season 1 of the HBO original series garnered widespread critical acclaim with critics praising the gorgeous cinematography, the stunningly detailed futuristic sets, and magnetic performances.
With the Season 2 premiere right around the corner, I caught up with Fixtures Foreman Damon Liebowitz who gave us some insight on some of the creative ways he helped illuminate the sets of this Sci-Fi Mystery Thriller the second time around. The backdrop of Westworld calls for quite a rare unconventional setting. Liebowitz worked with Gaffer Len Levine once again, so they were both aware heading into the new season that formulating this world again would be no easy task. “Westworld is a very unique show. It has one foot in the old west with candle lit settings, but its other foot is firmly planted in the future,” says Liebowitz.
The Mariposa Saloon is the local saloon and brothel in Sweetwater, Westworld. It’s run by madam Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton), one of the main characters on the show. The saloon is one of the core “old west” locations, so replicating candle light for this set would be a top priority. “The Mariposa Saloon was a challenging location to use modern LED lighting as candlelight,” says Liebowitz. He adds, “Len liked that LED can be dimmed without color shift, so in Season 1, Michael Lowrance created a bright and controllable LED bulb using 120 X1 Tungsten LiteRibbon. It worked great! In season 2, we altered the shape of the bulb a bit to be slimmer. The newer design helped with smaller hurricane glass fixtures and created more space between LED and diffusion to avoiding seeing the emitter dots.”
The prime futuristic section of the show takes place at the Delos Incorporated headquarters. Delos is the subsidiary company which controls and operates Westworld. It is here where Liebowitz and crew were able to fully utilize a massive amount of LiteRibbon. “In Delos, the Art Department went all out utilizing the Hi Tech look that LED lighting provides,” says Liebowitz. He adds, “Illuminated walkways, vanity mirrors, laboratories, and modern living quarters; just some of the environments we were challenged to light. Len’s first choice is usually 120 X1 Hybrid LiteRibbon so he can quickly and easily adjust the color temp of a fixture. When we needed to provide options for color beyond daylight or tungsten, meters of Chroma RGB-Tungsten or RGB-Daylite LiteRibbon were used, which gives an almost infinite selection of colors and a better white than just mixing RGB. For control we mostly use LiteGear 4x4V3 DMX Dimmers. They are reliable, easy to use, and have proven to be the workhorse of our industry. First Unit techs love the manual DMX address adjustment feature which comes in handy, as oppose to checking a DIP switch chart in the heat of battle.”
One of the main sets at the Delos headquarters, the Behavior Lab, had eighty 4ft double fluorescent fixtures installed in the ceiling track powered by LiteGear xFlo ballasts. “Len is very fond of the way fluorescents respond to dimmers so we used them quite a bit,” says Liebowitz. He adds, “Whenever Set Dec chose fluorescent fixtures for the various swing sets and locations we always had some xFlo’s standing by.”
LiteMats also made their way into the Westworld universe. “Multiple LiteMats were utilized by Rigging and 1st Unit,” says Liebowitz. He adds, “They are a great tool for various situations. A grated walkway was lit by 30 LiteMats, which gave Len color/dimming control and was easily installed. They were also mounted in situations where a low profile fixture was needed.”
If you haven’t seen the show, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s an enjoyable Sci-Fi puzzle that boldy unfolds with many surprising twists and turns. Westworld Season 2 premieres April 22nd on HBO.