By Patricia Faulhaber | Photo by Gery Petrof
Founded by Paul Vincent in 1978, VLS offers a wide variety of lighting and production services, project services, and products to arts centers, educational and religious organizations, entertainment events, weddings, and corporations. Headquartered in Cleveland, VLS also has offices in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
Hons is a production manager for VLS in the Cleveland office. He’s been involved with numerous lighting projects for a variety of venues and events. He says VLS provides rigging and power distribution in addition to lighting. He says it takes a lot of planning to turn the lights on for any project.
“Every event is different except for one aspect, and that’s working with the customer, the designer, and others to make sure all the lighting needs are met, be it a wedding or a national broadcast of a television show,” Hons says.
Projects begin by meeting with clients to determine specific lighting needs and to draw up a floor plan that details where tables and chairs will be and where the stage will be. VLS takes the floor plan and what the customer wants to do with lighting and develops a design to fit the event.
The company recently provided lighting for the Buckeye Welcome Bash on Cleveland’s Public Square for the RNC. The project involved custom rigging and two lighted circle trusses floating over the audience during the Rascal Flats concert. There were also moving lights to project texture over the seated areas.
“The texture lighting creates a dramatic experience versus using plain lighting. That was a one-day event that required us to set up in the morning, stay with the event all day, and tear it down at the end of the night,” Hons said.
VLS did other lighting projects for RNC events, including lighting the stage for a Three Dog Night concert in Voinovich Park and lighting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Great Lakes Science Center. They also hung close to 30,000 linear feet of bistro lights over East 9th Street.
Most of the lighting professionals working for VLS have a background in entertainment or theatrical lighting. Many have a bachelor’s degree in fine arts (BFA) or a master’s (MFA). The company is an ETCP-recognized employer. The Entertainment Technician Certification Program (ETCP) recognizes individuals who demonstrate knowledge, skills, and abilities in specific disciplines within the entertainment technology field.
VLS works with a wide spectrum of events. Hons says they’ve provided lighting for corporate events, conventions, galas, fundraisers, concerts, weddings, festivals, and many other types and sizes of events. It has worked with dozens of large-scale events requiring intricate lighting, rigging displays, and stationary and moving lights suspended above performers and guests.
“We’ve worked with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Playhouse Square, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. We have provided lighting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame events for over a decade. VLS has provided lighting for the induction ceremony, the Gold Jacket dinner, fashion show, and for the tents set up on the campus during Hall of Fame week. We work alongside the NFL network and the producer to light the Gold Jacket Ceremony,” Hons says.
Since many of the Pro Football Hall of Fame events are nationally broadcast, Hons says VLS takes the needed steps to make sure the illumination creates a polished environment that can be appreciated in person and through the camera’s eye.
“One of the big challenges involved with the Hall of Fame week events is installing the thousands of pounds of lighting, audio, and rigging hanging from the Canton Civic Center’s grid. We don’t do audio but we have to accommodate the weight of the audio equipment,” Hons says.
VLS has also provided the lighting for the Content Marketing World Conference at the Cleveland Convention Center for the past several years. Brand marketers come from across the world for the weeklong event. Hons says the conference lighting needs to differ each year depending on the theme.
“Last year the conference had a Hollywood theme, and we created a Hollywood Squares game show structure. It needed to be three levels, and we had to provide different types of lighting. We had to light each square plus light up a circle or an X for each square when needed. The entire conference requires a lot of prep work and has a lot of moving parts when it comes to lighting needs,” Hons says.
Hons suggests a number of different kinds of lighting that can enhance any type of event, such as ambient or décor lighting or stage lighting that can be from the back, front or side. Feature lighting is good for a bar area, food stations or cake table. There is also task lighting, such as lighting up the work areas for caterers so that they can work.
Three tips Hons says to keep in mind when planning to light up any type of event:
• Start with an overall sense of the lighting needs for the event.
• When putting together an event, look for a team of companies to help, including sound specialists, lighting specialists or a video production company to record video if needed.
• Reach out to a lighting company early to see what can be done and what the company is able to provide.
“One of our strengths at VLS is that we are a group of lighting professionals who love the work. We’re all committed and passionate about what we do,” Hons says.
For more information: vls.com