John Daniels elates crowds at Billboard Latin Music Awards

Elation Professional Rayzor Blade, Proteus Excalibur, and Smarty MAX fixtures all play key visual roles at the prestigious awards show. Photo: Elation Professional

The annual Billboard Latin Music Awards is the biggest night of the year for Latin American music and this year. To reflect this, Lighting Designer, John Daniels employed a selection of Elation lights to create captivating effects and aesthetic looks on the show. Aired live on 5 October 2023 from the Watsco Center in Coral Gables, Florida, Daniels creatively incorporated Elation Proteus Rayzor Blade, Proteus Excalibur, and Smarty MAX luminaires as some of the most impactful lights on the event.

Daniels, in his fifth year working the show, designed lighting looks for 16 performances from top talent like Bad Bunny, Peso Pluma and many others, as well as numerous award presentations. The Elation luminaires played key visual roles in his lighting design and were instrumental in the dynamic camera looks created throughout the show. Lighting supply for the event was from 4Wall.

Opting for a streamlined approach this year, Daniels strategically selected fewer fixture types, allowing greater creativity with each light while enabling lighting programmers Chris Fernandez and Felix Peralta to delve deeply into each fixture. Fernandez concentrated on key lighting for talent and audience, while Peralta handled programming for effects and environment, both serving as lighting directors for the show.

Fernandez, co-founder of Limitless Design Group, collaborated with Elation’s Ryan Stumpp to source the Elation lighting units used for the event and was instrumental in connecting Daniels with Stumpp and 4Wall Account Rep Sebastian Yepes. “It was a team effort, and we all worked closely together to bring the vision to life,” Fernandez commented. “We’re thrilled about how well the Elation gear performed.”

The collaboration led Daniels to 4Wall Orlando, where he had the opportunity to demo the Proteus Excalibur and Proteus Rayzor Blade fixtures. Impressed with what he saw, he ultimately decided to use them to anchor many camera shots during the show. The designer says that initially he considered using the Excaliburs only for a specific performance but after having trouble pinpointing the right moment to showcase them, decided it was the event’s unique FoH position that was the solution.

Daniels explained: “FPH was so close to the stage that we decided to give it a video facia and make it part of the set design. You invariably see FoH in many of the camera shots and we needed something there that really completed the many 360 shots with the audience and award winners. With that in mind, that’s where the Excaliburs made sense. I knew those fixtures needed space to breathe and at FoH they could be used in a way that is natural for them — long throws with a tight shaft of light. That was a logical placement and they helped to complement the video story.”

The dozen Excaliburs at FOH were regularly seen throughout the show and were prominently showcased during a performance by Myke Towers and Yandel that started at FoH with the fixtures flying up in a crescendo of powerful, synchronised beams.

The awards show set design included several areas that called for low profile linear lighting.
“In my designs, I try to find linear fixture types that don’t clash with the video design but work more as a complement,” Daniels said, conscientious of an executive producer’s preference against prominent silhouettes of large moving heads in front of the video screen. “At the same time, with up to 20 to 30 people on stage at a time, I needed a fixture with the wash capability to sidelight dancers.”

Around 24 Proteus Rayzor Blade fixtures, positioned both below and above the downstage video element, featured prominently in performances and in show looks. The design not only preserved the visual impact of the video screen but also seamlessly enhanced the set without overshadowing it.

“The Rayzor Blades are beautiful lights that really complete the linear look,” Daniels remarked. “I love their versatility and how you can reimagine the fixture using the pixels, strobe or SparkLED. You don’t even realise that it is a linear wash fixture at that point.”

The designer used the Rayzor Blades in all of its attributes — wash to sidelight dancers or any element of production, eye candy for effect, strobe, even as a background sparkle effect. “They harmonised with the video design and enhanced both the performances and the show look so it was a real win-win.”

The up-tempo show featured talent continually moving on and off the stage, which called for lively looks that kept the dynamic lighting rig busy. During show appearances however, when awards were presented, Daniels toned down the visuals but kept a “nice syrupy movement” that didn’t draw attention away from the talent speaking. “We kept some flow effects going through a lot of the lights, for example the Rayzors, to keep the background interesting, but never enough that it’s competing with the talent that’s at the podium.”

The designer’s most downstage lighting element consisted of two overhead lines of Smarty MAX (23 per side), a small yet punchy 21,000-lumen hybrid moving head that he has used on previous Billboard Latin Music Awards shows. “They were my curtain of beams left and right for big wide shots, fly in and outs, etc.,” Daniels said.

“For a powerful fixture they are compact and very consistent. That consistency is important, particularly when doing big beam focuses because you want the colour temperature to be the same for a uniform look. Consistency and uniformity is key for me and the Smarty MAX delivers there. We were able to capture some very nice moments with them. The Elation fixtures, part of a larger lighting package used on the show, brought a lot to the production value of the show,” Daniels concluded.

The wider visual team comprised Lighting Designer, John Daniels; Lighting Programmers and Lighting Directors, Felix Peralta and Chris Fernandez; Floor Lighting Director, Rene Garcia; Gaffer, Mike Grimes; Best Girl, Stephanie Shechter; Lighting Technicians, Tom Thayer, Ronnie Skopac, Amy Singerman and Kevin Brophy; 4Wall Entertainment Account Representative, Sebastian Yepes