Lighting Designer Mike Grabowski Gives MTV’s “TRL” a New Look with Support from WorldStage -

Lighting Designer Mike Grabowski Gives MTV’s “TRL” a New Look with Support from WorldStage

Publish date:

MTV launched “TRL” in a new 8,800 square-foot Times Square studio in October and Lighting Designer Mike Grabowski, of The Lighting Design Group in New York City, assembled a versatile rig for the series featuring several new-to-market fixtures from High End Systems and Chauvet supplied by WorldStage.

“We needed a dynamic, color changing, Swiss Army knife of a rig that’s able to change looks dramatically segment-to-segment, minute-by-minute,” says Grabowski, who was Lighting Designer for the last few years of “TRL’s” original run. “The previous rig was primarily incandescents: 2Ks, 1Ks, HMIs, VL-2500 movers. Now, LED technology is more available and capable of handling this kind of scope. We only have one arc-source fixture; everything else is LEDs and fluorescents.”

Grabowski chose High End Systems SolaFrame 750 270W LED moving spot fixtures for the rig. WorldStage is the first vendor to take delivery of the 750s, and “TRL” is the first television show to use them.

“WorldStage continues to be fantastic about recommending lights and providing fixtures that meet my aesthetics and are complementary for the shows I tend to do,” says Grabowski. “I lean on WorldStage as a reliable resource, and they keep me abreast of gear that is not only available but also what manufacturers are demo’ing and/or bringing to market in the near future.”

He calls the SolaFrame 750s “super-awesome. They’re exactly what has been missing from the market: a white-light LED engine with shutters, gobos and good color mixing in a small form factor.”

He explains that the studio’s “relatively low, 11-13 foot grid” meant that “previous options – even the SolaFrame 1500 – were too big” for the rig. “The 750 is a very versatile unit. It’s a great tool to swing around the room; it has shutters for key or stunts; it has gobos and colors and a nice big lens. It also looks pretty on camera, which was a big part of the lighting design brief.”

Grabowski also chose Chauvet Maverick MK Pyxis compact moving heads, which he positioned in the grid and on deck. As with the SolaFrame 750s WorldStage is the first to stock the fixtures, and “TRL” is the first show to deploy them.

“Pyxis is a wash light that refuses to be pigeon-holed,” he says. “It has a ring of nine 15W RGBW LED cells around the edge for pretty visuals with a direct view and a good dynamic zoom range for a wash light. And it has a 60W RGBW LED center pixel for a concentrated beam.

“I wanted looks we hadn’t seen on camera before: bright, colorful, dynamic, flexible, with continuous pan and tilt. So we can go from a somber ballad to an over-the-top boy band and play to either of those dynamics. We can surround the performance area and sweep through the whole room for a party vibe.”

Also in the grid are Chauvet Maverick MK2 Spots, which Grabowski has been using for the last few years, “ever since WorldStage turned me onto them,” he reports. “They’re a great little spot plus a white-light LED engine with great color mixing. I use them for eye candy and color, spinning gobos over the crowd. It’s a really solid unit.”

He keeps six CITC Maniacs on deck. “They’re wonderful, goofy, lunatic lights that I have joked about using and finally did,” he laughs. “The Maniac is a weird hybrid light that looks like an old moving head with a ring of LEDs around it. But it’s actually an LED fogger. A lot of acts look for pyro effects and this fits that niche really well. We use it for very specific gags and some entrances.”

Claypaky Alpha Profile 800 ST moving beam shapers are “the only arc units I have,” says Grabowski. “I have leaned on them for years. They’re a great small form factor shutter unit with great animation. They’re my utility infielders for key and effects lights.”

A complement of ARRI SkyPanel S60 LED softlights are scattered around the studio and serve as “base fill for everything,” he notes. “It’s very versatile going from white light to color. In the performance area we can go from soft fill with super-saturated color or paint people in a very soft magenta or red.”

Grabowski rounds out the rig with “tons” of Chroma-Q Color Force 72, 48 and 12 LED battens to light scenery. “We have maybe 175 running-feet of light boxes in the studio,” he explains. “We wanted vertical ombre effects – deep, rich colors and soft pastels with nice gradients to use behind the graphic panels. The set is primarily white so we canchange the palette at any moment.”

“WorldStage is thrilled to be a part of this process and was with Mike every step of the way,” adds WorldStage Director of Production, Drew DeCorleto. “Getting new technology off the production line is always a challenge and it’s one area of the business we hope to continue to thrive in. Designers like Mr. Grabowski and shows like TRL rely on the best options available and we’re happy to research and deliver.” 

Grabowski concludes that, “As usual, WorldStage went above and beyond to help us with the schedule, since lighting the studio was done concurrent with its construction. WorldStage needed to take delivery of the SolaFrame 750s and Pyxis fixtures from Texas and Florida during two hurricanes, and they pulled off a small miracle!”

WorldStage’s Derek Abbott was the Project Manager for the TRL install. 

For more news from WorldStage visit

WorldStage Inc., the ultimate resource for event engineering, technology and imagination, continues a thirty-year legacy of providing clients the widest variety of entertainment technology coupled with conscientious and creative engineering services. WorldStage provides audio, video and lighting equipment and services to the event, theatrical, broadcast and brand experience markets nationally and internationally. For more information


Image placeholder title

WorldStage Lighting Up New York Summer Events

It’s summer in the city and New Yorkers are celebrating at “Midsummer Night Swing” and “Lincoln Center Out of Doors.” WorldStage is providing lighting support for lighting designer Andrew Grant at the two annual festivals held in Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park.

Image placeholder title

WorldStage Lights Up SNL Anniversary

The “Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special” celebrated four decades of a New York City institution. WorldStage, an almost equally long-lived New York institution, offered its congratulations and technical support to its long-time customer by providing U3 LED videowalls and various lighting fixtures for the red carpet event and the “SNL” studio.

Image placeholder title

The Wiz Live! Lighting Design and Fixtures

NBC’s “The Wiz Live!,” drew 11.5 million viewers and critical acclaim for its debut. The visual show, with lighting design by Allen Branton, featured Clay Paky Alpha 800 Profile and Sharpy fixtures in the rig and grandMA2 light consoles for lighting and show control.

Image placeholder title

The Keys to Lighting Design in HOWs

Lighting design for houses of worship is one of the fastest-growing segments of commercial AV integration. As more HOW transition from traditional to contemporary or alternative styles, effect lighting has become a crucial element of an engaging worship experience. Let's say you're an AV integrator thinking about branching out into lighting, or perhaps you've even done a bit of lighting for theatres, but never HOW. What sort of unique challenges might you encounter?

Image placeholder title

WorldStage lights up Klick Ideas Exchange

When Toronto-based digital marketing agency Klick Health held “Klick Ideas Exchange 2015” in Philadelphia, WorldStage was on hand to provide AV and lighting support as well as 3D projection mapping for artist John Ensor Parker’s multi-faceted set in the main venue.

Image placeholder title

WorldStage for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

"The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" now originates from 30 Rockefeller Center where lighting designer Fred Bock, of Ferri Lighting Design & Associates (FLDA), has created a new look in NBC's upgraded Studio 6B. WorldStage supported Bock's design with an extensive studio and band lighting package featuring some of the latest fixtures on the market.

Image placeholder title

WorldStage Supports Nicki Minaj Times Square Event

Ten of thousands of fans turned out to watch singer-rapper Nicki Minaj perform live and celebrate the launch of the Windows-based Nokia Lumia 900 smartphone in North America at an event featuring audio and lighting support from WorldStage, the new brand for Scharff Weisberg and Video Applications Inc.