Jeff Ravitz designed four PBS specials to be aired during the August 2007 pledge drive. Anúna–Celtic Origins, Willie Nelson And The Last Of The Breed, Dr. Wayne Dyer: Inspiration—Your Ultimate Calling, and Bruce Springsteen-Live In Dublin were all taped during the last twelve months and were chosen as leading programs to be aired during the annual PBS pledge drive.
Anúna–Celtic Origins features the unique Irish choral group that got its start as the original vocalists featured in Riverdance. The live performance was videotaped last January in high definition over three nights at the ornate, hundred-year-old Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland.
“This became one of the more complex television jobs I’ve worked on,” commented Ravitz. “There were over thirty musical numbers, for starters. The group sings in Irish, Latin, Spanish and English, with strong rhythmical patterns that defy standard timing techniques. That added to the challenge. Also, we shot in almost every corner of the cathedral interior, with a mandate to use subtle lighting techniques at all times. We scraped the bottom end of the technical capability of our equipment to see in low light, with the result being a rich, warm and dimensional depiction of this truly distinctive group.”
The Last Of The Breed show presents legendary Country Music Hall of Famers Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price, who were backed by Western swing music legends, Asleep At The Wheel. The show was taped on March 25 at Chicago’s Rosemont Theatre during the final performance of their sold out tour, and was produced by Albert Spevak of Ambassador Entertainment. Ravitz collaborated with Willie’s longtime tour designer, Buddy “Budrock” Prewitt to incorporate the look that had been established on the road.
From there, Ravitz embellished the tour design with the addition of automated lights and ellipsoidals to light the fourteen performer positions, as well as the softgoods background created for this shoot. The control system was carefully broken up between three consoles and four operators, including Prewitt and programmer Nook Schoenfeld.
Spiritual guide and mentor, Dr. Wayne Dyer, has been a mainstay of PBS pledge drives for years, having helped raise literally hundreds of millions of dollars for the network. For the location of his fifth special for Public Television to launch his new book, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, Dyer and his producers chose Escondido’s California Center Of The Arts. The show was taped in May before a devoted audience who listened to his six visionary steps for living a fulfilled life. Ravitz lit the Japanese-inspired set in warm hues and soft textures while making sure Dr. Dyer was covered properly as he worked the front of the stage. “The Center is so well equipped that we were able to light the show entirely with the house inventory. And the venue’s house crew was one of the best I’ve worked with,” said Ravitz. “We utilized every available position in the theatre, and some that had never existed before, in order to achieve the best angles for scenic, stage, audience and architectural coverage. This initially mystified the technicians but when they saw the results on camera they understood what we had been working towards.”
Bruce Springsteen-Live In Dublin was taped last November during the final three shows of Springsteen’s tour to support his album, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. Ravitz had been the designer for the live show, which kicked off in May 2006. Although Ravitz designed the show with live I-Mag screen video in mind, he came in and gave the show a complete tune-up for the high definition taping. “Bruce and I had many conversations about cinematic styles, and decided on an extremely dramatic approach. The result was warm and dimensional. Bruce also enjoyed moving in and out of the tightly focused lights to somewhat control his visible presence in the frame.” The show was initially aired on PBS in June, and was quickly released as a DVD following a worldwide theatrical screening in digitally equipped cinemas.
When the year began, Ravitz could never have predicted that he would be designing four specials for this PBS pledge drive. Furthermore, the Springsteen show had no broadcast commitment at the time it was shot. Its inclusion in the PBS lineup was just an ironic coincidence.
Jeff Ravitz is a Primetime Emmy winning lighting designer and founding partner of Visual Terrain. Recent work has included HBO comedy specials for Roseanne Barr and Wanda Sykes, the latter being currently up for the Emmy as best comedy special. Recent music specials include those of Beyoncé, Rod Stewart, Maroon 5, Mandy Moore and Velvet Revolver