On stage with...

Nick Whitehouse

Nick Whitehouse's background


Where are you from and where have you been?

Nick Whitehouse: I’m originally from Leeds in the UK, but over my career I have been fortunate enough to have traveled all over the world and worked on shows in some amazing places with great people. A few years ago I finally settled down in North America.


How did you get into this business?
In my college years I spent more time in the school's theater playing with the sound and lights than in my lessons. From that point onwards I knew I wanted to make a career out of it. When I finished college I headed to London and spent the next four years taking any work that I could, to learn and gain experience in whatever way that I could. I did everything from pulling cables through the mud, to club installs, to being the new guy on a Lighting Crew. I met great people and learned as much as I could from everyone I worked with.


I had been fortunate enough to meet with a great LD (lighting designer), Bryan Leitch, who took me under his wings and gave me some great opportunities to learn. In early 2000 he got me my first LD job with a band called “StarSailor”. It was a club and theater tour of the UK and Europe and it went really well! From there things grew steadily and with lots of hard work and passion and always a willingness to learn from the people around me, I managed to get to where I am now.

Great shows require great lighting 


Which show are you proudest of having worked on and how did lighting play a part in this?

I’m proud of all my shows. I put the same amount of thought and effort into everything I do from small to big. But some shows do stand out in what we have been able to achieve. Most notably, Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite tour and Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience tour. Lighting was vital in both of these, Kylie's was all about theatrics and each scene was beautifully lit and very arty. The light in Justin's tour was vital and everything we did with the lighting was designed to emphasize the music; to its beats and changes, the lighting creates drama and sets distinct moods.


I love music; seeing how lighting and staging and everything I do enhances an artist's ability to entertain, is priceless. I love being a part of that; it’s an unbelievable feeling to hear 20,000 fans scream because of a gig you have helped design and put together!


Nick Whitehouse, Lighting Designer

It was all about visuals

Justin once said he named the album the 20/20 experience as it was music that was visual. Therefore, the lighting needed to be an extension of the music and we spent a lot of time making the video, lighting and lasers all work together to create this visual experience. I did a lot of auditions and lined up all the new fixtures in a dark room full of haze and tested what was possible with them all. We then put them behind the metal gauze that was used in the set and re-tested. Weight and power were also a consideration but after all the tests, working through the design and evaluating power and weight I decided on my favorite spots the Vari*Lite VL3000 and VL3015 and combined them with Clay Paky Sharpys and Sharpy Washes.

The rehearsals

We were fortunate to have about six months from concept to rehearsals so we made the most of this time really trying to get everything right virtually before we started to build anything. This was done in both CAD and Vectorworks and then modeled in 3d Studio. For lighting we spent about six weeks in production rehearsals and about a week of pre-programming virtually. All programming was done on an MA2 and we used MA3d as the visualizer.

My favorite spots

Spots are the VL3000 (with Philips MSR Gold 1200 SA/DE, editor's note) in the back wall and floor and VL3015 in the Air. These are my favorite spots and I have used them in many shows before so I know exactly how they perform and what can be done with them. So they were a natural choice, and despite being older than the competition, in the auditions that I performed, they still looked the best to me.

Powerful beams

For washes I specied Sharpy washes (with Philips MSD Platinum 16 R)*. I love the beam that comes from them and the power they have in such a s small size. We used groups of them through the design as you can see in the photo.

Beam effects with punch

For beam effects I specified the Sharpy (with Philips MSD Platinum 5 R)*. It’s again spread throughout the rig, has the punch to cut through the rest and give me the power to really create some great beam effects; they seem to project the video on the screen like in the photo.

Strobes and blinders

Finally for strobes and blinders I went for the Solaris Flare. I found this unit some years ago at Plasa and worked with TMB to get the quality together for a few tours. I love how they perform and how bright and efficient they are. A good photo of how they are used is below.

On Stage would like to thank Nick Whitehouse for taking the time to speak to us.

All photographs © Ralph Larmann


* editorial addition

Nick Whitehouse


MSD Platinum 5 R


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MSD Platinum 16 R


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