The Bigger the Better (Or Maybe…The Bigger the More Difficult!)

Large Event Stage Lighting

Recently we have had the privilege of enjoying huge theatrical events on television like the Superbowl Half Time Show and the Opening Celebrations of the Olympics.  The lighting was amazing on both events.  It does bring up the question about the different sort of things the designers and electricians have to consider when doing these events.  So, I thought I would take this opportunity to bring some of them up so that we can really appreciate what goes into them.

Opening Ceremony 4

2014 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony

2014 Superbowl Halftime Show

2014 Superbowl Halftime Show

1. Power – In today’s world we are hungry for more, more and more.  Look at the amount of fixtures that are in these events.  Traditionally theatrical fixtures take a lot of power.  One thing that is making this situation easier is that more and more LED fixtures are being used.  They use so much less power and also give a much larger variety of color choices.  The use of battery powered fixtures is also becoming more and more popular.

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Superbowl Halftime Lighting


Superbowl Halftime Lighting

2. Time – How much time one has to set up on these events vary.  In the Superbowl you may only have eight to twelve minutes to get it in to place and then an even shorter period of time to get rid of the equipment.  Pre-planning and using the equipment in a technical layout that is designed for speed is the way to go.  The more you work on it to start the faster you can make it work.

3. Control Signal – Wireless DMX!!!  Simply said the less wires you have to use the faster you can go.  Wireless DMX has become very stable over the years.

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Superbowl Halftime Show

4. Visual Variety – The LED units help with multiple color choices.  Moving lights that have multiple gobo wheels and color choices let you get multiple looks out of one unit.  Then there is the projector!!!!  The use of over 120 projectors working on the Olympic floor created amazing images with continual variety.

Opening Ceremony 3

2014 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony 2

2014 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony

5. Marriage of Scenery and Lighting – Projections and lighting have become a marriage of interest.  Collaboration between the initial vision of what the story line of the moment is is essential so that both designers are working together to make this happen.

Opening Ceremony

2014 Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony

Our hats are off to these events.  Even people who have been doing this sort of work for years were impressed with both of these productions.  I can’t wait to see the closing ceremonies!



Lighting Units

I consider lighting units the paint brushes of stage lighting.  It is with these brushes that we can deliver the shape, texture, amount and color of light.  Sometimes we need big brushes (strip lights) and sometimes we need tiny brushes (“lekos” and pin spots).  If you have to paint a whole sky, you would need a really big brush.  If you wanted to add a cloud, then you would use a smaller brush.  If you wanted to add highlights and shadow lines to that cloud, you would even use even a smaller detail brush.  A painter has many tools; so do you. 
Theatrical manufacturers have gone to great lengths to give us lighting units and control systems that permit us to manipulate the elements of light. Every time a designer thinks, “Gee, I would love for it to do this,” there is an inventor out there to manufacture it.  While it is not completely necessary for a lighting designer to understand all of the electrical and engineering components of how the systems work, it is vitally important that they understand what is available to them.

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