Seven Minutes To Showtime

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PRG assisted in putting together Super Bowl XLII's halftime show with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in Phoneix, AZ. At halftime, 60 carts were pushed onto the field to create the stage for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' performance. Super Bowl halftime shows are pressure-packed productions and the show for Super Bowl XLII was no different. As the two football teams ran to the locker room, another team consisting of hundreds of crew and volunteers ran onto the field. They had less than seven minutes to assemble the stage for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' halftime performance. There was no margin for error and no time for technical problems. Executive producer and director Don Mischer Productions along with the halftime show's design team of lighting designers Bob Dickinson, Bob Barnhart, and production designer Bruce Rodgers depended on Production Resource Group (PRG) to pull off this well designed full-scale event under these immense time constraints and they were not disappointed.

Cart Blitz
Though the day's game plan for one team failed-dashing their hopes of perfection-the complex halftime plan was executed flawlessly thanks to some smart planning and strong equipment choices. At halftime, 60 carts (35 of which contained lighting equipment) were pushed onto the field to create the stage for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' performance.

Being able to quickly handle all the power and control connections was essential to get up and running in seven minutes, so two PRG Series 400' power and data distribution systems were employed. "We isolated each cart for Tom Petty's stage and fit it with a single Series 400 cable, which meant that there was only one cable, for power and data, connecting to the S400 rack," says PRG's Tony Ward, vice president, television and special events. "To make the lighting system work, nearly 150 separate connections needed to be made, including trailing four 150 foot sets of 4/0 feeder. Using the Series 400 on the field we made a lot more connections at once than we could have using conventional power distribution and separate DMX data distribution and we got reliability. The advantage of the Series 400 was that with that one plug we had one complete component ready to go. Having the power and data integrated in the same cabling, along with the stability of the electronics, gave us a much greater chance for success."

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To make the lighting system work, nearly 150 separate connections needed to be made, including trailing four 150 foot sets of 4/0 feeder. Using the Series 400 on the field made a lot more connections at once than could have been made using conventional power distribution and separate DMX data distribution.
Getting Lit Up
"This event is truly the most intense 20 minutes in show business," says programmer Mark Butts of Mark Butts Lighting Services. "Every year it gets more ambitious. The amount of gear and the number of electrical and data connections are staggering." Butts operated the equipment on the floor of the stadium, which included 600 Color Kinetics ColorBlast TR units, 250 Element Lab Versa TUBEs, 20 Martin Atomic Strobes with scrollers, and 10 Vari-Lite VL5 Arc fixtures. To control the equipment, he used PRG's Virtuoso lighting control console and Mbox Extreme media server. "The main challenge for the Super Bowl is the lack of time," explains Butts. "We get precious few opportunities to see the full production on-camera before the actual show. That's why it's essential to have equipment that is flexible and reliable. I'm really pleased with the improvements that PRG has made in the Virtuoso console, especially with the V6.0 software," Butts comments. "For this event I made extensive use of multiple cue stacks, wave-based effects, and bump/flash features-all of which are new features in V6.0."

Time being a factor, the use of the Mbox Extreme media servers was a choice Butts appreciated. "We used the Mbox pixel map software for the ColorBlasts under the stage, all 600 of them," says Butts. "Utilizing a pixel map, rather than running the units directly from the console, saved a lot of time both in troubleshooting and in programming. It reduced my channel count so programming was faster and more efficient. I really like the ability to crossfade on a single layer on the Mbox. It saves time, not having to manage intensities and media on multiple layers. I also love the ability to quickly create thumbnails on the server, load them into the Virtuoso and see them in the media window. This is a unique feature of these two products and a lifesaver in the television world."

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PRG's Virtuoso lighting control console and Mbox Extreme media server was used, which controlled several hundred automated fixtures and effects, including Martin Mac 2000 Washes, VL3500 Washes, and VL5Arcs.
Lighting Director Matt Firestone operated a second Virtuoso system, which controlled several hundred automated fixtures and effects, including Martin Mac 2000 Washes, VL3500 Washes, and VL5Arcs. Some of these fixtures were mounted on trusses suspended 120 feet over the end zones and some were mounted on the balcony rails in front of the top seating sections. There were also VL5 Arcs on two 70 foor vertical trusses that were hung to the left and right behind the band. Once the field went in on Wednesday night, there was no way to get to most of the lighting positions for maintenance, so reliable equipment and data connections were critical.

Tom Petty's four-song halftime show closed out the quick set with "Running Down a Dream." After the band brought down the house, the army of technicians broke down the stage; all the connections were quickly undone; and the carts were swiftly removed from the field. "I'm not surprised that it went well," comments Butts. "The PRG technical crews have really become experts at this."

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