NEW YORK, NY—How do you design a 12-minute Halftime show for The Who, one of the most iconic rock bands in the world? You push the envelope on what’s possible and exceed expectations by putting together a visual spectacle integrating LED video technology, lighting, pyro and lasers. To pull off The Bridgestone Super Bowl XLIV Halftime Show at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, described as the most intense 12-minutes in live entertainment, it takes a team effort and XL Video was proud to support the creative team by supplying gear and crew. Production Designer Bruce Rodgers, Screens/Graphics Producer Lee Lodge and Lighting Designer Al Gurdon closely collaborated on the NFL Network Production with Executive Producer Ricky Kirshner and Director Hamish Hamilton to present an unforgettable performance. “We wanted a design that felt epic; we wanted a design that felt like the band was performing for the stadium and not just the TV audience,” explained Rodgers.
Of course achieving an epic spectacle means taking a tremendous risk, especially when it is a live performance in front of thousands in attendance and millions of TV viewers. Rodgers designed a field-wide circular stage with over 3,000 Barco MiSTRIPs. “I came up with this idea to put the band on what I refer to as Captain America’s shield made out of video,” described Rodgers. “The floor is made up of 26 radial sections that surround a main stage that is made of 14-pieces.” Essentially creating a 40-piece jigsaw puzzle that 600 volunteers and crew had less than eight-minutes to move onto the field, setup, power up and go live. “It was a real example of our industry at its best; needing everybody to work together to make something big happen. All the planning, designing and meticulous attention to detail really paid off.”
For the actual video ‘shield’ Rodgers turned to XL Video to help engineer and supply 3,055 five-foot long LED MiSTRIPs, processing as well as for technical support during not only the installation but show itself. “I wanted a technology that would be nice, bright and controllable as well as weatherproof. I designed the MiSTRIP radiating from the outside going towards the middle on nine-inch centers. I worked closely with the XL team from the very beginning,” noted Rodgers. “I needed an immense amount of equipment but I also needed a completely reliable company. With XL, I could say to Ricky, ‘I have the same video company that we worked with for the Democratic National Convention. They have the technology and we know that they can make it happen.’ And they certainly did.”
XL and Rodgers did testing to confirm the choice of the MiSTRIPs and to ensure the best approach for mounting them to the stage carts as well as how to deal with the processing requirements on a sectional mobile stage. XL and Rodgers knew the most enormous challenge was the fact that the stage broke apart into 40-pieces. In order to handle the need to keep many of the most critical components powered up, XL used uninterruptible power supplies. In the staging locations, they had 110V power drops, where they would connect the UPS units to keep the batteries charged. Once the stage was brought together they had 109 connections to make for the video components alone. A daunting task in less than eight-minutes. “The goal was eight minutes; we did it in seven and a half minutes,” said Bob Magee, XL Video Account Executive and Project Manager for the Super Bowl.
There were 11 XL Video technicians underneath the stage to make connections as it was locked together. Each technician had responsibility for four carts each and XL Technical Director Mike Spencer oversaw everything in its entirety. Everybody knew each other’s role and responsibility so anybody could jump in. XL always builds in redundancy into its systems especially for live television so for a pressure-filled high-profile event like the Halftime show they had redundancy built in all the way down to the technician layer. Rodgers appreciated the coordinating planning XL put in. “All the technical guys from XL Video were like Navy Seals or ninjas. It was awesome.”
In addition to Magee and Spencer, the XL Video team included Ken Gay, XL Nashville and Lead Technician Luke Pilato. Technicians from both the LA and Atlanta XL offices included Trace Deroy; Doug Eldredge; David Imlau; Fernando Llamas; Curtis Luxton; Will Nazarowski; Steve Otten; Eric Petty; and Rod Silhanek.
Another tool XL Video supplied to both Rodgers and Lodge was the UVA d3 Show Production Suite. The d3 was used to assist in the media development and the visualization process. It helped Rodgers and Lodge present their design vision to the NFL, Kirshner and Hamilton. “We used the d3 system as a visualization tool. I often like using d3 as a communication tool,” pointed out Lodge. “It is good for the director, in this case Hamish, to see his camera angles in terms how various shots were going to work. Also it is a very good way rather than just showing a top shot; it is a really good tool to communicate a project to a client. Because we had very limited time on site we obviously did a lot of pre-visualization. I think that whole pre-viz time and understanding the template was crucial to this project.”
From demanding design to exacting execution, Rodgers and Lodge presented XL Video with one of their most challenging projects. “XL Video was exemplary really,” commented Lodge. “On this sort of project, with the amount of work that XL was doing; the amount of discussion and detail it needed communication and trust. For me, if XL is on the job, then I am feeling very confident.”