Ayrton Lighting Shines on Adele's Surprise CBS Special

Ayrton, Adele, LA Griffith Observatory
(Image credit: Ayrton)

It may never rain in southern California, but it pays to be prepared because when it does, man, it pours. Full Flood lighting designer Noah Mitz and lighting director Bryan Klunder opted to use 40 IP65-rated Ayrton Perseo fixtures for Adele’s surprise CBS special, “Adele One Night Only,” at the landmark Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles last November. The two-hour show no sooner finished than the skies opened up in a dramatic and torrential storm that found crews scrambling to cover non-IP-rated gear.

“It was one of the most intense weather systems that LA had seen in some time,” recalled Harrison Lippman, co-founder of Burbank-based Volt Lites, which was the production lighting vendor for the show with additional support provided by PRG Los Angeles.  ACT Entertainment is the exclusive distributor of Ayrton lighting in North America.

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“Being equipped with the Perseos demonstrated the value of IP-rated lighting even in LA—it seldom rains here but when it does, it really does,” says Lippman. The Adele special was one of the largest-scale projects that Volt Lites has done for Mitz and his team; the company provided a turnkey lighting package for the show, including new lighting technology and control solutions. 

Mitz had originally specified Ayrton Diablo fixtures for the production, which he had often used before. “But with the forecast showing 100% certainty of rain on the scheduled shoot day we reviewed the entire plot and went with Perseos,” he explained. “Even with compressing the schedule and losing our rehearsal day to try to beat the weather, it poured right after the taping wrapped.”

The show followed the release of Adele’s new single, “Easy on Me,” which ended a six-year musical hiatus for the artist, and aired days before the debut of her long-awaited fourth studio album, 30. To mark her musical return the singer’s team, CBS and Fulwell Productions decided to stage a top-secret concert for friends and super-fans at an undisclosed location in LA. A second concert was planned for London.

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“She wanted to send a love letter to LA with an iconic LA backdrop and chose a very ambitious production in front of the Griffith Observatory, which is typically open to the public and not an event space,” said Mitz. “There were a lot of conditions to using the building—it’s a special piece of LA iconic architecture.  The show was envisioned to start taping in the afternoon so you could see LA in the background; Adele would perform her concert through the dusk and into the night accompanied by a full orchestra and her band, while talking with her guests between songs.”

Mitz arrayed the 40 Perseos in two lines on top of the observatory and on the floor in the off-stage wings. “The bulk of our entire fixture inventory was on the roof and fully exposed to the elements,” he pointed out. “The Perseos were our workhorse beam lights from the roof. In addition, some were floor lights positioned left and right at the ends of the stage where they lit the building and helped to fill the corners of the set visually. We also had some lighting the main ironwork doors of the observatory.”

In addition to the Perseos’ IP rating, Mitz and Klunder were “drawn to the fixtures’ size and brightness. "They’re a smaller fixture with a lot of output,” Klunder said.  “We were very happy with them.” 

"One of the briefs from Adele and the producers was to make the lighting as discreet as possible—as small, streamlined and out of sight as we could make it," added Mitz. " Bryan [Klunder] and the art department designed wooden facia cladding for the truss that matched the stonework of the observatory so it blended in and concealed the truss on the roof.”

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Klunder liked the fact that the Perseos “didn’t sacrifice brightness for an IP rating.  They were our only fixtures on the roof, and I was impressed that they were so bright and aesthetically pleasing.”

Mitz also praised how quickly everything came together. “The Volt Lites’ team was very responsive and a delight to work with, as always,” he said.  “Volt was ready to pivot quickly as the weather contracted the entire production schedule and taping timeline.”

Mitz’s team was “thrilled with the show,” he reported. “The lighting rig worked effortlessly, and we were delivered a great hand with a beautiful sunset before the rains came. Reactions to the show were really impressive, too. It seems to have really made an impact. There’s not a lot of LA represented outdoors, and people enjoyed seeing Adele perform at an LA landmark.

“It’s safe to say that we’ll consider Perseos for future projects, especially as more shows go outdoors for COVID safety. If it’s the weather or more frequent outdoor venues, IP-rated fixtures are more important than ever before.”

“We’re a huge supporter of the Ayrton line,” said Lippman.  “We’re excited about expanding their product line and are looking for more opportunities to show clients the value of the line, especially the IP-rated fixtures.”

In addition to Mitz and Klunder, the Full Flood team consisted of associate lighting director Jeff Behm and lighting directors/programmers Patrick Boozer and Patrick Brazil.

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