To reflect on the creative, innovative moments of 2020 and to welcome the hope that the New Year brings, Live Design is conducting 31 Days Of Plots. Every day during the month of December 2020, we will highlight a different lighting design, from across theatre, concert tours, corporate events, and more. Lighting designer Dan Rousseau of the Lighting Design Group shares the plots for All In with Chris Hayes from Los Angeles on MarchMore
To reflect on the creative, innovative moments of 2020 and to welcome the hope that the New Year brings, Live Design is conducting 31 Days Of Plots. Every day during the month of December 2020, we will highlight a different lighting design, from across theatre, concert tours, corporate events, and more.
Lighting designer Dan Rousseau of the Lighting Design Group shares the plots for All In with Chris Hayes from Los Angeles on March 2. “Situated in one of NBC Universal’s Sound Stages, we had a blank canvas to work from,” says Rousseau. “We wanted the room to be the background for the broadcast and to help identify that we were in LA on a sound stage. Incorporating large film fixtures, toning the walls, and highlighting architectural features created a dynamic background with depth and drama. The color palette was cool to allow the warm glow of the larger lighting fixtures to pop as well as the talent. A careful balance across the three layers—background, audience, and talent—were important because all three elements could be in a single shot at any time.
The lighting rig was ground-supported with truss towers wrapped around the center point of the stage with an LED wall for graphics. The talent positions constantly changed to accommodate different segments and guests. The host had various standups that shifted his background between scenic and audience. “Careful selection of gear such as framing moving lights was necessary for all the different layouts. LED fixtures allowed for quick changes in color,” he explains. “The entire production had only 36 hours to load in and go to air so quick flexibility was key. The most impressive part of the broadcast was the wide shot where you could take in the whole room and see the scale of the setup. However, the show never felt too ‘big.’ This was achieved by highlighting the audience in the same color temperature as the main talent but allowing them to be a touch lower in intensity so that they didn’t appear flat when layered in with the background.”
- View the lighting plot for All In with Chris Hayes from Los Angeles.
- Lighting Design: Dan Rousseau
- Gaffer: Sean Linehan
- Equipment: 4Wall
Mike Grabowski is on the show by listener request! He’s a Senior Lighting Designer at LDG, a member of Local USA 829, and has lit innumerable projects for broadcast over the course of his 15 year career. We discussed several of those projects, including the intricacies of his work on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest. Mike was MTV’s Broadcast Lighting ConsultantMore
Mike Grabowski is on the show by listener request! He’s a Senior Lighting Designer at LDG, a member of Local USA 829, and has lit innumerable projects for broadcast over the course of his 15 year career. We discussed several of those projects, including the intricacies of his work on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest.
Mike was MTV’s Broadcast Lighting Consultant when they did a major overhaul of their Times Square studio, and we discussed that project in detail. We also discussed some of the unusual techniques he used on History’s Forged in Fire and AMC’s Comic Book Men. In addition, Mike revealed how exposure to street performance and busking in his home of Philadelphia connected him with the world of theater and production, and how working as a draftsperson introduced him to parts of the business beyond theater.
Visit his website MTG Designs for more information. As always, thanks for downloading and listening!
NBC News unveiled a new and expanded version of Studio N5, one of its Capitol Hill studios that were heavily damaged in a January 2019 fire at the building, on Dec. 12, 2020, as two new shows launched on the network. The studio is on the eighth floor of 400 North Capitol, a building that also houses studios for Fox and C-SPAN. NBC opted toMore
NBC News unveiled a new and expanded version of Studio N5, one of its Capitol Hill studios that were heavily damaged in a January 2019 fire at the building, on Dec. 12, 2020, as two new shows launched on the network.
The studio is on the eighth floor of 400 North Capitol, a building that also houses studios for Fox and C-SPAN.
NBC opted to tear down a wall and make the 8th-floor studio about 250 square feet larger.
Inside the space, HD Studio – led by Bryan Higgason with Paul Benson and Sid Wichienkuer – created a multi-venue and multi desk studio packed with Planar LED video walls and color-changing set elements as well as multiple references to the “staggered” horizontal bar motif that seems to be a recurring design theme at the D.C. facility — having shown up the header element in the NBC News Washington, D.C. bureau newsroom flashcam position on the 7th floor.
Against the exterior wall, two large windows afford views of the United States Capitol dome separated by a vertical LED ribbon and features metallic knee walls with internally lit horizontal bars.
Camera right of the window is a video “alcove” that includes the intersection of two perpendicular video walls, while the left and right side edges feature”wraparound” corners.
The one nearest the window has the advantage of being able to display graphics or branding on the narrow vertical strip, forming, in a sense, an LED mullion.
On the opposite side of the window is a triptych of large-screen monitors with internally lit frames and surrounded by a metallic wall with horizontal accents. The corner between this wall and the windows also features a large square column created with wood tones and additional horizontal accents.
There is then a bright red structural column that segues to a final venue — a two video screen array with a similar frame and wood wall with internally lit accents and flanked by two flat, metallic walls with two edge-lit installations of oversized NBC peacockoutlines.
The studio also includes at least two desks that can be wheeled around the floor that features a grid of darker and lighter wood tones.
The studio’s pod-shaped desk features a metal and glass base with a color-changing ring with three thinner red bands in front of it.
The larger desk features frosted banding and the NBC peacock (likely selected so it could be used across NBCUniversal properties if needed).
The video walls also obviously give the space flexibility for multiple NBCU brands and shows to use the space, including ones that temporarily need to originate from Washington.
Saturday “Today” has been originating from Washington during much of the coronavirus pandemic using the set originally built for “Meet the Press,” which has played host to other MSNBC shows after the fire, though this was reduced as the pandemic worsened.
The pod can be leveraged for both a single person in a standing or seated position (albeit with a higher chair). It likely could also be used for small, two-person interviews (though likely not in the era of social distancing).
Meanwhile, the larger desk can fit up to five but was also used on the debut shows for a single anchor.
In addition to N5, there is also an empty studio on the floor below. NBC is leasing space on both floors for studios and workspaces — with the 7th floor being additional space it picked up after the fire. The network also occupies part of the first floor with what will be the new home of “Meet the Press” as well as additional office space.
That studio is expected to debut in January, according to sources.
NBC first announced plans for the expanded presence in the building in July 2019. The network’s old bureau and studios for “Meet the Press” and inserts were located inside the same building as its owned NBC and Telemundo stations.
Sept. 18, 2020, was the last day of most network operations at the Nebraska Avenue building (namely “Meet the Press” and Saturday “Today” continued to use the latter’s studio).
The “MTP” studio was also used for shows displaced by the fire, though much of that changed when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
On Sept. 21, 2020, NewscastStudio obtained an internal memo from NBC News management that also included a photo of one of the new work areas built inside the North Capitol Street building. That workspace is on the first floor, according to sources.
Executive Vice President of Design Dennis Size & Senior Lighting Designers Mike Grabowski & Niel Galen recently sat down with GLP – German Light Products for their 10 Out of 10 Interview Series – Mark Ravenhill questioned them on everything from most embarrassing career moments to favorite venues & more!
Executive Vice President of Design Dennis Size & Senior Lighting Designers Mike Grabowski & Niel Galen recently sat down with GLP – German Light Products for their 10 Out of 10 Interview Series – Mark Ravenhill questioned them on everything from most embarrassing career moments to favorite venues & more!
For this year’s NFL season, ESPN has created its own “bubble” in New York City leveraging the capabilities of its South Street Seaport facility along with a new rooftop studio space. “Our shows, especially ‘Monday Night Countdown,’ are usually on the road… with COVID and travel restrictions, that became a difficult challenge,” said Terry Brady, director of remote production operations at ESPN. With the safetyMore
“Our shows, especially ‘Monday Night Countdown,’ are usually on the road… with COVID and travel restrictions, that became a difficult challenge,” said Terry Brady, director of remote production operations at ESPN.
With the safety of crew and talent at the forefront, ESPN opted out of traveling this NFL season, instead of creating a new home for the show along with “Sunday NFL Countdown.”
“We were looking for an alternative to bring talent to New York, first and foremost to keep them safe in a quasi bubble and also to showcase New York as the hub of sports,” noted Brady. “We thought it was a really good option to keep the show fresh for the fans.”
Atop the roof of the Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport complex, which includes a public greenspace and restaurant, ESPN has erected a studio with sweeping views of Downtown Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Pier 17 facility is the normal home for programs including “First Take,” Around the Horn” and “Get Up!”
Filmwerks, who often work with ESPN on their remote productions, created the temporary structure using the Modtruss system, with Jack Morton Worldwide providing the interior scenic design.
Brady notes the final decision on the relocation was made only about 20 days before going on air, setting off a rapid series of events.
“We had a very short time frame,” said Brady. “All our partners and our all our ESPN staff and departments really stepped up. We’re moving forward at a very rapid pace.”
Jack Morton Worldwide was able to design the interior space in only five days, mixing urban design elements found in the seaport with organic materials and finishes found in ESPN’s current NFL branding.
“The new seaport design is a distant cousin of the current NFL studios in Bristol, with similar finishes but an overall brighter tone. The primary goal was to retain as much of the expansive view as possible, while also providing production support space,” said Andre Durette, the principal designer on the project from Jack Morton Worldwide.
“Richly-textured internal walls solved both issues, with a segment of them able to track to reveal more of downtown Manhattan if desired. Additional presentation areas include a one-on-one area with a stand-up monitor, along with three tracking screens to introduce content graphics and sponsorship,” said Durette.
The key piece of the studio is its 360-degree, socially distanced desk which is designed to expand based on the needs of a particular production.
“We chose to shoot that in a round to highlight the vistas of the Brooklyn Bridge, the East River and the skyline of New York City,” said Brady. “But, first and foremost was the protection and safety of our of our team.”
Three PTZ cameras allow for one-shots of talent along with a Steadicam, three traditional pedestal cameras and two jibs, both capable of augmented reality graphics.
The entire 1080p production relies on ESPN’s REMI workflow with control from Bristol using 24 outbound transmission paths and 14 return paths for the studio monitors and feeds.
ESPN has also noted its NBA coverage will utilize the studio for the upcoming NBA Playoffs, with other programs potentially activating the space later this year.
Structure Design and Building – Filmwerks, using Modtruss system
Set Design – Jack Morton Worldwide
Lighting Design – The Lighting Design Group
Desk and Interior Set Fabrication – Mystic Scenic Studios
Monitors and AV – ESPN
Nicaragua’s Masaya Volcano, which belches toxic gas from its lava lake crater, was aptly named “The Mouth of Hell” by a 16th century Spanish friar. Photo by Steve Brill/LDG LDG’s Steve Brill puts high wire artist Nik Wallenda and an active volcano in the spotlight for dick clark productions. Steve Brill of New York City-based The Lighting Design Group got the call. Nik Wallenda ofMore
LDG’s Steve Brill puts high wire artist Nik Wallenda and an active volcano in the spotlight for dick clark productions.
Steve Brill of New York City-based The Lighting Design Group got the call. Nik Wallenda of The Flying Wallendas had already crossed on tightrope Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon, among other death-defying feats. Now Nik was training for his highest and longest walk, on a one-inch wire across 1,800 feet over an active volcano. For live TV.
Brill’s first reaction was, “Wow, how the $%# am I going to light a volcano?” Second reaction: “In Nicaragua?” Third reaction: “What an amazing project!” The dick clark productions event, Volcano Live! With Nik Wallenda, was broadcast on ABC TV on March 4, 2020, just before the Covid-19 lockdown. It’s not a spoiler alert saying he was successful. But PLSN is interested in the story behind the story.
A Unique Project
Brill started on the project in December 2019, but pre-visualization could not accurately render something this huge, so he trekked to the volcano for a site survey. The Masaya Volcano is a hot tourist destination. Just 14 miles outside of Managua, Nicaragua, it’s got its own website with live webcams, a cell phone app and top ratings on Tripadvisor. It’s also got its own official title: “The Mouth of Hell.” A 2,000-degree lake in its crater bubbles with molten lava, churning out clouds of toxic gases with a sulfurous stench “a whole lot worse than rotten eggs,” Brill says. Because of poisonous fumes, visitors are restricted to a 10-to-15 minute window of time near the crater. But it doesn’t stop the vortex of vultures circling the scene.
A volcanologist was brought in early to certify that the ground’s stability. Some locations were not permitted. Major equipment constraints were weight and power. They needed to go as big as possible. Every lighting position needed a generator and a backup, and it all required fuel. Yet the fixture type chosen would be dictated by the logistics of getting it to the location.
Brill carried a few fixtures to test how they would take light through the “never-ending gases and smoke.” There was lots of calculating and recalculating. Aided by precision rangefinder binoculars to measure distance to a target, Brill could determine the huge throw from possible fixture locations.
Because of all the drones and fixed camera positions, the team determined the need for 360 degrees of lighting. “The ground around Masaya is unstable, so there were many weight calculations. The last thing we wanted to do was to dump a Musco truck or an 18k HMI into an active volcano,” Brill notes.
Challenges required off-the-chart decisions. “How much light do you get from an 18K HMI at 1,800 feet while shooting through a dense cloud of sulfur dioxide gas?” Brill asks, amused. “I couldn’t find any chart that would tell me that! We calculated as best we could, created a scale light plot using Google Earth, and had to trust our instincts.”
The first big consideration was Nik. The aerialist needed to see the tightrope while cameras needed to see him. “I understood the need to keep the light out of his eyes, so we kept all fixture positions at least 30 degrees off his line of sight. He is putting his life on the line here.”
With no way to accurately focus the lights, they had to trust calculations and estimate. “Try to find somebody to go out on the tightrope with a light meter to aim these fixtures!” Brill jokes.
The LD chose three 18K HMIs as “followspots.” “An 18K on full spot at 1,800 feet produces around 15 foot candles of light,” Brill explains. “To compensate, and to give us a margin of error, every area was lit with multiple fixtures.”
The second consideration was: how to light the volcano. Each side measured roughly 1,800 by 600 feet, or more than a million square feet. Multiply by four sides, and they were tasked with lighting over 4 million square feet of surface area.
Showcasing the active lava lake — which is “not as bright” as one would think — was another balancing act, creating a bright enough image for the cameras to make level without overwhelming the image of the lava. They also wanted to light the volcano walls to bring out the natural beauty of the rock.
Finally, lighting was needed for safety. This New Yorker wasn’t prepared for a nighttime sky with no light pollution. “It is a darkness I had never seen before,” he says. “You couldn’t see five feet in front of your face. We needed to ensure the lights would stay on no matter what. Our system was designed with six distinct locations, each with a separate power source and backup. If we lost any one source, we would still have light, on and off air.”
In the end, they specified more than 100 HMI fixtures, ranging from 6Ks on a Musco truck to 12Ks on Condors and 18Ks on crank-stands to cover all their bases.
From Load-In to Live Event
With plots finalized by the end of January, the gear shipped early February. It traveled by truck to Miami, by boat to Nicaragua, and trucked again for a seven-hour trip over land to Masaya. Access was a major issue. In the rugged area, little could be hand-carried.
Lava, toxic gases and weather forced “The King of the High Wire” and the crew to wear goggles and a mask. “We had planned to focus lights on three consecutive evenings, but on one night the wind was so strong we couldn’t see anything to focus on. Remember, we were trying to focus on the far side of the volcano, 1,800 feet away. There was no way to accurately focus on the wire, so we had to use our best judgment.”
And then the wire walk started. During those breathtaking 31 minutes and 23 seconds, Brill had his usual worries during any live broadcast. He worried about the stability of the installation. But his biggest worry was Nik. “There was no rehearsal,” the LD explains. “Once we saw him on the wire, I breathed a sigh of relief. He looked great. Of course, not as big a sigh of relief as when he hopped safely off the wire at the finish!”
Brill gives credit to his “absolutely amazing” team who worked very hard under extremely difficult conditions, without complaint, and with a wonderful sense of humor. Key players were lighting directors Paul Lohr and Anna Jones, Gaffers Jon Goss and Stephen Alain, Best Boys John Reynolds and Michael Mustica, Musco’s Jerome Crookham and production lighting coordinator Mike Kemp. “Of course the dick clark productions team was also amazing. Everybody was just great to work with.”
No word on what Wallenda will conquer next.
LDG is proud to be nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy Award alongside our collaborators at CNN & Jack Morton Worldwide in the Lighting Direction & Set Design category for our work on CNN Studio 19Y shows, New Day & Cuomo Prime Time. The awards will be presented via livestream tonight at 8pm EST. Congratulations to President Steve Brill, Senior Lighting Designer Niel GalenMore
LDG is proud to be nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy Award alongside our collaborators at CNN & Jack Morton Worldwide in the Lighting Direction & Set Design category for our work on CNN Studio 19Y shows, New Day & Cuomo Prime Time. The awards will be presented via livestream tonight at 8pm EST. Congratulations to President Steve Brill, Senior Lighting Designer Niel Galen & Lighting Designer Dan Rousseau, & the entire team!
Photos: N. Galen
Vice President of Design Dennis Size was up early this morning, lighting Alicia Keys’ performance for New York’s essential workers, live on ABC’s Good Morning America from the Skyline Drive-In in Brooklyn.
#RedAlertRESTART #WeMakeEvents #ExtendPUA #SaveOurStagesAn interview with Dennis Size, vice president of design at LDG, a major television lighting company based in New York City. We discuss how LDG has weathered the COVID pandemic so far and discuss the RESTART Act to provide financial assistance to live event businesses and to #ExtendPUA for unemployed workers.
The Studio Gets an Overhaul for 2020 Election Coverage with Help from the Lighting Design Group PLSN recently caught up with Dennis Size, executive vice president of design for the Lighting Design Group, the largest television lighting design firm on the East Coast. Among the projects he has been deeply involved in lately is the redesign of Studio TV3 at Disney/ABC News headquarters on West 66th StreetMore
The Studio Gets an Overhaul for 2020 Election Coverage with Help from the Lighting Design Group
PLSN recently caught up with Dennis Size, executive vice president of design for the Lighting Design Group, the largest television lighting design firm on the East Coast. Among the projects he has been deeply involved in lately is the redesign of Studio TV3 at Disney/ABC News headquarters on West 66th Street in New York City, the flagship studio of ABC News.
This studio has been a mainstay on television since 1986, when it was designed and built for Peter Jennings’ evening news broadcasts. Since then, many other shows have been added, and in addition to the country’s number-one newscast, World News Tonight with David Muir, and other shows including Nightline, World News Now, America This Morning, This Week and Weekend Good Morning America.
Despite several major studio designs in the works all over the world, things have slowed considerably for Dennis as he hunkers down with his family at their home in New York, currently the Covid-19 epicenter of the country at this writing. One of LDG’s biggest projects this year, the Summer Olympics, was postponed until 2021.
And although Size has been busy redesigning ABC’s TV3, “ninety percent of Disney/ABC’s buildings are empty, with almost everyone who is able working from home. Anchors are now broadcasting from home out of necessity. The only news show still in the 66th Street Manhattan studio is World News Tonight. David Muir insists on broadcasting from his own ABC studio — but they’re using a ‘bare-bones’ skeleton staff.”
Scaling down is not necessarily slowing down for Size, however. The previous weekend saw him putting on his ‘hazmat’ suit and installing a small lighting system at the Hamptons home of George Stephanopoulos, who, along with his wife Ali Wentworth, was diagnosed with Covid-19. That installation allowed George, who did not suffer symptons, to continue as daily anchor of Good Morning America in addition to Sunday morning’s This Week.
News Set Trends
News sets have evolved in recent years, many of them latching on to the eye-catching, video driven, colorful set wave that networks such as ESPN and CNN have embraced. We asked Size for his take on this current trend.
“The Lighting Design Group has been involved in lighting news studios and events for decades, providing the lighting for several dozen presidential debates and the national presidential conventions. News coverage has become big ‘business.’ Election night broadcasts are huge televised events — the ‘Oscar Awards’ of network news divisions.”
Lavish Midterm Coverage
ABC invested heavily in the production supporting its 2018 midterm election coverage, spending trillions of dollars (okay, maybe not quite that much) for a Seth Easter-designed multi-level circular set. Dennis Size and his associate designer/programmer Alex Kyle-DiPietropaolo also played a key role for the midterm election coverage with a lighting design that utilized several hundred moving lights and more than a hundred conventional fixtures to bring that news programming to life. Disney/ABC was thrilled, “not only with ‘the look’ and the incredible coverage — using the latest in Augmented Reality graphics — but also with the ratings. They decided to emulate that look with as much production value as possible for their TV3 newsroom studio and their 2020 Election coverage,” Size says.
Future Plans Downtown
Studio space in NYC is scarce and at a premium these days. Disney, the parent company of ABC, is building a 19-story headquarters in lower Manhattan at 4 Hudson Square, close to where the Holland Tunnel emerges from beneath the Hudson River. It’s not scheduled to be completed for another three or four years, however, and the people ‘upstairs’ at Disney/ABC wanted a new set for the 2020 Election Coverage during this interim period.
They were willing to invest another $100 billion (okay, again — maybe not quite that much) for this TV3 studio renovation, even though it may only be used by ABC News for another three years once finished. However, it was imperative that the news shows continue as usual in temporary spaces while the demolition and construction of the redesigned news studio was happening.
The production/broadcasting of news specials like Super Tuesday primary election coverage require a robust control room capable of switching dozens and dozens of feeds from locations all over the country. The control room to accommodate this was already in place above TV3, so that’s where the studio had to be kept, especially since all the offices of the ABC News Division are in the building.
Spearheaded by ABC production designer Seth Easter, decisions were made, plans were drawn, and contractors were brought in. (To download a PDF, CLICK HERE.) “Usually, when they remodel a set, they just add new scenic pieces and we move the lights around, swapping some fixtures in the grid in the process,” Size says. “The problem was, the old studio did not have the trim height for the big look the executives wanted.” This would necessitate not only gutting the existing room, but removing the ceiling and grid and combining part of the fourth floor space into this third floor studio.
The studio started construction in November, but World News Tonight with David Muir, who was set to occupy the center stage of the studio, wished to keep working during construction. This put two different scenarios in play. First, they needed to build a makeshift studio in one corner of the floor and seal it off from the construction mess. The second was that the construction would have to work around the time the show was on the air. (To download a PDF, CLICK HERE.)
Thus, a temporary broadcast space for the popular anchorman was constructed — affectionately called the “Bubble.” Size had a small Unistrut grid system installed in the makeshift studio to hang a small design for Muir’s nightly newscast (and ABC’s Nightline). “Another problem that sprang up was ABC’s sudden coverage of the impeachment hearings. Now we had more special news reports that we had to work around. ABC’s scheduling became very complicated.” (To download a PDF, CLICK HERE.)
Dennis took possession of Easter’s drawings last September (2019) and began designing a brand new lighting system, complete with a new lighting grid structure, since the entire studio was being gutted. Alex Kyle once more served as Dennis’ associate for the project.
TV3 is quite the bustling studio. Once the pandemic is over, there will be many ongoing shows shot in this studio, coupled with occasional news specials, using several different sets for the various shows occupying different areas of the studio floor. To accommodate those requirements, Size would need to design a multi-purpose system that would service at least seven major network news shows in addition to ABC News’ election coverage events.
“Of course, the best-laid plans are always met with obstacles when construction starts,” Size notes. “The new plans were drawn off existing plans that had, of course, been modified during the original construction decades earlier. A lot of re-design went into the project along the way. It brought back memories watching them tear out the old motorized grids and throw away a mixed bag of Altman’s, CCT’s, S4’s, Desisti/Century, Arri and yes, even 60-year-old Bardwell Fresnels. All that tungsten is gone. I had been the assistant LD when the studio was designed back in the mid-80’s. It was fun being one of the few people who had the ‘institutional knowledge’ to answer crazy questions about why something was done a certain way back in the ‘medieval times.’”
Size expands on the modern-day changes being made. “Everything is high tech video-centric at the studio. Seth Easter designed a couple huge LED video walls that can fly in and out, and another large wall that can jackknife out at any angle of choice. The circular floor in the center of the studio is all made of video tiling as well, upon which they create the most amazing augmented reality graphics. The entire studio is surrounded by LED video walls. The design called for video ceilings overhead as well. A T-shaped cross of video hangs above the set. The construction guys and welders had to install a lot of steel to existing I-beams, and the slab above, to handle the additional weight.”
One thing to take into account was that all the lighting for the Super Tuesday live event was only temporary and would all be removed/modified after that event, Size notes. “Nobody ever seems to preconceive the exact hanging points for the lights ahead of time, since the talent positions were unknown. Since there was no longer any grid, as the scenic department hung an element in the air, I’d say, ‘Hey, while you’re up there — can you secure a pipe to this wall for me?’ I may not actually have a use for it at that moment, but we will need a light there at some point.
“The re-design required an all energy-efficient LED lighting package of several hundred fixtures. The Super Tuesday setup was treated like a ‘one off’ road show, however. In conjunction with the ABC Electric Shop, I designed a purpose-built control system installing accessible gateways and DMX opto-splitters throughout the studio. We ran temporary DMX cables everywhere. We were fortunate that a lot of the old existing power could still be used. Rather than rip out all the old dimmers, they were repurposed and ‘slugged’ as hot power racks, giving us hot circuits all over the place.
“I had 15 High End System’s SolaFrame 750’s for multi-purpose key light coverage,” Size says, noting that he’s got 10 more in his pocket for the other shows. “The remaining fixtures were mostly LED conventionals or small movers, like the GLP impression FR1. I love those little movers! I can take them, or a Chauvet Color Dash Accent, and plop them in any dark corner for a little sparkle of color. Arri LED SkyPanels, L7 and L10 Fresnels, Practilite 604 Fresnels and Source Four LED fixtures rounded out the lighting package.” All lighting gets controlled by an upgraded ETC Ion console. When the new Disney/ABC studios are complete downtown, Size mentions, “we will probably move to the EOS Ti.”
Line-of-Sight and Reflection Challenges
Because the production designer and directors did not wish to see any lighting fixtures hanging in front of any video surface or the light boxes that looked so great on camera, finding the best hanging positions was quite a challenge. Additionally, the second floor of the studio is shrouded in Plexiglas, risking unwanted reflections.
The studio launched with a flurry for ABC’s Super Tuesday Election Coverage on March 3. Then Size turned that design around to meet ABC’s sudden need for extensive pandemic coverage. He’s currently designing the lighting for the third phase, as all the shows migrate back to the studio when the pandemic ends.
The new TV3 studio is a state-of-the-art and versatile work of beauty, Size notes — two stories high, with video walls and tall light boxes illuminated “by millions of LED tape channels. The video floor and ceiling stay in place, but the sets are all different. There are four different anchor desk positions, including the special ‘home base’ desk configuration for World News Tonight. All desks will move around, however, to satisfy the production demands of the various shows.
“The Production Designer had the initial thought that the room may be able to just be repurposed by sliding two unique desks into one or two configurations and changing the surrounding media content and colors. But, of course, every show wants a special look. Good Morning America, for example, wants a totally different look with totally different talent positions than This Week, or other news division shows.”
While Size hung and tucked key lights and Fresnels in wherever space he could, backlight and floor light space for beauty specials was limited. The high trim was of no help. “I had a ton of threaded rod stanchions made for dropping fixtures where needed. I must have dozens of hidden ETC mini Source Fours providing backlight, accent lights and fill lights because God forbid any fixture block a video panel.”
We inquired how he used the “in demand” eye-lights for all the talent in this scenario, to rid the newscasters of any unwanted neck shadows and add a little sparkle to their eyes. “On a lot of our projects, we actually have a hand in designing the desks. Like most live events, we rely on LED tape now. On this new set, I relied on the ABC Electric Shop to create custom eye-light housings for the LED tape that they mounted under the curved plexi desktops. They had a row of warm white and a row of cool white LEDS, so we could adjust the color temperature accordingly and softened [them] with a diffusion lens that Environmental Lights makes. This helps keep the light omnidirectional, but less obtrusive and softer to the anchors. We at the Lighting Design Group have been using Environmental Light products on all the projects we design. The quality they provide is exceptional.”
Balancing Color Temperatures
Speaking of adjusting the color temperature, we asked Dennis how he prefers to light his sets. “Video displays have a color temperature up to 8000+ degrees Kelvin now — awful high, and extremely ‘cold’ — adversely polluting the color of the ambient broadcast lighting. If you try and take them down to the old 3,000 Kelvin or lower tungsten range (the color loved by talent everywhere) the video rendition/quality is terrible. On-camera talent is not fond of being lit at 6000 Kelvin (basic daylight color) They feel it’s too white, too ‘cold’ — almost blue. They need their skin color to be honest to their eyes. As one anchor told me, ‘I want my lighting to be warm and fuzzy, like it is in my living room at home.’ Consequently, I usually cheat all my LED key lights to 4500° Kelvin as a baseline compromise. Then we adjust the temperature of the LED walls down and video levels up as best we can to match. In the old days, this took some time, adjusting and matching with CTB and CTO color correction gel. These days it’s easy-peasy with high quality tunable LED fixtures.”
At the time of this writing, the pandemic was still a major crisis, and studios are still shut down, but Size had completed three of the light plots required, with several more to go. Once Disney/ABC gives the go ahead, he and his team will head back into the studio to finish the remaining shows.
“The plan is for the studio to ‘re-launch’ with David Muir’s newscast, World News Tonight. Then all other shows will migrate back home …. just like the swallows to Capistrano!”
For more information, visit The Lighting Design Group at www.ldg.com.
If you watch network TV or live stream web shows, chances are you’ve seen the Lighting Design Group (LDG) at work. The multiple Emmy award-winning New York firm is responsible for lighting a broadcast news and entertainment-oriented shows — and permanent or on-location studios — on ABC, CBS and CNN to Fox, NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, MTV and more. From freezing at the Winter Olympics toMore
If you watch network TV or live stream web shows, chances are you’ve seen the Lighting Design Group (LDG) at work. The multiple Emmy award-winning New York firm is responsible for lighting a broadcast news and entertainment-oriented shows — and permanent or on-location studios — on ABC, CBS and CNN to Fox, NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, MTV and more. From freezing at the Winter Olympics to cruising under the Atlantic in a submarine, the team conquers every lighting challenge that comes their way.
A new opportunity comes in the form of LED lighting. How well does it work in the broadcast world? LDG’s president Steve Brill, executive VP of design Dennis Size and senior lighting designer Mike Grabowski shared their view through the lens.
PLSN: What are some common challenges of lighting for the camera?
Steve Brill: The biggest challenges are interpreting and coordinating the look with the director, producers, scenic and lighting designers. They don’t always agree. It is our job to interpret what everyone is seeing in their mind’s eye and create that look.
Dennis Size: The most difficult challenge is accumulating the information required to create the design, such as: what are the scenic elements, how are the shows being conceived, where are the talent positions, where will the camera positions be, what is the budget, to getting the lighting instrumentation required to do the project properly.
Mike Grabowski: It’s a balancing act of creating an environment, breathing life into the air, but balancing the needs in the room with the needs of the camera. The camera is the most important viewer — it impacts lighting and color as much as anything else — but if it needs to be bright, we need to ensure the audience isn’t squinting, or if it’s a concert, we need to help keep up the energy.
PLSN: How does lighting for a TV news set compare with other televised events?
Dennis Size: Basically it’s “same trailer, different park.” There’s no room or time for error or experimentation. The designer needs to be “on his toes.”
Mike Grabowski: I straddle the line between entertainment shows and news. Town halls hurdle both. Those locations aren’t set up for a broadcast, so creativity in lights, placement and usage is crucial. Entertainment-oriented programs means strange requests aren’t out of the norm: “Make sure we have a lot of light in the air, so when we shoot the squid out of the cannon we see it.” or “We’re doing a Downhill Drag Race on Aspen Mountain, there is no way to get power up there, and the sun will be rising behind the mountain when we shoot it.” Requests are more straightforward on a news broadcast: “Let’s make the colors punchier” or “We may have a small marching band show up.”
Steve Brill: News is traditionally flat and boring. It’s easy to play it “safe,” to light everything broadly and flatly. But that is not what we stake our reputation on. We make it exciting and different, and push the envelope.
PLSN: What qualities do automated fixtures need for broadcast?
Dennis Size: Reliability, intensity, ease of operation, consistency, accurate beam shaping, accurate color mixing, a pure color temperature mix and quiet operation.
Mike Grabowski: Color quality and product consistency are hugely important. Also, cameras have gotten faster — so, brightness is a secondary priority to the refresh rate (which translates to flicker on camera) and low end dimming curve. Having steppy dimming at the low end can be a nightmare. Similarly, having a slow PWM (Pulse Width Modulation or digital signal) that can’t be sped up means you may see “striping” on camera that makes the fixture unusable.
Steve Brill: Intensity, beam shaping, color accuracy and reliability. Manufacturers like to squeeze as many features as possible into their fixtures. We really only need 25% of the features, but that 25% is critical, and they have to work every time.
PLSN: When and why did you start using movers in broadcast events?
Dennis Size: In 1992 for the ABC News Presidential Election Headquarters live from Studio 1 in NYC. The weapon of choice was the [Vari-Lite] VL4. Anchorman Peter Jennings walked all over a large studio and the producer/director wanted him to go wherever and whenever he wanted — without the studio flooded with light, looking like a Home Depot. At the same time, I started using the [High End Systems] Intellabeam to augment concert performances.
Steve Brill: In the early 2000s, movers were not reliable. We often had a “moving light hospital” backstage, and so they became more of an accent. Now they are reliable, accurate and bright, so they can be used to light every aspect of a show.
Mike Grabowski: I’ve used moving lights regularly on jobs since early 2000. In shows that need output and flexibility, movers are invaluable. They are and were always an integral part of MTV’s TRL — movers give a dynamic energy to the room, but I also use them in more unexpected places like town halls and reunion shows. A few used as key lights means that if a position needs to move at the last second, it’s just a few button pushes to execute, instead of a ladder, lift or climbing the truss. The newer adventure is using them as key lights — and the SolaSpot 1500 changed my mind about that when it first came out. I was blown away with how well it would mix and match with incandescent fixtures. When Good Morning Football launched its first location at the CBS Broadcast Center, we needed a few moving lights to give us color, pops and gobos, but also serve as a key light. Although our rig was almost entirely incandescent then, we popped them in and even the video engineer couldn’t tell the difference — to the scope or to eye. So really, the brightness and color mixing have made moving lights more viable as a talent light.
PLSN: More currently, what specific lighting fixtures do you find useful?
Dennis Size: The High End Systems Sola Series has consistently met and often exceeds my expectations when lighting on-camera talent. Once the SolaFrame 750 came into my life, I look nowhere else for a moving fixture.
Mike Grabowski: The Sola Series has always been great and almost always hits the metrics above — color, consistency, and, with the LED fixtures, good refresh rate. High End Systems also comes out with some delightfully weird and unique lights and I like to try them all. I’ve also leaned on Chauvet Pyxis — they have a neat direct view aspect, but work well as a wash unit, and in smaller rooms, work great as a single tight beam. In the right scenario, I love to use products like the CITC Maniac. It presents something unique if you need a CO2 effect, and want to paint it with LEDs. GLP X4s are invaluable in town hall and reunion show scenarios. These tiny, nimble, relatively inexpensive fixtures with good color and editable PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) allow us to refocus on the backgrounds without interrupting the flow of a camera look. The benefit is the remote focus ability.
Steve Brill: I love the Sola Series fixtures. They come in a variety of sizes suitable for many different-sized venues. They are bright, accurate, and reliable.
Steve, how has automated LED lighting solved your recent challenges?
Steve Brill: CNN recently relocated their New York studios to Hudson Yards. One of the studios was designated as a production studio for town hall-style events. We equipped it with a large automated fixture package of SolaFrame fixtures so the studio can be quickly repurposed for almost anything.
PLSN: LDG counted heavily on automated lighting for this year’s string of presidential debates. What issues did it solve?
Steve Brill: We lit the first presidential debate on NBC this summer. The venue, really a concert hall, had few “television friendly” lighting positions. As a result, our key light position was 115 feet away. This would have been close to impossible to light using 5-degree lekos. At that throw, if somebody sneezed, the light would shake. The SolaFrame 3000 was suitable for that task, and it worked beautifully.
Dennis Size: At the third presidential debate in Houston, the arena was massive, with throw distances averaging 150 feet and truss trims vertically at 40 feet. There were several dozen conventional tungsten and LED fixtures (ellipsoidals/PARs), but little time to focus and re-focus. Plus, there were not only serious structural weight restrictions in the facility, but also serious power problems. The original plot of over 500 tungsten fixtures had to be minimized. Even using LED replacements for fixed focus units had to be minimized because snorkel lifts and personnel lifts couldn’t be used on the stage floor due to floor support weight restrictions. The only possible solution was LED moving lights, which can also multi-task. The rig used over 350 moving lights, almost all being HES SolaFrame fixtures.
PLSN: Any particularly memorable events?
Dennis Size: In 40 years, the most consistently memorable ones have been with the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Steve Brill: I’ve lit three Presidential funerals and the challenging question is always, “Is it a funeral or is it a TV show?” The answer is both. Then there was a show on an aircraft carrier, and one on a submarine. We had to be truly self-contained.
Mike Grabowski: NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum on the USS Intrepid (aircraft carrier) was great — not the least of which is because it was promptly parodied on South Park. (They even got the accent lighting on the planes correct!). I’m now prepping for another year in Times Square for Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest — to which Dennis handed me the reins years ago.
Steve Brill: The addition of shutters to a profile automated fixture was a huge game-changer. All of a sudden, it can replace most any fixture. LED sources are the second game changer: less power, no worry about lamp life. Going forward, movers need to get smaller, lighter and cheaper.
Dennis Size: I’d advise designers to understand how light “works” and how to manipulate and use all of its ephemeral and beautiful qualities. Focusing on traditional “tools of the trade” is a trap to avoid.
Mike Grabowski: This is a goofy thing we get to do for a living, but man, is it fun to share. Current movers are awesome, but don’t be afraid to get weird. Experiment. Heck, a hit show that’s currently on the air was lit for its first three or four seasons primarily with clip lights. And tools aren’t a replacement for design or choices. It really is all about the right light in the right place.
During this challenging period of time, LDG would like to announce that we are now offering Remote Home Studio Consultations. Our company has a long history of home, office, and streaming set ups, in addition to our years of creative solutions for remote broadcasts. Our designers are now ready to remotely help you find the best lighting solutions for your current broadcast situations. We offerMore
Photo of Team LDG onsite in Masaya, Nicaragua: (From Left to Right) Mike Kemp, Anna Jones, John Goss, Steve Brill, Paul Lohr, Mike Mustica & John Reynolds
Photo of Team LDG onsite in Masaya, Nicaragua: (From Left to Right) Mike Kemp, Anna Jones, John Goss, Steve Brill, Paul Lohr, Mike Mustica & John Reynolds
Did you realize that Sesame Street, the beloved children’s television show, has been around 50 years? It premiered November 10, 1969. Available on HBO, Sesame Street is fun and playful, and the lighting has to match that. The Lighting Design Group’s Dan Kelley, along with Associate Designers Douglas Cox and Mark Janeczko, is the lighting designer and artistic eye behind lighting Sesame Street. Check outMore
Did you realize that Sesame Street, the beloved children’s television show, has been around 50 years? It premiered November 10, 1969. Available on HBO, Sesame Street is fun and playful, and the lighting has to match that.
The Lighting Design Group’s Dan Kelley, along with Associate Designers Douglas Cox and Mark Janeczko, is the lighting designer and artistic eye behind lighting Sesame Street. Check out the lighting plots below, and revisit the set, which production designer David Gallo revamped in 2015.
On a normal day, four people sit at an officious, NFL-crested wooden desk and they go into the news from the morning and day before, then they provide in-depth analysis and behind-the-scenes live reporting. This is far from an outrageous concept, but Good Morning Football on the NFL Network has presented an outrageously excellent program over the past year – Not just a great footballMore
On a normal day, four people sit at an officious, NFL-crested wooden desk and they go into the news from the morning and day before, then they provide in-depth analysis and behind-the-scenes live reporting. This is far from an outrageous concept, but Good Morning Football on the NFL Network has presented an outrageously excellent program over the past year – Not just a great football or cable show, but an overall excellent show that is surprisingly as good as almost any other morning show. Four personalities – Kay Adams, Kyle Brandt, Nate Burleson, and Peter Schrager – lead the daily show on weekdays, and while they were far from star personalities or household names before, they feel like they could be our family members every time we watch on the television screen. Good Morning Football has cemented itself as a successful part of the daytime sports realm as it closes its third full season. 
Good Morning Football Is One of Television’s Best Shows
Good Morning Football (Abbreviated as GMFB) obviously benefits from airing during the NFL season and being on a football-only cable network. Yet this summer it raised its rating about 40 percent and was easily defeating the much larger ESPN’s new morning show Get Up – then led by three of their top hosts in Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle, and Jalen Rose – before this season even began.
A big difference in comparison to previous NFL Network morning shows (NFL:AMand NFL HQ) is that the presentation is produced almost entirely outside the company. Sony Television’s CEO/Executive Producer Michael Davies (more known for shows Wife Swap and Who Wants to be a Millionaire?) manages production at the show’s recently opened SNY Manhattan complex. Three of four hosts – Adams, Burleson, and Shrager – maintain on-air roles at other media outlets. Consider that for a moment: contracting three hours of your network’s daily schedule to a panel of mostly non-company producers and asking them to manage a panel of mostly competing channel’s employees, across the country from your headquarters in Los Angeles is a very risky decision. The early months were not exactly stellar for the show, as they admitted to Sports Illustrated in August. But as the show aged, the hosts became more comfortable with each other, gaining experience and recognition, and they took off for a sprint and haven’t slowed down.
GMFB is versatile in its NFL coverage. It has to be, considering how complex and layered the subjects become when discussing league topics. They can have plenty of fun as often as possible – whether they’re ranking Peppa Pig episodes, comparing Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio, discussing the legacy of Marc Summers (which prompted the Nickelodeon personality’s response on Twitter)or keeping or shredding hot takes in an ever-adapting office shredder (for example, one episode it had it themed as the “Weddler” for Ravens safety Eric Weddle) – but when they have to report on dramatic or momentous stories, such as “Black Monday”, which this year left only four minorities in management level positions across the league, they can. In fact, because the show is popular around the league, GMFB sets the tone for how NFL coverage looks for the rest of the day or, in the case of “Black Monday”, the coming weeks.
Really, almost none of what the show does is really revolutionary. But this is their formula for a successful morning show: radiating positivity to all, any and every day, without constantly hating on anybody but being honest and fair when necessary. There is free-range analysis and discussions that provides more than mainstream takes. GMFB not only references non-sports events and topics often, but they also make it a point to do it as often as possible, such as once analyzing film of Brandt’s “Today” show appearance where he shared fitness tips, down to wardrobe judgements.
As Adams told ThePostGame.com in a September interview, “when we bring in an injection of pop culture…when you combine real things, when you also mess up…that’s when you resonate because you become relatable, and…we’re all relatable. I don’t think anyone on television should be looked at any other way.” Frequent interviews with sports personalities like Mike Francesa and Chad Johnson but also with non-sports subjects such as Bono of U2 and Imagine Dragons support that. GMFB is the favorite of several current and past faces of the football realm, and many media members and celebrities who provide testimonials that reflect the show’s firepower.
Morning television, sports or otherwise, has recently travelled a bumpy road. As of the end of the 2017-18 television year, ABC, CBS, and NBC’s morning shows all lost between 5-9 percent of their audiences from the year before, continuing a trend of general decline in TV in general. On cable, where MSNBC and Fox News also struggle for the top spots – for the most part, regular viewers are the only one tuning in to these programs, and less and less of them are even doing that. Even sports media giant ESPN has struggled mightily in recent years where they normally succeed, causing them to cut ties with controversial employees, drop several panned and fiscally-draining ventures, and firing or restructuring a third of the company to make up for the dollar signs dipping so far into the red.
The NFL Network is not completely perfect, but the channel began to find itself by producing positive, free-ranged shows like Good Morning Football. Fueled by journalism gems, dance moves, and unexpected analogy (like the Steelers to the Kardashians), GMFB spreads optimism to its growing base, and its viewers and the network alike are benefitting from the contrast the show provides to its competition. Don’t dismiss the show because of its focus; its magic is much more than football. The network’s culture and reputation has changed for the better, along with the NFL’s slow and steady growth, and it can largely be cited as setting the tone for sports news and culture for the rest of the day and beyond. Now, the question is, will others try to follow in its footsteps?
DICK CLARKS NEW YEARS ROCKIN EVE WITH RYAN SEACREST 2019 (Photo by Jeff Neira/ABC via Getty Images) NEW YORK – Millions of viewers welcomed 2019 by watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest. They saw stars like Christina Aguilera, Bastille and New Kids On The Block welcome in the New Year on the Midnight Countdown Stage, a surprisingly small open structureMore
NEW YORK – Millions of viewers welcomed 2019 by watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest. They saw stars like Christina Aguilera, Bastille and New Kids On The Block welcome in the New Year on the Midnight Countdown Stage, a surprisingly small open structure perched over the one million celebrants who crowded every inch of Times Square. They also watched in anticipation, as they do every year, as the giant ball dropped from atop One Times Square at midnight.
More details from Chauvet (www.chauvetprofessional.com):
What these viewers didn’t see very much of, though, were the fire egress routes located throughout Times Square. Put in place by NYPD, these passages are essential security measures, but their empty space and utilitarian guard rails don’t make for compelling television. In the past, their presence limited the number of wide camera shots taken from the Midnight Countdown Stage, but as 2018 turned to 2019, the Lighting Design Group came up with a way to block the lanes from view with the help of 12 CHAUVET Professional COLORado Solo Batten fixtures, supplied by WorldStage.
“Most viewers at home don’t realize there are so many egress lanes all over Times Square,” said the Lighting Design Group’s Mike Grabowski. “The show had to be very careful about going to wide shots, since all you would see were railings and empty egress streets. This presented a challenge, because the wide shots could provide a very helpful change of scenery in a show that goes from 8 pm until after midnight.”
As the lighting designer of the Midnight Countdown Stage, Grabowski was looking for a way to address this issue. He found it when he saw a video of the COLORado Solo Batten. “I felt they were unique for a strip-style fixture, since they appeared to create a single bar of light without individual pixels showing,” he said. “I thought this would be rad eye candy!”
Being smaller than conventional strip lights, the new COLORado Solo Batten fixtures could also fit on the Midnight Countdown Stage’s railings. This allowed Grabowski to create “a dynamic lighting element that fit the aesthetics of the broadcast while blocking out the view of the egress lanes with their light.”
In addition to solving the issue of the visible egress lanes, the COLORado Solo Batten added a new visual twist to the show’s lighting, according to Grabowski. “They are very cool looking, and something never seen before,” he said. “I believe we are the first to use these fixtures in a national broadcast application.”
Being part outdoors and part indoors, the Midnight Countdown Stage creates challenges dealing with the elements, which is something that made Grabowski appreciate the IP65 rating of the new RGBAW batten. “The hardest component of this project is that it is both inside and outside,” he said. “Inside is pretty straightforward, but outdoors creates an added complication. The outside is fully exposed to the elements, and that’s never predictable. Last year was the coldest New Year’s on record, and this year was the wettest. With LEDs in particular, weather rating becomes wildly important, because both cold and wet can cause failures. We had no issues with the COLORados.”
Blocking egress lanes from view and contending with the elements were only two of the issues that Grabowski had to deal with New Year’s Eve. “You have to achieve a balance when designing for this type of stage,” he said. “It’s the balance of cramming as much dynamic energy and fun into a small stage, while still making talent look beautiful. Overall, a lot of it is driven by energy and motion — wanting to have things constantly moving, but also finding ways to give us a place to go with it. You can’t be full throttle the entire time!
“The other key thing to keep in mind during the design process is that this stage is seen in wide shots, so we have to make a presentation for the various roof and helicopter shots. Our design also had to be big and dynamic enough to be able to be seen from 10 blocks away, or 10 floors away.”
Pulling all of these design elements together required a team effort. Grabowski praised the work of his colleagues Wolfram Ott and Jeremy Dominik, associate designers; Ron LaValle Inside IATSE Head; Joseph Cartagena Outside IATSE head; Ryan Phillips Outside Programmer; Steve Garner Inside Programmer; and David Cook Lighting PM.
“There are a lot of moving pieces that have to come together to make something like this work, starting with people,” said Grabowski. And this year an innovative new fixture too.
Photos: ABC/Danny Weiss ABC News’ live coverage of the nation’s Midterm Elections counted on High End Systems LED lighting to do the “heavy lifting” for the Nov. 6 broadcast. LD Dennis Size of the Lighting Design Group was called in to ensure that the anchors, reporters, political consultants, statisticians and other guests were seen in their best light. To meet that requirement, Size specified 42More
Photos: ABC/Danny Weiss
ABC News’ live coverage of the nation’s Midterm Elections counted on High End Systems LED lighting to do the “heavy lifting” for the Nov. 6 broadcast.
LD Dennis Size of the Lighting Design Group was called in to ensure that the anchors, reporters, political consultants, statisticians and other guests were seen in their best light. To meet that requirement, Size specified 42 HES SolaFrame 750s and 12 SolaSpot 1500 automated luminaires from Main Light to supplement his conventional fixture package and to keep up with the continuously-changing action.
“I’m strictly a High End guy,” the New York-based LD explains. “I was once a strong Vari-lite user, but HES has made great strides with the advances in the Sola line. That is all I specify now.”
ABC’s Senior Production Designer Seth Easter created the special two-story high set for ABC News. The bottom floor featured desks for 20 different anchor positions surrounding the centerpiece – a circular center floor (of Roe black marble 3 mm LED) through which stunning 3D graphics were created for the TV viewing audience. The second floor featured ABC Live’s Digital Studio. Video walls spanned both floors. The entire production was rife with reflective surfaces, ambient lighting and moving anchor positions – all of which provided lighting challenges.
More challenges appeared a month before rehearsals once the studio rig was hung. Size couldn’t get machinery such as snorkel lifts or genie lifts back onto the video floor to make any adjustments for position moves in his conventional rig. “It was incumbent on a lighting design that could refocus and adjust accordingly as the director and show made changes,” the LD notes. “That required a moving light package.”
As with many of his past projects, Size chose to meet the challenges using an HES moving light package from the Sola Series line, which offers all of the bells and whistles of an automated luminaire but with the power benefits and color consistency from its Bright White LED engine.
“The SolaSpot 1500 has been my fixture of choice,” Size says, noting that it was one of the earlier products in the series. “The fixtures perform well. For TV, I like its constant ability to color correct in addition to being able to refocus from the lighting console.”
Associate Designer/Programmer Alex Kyle-Dipietropaolo works with Size. Watching routing switchers of the feed from 20 cameras scattered throughout the space shooting the show, they adjusted lighting in every shot continually throughout the evening’s broadcast. The same set was also used for other ABC shows such as “World News Tonight” during that time, requiring more changing lighting positions. Again, the HES moving lights were called on to focus light where needed.
Of the 500 conventional and moving lights, Size says, “The HES fixtures were doing the heavy lifting. Each anchor had their own unique needs whether it was skin complexion or facial features. Since I couldn’t get to the conventional lights to tweak them, I was able to do that with the moving lights, which were scattered at a geometrical angle throughout the studio.”
Using the more compact SolaFrame 750 on the shorter throws and the SolaSpot 1500 on the longer throws, he covered “every possible position” in the room. “When anchor David Muir wanted to walk around the studio, for example, I was also able to follow him with moving lights.”
As the on-screen talent also leapfrog positions all throughout the studio, the team was able to adjust the color temperatures — the minus green, the plus red, and so on — to adjust for facial combinations. “Again, we couldn’t do that without the HES fixtures, especially when anchors were in front of the floor to ceiling video walls. Having the ability to adjust and pan light one way or another or to tilt it to flood it, and to adjust the color temperature was the real bonus and the requirement.”
Kyle agrees. “The SolaFrame 750s are workhorses. They are fast enough during live events, and also quiet enough, which has been an issue in the past with other fixtures that have their fan noises.”
Additional lighting credits include Jeremy Dominik, assistant designer; and Steve Radice, ABC Studio 2 head electrician. Special thanks to Ivan Sobolov, production manager for ABC News.
At just over 5,000 square feet, the election headquarters of ABC News combines the latest in display and augmented technology to showcase the scale and impact of the 2018 midterms. “We knew this was going to be a huge election and we wanted a space that for both the viewer and presenter would convey the magnitude of this election,” notes Seth Easter, the set designerMore
At just over 5,000 square feet, the election headquarters of ABC News combines the latest in display and augmented technology to showcase the scale and impact of the 2018 midterms.
“We knew this was going to be a huge election and we wanted a space that for both the viewer and presenter would convey the magnitude of this election,” notes Seth Easter, the set designer on the project.
“We wanted to fit as many people as we could on this set. All of our main anchors and talent have their different views and can add things to the story and we wanted to get as many of them in the room as possible so they could have a discussion on what’s going on.”
The space is designed around a circular LED on the floor of Studio TV2 at ABC’s Lincoln Square headquarters in New York which serves the dual purpose of creating a canvas for augmented reality and also connecting each of the set’s various desks and areas.
In total, the set is built to accommodate 60 people across its two-story expanse with 22 anchors at the helm to lead the conversation.
A wider discussion
“I was trying to create something that feels like it could be anywhere, any city. I didn’t want it to feel super New York-centric,” adds Easter. “It’s about being part of America, because it’s not a New York conversation but a countrywide conversation, so that’s where I started on this process. Then having something that felt like we could have everyone included together, talking together, working together… showing viewers that we’re working to get the information and facts and that everyone is seen and heard.”
Easter began the design process in May with ABC’s Times Square Studios originally eyed as the home of election night coverage, similar to 2016. However, with the addition of “GMA Day,” this was proving to be a tricky task until “The Chew” ended its daytime run on the network, freeing up a dedicated location for election night coverage.
Knowing the design would be temporary and on-air for only a few days, most of the equipment used on set is rental from VER with Modtruss at the core.
“What’s interesting about the set is that all of it is made from Modtruss that has been clad in aluminum Dibond and then video panels behind,” said Easter. “There’s a lot of custom glass pieces and staircases, but a lot of this had to come together based on existing products because of the timeframe we had.”
With a grid height of roughly 34 feet, Studio TV2 allowed for a second story on the set design, which includes additional wrap-around LED panels, a smaller studio space for web streaming coverage and control area for lighting and AR, while also giving the space a larger-than-life scale.
Dennis Size of The Lighting Design Group provided the lighting design with fabrication by Filmwerks and Showman.
Telling the story with AR
In addition to the numerous LED walls on set, the space also includes a portal for augmented reality graphics through the set’s central floor LED.
“We really wanted to have the additional storytelling tool of the augmented reality and we needed a canvas that would allow us to really show it off with meaningful information so it’s less of a gimmick and more of a tool,” notes Easter.
Combining both video and AR in the studio, the broadcast is able to layer elements for a more convincing appearance on-air.
Working with Astucemedia and using graphics solutions from Vizrt, ABC’s augmented reality implementation focuses on breaking down data for viewers, such as the balance of power, individual House and Senate results, polling data and trends in the election.
Mo-Sys Engineering provided AR tracking for two cameras, including a jib and Steadicam, with a total of 15 cameras in the studio for election night.
ABC News will also use Times Square for part of its presentation with a jib to capture bump shots on the various billboards and video screens.
By The Numbers
- 10 different types of led screens
- Upper cyc cityscape – WinVision 9mm
- Lower cyc – Barco 5mm
- Upper ticker and lower ticker – Barcom 5mm
- Middle Ticker between floors – Roe 3mm
- Desks – 2.5mm from Roe
- Floor Monitor – Roe Black Onyx 3mm
- Upper screens – 98″ Planar touchscreens
- Hero Wall at the back of studio – Roe 3mm
- Over 18 million individual video pixels (Total of 18,116,613)
- 120 chain motors
- 15 cameras
- 7 robotic
- 1 Jib
- 2 Steadicams
- 2 studio peds
- 2 reverse cameras
- 8, 54’ tractor trailers of scenery and video screens
- Over half a mile of aluminum mod truss
- 7 weeks to load in and build out
- Over 25,000 square feet of scenery and video
- Just over 400 individual light’s for talent and scenery
ABC News creative director Hal Aronow-Theil
Set Design by Seth Easter
Fabrication by Filmwerks and Showman Fabricators
Lighting by Dennis Size of The Lighting Design Group
Display Technology by VER
Augmented Reality by Astucemedia, Vizrt and Mo-Sys Engineering
Media servers from Green Hippo
After airing its premiere episode from Helsinki, Finland, CNN’s entry into Facebook Watch exclusive content, “Anderson Cooper Full Circle” settled into its everyday home in New York City. ‘Anderson Cooper Full Circle’ takes a new view on traditional news graphics Anchor Anderson Cooper started the show in a room off of one of CNN’s open newsroom spaces in New York City as the camera followedMore
‘Anderson Cooper Full Circle’ takes a new view on traditional news graphics
Anchor Anderson Cooper started the show in a room off of one of CNN’s open newsroom spaces in New York City as the camera followed him out into the open area.
This “walk and talk” handheld shot proves challenging in the vertical screen orientation — as the camera struggles to keep Cooper in view as he walks across the newsroom space.
Here, CNN has erected a small set of sorts for the “Full Circle” — which consists of a high stool and table, a knee wall and frosted “sneeze guard” with a simplified version of the show logo on it. The set was lit by The Lighting Design Group.
The camera continues to follow Cooper but pulls out to show the reverse side of the set in a nod to the “full circle” name.
Behind Cooper a wall mounted video display is fed the “Full Circle” logo with radial design used in the open and is positioned in the upper right of the vertical camera viewport.
The vertical framing doesn’t allow for much wiggle room here — at times the logo becomes obscured by Cooper’s head or gets cut off completely on the right side of the screen.
Much of the one-shots on Cooper are even wide than when the show was in Helsinki — with the seated anchor’s knees visible on screen.
In another hint at the “full circle” name, the show also incorporates quick cuts to the handheld camera view, which makes a partial circle around Cooper, whose eyes are still locked on the main camera.
The remainder of the program follows the format and look from the debut episode.
At the end of the stream, Cooper encourages viewers to tune into “Anderson Cooper 360” later as a camera pans across the newsroom and zooms in on a promotional poster for the show hanging on the wall — complete with bubbles in the poster paper and a harsh glare.
SNY Studios at 4 World Trade Center, the home of the New York Mets, has one of the most unique settings for a broadcast studio anywhere. Located on the 50th floor of 4 World Trade Center, the studio offers breathtaking views of Manhattan below. For all its glamour and excitement, though, the skyscraper venue presents challenges when it comes to lighting broadcasts. Having enough outputMore
SNY Studios at 4 World Trade Center, the home of the New York Mets, has one of the most unique settings for a broadcast studio anywhere. Located on the 50th floor of 4 World Trade Center, the studio offers breathtaking views of Manhattan below. For all its glamour and excitement, though, the skyscraper venue presents challenges when it comes to lighting broadcasts.
Having enough output during the day to stand out against the open-air background without bouncing light off windows is essential to making the studio’s system work; so too is having solid low ends when broadcasting at night. Mike Grabowski of the Lighting Design Group met these and other challenges at the state-of-the-art SNY 4 studio with help from over 300 CHAUVET Professional Ovation fixtures.
“SNY’s Studio 42, numbered after baseball great Jackie Robinson, has a unique environment because it’s up so high,” said Grabowski. “Unlike other windowed studios in New York, which are located on the first or second floor, this one is 50 stories up, so you have a lot of open sky. Given the location of the studio, we needed fixtures that are great at the high end and able to produce a lot of clean bright light for daytime shows. Then at night, we wanted those same fixtures to have solid low ends at about 10 foot-candles, so we could light the set while still having all the twinkling lights of the city be visible in the background.”
The output and low-end capabilities of the Ovation fixtures were not the only features that made them invaluable in this installation. Grabowski also placed a premium on their color rendering capabilities.
“There are two other studios in this complex besides Studio 42,” said Grabowski. “Both of them are numbered after Mets players: Studio 31 for Mike Piazza and Studio 41 for Tom Seaver. “Everything here is sports themed, so color fidelity is essential. We need to reproduce sports team colors like Jets Green and Mets Orange. It can’t be kind of like those colors, it has to be those exact colors. So, we need a great deal of finesses in our lighting, which is exactly what the Ovations have delivered.”
SNY’s lighting system utilizes 316 Ovation E-910FC ellipsoidal fixtures, 24 of which have 19° lenses, 50 with 26° lenses, 191 with 36° lenses and 51 with 50° lenses. “The Ovations are distributed throughout all three studios, so they fill a very wide variety of roles,” said Grabowski. “They make up all of the talent light and many of the scenic accents. Every highlight on the metal panels in Studio 31 (the Mike Piazza studio) is created by an Ovation fixture. Really, you can’t look at a shot on SNY without seeing something that is driven by the Ovation fixtures.”
Studio 31 serves as a “chameleon” at the station, notes Grabowski. Serving a variety of functions, it is painted in neutral grays and neutral metal accents, but through its lighting can turn from authentic Mets Orange to Jets Green or any other color depending on programming requirements. The design in Studio 41 is more directly driven by the look of Citi Field, home of the Mets.
“We need to reproduce the colors and accents of the stadium to bring that flavor into Studio 41,” said Grabowski. “The Ovations gave us this capability. What makes this even more impressive is that a lot of the scenery we want to show off goes to the ceiling or pretty close to it, so short yoking is a must.”
Also, a must in this project was that all fixtures in the three studios be powered by LED engines. “We knew we needed to go all LED, because of the amount talent positions and surfaces in the room,” said Grabowski. “Our lights needed to be workhorses that didn’t produce excessive heat. The Ovations did this, plus they have a full spectrum of color, which allows us to pivot more easily and move between lighting scenery and talent, all while meeting the needs of this very unique broadcast setting.”
The Knight of Illumination Awards USA (KOI-USA) celebrates the achievements of international show lighting and video designers for their work in the United States, and is pleased to announce the judging panel for the Live for Broadcast category. Panel chair Jeff Ravitz comments, “I’m very lucky to have been able to assemble a stellar panel of judges. I wanted a well-rounded mix of experienced eyesMore
The Knight of Illumination Awards USA (KOI-USA) celebrates the achievements of international show lighting and video designers for their work in the United States, and is pleased to announce the judging panel for the Live for Broadcast category.
Panel chair Jeff Ravitz comments, “I’m very lucky to have been able to assemble a stellar panel of judges. I wanted a well-rounded mix of experienced eyes working with me to select this year’s KOI-USA Live for Broadcast Award recipients, and well-rounded they are.”
KOI-USA Full Live for Broadcast panel:
Jeff Ravitz – lighting designer and chair of the judging panel who has turned innumerable live performances into broadcast ready television shows, including for Bruce Springsteen, Lollapalooza festival, and Canadian pop star Justin Bieber.
Amy Tinkham – creative director, producer, and writer, Amy has previously worked as a choreographer for artists including Madonna, Aerosmith, and Earth Wind and Fire, and has directed events including America’s Got Talent Live in Las Vegas.
Dennis Size – lighting designer and Vice President of design team Lighting Design Group, Dennis spent 18 years as senior lighting director for Disney/ABC TV Network, lighting everything from soap operas to variety shows.
Cameron Barnett – director of photography, Cameron has worked as extensively as DOP primarily in large sensor capture in the UK, USA, and Australia on shows like The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, Kevin Hart’s What Now stand up special, and was the film consultant on Beyonce’s US tour.
Alana Billingsley – Emmy Award-winning art director with more than ten years’ experience on high profile live television events, Alana has worked on The Grammy Awards, The CMA Awards, The Oscars, and one Democratic National Convention.
Michael Appel – lighting director and programmer whose selected credits include Nickelodeon’s Kids Choice Awards, Christmas in Rockefeller Center (NBC) and In Performance at The White House (PBS). Michael has also programmed two tours for Bruce Springsteen, and under his company banner MADesign, worked with Gwen Stefani at The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for NB, Mary Kay Leadership Conference, and the Maserati Levante Trofeo launch.
“I’m very honored to have been invited as chair of the Live for Broadcast judging panel. I take it as a serious responsibility to be part of this highly-respected award process,” says Ravitz.
Cameron Barnett adds, “Lighting and video design allow the audience entry into a world that the designer creates, an illusion that suspends time and space. It’s magic that can only be created when these disciplines are at their best.”
Nominations for the first Knight of Illumination Awards USA are open until July 31 and can be made for all three categories on the Knight of Illumination USA website: www.knightofilluminationawards.com
The panels’ chosen winners will be unveiled at the 2018 ceremony and gala dinner at The Foundry, SLS Hotel, Las Vegas on October 20.
About the Knight of Illumination Awards
Since its inception in 2007, The Knight of Illumination Awards (KOI) has celebrated international lighting and video content design for entertainment. KOI-USA recognises work broadcast or performed in the US across the fields of Concert Touring & Events, Theatre and Live for Broadcast. Judging is carried out by three independent panels of industry experts. The KOI awards were conceived by renowned LD Durham Marenghi, Jennie Marenghi and Italian lighting manufacturer Claypaky who, along with ACT Lighting, are headline sponsor of the KOI-USA Awards. The Awards and ceremony are managed by America’s leading entertainment technology trade show, LDI, in partnership with specialist content creation company The Fifth Estate on behalf of the KOI Committee.
You’ll have to excuse the media and content team at the Vikings Entertainment Network (VEN) for feeling like kids in a candy store. Have you seen their new home? This summer, the Minnesota Vikings are placing the final, dramatic exclamation point on the complete reboot of their franchise: Twin Cities Orthopedics (TCO) Performance Center. First came U.S. Bank Stadium, then came the first NFC NorthMore
You’ll have to excuse the media and content team at the Vikings Entertainment Network (VEN) for feeling like kids in a candy store. Have you seen their new home?
This summer, the Minnesota Vikings are placing the final, dramatic exclamation point on the complete reboot of their franchise: Twin Cities Orthopedics (TCO) Performance Center. First came U.S. Bank Stadium, then came the first NFC North title in six years, and now comes this stunning new practice facility in Eagan.
It’s jarring to recall that, not that long ago, this franchise was in the crosshairs of relocation. Now it has one of the most impressive headquarters in all U.S. professional sports. And media and video production is a significant piece of the pie.
The crown jewel of the new media facilities is TCO Studios, an eye-popping set that rivals many studios in any end of the sports-media business. It features four shooting areas: a traditional anchor desk, an informal area with four lounge chairs for deeper conversations among talent and guests, and two standup positions — one with an 86-in. touchscreen, the other with three slim vertical video screens.
The studio is filled with Sony F55 cameras equipped with Fujinon lenses, features a cutting-edge acoustic wall that lifts to open up to a 170-seat theater for a live audience, and is fully flexible and customizable (lighting, backdrops, set-piece positions) for any show, client, or sponsor.
It’s an awe-inspiring site for anyone who’s ever worked in sports television.
“When it first started taking shape,” says Bryan Harper, VP, content and production, Minnesota Vikings. “I found myself coming down here a couple times a day just because I wanted to look at it.”
The control room — which operates TCO Studios, the radio/podcast studio, the practice-field videoboard (a 1080×600 15HD-pixel-pitch Daktronics board), and the full IPTV system throughout the complex (installed by VITEC) — is designed to replicate the control room at U.S. Bank Stadium in Downtown Minneapolis. According to Allan Wertheimer, senior manager, production, Vikings, that was done purposefully to allow seamless staff training and make it easy for new members of the team to get accustomed to the equipment by using it on a regular basis.
A Ross Carbonite production switcher anchors the infrastructure at the front bench, with Ross Xpression as the graphics engine. An Abekas Mira provides playback support with eight channels, and the team has left room for growth to add slow-motion replay. For now, it can rent that gear and easily plug it into an available position. The entire media center is built around a robust Evertz router.
The Vikings worked with numerous key partners that helped TCO Studios produce its feats for the eyes. Provost Studio — a high-end, boutique design firm that has worked with the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, and soon the Detroit Lions — played a chief role in design of the studio area. It also helped future-proof and properly plan the build to ensure that every element of the final project was considered.
Alpha Video served as integrator, with the Vikings receiving counsel from SH Acoustics on the cutting-edge wall that separates the 170-seat theater from the set; Lighting Design Group, which set up an LED system that allows customization of the set to serve even non-Vikings clients; Chicago Scenic, which provides the set’s dramatic backdrops (right now, it’s a view of the Downtown Minneapolis skyline); and Primeview, which supplied the various screens that appear on the set, including a 3×3 video wall behind the main desk, a monitor wall behind the couch area, and the 86-in. touchscreen.
The facilities are yet another example of how sports teams are investing in becoming, essentially, their own media companies. Whether it’s game day or any other day, the possibilities seems endless in this new playground.
“It could be everything from a full-on production to just IPTV,” says Wertheimer. “We’re so much more than football, sometimes it can be easy to forget that we work for a football team.”
Planning for these studios began three years ago. Harper and Wertheimer credit their colleagues at the Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys — whose studios and facilities at Halas Hall and The Star, respectively, are standouts — who opened their doors to tours and helped the VEN team learn from their experiences.
“We had a vision ,” says Harper, “but, at the end of the day, it comes down to support from ownership, [to] the fact that they love our content, they love what we do, they care about it, they care about our fans, and they want to give our fans the best opportunity to engage.”
The team at Vikings Entertainment Network understands that with these amazing facilities certainly comes an increase in expectations, both internally from ownership and externally from fans.
In addition to a seemingly endless stream of content from web, social, and OTT platforms and department programs, VEN also creates six television shows for linear partners KMSP (the local Fox affiliate) and Fox Sports North (the local RSN).
Although Harper acknowledges that 2018 will be a growth year, plans are in place to introduce new content. He sees the biggest areas for growth in live social media and in podcasting. A notable addition, however, will come on the traditional linear side: plans are in place for a live show that will air on KMSP this season on Thursday nights prior to the start of Thursday Night Football, which, this year, moves over to Fox Sports. The show will be Vikings-specific and preview the upcoming weekend’s Vikings game and serve as lead-in with a local flavor to that night’s national telecast. And as it happens, the first game in the Fox Thursday Night Football package has (you guessed it) the Vikings visiting the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 27.
So, as plastic is still being pulled off new corners of TCO Performance Center this summer and that new-studio smell is wafting warmly to everyone at VEN, the excitement is clear. But make no mistake about it: the fun is just getting started.
LOS ANGELES — June 11, 2018 — Litepanels today announced that Lighting Design Group (LDG), a global leader in television lighting design, chose Litepanels’ new Gemini LED soft panels for international broadcast coverage of the May 19 wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Under contract by several major news organizations, LDG relied on 12 Gemini panels to light the networks’ temporary sets overlookingMore
LOS ANGELES — June 11, 2018 — Litepanels today announced that Lighting Design Group (LDG), a global leader in television lighting design, chose Litepanels’ new Gemini LED soft panels for international broadcast coverage of the May 19 wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Under contract by several major news organizations, LDG relied on 12 Gemini panels to light the networks’ temporary sets overlooking Windsor Castle in London.
“We have been using Litepanels products for years, and they’ve given us consistent and reliable service. We keep coming back to Litepanels products for a wide range of lighting applications,” said Niel Galen, senior lighting designer, Lighting Design Group. “Gemini is a welcome addition to the world of LED soft lights. Its lighter weight and smaller form factor were big plusses for this shoot because we had very critical weight restrictions for the install given the age of the building.”
Launched at IBC2017, Gemini raises the bar for professional lighting by delivering a wide, soft, and flicker-free light source in a highly portable 2×1 form factor. Gemini’s flexible and precise color adjustment removes the need for color correction by offering full-spectrum white light that is ideal for lighting talent and rendering exceptional color.
In London, LDG used the Gemini in a lighting solution for the networks’ temporary broadcast booths, which were located directly adjacent to Windsor Castle. The Gemini soft panels worked in tandem with traditional HMI lighting to match daylight lighting conditions on the sets, from which the networks broadcast live morning shows and prime-time newscasts on May 18 and 19.
“In our lighting design for the wedding coverage, we were going for a very pleasing soft, but also sparkly, light,” Galen added. “The Geminis were an important component and performed beautifully. They provided a fantastic soft base with strong and consistent output, which can be difficult to find with other fixtures, and their comparatively low power consumption was a big help since we were running off generator power. We’re always leery of using products that we have not field-tested, but the Geminis worked exactly as expected, with no surprises. And no one wants surprises during live network news coverage!”
With the approach of the U.S. midterm elections, Galen sees an expanded opportunity to use the Gemini soft lights for on-location news coverage. “The lighting we’ve done in the past for political coverage, at events such as debates and town halls, involves slightly smaller platform configurations and fixed lighting that’s closer to talent — with locations that usually involve covered stages with at least one wall open to the outside. There are also wide variations in lighting intensity since these events happen at all hours of the day and night. The Geminis will be the ideal solution for providing bright, soft illumination at any intensity, giving us the ability to maintain color temperature and output without having to supplement with HMIs.”
“As one of the world’s premier lighting designers for broadcast, LDG is a valued customer — and their adoption of the Geminis for this high-profile media event, without much testing ahead of time, speaks volumes about their faith in our products,” said Alan Ipakchian, technical sales manager, Litepanels. “We’re looking forward to seeing what LDG will do with the Geminis moving forward, especially for election coverage and other national and international news broadcasts.”
NewscastStudio Announces Winners in 2017 Set of the Year Contest, Honoring the Best in Scenic Design for Television The annual awards honor the best design and technology in television with winners from NBC, ESPN, Fox Sports, Netflix and Tencent. LAS VEGAS, April 9, 2018 /PRNewswire/ – NewscastStudio, the trade publication for broadcast industry professionals involved in production, design and engineering, has announced the winners ofMore
NewscastStudio Announces Winners in 2017 Set of the Year Contest, Honoring the Best in Scenic Design for Television
The annual awards honor the best design and technology in television with winners from NBC, ESPN, Fox Sports, Netflix and Tencent.
LAS VEGAS, April 9, 2018 /PRNewswire/ –, the trade publication for broadcast industry professionals involved in production, design and engineering, of its 2017 Set of the Year competition — an annual contest that showcases the best in broadcast design, technology and lighting from organizations across the globe.
“This year’s awards honor broadcasters from across all formats and styles of presentation, truly capturing the changing world of broadcast,” said Michael P. Hill, publisher and founder of NewscastStudio. “This year’s contest was also updated to reflect the changing state of the industry, with a new category devoted specifically to on-set technology and video walls.”
This year’swere judged by a panel of 15 industry veterans with over 200 years of combined experience in broadcast design, production design and the broadcast industry.
Clickspring Design took home the most accolades, with five total honors, including two awards for work completed for Tencent (腾讯体育), a leading technology and internet company based in China.
Other winning broadcasters included ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC News, Cox Media Group, Gray Television and Netflix.
“NBC Nightly News” from Clickspring Design took home the National category honors, with New York’s Spectrum News NY1 from Jack Morton Worldwide awarded the top honor in the Local News category.
Internationally, Suzhou TV’s (苏州电视台) Media Center from Clickspring Design was the judges’ pick, while the design for Fox Sports’ coverage of Super Bowl LI from JHD Group won in the Special Event category.
Tencent’s NBA studio took home the top honors in the Sports category and the Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality category, with design from Clickspring Design and graphics by Girraphic Park with graphics technology from Vizrt.
Meanwhile, James Pearse Connelly’s studio for Netflix’s “Bill Nye Saves The World” took top honors in the Entertainment category.
The Set Technology category, a new addition to the awards program this year, included winning work from Devlin Design Group at Cox Media Group’s WJAX in Jacksonville, Florida, where the video wall usage was honored, integrated by Advanced. Clickspring Design’s usage of curved, tracking LED video walls in ESPN’s Studio Z, home of “Outside the Lines” with Bob Ley and “E:60,” also garnered honors, with integration by AV Design Services.
“LED video walls continue to dominate broadcast design — and designers are now faced with the challenge of finding innovative ways to use them,” said Dak Dillon, editor of NewscastStudio.
The Lighting Design category, which focuses purely on the lighting of a broadcast studio, saw two awards for The Lighting Design Group. The winning work includes “Megyn Kelly Today,” an entertainment show airing on NBC, and New York’s SNY, a sports network covering the New York Mets and Jets.
Financial services firm William Blair’s Chicago-based set from Provost Studio won the Webcast category, which honors work designed primarily for usage in online streaming productions.
For the reader’s choice Fan Vote, which garnered nearly 20,000 votes, NewscastStudio.com readers picked FX Design Group’s work for WCTV in Tallahassee, Florida, a Gray Television station.
The complete list of winners, including the judges’ picks for honorable mentions, is available online at. The winners were announced at the 2018 NAB Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Phone: (415) 915-8855
Full Winners List
Contest Details and Background
Video of AR/VR Category
It concerns me to see the Lighting Director position cut from control rooms. Consoles with fancy touchscreens and graphically laid out magic sheets all seem to proclaim the end of the LD. Soon you’ll never need this position again, or so the thinking goes. Producers (or our bosses) see us sitting around before or after a show and think, What am I paying this personMore
It concerns me to see the Lighting Director position cut from control rooms. Consoles with fancy touchscreens and graphically laid out magic sheets all seem to proclaim the end of the LD. Soon you’ll never need this position again, or so the thinking goes. Producers (or our bosses) see us sitting around before or after a show and think, What am I paying this person for?
It’s a fair question. Us Designers don’t advertise our benefits and, out of habit, downplay our skills. A boastful megalomaniac approach may pay dividends in front of the camera, behind it that same attitude is a major liability.
Television is democratizing. As more content players come online, what exactly is lost when no Lighting Director sits on the show?
Consider that shows evolve.
To evolve means to gradually develop over a period of time, which describes the arc of successful shows. No show’s first episode looked exactly like the last. Shows change, their production needs grow, their Look evolves, and with it, expectations do as well. However, without a Lighting Director, this critical element of the production remains stuck in time.
In nature either an organism evolves or dies. Saving money by not hiring a Lighting Directors puts the entire organism — the show — at risk of extinction.
What does this evolution look like in the studio? I hear often a “lighting person” is not needed because “The lights will never change.” In my experience, television lighting does nothing but change. I make continual adjustments to keep the show’s Look consistent day-to-day. A host comes back from a beach vacation several shades darker? I adjust. A guest host takes over for a day? I adjust. A very dark skinned guest sits down? I adjust. Camera’s iris control fails? I adjust. The show wants to light a new position due to breaking news? I adjust and adjust and adjust. Though I can’t prove this, I suspect minor voltage differences from the city vary the lights, up or down, a few foot-candles depending on the time of year. The rig, for lack of a better word, breathes.
The myriad of adjustments and checks I perform in the course of a week are too numerous to denote. Some adjustments keep the show consistent, they limit unwelcome change, while other adjustments help evolve the show into an ever slightly better version. Since variation is impossible to entirely remove, for the right kind of evolution to prevail, a “lighting person” must be present to guide it.
I find it difficult to teach non-lighting people everything they need in order to operate a serious studio. I see infrastructure and signal flow in a way time has shaped over 15 years in the field. I have stared at a production monitor for thousands and thousands of hours; I see things other people do not. Thus, I fix issues before they are consciously noticed. I stay one step ahead. I know what something will look like before the Director yells, “Take.” These skills, acquired over expanses of time, cannot be transcribed into a manual. No shortcut exists, thus, non-lighting folks can never really catch up. Expensive consoles give them a tool but not the knowledge.
Our systems grow more complicated, particularly with heavy reliance on LEDs.
Driving LEDs requires profiles and consoles. Consoles require backups, which then involves networking. Networking involves a solid knowledge of addressing, switches, DMX splitters, gateways … the list goes on. To complicate matters, a wrong login — for example — going in as a Master instead of a Client, can wreck havoc which may never be unraveled without … you guessed it … a lighting person.
I get the impression clients think we sit around and press a few buttons once in awhile. I see this same thought in aviation, i.e., auto-pilot flies the plane the entire way. The next logical step — ergo a pilot is not necessary — feels like a sensical conclusion. And while technically true, auto-pilot is active throughout a large portion of the flight, to suggest a pilot is no longer necessary shows a willful misunderstanding of how airplanes fundamental work. To lose the pilot is to lose the overseer, the systems manager, the person looking one step ahead, the person who responds in a catastrophe.
When a production forgoes a Lighting Director, lives will surely not be lost. However what is lost matters, even if its absence is not always immediately felt. A pilot does more than just “… fly a plane.” Similarly, a Lighting Director does more than “… press a few buttons.”
We do things a little differently this week, interviewing Mark London, VP of Systems.
The 20,000 square foot multi-venue studio space Clickspring Design created for MBC (Middle East Broadcasting Center Group) mixes classical architectural influences combined with fresh, light and modern materials — the result is a stunning look that plays homage to the network’s home country of Dubai while still creating a streamlined and high-tech look befitting a 21st century broadcaster. For its design inspiration, the Clickspring teamMore
The 20,000 square foot multi-venue studio space Clickspring Design created for MBC (Middle East Broadcasting Center Group) mixes classical architectural influences combined with fresh, light and modern materials — the result is a stunning look that plays homage to the network’s home country of Dubai while still creating a streamlined and high-tech look befitting a 21st century broadcaster.
For its design inspiration, the Clickspring team looked to two classic concepts found in Islamic art and architecture — tessellation and subtractive forms.
Aperiodic tessellation, a concept first developed by the Sumerians in 4,000 B.C., and commonly found in Islamic tile work, provided the base for the set’s geometric shapes.
By taking layers of equally spaced grids and rotating them on top of each other, a dizzying array of shapes and patterns emerge, including triangles, multi-point stars and triangles and even curved forms.
These forms can be found throughout Islamic buildings — and serve as the foundation for the MBC set’s design.
The set’s backlit walls, for example, feature an “X” shape pattern that is then repeated — with a twist — in the glass panels surrounding the upper levels of the main studio space.
On these panels, the “X” shape gracefully morphs into geometric “petals,” creating a dynamic pattern that draws the eye upward, pays tribute to Islamic art and also adds texture and layers to the large space.
The notion of the morphing shape is inspired directly by tessellation — since, as one rotates one or more of the grid layers, the shapes and patterns form, meld and disappear.
In addition to tessellation, the studio’s strong vertical lines and forms mirror the city of Dubai’s always changing skyline of skyscrapers while also playing homage to the city’s older minarets.
The large, open central space soars to three stories tall and boasts a control room-backed news area with modular desk that can be arranged in a variety of configurations. The lighting was handled by The Lighting Design Group with fabrication handled by a local firm and AV integration done in-house.
For the show’s morning programming, a large LED video wall creates the look of broad windows overlooking Dubai, while a curved integrated seating area provides flexible seating configurations.
Tucked under a neighboring balcony is a demonstration kitchen, while a gracefully curved staircase wraps around a two-story curved concave LED panel with a window-like opening in the upper portion.
Subtractive forms, like this opening in the stairway video wall, is a concept that involves strategically removing portions or blocks of solid shapes to create segmentation and flow, is integrated throughout the space, including small openings breaking up the textured walls, creating numerous niches and openings in the set’s various surfaces.
Subtractive forms are also found in Islamic buildings, street layouts and art.
The dramatic stairway leads to the upper portion of the main studio, a mezzanine level with a wraparound balcony flanked with frosted glass panels and workspaces, while a dramatic catwalk runs across the center of the studio.
Meanwhile, tessellation finds its way into another of the set’s centerpieces — a multistory, eight point star shaped social media tower, as well as the diagonal lines found on the floors and curved archways. All of these shapes and lines can be found in “hiding” with a tessellation grid form.
The social media tower’s strategic placement and shape allows it to be used by the main studio space, adjacent sports set and a second level space designed for children’s programming.
The first level sports set features a dividing wall created from a combination of glass, backlit walls and sliding video panels.
Subtractive forms make another appearance here — this time in the anchor desk which can be used for a variety of talent configurations and take advantage of the space’s sliding video panels with industrial mounting hardware and curved backlit and multisegment LED wall.
All of the MBC spaces expertly blend clean metal finishes, color-changing backlit surfaces, layers of glass and even organic sand-colored textures to create a design that mixes the old traditions of Islamic architecture with the look, feel and needs of a modern broadcasting facility reaching a 21st century audience.
This month, we interview Lighting Designer Dan Rousseau.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Fox News has taken the wraps off its much anticipated two-story streetside studio that has been designed as a glittering homage to the newsgathering process in the heart of downtown New York City. “Our two-level 6th Avenue studio is home to FNC’s 2016 Election coverage, which features display technology and scenic capabilities unrivaled in the industry. This new state-of-the-art technology willMore
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Fox News has taken the wraps off its much anticipated two-story streetside studio that has been designed as a glittering homage to the newsgathering process in the heart of downtown New York City.
“Our two-level 6th Avenue studio is home to FNC’s 2016 Election coverage, which features display technology and scenic capabilities unrivaled in the industry. This new state-of-the-art technology will enhance our programming for many years to come,” said Warren Vandeveer, SVP of engineering and operations at Fox News.
The new studio, christened Studio F, occupies the streetside space that was once a FedEx Office store at the corner 47th Street and 6th Avenue, also known as the Avenue of Americas, and it provides sweeping views of the facade of the News Corp. building and neighboring courtyard, as well as views up 6th Avenue past Radio City Music Hall and toward Central Park.
“The studio was really an opportunity to make a bigger statement for Fox News in New York City, only a block from Times Square,” said Jim Fenhagen, EVP of design at Jack Morton PDG.
The zenith of the new studio is a piece dubbed the “video chandelier” — a 14-foot diameter ring of LEDs that is mounted on intricate hoisting systems that allow it to be raised and lowered anywhere between the floor and the 30-foot ceilings in the space, with the displays powered by Vizrt.
The chandelier, which is created from NanoLumens’ NanoWrap panels with a 3mm pitch, is perfectly aligned with a circular video screen embedded in the floor, upon which the talent can walk.
Video chandelier in Studio F. Photos courtesy of Fox News.
The flowing shape of the chandelier is mirrored in the Leyard 1.6mm 32×9-foot video wall tucked under the balcony, which itself is fronted with a curved video ribbon. The balcony makes a strong architectural statement by wrapping around the vertical space of the video chandelier, creating a striking contrast in the otherwise rectangular space.
Above, on the second floor, is an additional anchor location which can use the backdrop of either the street view or, when positioned halfway down, the video chandelier.
This space also includes an interactive touchscreen that is tied to the mezzanine level’s larger 21-foot Leyard video wall, allowing talent to virtually move imagery, through a bit of TV magic, from the touchscreen to the other sections of video wall.
The second floor is accessed through a sculptural glass stairway and will eventually feature a glass box elevator. The staircase is backed with a nearly 30-foot tall video tower comprised of panels, giving the network unique storytelling opportunities when used in conjunction with the stairs.
Down on the main floor, which is fully visible from the sidewalk, are two additional anchor desks that can accommodate a variety of seating configurations and can be moved around the space for any number of shooting options, with Fox News making full use of them for its election night coverage.
The windows, which were outfitted with a shade system for light control, also contain a special glass that can instantly go from translucent to opaque, depending on the needs of the studio.
The windows also added significant lighting challenges for the team at The Lighting Design Group.
“Having glass on three sides of a broadcast studio gave us huge daylight control challenges. It’s been a very hectic six months. It’s also resulted in an amazing studio that the network and all the consultants should be very proud of,” said Mark London, VP of operations and systems at LDG.
Since the studio is built in a part of the building that was originally meant to be retail space and not a TV studio, the windows are broken up by large structural columns, which have been clad in LED panels that add additional branding and storytelling opportunities.
Although the studio is making its debut for election week, it is a permanent installation, and both Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network will make use of it. The exact details have yet to be finalized, as the network is heavily focused on its election coverage.
For election night, an adjacent storage room has been dressed to serve as an additional reporting venue, and the network has brought in special lighting and installed a large video screen for crowds who gather outside the space.
From both inside and out, Fenhagen’s design strategy centered around creating a vibrant, eye-catching and dynamic landmark destination.
“Besides making it a practical news studio that both the news channel and business channel could use, in my mind I imagined it as a tourist attraction — sort of like the dancing waters in Las Vegas,” Fenhagen said.
With its impressive number of video screens, movable parts and exciting opportunities for future versatility, the new Studio F is set to become one of the most visible broadcasting spaces in Manhattan.
Scenic Design by Jack Morton PDG:
Jim Fenhagen – EVP, Designer
Camille Connolly – Sr. Designer and lead
Larry Hartman – Sr. Designer
Catherine Carriere – Associate Designer/Project Manager
Evan Hill – Assistant Designer/Project Manager
Chris Maroney – Sr. Illustrator
Greg Park – Illustrator
Adaer Melgar – Illustrator
Erik Nevala-Lee – Illustrator
Molly Hellring – Illustrator
Producers & Admin:
Lighting by The Lighting Design Group:
Dennis Size – Vice President of Design
Mark London – Vice President of Operations and Sytems
Carolyn Szymanski – Senior Project Manager
Tony Siniscalo – Systems Project Manager
Mark Janeczko – Lighting Designer
Alex Kyle-Dipietropaolo – Assistant Lighting Designer
Kate Groener – Technical Project Coordinator
Jon Goss – Gaffer
Lesli Tilly – Gaffer
Fabrication by Showman Fabricators
AV Technology and Integration by WorldStage and Diversified
General Contractor: Benchmark
Sound Consultant: Acoustic Distinctions
Check out Lighting Designer Rachel Alulis’s interview for LD of the Month.
Politics has dominated news coverage for the past several months, keeping Lighting Directors, Designers, and DPs busy scrambling to capture the blow-by-blow scrum of our political process. Key to primary season is the debates, hosted by major networks, which play a prominent role for the candidates to share their ideas and demeanor with massive audiences. The stakes are high. “Every four years you have thisMore
Politics has dominated news coverage for the past several months, keeping Lighting Directors, Designers, and DPs busy scrambling to capture the blow-by-blow scrum of our political process.
Key to primary season is the debates, hosted by major networks, which play a prominent role for the candidates to share their ideas and demeanor with massive audiences.
The stakes are high.
“Every four years you have this alignment which dominates the television landscape. It’s the concurrence of the Summer Olympics, political conventions, and debates. We don’t sleep much,” says Dennis Size, Vice President of Design for The Lighting Design Group (LDG).
Behind many of the debates, you find Size and the team at LDG, including President Steve Brill as well Gaffers Lesli Tilly and Jon Goss, working hard to ensure everyone — candidate and moderator — look their best. The large importance and scope of these televised events mean challenges abound.
One such challenge of the presidential debates is the venues.
Built to hold large audiences, they differ wildly from traditional television studios.
“The distance between the talent and their light in a studio can be as little as ten feet, but in a large theatre or arena it could be a hundred feet,” says Lesli Tilly, who often works with Size on LDG’s large projects.
“Large, soft light sources from close up are extremely flattering for faces, but that’s impossible when the light source is 40, 50, or well over 100 feet from the talent’s face,” continues Size. “Soft source are uncontrollable, so we use point sources tailored specifically for their target — often with merely a beam spread of 3 feet by 3 feet!”
Thus not a lot of big, soft sources are used. A trade-off exists, however, in using point sources: harsher shadows.
In a studio environment, raising or lowering the light can mitigate the shadows created by smaller sources. That isn’t possible in a large arena or typical theater. Care must be taken in preproduction to specify the right instrument type for the job.
Shooting a live audience in these venues presents another challenge.
“Architectural house lighting is usually not adequate for cameras, and it almost always isn’t aesthetically acceptable. Thus the design of the audience lighting needs consideration from the beginning, which means creating positions and lighting the audience in ways never intended in the construction of the venue,” said Steve Brill.
This element of the show cannot be an afterthought.
Staging and Sets
The debates are more like touring a theatrical show then a traditional TV production, which adds another set of complications. The Art Director does the first set up, but often the lighting department ensures the scenery is properly placed in each venue thereafter.
Also, many networks temporarily relocate regular morning and evening programming to broadcast from the debate venue.
“The producers and talent expect the same quality in their lighting as in their home studios, even on location,” says Brill. Add to that stand-up positions inside the venue for reporter hits or lighting the post-debate spin room, suddenly the workload goes well beyond what one person can handle.
“The debate is only part of what is being broadcast from each venue,” adds Mark London, Vice President of Operations for LDG, “To handle all the various smaller setups that surround the main debate, we bring a team of designers to handle the workload in these satellite locations.”
A One Time Show
Other challenges abound when lighting presidential debates. A major one is there are no second chances.
“One of the biggest challenges — and also for me one of the joys — is that like doing live theater, you have one chance. You rehearse, you prepare for everything, and still, there’s no guarantee that it’s all going to go according to plan,” said Tilly.
Often it doesn’t. Campaign media staff may request last minute tweaks to the lighting. New polls may change candidate positioning on stage. A candidate may drop out, necessitating every light be re-focused now that the podiums have been re-centered.
Thus the importance of building in flexibility becomes paramount.
“Invariably a director says to me, ‘We’ll use camera two for candidate X and that’ll be his camera,’ and within three minutes of the debate, the director had to swing camera five over because camera two is somewhere else. You’re lit for camera two, but have to react immediately to make sure he or she looks great from camera five now as well,” said Size.
Tilly continues, “Changes come often and you have to continually adjust and adapt. The best tools you have are past debate experiences and the preparation you’ve done for the show.”
Rehearsal time is often scarce. Brill added, chuckling, “And the candidates are never on stage at the same time until the show is live!” Furthermore no one can predict the back and forth that will occur, meaning the entire crew must be ready for nearly everything.
There is no muscle memory to fall back on.
The debate schedules are often grueling.
“Depending on the network and the venue, we’re generally onsite from five to six days in advance of the day of the debate. We’ll be completely gone by about 5 P.M. the following day,” says Tilly.
On-site changes quickly multiply the workload because of their cascading affects on the rig.
“These are large venues typically, with positions that aren’t always easily accessible. We’re communicating via radio. It all can really slow a load-in down,” adds Size.
Planning Makes Perfect
Planning for debates of this magnitude often begins months in advance.
Scenic companies generate renderings, which helps guide the design. The discussions regarding budget are usually lengthy and involved.
“Money is tighter across the board in television and that includes debates. Networks want to make sure every dollar spent is not a dollar wasted on excesses,” says Brill.
Gear rental influences the overall budget greatly.
“Often theaters are easier and cheaper,” says Tilly, “because they usually have a large inventory of stock to pull from. Arenas usually have very little, if anything at all. This greatly affects the cost of the rental package.”
While the lengthy preproduction window is time consuming and challenging, it’s not all bad.
“A good thing about longer preproduction times,” adds Tilly, “is that you know the show in and out. So by the time things begin changing on-site, the entire plot is cemented in your mind. You’re ready for anything.”
Gaffer Jon Goss adds, “The only constant thing in this business is change. We must embrace that philosophy and adapt to all of the changes as an integral part of the process: from initial concept, to planning and budgeting, through load-in, focus, and rehearsal. Skilled planning and talented people makes those changes easier, as does having some of the new technology now available, like LED fixtures, moving lights, and the correct lighting console.”
The Election Continues
LDG has done four primary presidential debates thus far, and is slated to do another five before March 2016. The large volume clearly suggests debates will continue to play a huge role in our politics.
What a candidate says and how they look are crucial to winning skeptical voters.
While LDs have no control over the former, our work is the infrastructure for the latter. Like infrastructure, it’s never good to be noticed.
“We need lighting, otherwise nobody can see and nobody looks particularly good. Great lighting should allow the candidate to present him or herself as they wish to be presented. But to call attention to ourselves, especially negative but positive too, is to miss the mark. Debates are about candidates, moderators, and the exchange of ideas,” concludes Size, “Not lighting.”
There’s little debate about that.
If you’ve never spent time on a film set before, you might be surprised how much thought is put into the design of the lighting. Designers don’t just show up and flick a switch—it’s a complex planning process that directly affects the mood of the broadcast, film, or performance. There are of course a million factors to consider when designing the lighting—from how the principalMore
If you’ve never spent time on a film set before, you might be surprised how much thought is put into the design of the lighting. Designers don’t just show up and flick a switch—it’s a complex planning process that directly affects the mood of the broadcast, film, or performance.
There are of course a million factors to consider when designing the lighting—from how the principal actors or presenters are illuminated and seen from multiple cameras, to creating an appealing backdrop that sets the tone of the shoot. And then there are musical cues and segment changes that require preprogrammed dynamic lighting. Just show up and flick the switch, indeed. To learn a little about what goes into lighting design we spoke with Mike Grabowski, a lighting designer here in New York.
First, tell us a bit about your current work and how long you’ve been at it.
Hi! My name is Mike Grabowski and I work as a Senior Designer for The Lighting Design Group in NYC. I’ve been there for a little over eight years. I’ve been working in the live event and broadcast industry for about 15 years, though.
Primarily, I work as a broadcast lighting designer, though I have a background in lighting design for theater, dance, and events.
Since everyone asks, I design both the technical and artistic end of the lighting for a show—I decide, in collaboration with the rest of the team, what angle the light is coming from, at what intensity, and what color. It involves multiple disciplines: drafting, renderings, sketches, and then implementation of the plot. It’s an interesting job. While other groups produce physical things—the walls of a set, for example—what I produce is much more ephemeral. It’s painting talent, sets, and the air itself with light. It’s pretty neat.
I primarily work in multi-camera studio and field productions, occasionally crossing over into scripted dramas.
Currently, in addition to pilots and one off specials, I’m working on MTV’s Girl Code Live, MTV2’s Uncommon Sense, just wrapped up season five of AMC’s Comic Book Men, and I’m getting ready for History’s Forged in Fire and ABC’s Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in Times Square. Plus, I’m writing this on the subway to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the NYC Papal visit.
What drove you to choose your career path?
To be honest, I fell into it at an early age and was able to jump on the path very early on. Before working in broadcast (and lighting in general), I worked as a sideshow performer and magician in the Philly area, throughout high school and into college. I was fortunate to meet up with folks who worked in the theatre as well during this time, and I happened into working on electrics crews (who implement a lighting designer’s design). It fascinated me. Watching a set designer craft a world and a LD (lighting designer) breath life into the air, while the sound designer gave it a heartbeat—it was a wonderful world of building make-believe—and I was being paid to be a small part of it. I had to pursue it.
How did you go about getting your job?
Since I knew early on that I wanted to work in lighting, I strove to work as much as I could and train as well as I could. When I left college, I had a wonderful network of folks on whom I relied. This industry is primarily freelancers, so it was easy to jump out there and call myself an LD. It was much more difficult to actually DO it. I worked as an electrician, as a draftsman, as a programmer—any job I could, and experiencing and learning every role I could.
What kind of education and experience did you need?
One of the best decisions I made was going to SUNY Purchase’s Design Technology program. It is a program specifically geared towards “professional training” of the people who are serious about entering this industry. I learned from professors who were working on Broadway, in television, and in movies and was exposed to what a wide breadth a career in “lighting” could be.
After that, it became real world experience. I had to draft, work as an electrician, a little of everything. I stumbled into the television end of things because of drafting. While I loved theatre, the speed and immediacy of television was instantly appealing. If a show is live at 8pm on Tuesday, there is no slack, no pushing it back. You either make it, or potentially millions of people see your failure.
What kinds of things do you do beyond what most people see? What do you actually spend the majority of your time doing?
Working as a lighting designer (and, I suspect for other design professionals), is a bit odd. We are simultaneously the product as well as the salesman in many regards. When a client calls me, they are typically calling for my particular aesthetic, my collaborative style, and my input that I can bring to a production. Most of my time is pretty evenly split between preproduction (putting together equipment lists, assembling crews, putting together budgets, design meetings, drafting, meeting with the other designers and producers) and on-site work (getting to the location and having my crew implement all of the plans we meticulously laid out, and reacting to the unexpected, as well as any of the changes). I’ve very fortunate working with a firm, The Lighting Design Group, because we have an extensive support staff who support me with a lot of the technical aspects. It’s a benefit many freelancers and smaller firms don’t have and really lets me concentrate on a client’s needs.
Fundamentally, it’s a fluid job—the stunts and the creative for a show can change at the drop of a hat, so you need to be prepared to adapt at a moment’s notice… and realize that we are still live in five minutes.
What misconceptions do people often have about your job?
I think a lot of folks think I just “turn on” the lights, or that I “put up the lights” or just politely nod and smile because the were a “techie” in high school. All of those things are sort of right and give a bit of insight, but rarely a complete picture.
It’s a strange job that doesn’t have much of an analogue to a more “standard” (is there such a thing?) job. A typical process would be something along the lines of:
- Client reaches out about a project.
- Begin conceptualizing the design, research, meet other designers and director and producers on the project, etc. What colors, angles, textures does this show need?
- Production Meetings: regular meetings to discuss the ever evolving project, what our design intent and concepts are, as well as technical logistics.
- Create and submit budgets, while balancing both cost and implementation of the overall concept.
- Draft the light plot as well as all other relevant paperwork.
- Once budget and design concept are approved and in line, and paperwork is ready, we head to the studio or location.
- A team of electricians, lead by a gaffer, begin to hang the lights, getting them power and data.
- While this is happening I’m working to see if there are any changes, or I’m supervising the hang to make sure there are no changes to make on the fly.
- After the lights are hung, I work with my team to point each and every light, while working with my programmer to point any intelligent lights, or to program LED fixtures.
- We then cue the show, based on a rundown (an act by act breakdown of a show) or a script.
- Rehearsal! We edit, tweak, and change as needed to better fit what the producers and director are looking for, all while working with the video engineer.
- Shoot the show! All of it culminates now in the execution.
While that reads long, sometimes steps 7-12 are all jammed into one or two days, even with hundreds of lights. Heck, if it’s breaking news, this entire process is occasionally crammed into a week.
What are your average work hours?
Not really such a thing. Today I was on a job site at 8am. Tomorrow, 11am. Friday is 3am. Sunday I’m working, and in at 5pm… Monday I’m working on a live show that airs at 10:30pm, so we are in at 1:30pm. But I don’t need to head to a job site Wednesday or Thursday, so I’ll catch up on a few budgets and run errands. All that to say—there is no such thing as a typical schedule. Remember, each production is it’s own thing. So you need to be responsible for your schedule and your clients. They don’t care if you were working for someone else until 2am. If they hired you, they want you at 8am bright and on top of your game.
It’s rarely a consistent schedule, so it’s not like I can plan a transcendental meditation session followed by an all organic smoothie every Sunday morning. I need to be as flexible as my clients’ needs—-and that includes being ready to jump in should breaking news happen. An average week is about 50 hours, though that could be concentrated over three days.
What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?
One of the most important things I’ve learned to make my job easier is knowing about cameras. Ultimately, if the show has an audience, we want them to have a good time, but realistically, the most important viewer for me is the camera—that is what is getting broadcast. The more familiar I am with the cameras—knowing their capabilities and their limitations—the more I can effectively communicate with the video operator (the person manipulating the iris, color and all tweaks and profiles of the cameras, among a million other things). Knowing how to talk to them helps let both of us tease out the best possible look for a production.
On a broader level, integrating cloud based solutions in addition to VPN solutions have been a huge thing—being able to work remotely on files from my phone or iPad while on a location shoot in a field in New Jersey makes it so much easier to generate info for my team.
What do you do differently from your coworkers or peers in the same profession? What do they do instead?
I think a lot of us work very similarly—we all want to get the show up, running and as beautifully as we can. It’s hard to say how we differ—I’m rarely interacting with other lighting designers on a job site. If I’m there, the other designers are all on other job sites. We all bring different things to the table, though—some designers are amazing at the refined, portraiture lighting that you see on major network and cable newscasts. Others are a little more rock and roll and bring more color and theatricality to the table. Because of my work history, I’m fortunate that I can bring both sides of that for my clients.
The other difference is personality and what each of us brings to a location. One thing that I emphasize is keeping things calm and helping to maintain a steadying hand. When everyone is scrambling around, I try to be the most over-prepared guy in the room, so if a curveball is thrown, there is no yelling and mayhem. Give me a minute, I’ll pull out Plan F and my team and I have you covered.
What’s the worst part of the job and how do you deal with it?
It’s a weird life and if you don’t go into it with your eyes open, it can be very tough. The inconsistent hours are the hardest. I’m lucky with having a very understanding wife who also works in the entertainment industry. It’s easy for that work/life balance to get out of whack. There are points where you could be working for 15-20 days in a row. I end up traveling for work a decent amount and if you can’t tolerate that, it can be tough. The biggest upside I’ve found to TV is that most of the people I’ve been fortunate enough to work with have realized that it is a job. We are going to make it as beautiful and as amazing and perfect as we can… within the allocated and budgeted time. Then let’s go home and enjoy our friends and family.
What’s the most enjoyable part of the job?
There is a lot to love. It’s a super small community of people, so it’s a family. Even on different coasts, countries, even if we don’t know each other, we know someone in common.
Being able to pull of a spectacle, in remarkable conditions and in a stunning time frame is always amazing.
Being able to go to places and see things—I’m writing this after having been to some of the highest corners of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC as we relight it for the Papal visit.
Most of all—and this is going to sound incredibly cheesy—when people get home after a long, tough day, I get to make them smile. To relax. The programming may be trite at times, but to be able to help people escape for a little is kind of amazing. Hearing doctors, nurses, soldiers—people who really have tough, important jobs—saying they enjoyed a show I did, or that they come home and relax by watching something I was on the team for, that’s pretty rad.
I always go back to a quote that was stitched up in the first tech booth I ever worked in, and I think it sums this up perfectly:
“In an era of breadlines, Depression, and wars, I tried to help people get away from all the misery; to turn their minds to something else. I wanted to make people happy, if only for an hour.” —Busby Berkeley
How do you “move up” in your field?
Moving up in my field is a strange question. It’s more about finding the jobs that bring you joy and that you are good at. Once you are established enough, you can get bigger and more high profile jobs as you prove yourself, if that’s defining how you “move up”—but your title isn’t going to change. The best route for folks starting in the industry is to expose themselves to any of the jobs they can. Be an assistant. Be a programmer. Be an electrician. Be a gaffer. The more you know the other positions, the more likely you are to find the role that suits you and your skill set. If you need “title promotions,” this may not be the role for you.
What do people under/over value about what you do?
The biggest undervaluing is when the assumption is made that I and the lighting team just “turn on the lights.” Rather, my team and I crafted the look with all departments. We lit the background a nice magenta so that it contrasts with the hosts skin tone but also matches the show logo—and so that they pop off the screen. We made sure their backlight was a little on the amber side to give extra tone and richness to the hair. Because we heard the talent was out working late on the story, we made sure we used soft, flattering light and kept the key lights height a little lower so that the bags under the eyes wouldn’t show. I would work with video to soften the look a tad and take out a little skin detail for an even more flattering look. Maybe we would bump the chroma a tad to make everything much more rich and full. The director, producer, production designer and I would work in concert to make sure their background and shot was as interesting and flattering as possible. I would chat with makeup and hair to make sure we were on the same page, so that makeup gave talent the right glow without looking like they were sweating. Far more than just “turning on the lights.”
What advice would you give to those aspiring to join your profession?
It’s a tough industry where you can’t sit around and wait. You can’t wait out there and say you just haven’t been given a chance to shine. [It requires] hard work. Dedication. Grind.
This is a business made on reputation and personalities. Don’t be a jerk. If you’re doing the hiring, pay people on time. Respect other people’s time and efforts as much as you want yours respected.
Don’t ever look down on another job or another position on a show staff. Learn what their job is. Help them out. Maybe that’s the exact job that is right for you, but you just don’t know it.
Have fun with it, and realize if you are fortunate enough to stumble into a job in this field or related—it is a goofy, wonderful, eccentric, and batty world, filled with great people, awful people, amazing stories and experiences, trying and exhausting times—realize that we are all ridiculously fortunate to make a living doing it. At the same time, it is just a job; don’t let it become all-consuming. Remember to see friends, explore new places… wander. Maintain that balance and help recharge the creativity.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
“PBS NewsHour” debuted a redesigned set last week by Eric Siegel, along with new music and graphics. Helping achieve the unique and airy look for the project was Dennis Size of The Lighting Design Group. The lighting design involved a total overhaul of the existing electrical system – removing the decades old, malfunctioning dimmers and converting the existing circuits in the grid to hot power appropriateMore
The lighting design involved a total overhaul of the existing electrical system – removing the decades old, malfunctioning dimmers and converting the existing circuits in the grid to hot power appropriate for LED technology.
Gaffer, Lesli Tilly, along with electricians supplied by LDG’s D.C. labor pool, worked closely with Barbizon Lighting and “NewsHour” Lighting Director Charlie Ide to convert WETA-TV’s Studio A, in Shirlington, Virginia, to an energy efficient space.
The lighting equipment consisted of:
- 80 Source 4 Lustre Series 2 ellipsoidal, using primarily 14 and 19 degree lenses, as key and fill lights.
- 70 Selecon LED Cyc Lights were purchased to light the cyc entirely from the floor.
- 25 Sola 12 Lite Panels LED fresnels as softlight washes.
- 10 Cineo Matchstixs to provide a soft fill from below for the main anchor desk — counter-balancing the ellipsoidal key lights, almost all of which were hung at 20′.
- The color temperature chosen for the studio was 5,000 degrees Kelvin, in part for the crisp “pure white’ quality of daylight, and also because of all the large monitors used all around the set.
- Control is achieved by an ETC Gio console.
The set design includes four interview areas, large freestanding acrylic panels and a 360 degree 20′ high white cyc, which required testing to achieve the desired look. The design required the acrylic panels to be lit only by the bounce light off the cyc itself.
Units were demoed at Gotham’s Scenic Shop in New Jersey to ensure they would be the right fit and work with the unique design.
Steve Brill, president of The Lighting Design Group, worked with CNN and Clickspring Design to light the CNN Heroes gala and award ceremony this past November at The American Museum of Natural History in New York City. “The museum and specifically the Whale Room are very active, so the biggest challenge was having time in the space. We needed to be flexible with our schedule and footprint,”More
Steve Brill, president of The Lighting Design Group, worked with CNN and Clickspring Design to light the CNN Heroes gala and award ceremony this past November at The American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
“The museum and specifically the Whale Room are very active, so the biggest challenge was having time in the space. We needed to be flexible with our schedule and footprint,” said Sheryl Warren-Wisniewski, the lighting project manager who also worked as on-site manager for the project. “It is also a very old building, so many of the conveniences in new buildings just aren’t there – for instance, there is no real loading dock where a large truck will fit.”
“CNN Heroes isn’t a simple awards show. There were presenters, multiple video clips of the Heroes (which involved different cues), two musical performances, and various stand-up positions throughout the room,” said Dan Rousseau, a staff lighting designer who assisted during the preproduction phase and load-in with Wolfram Ott. “The shoot was accomplished with four ped. cameras, three handheld cameras, two jibs, and a steadi-cam. The event ran as if it were being televised live with breaks between blocks.”
The lighting rig consisted of:
- Vari*Lites VL 3500 Spots
- Martin Mac Viper Performances
- Martin Mac Auras
- Clay Paky Sharpie Profiles
- Chroma-Q Color Force 72″ Strips
- ColorKinetic Color Blast TRXs
- Selecon Studio Panels
- 200 linear feet of star drop from Rose Brand
- Everything was controlled by a MA2, programmed by Mike Appel
The different fixtures, combined with a large video screen, made balancing the luminosity and color temperatures tricky.
“It was a little blue,” said Rousseau, “but with the various light sources it was critical to get the colors to match.”
“There is a giant whale diagonally cutting the room in half that makes clean shots from a FOH position especially challenging,” said Rousseau.
“Anytime we get Chris, Mike, Dan, Wolfram, Steve and I on a job together humor ensues,” said Warren-Wisniewski. “Let’s be honest, when you spend 60+ hours in a room with a massive sea creature suspended above your head, whale puns abound.”
Stage Call Productions provided the IATSE Local One labor. 4 Wall Lighting Rentals of New York provided the equipment; Showman Fabricators built the set.
NEW YORK – The Lighting Design Group recently lit CNBC’s 25th anniversary celebration at Rose Hall in The Time Warner Building. The event involved lighting three different rooms for dinner, drinks and entertainment. More details from The Lighting Design Group (www.ldg.com) This past November, CNBC tapped The Lighting Design Group (LDG) to light their 25th anniversary celebration. This year also marks LDG’s 25th anniversary. TheMore
NEW YORK – The Lighting Design Group recently lit CNBC’s 25th anniversary celebration at Rose Hall in The Time Warner Building. The event involved lighting three different rooms for dinner, drinks and entertainment.
More details from The Lighting Design Group (www.ldg.com)
This past November, CNBC tapped The Lighting Design Group (LDG) to light their 25th anniversary celebration. This year also marks LDG’s 25th anniversary. The elaborate event was held at Rose Hall, home to Jazz at Lincoln Center, in The Time Warner Building. LDG staff designers, programmers, gaffers, and Local One I.A.T.S.E crew members worked to install the affair over the course of two days and within several Rose Hall locations.
The first event of the evening occurred in The Rose Theater, lit by LDG President Steve Brill. The one-hour, panel show was broadcast live and hosted by CNBC’s Jim Cramer, host of Mad Money. “Due to several variables we opted to use VL 3500s for much of the heavy lifting,” said Brill. One was the shutter capabilities, which allowed granular control over the lighting of each panelist. “They are also very powerful units, allowing us to place the fixtures far away and low on the balcony rails, which works well for camera,” he continued. The most important perk was the flexibility. “A lot changes in T.V., sometimes last minute, so it was critical for us to have the ability to make quick adjustments as changes happened.” Matt Piercy programmed the rig.
Afterwards guests moved into The Appel Room, a beautifully adorned space with large windows overlooking Columbus Circle lit by Senior Designer Niel Galen and Lighting Designer Dan Rousseau, Here guests ate dinner, while three separate panels discussed trends in business and global markets. “Our goal was to make the room as warm and inviting as possible, but not distract from the views the venue offers of Central Park South,” said Rousseau. The team used existing gear to light the room, including Martin Vipers, lighting the panelists for camera within a warm and inviting template and color wash.
Finally guests ended their evening with cocktails and entertainment in The David Rubenstein Atrium, lit by Senior Designer Mike Grabowski. The atmosphere here was more festive. “Big, branded, and classy,” says Grabowski of the overall design. “Exhibits, like Google Glass, were on display in addition to other tech gear, which we lit with Source 4 lekos using enhanced definition lens tubes, which helped keep all the shutter cut lines crisp and clean.” Bands played jazz and show tunes on an installed stage. Greg Purnell programmed the moving light package. “This wasn’t a rock concert,” said Grabowski, “so we had to be conservative.” He used Nexus 4×4 panels to create simple bitmap effects to add more visual spice.
Michael Kemp, the Senior Project Manager for LDG, helped facilitate the logistics. “There was a lot of crew to keep track of,” said Kemp, “but a real challenge was the ‘horse trading’ of gear from room to room.” As the needs of the various rooms changed on-site, LDs would exchange gear to accommodate the changes. “It was an odd thing to manage, this sort of bartering of lighting gear,” said Kemp. 4 Wall Entertainment Lighting Rentals of New York provided supplemental lighting equipment.
Evan Purcell, Jon Goss, and Eric Kasprisin were the Gaffers.
LDG has been working with CNBC for many years. “We are grateful to have been a part of their first 25 years, and we hope to continue providing our services in the next 25 years,” concluded Brill.