in Production Profile
This year’s well-received Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show featuring Madonna was a great success, both artistically and technically. Once again the team led by executive producer Ricky Kirshner of RK Productions, director Hamish Hamilton, production designer Bruce Rodgers and lighting designer Al Gurdon presented us with a dynamic and innovative production that appeared effortless, which we all know means it took a tremendous amount of effort and hard work to bring together.
This was the third Halftime show done by the same production team, who first worked on The Who’s memorable Halftime performance. This year, Rodgers also worked closely with Madonna’s creative team, including Michel Laprise from Cirque du Soleil; Madonna’s creative director, Jamie King; and Jake Berry, Madonna’s production manager. After months of designing, planning and rehearsing the production lasts just 27 minutes, including the load-in, performance and load-out.
Field of Content
One of the key elements of the production design for this year’s show was the video content, which was part projection mapping onto the field and a stage floor of 796 BasicTech FLED io11 11mm LED video tiles provided by LMG. “I knew from early on that I wanted to do a video floor; that was the big plan,” comments Rodgers. “When Cirque became involved, they suggested bringing on Moment Factory. I was excited to finally work with Cirque and Moment factory and have been a fan of both companies! I am very happy with the final design.”
Rodgers enjoyed working closely with the Montreal-based firm on the content. “Moment Factory handled all the content, and they created some amazing imagery,” says Rodgers. The lead from Moment Factory and Screens Producer for the show was co-founder Sakchin “Saky” Bessette. Bessette and his team used a variety of 3D software applications to create and manipulate content. The content was meant to evoke the emotional resonance of Madonna’s music and create an encompassing visual world for the artist, the stage and the surrounding environment.
For control of the video content, Jason Rudolph of Mobius Productions served as media server programmer and was assisted by Matt Waters. Rudolph fed all of the projectors and LEDs in the floor as well as the LED ribbons around the stadium from Green Hippo’s Hippotizer HD media servers. “Moment Factory, would deliver us files as one large image sequence for that entire canvas, and the Hippos handled all the splitting and playback of that,” describes Rudolph. Since the Halftime show is live, Rudolph created two mirrored systems. “We had two redundant systems all running through a router so if anything were to go wrong, I could push two buttons and would be back up right away. Each system was made up of six Hippo HD servers putting out 11 feeds — eight feeds for each projector zone. The eight projectors were treated as one Hippotizer UberPan system so basically there was one canvas. Then three other outputs fed the LED tiles on the stage. Each of the redundant Hippo systems were run off time-code on separate [MA Lighting] grandMA 2 light consoles. Everything was as separate and redundant as could be since there is obviously no second chance.”
Very early in the design process, Rodgers worked with the video technology designer Ken Gay, from the LMG Design Studio in Nashville, to help realize his vision of a field of video. “We worked through several different scenarios for the video display,” explains Gay. Full-scale mockups were done at the LMG headquarters in Orlando. Gay conducted a series of rigorous exercises including mocking up the throw heights for the projectors. “LMG was great, and Ken really helped figure out how to get the effect we wanted,” says Rodgers.
The field projection area ended up being 80 feet tall by 149 feet wide, for a total area of 11,920 square feet. The raster size was 4,608 x 2,592 pixels. Once the luminance levels were established, it was decided that there would be eight zones, each with four Barco FLM HD20 projectors shooting straight down. “The 20K projectors are quad-stacked to get the right brightness level needed to work with the stage lighting levels,” explains Gay.
Gay brought in Danny Whetstone of DWP Live for his projection expertise. LMG and DWP each supplied 16 projectors. “I consider Danny one of the best projectionists in North America,” points out Gay. “We worked out the plan with these 32 projectors to make this creative idea into a technological reality. Danny was the lead projectionist on this.” In the end, there was a lot of hard work to test and perfect the projection to make it integrate with the lighting into a complete visual whole. “We did a light balance test between stage lighting levels and projection to get the right ratio,” says Gay. “We were at 45 footlamberts for luminance.” There were three white ground cloths deployed for the field screen, which was sourced and fabricated by Sew What? Inc. using a flame-resistant material, Heavy Knit Bright White.
Layers of Light
Just like in the football game itself, a production team must balance all the individual talents to achieve a single goal. The balance between video and lighting are as essential to the successful production design execution as the communication between quarterback and wide receiver. For this reason, Rodgers appreciates his collaboration with LD Al Gurdon and the lighting team. “It’s hard to imagine ahead of time what Al is going to do because you can’t sketch it, but Al is so good, along with Oz [Owen] and Rich [Gorrod],” he says. “They just are really so artistic. They don’t blow out the video; they enhance it. Some of those shots where the Color Blocks in the bleachers were modulating; just amazing. They are full partners to what is visually happening in the show. It’s really cool to see the layers come together.”
“One of the strong elements that we had this year was video projection,” says Gurdon. “I very much go from the point of view of integrating the lights and the video. I may have suggestions to modify colors or change things to reflect dynamism within the music, but basically my approach to the lighting is to integrate it as clearly as possible so that it’s all acting as one visual palette. We worked closely together with Moment Factory; the video was usually the starting point of our palette.”
Gurdon has a great ability to create strong backgrounds using saturated colors that underscore the visual whole as well as capturing the energy of the music. “One of the challenges in this kind of venue is to get some sort of background,” comments Gurdon. “I had been using the [Clay Paky] Sharpys recently and was very impressed by them. They’re versatile in terms of their size, and you can get a very intense beam. I also wanted to do something that would reflect the idea that we were at the Super Bowl. This gave rise to the pods of Sharpys in the air. We had six pods that were squares of truss with 20 Sharpys in a tight configuration in each; four rows of five units. The pods also had four [Martin Professional] Atomic Strobes with Atomic Colors and three PRG Bad Boy CMY units.”
Gurdon’s design deployed over 200 of the Sharpys in the aerial lighting pods as well as on the field carts. He used the units individually or combined gangs of them together for a strong unified beam look. “One of the big challenges was the height of everything,” says Gurdon. “Putting the pods on Kinesys hoists, we could drop them in to a workable height to give us background and we had the floor pods as well, which were very much intended to solve the background problem.” The lighting pods were built by PRG and used Kinesys motor controls to fly them in to 100 feet for the show.
Lighting director Rich Gorrod explains how the field carts were laid out. “We had seven field carts, five from the back had 12 Sharpys each — four units wide by three high; and two carts at the front had four VL3500 Spots on them in addition to 12 Sharpys on each. The carts on the field were constructed from standard 12-inch truss.” All the field carts had custom turf wheels to avoid damaging the field, which were engineered and fabricated by All Access. The lighting carts used an 18-inch version that bolted onto standard truss corner blocks. Four Atomic Strobes with Atomic Colors were mounted to the fronts of the field carts.
For additional layers in the background lighting Gurdon describes, “we also had Bad Boys for a very intense backlight and for any other effects that we needed. We really relied on the intensity of those units. They were mounted on the bottom of the aerial pods. Also, the Atomic Strobes with Atomic Colors, which I like to use for non-intrusive kinds of accents within music.”
In keeping with the sufficient lighting firepower needed to reach the field, Gurdon’s aerial rig also included a horseshoe truss of VL3500 Wash units with clear lenses. “When Madonna was revealed, we used about 150 lights to hit her on the throne for a quick burst of very intense light and then go back into the job of mainly lighting the audience,” Gurdon explains. “Also, we had VL3500 Profiles up there as well, which we were using to sidelight the dancers. The VL3500 Profiles were very important for keylighting. It’s necessary to use that kind of light because they are shutterable. My feeling for this show was to be a lot more clear and high key. It was a question of making it look sharp and glamorous. The challenge was to fully present everything, but still get lighting dynamics to underpin the excitement of the music.”
Another layer of lighting looks were from the Chroma-Q Color Blocks within the set, which were direct backgrounds for Madonna’s performance. Gurdon worked closely with his programmer, Mike “Oz” Owen on programming the Color Blocks into the looks. “Oz did a lot of very clever things with them; a lot of very careful programming to reflect what was going on within the music. The Color Blocks in the background were very important to the whole look.” The lighting was programmed and operated by Owen on a PRG V676 console. Lighting programmer Pete Radice used a second V676 console with lighting director Bob Barnhart from Full Flood who lit the pre- and post-game shows. Lighting director Dave Grill handled the interface with the video production team. The lighting package was supplied and supported by PRG.
Prior to coming to the U.S. at the end of January, Gurdon, Gorrod and Owen previsualized the lighting for the Halftime show. “We did a whole week at PRG in London at their pre-viz suite with [Cast] wysiwyg,” says Gorrod. “It was very important to this process. It saves a huge amount of time onsite and it makes us sit down and talk about the show.” Time is very tight for the Super Bowl, especially rehearsal time with the set, so pre-viz was an important tool.
Another key tool to saving time for the production onsite and efficiently working in the large stadium was the PRG Series 400 Power and Data Distribution system. “The Series 400 is an absolutely fantastic system,” says Gorrod. “We used a lot of the Series 400 seven- and ten-port fiber optic switches since many of the data runs were so long; many over 2,000 feet. We also used the S400 nodes to convert Art-Net to DMX. There is no system like it; it works, it’s bulletproof and we use it all the time.”
Arc Light EFX supplied 18 Strong Gladiator III followspots for the show as well as a new, prototype unit for the lighting team to tryout — the Brite Box Flame. The Flame is a solution to the challenges traditional Xenon followspots have looking good in high-definition. The highly-efficient Brite Box Flame has a draw of 1,500W and produces similar output to that of the 3kW Gladiators it was working along with. The size of the Flame is also much smaller, which allowed the lighting team to wheel it in to use as a keylight for Madonna and out again after the show. “It’s a smaller Gladiator basically; it has a lot smaller footprint, but it gives out about the same light level,” says Gorrod. “It certainly cut the mustard.”
From the 50 Yard Line
The excitement and the challenge of seeing a Super Bowl Halftime show literally come together is perhaps best epitomized by the stage itself. This enormous surface has to be mobile, rapidly assemble, contain lifts, lighting, video, must meet exact height tolerances, can’t use potentially field-damaging hydraulics and must be stable enough for dancers.
This challenging task fell to All Access Staging & Productions, led by president and co-owner Erik Eastland. “It was a completely custom stage,” explains Eastland. “We start with custom made turf tires that didn’t previously exist. The top was a video deck using 800 low-resolution tiles covered with a Plexiglas surface with an aluminum framework to create the deck structure. Every video tile had to have an individual cover, so they could quickly get to it and not have to pull a whole sheet off. On Plexiglas stages, we usually like to create grooves so it’s nonskid; here we put separation between tiles which gave us this very cool design look and gave us the practical nonskid surface that we needed.”
Rodgers upped the ante on his stage design this year with a lot of dynamic motion by the addition of lifts and traps. “There are a lot of rules about what you can and can’t have on the field, and a big one is no hydraulics, so the lifts were electric,” explains Rodgers. “I know in our industry that we think six lifts are no big deal, but in the context of the Halftime show and the restrictions on the field, it’s a really big deal. It was a great job from All Access on figuring out how to fabricate the lifts.” Eastland notes, “The criteria for the central lift was to go from deck surface up 12 feet. We created that from a cluster of four 12-inch ribbon lifts, but we had to customize the whole drive system so they would all run in sync. The other four surrounding lifts were tough because that type of lift, to do everything that we had to do, simply doesn’t exist due to the height restrictions required off the field surface. We had to be a minimum of 6 inches off the turf, and the lift needed to travel four-feet below and four feet above the stage, meaning all of the lift mechanics had to fit in the 18 inches we had left. We also created a modification for an additional stabilization system. In the end, they all came out really well and Madonna said ‘I love the lifts’ — so I was very happy.”
All Access also created an escape lift for Madonna’s exit in a burst of CO2. “The escape lift upstage was a cool idea that was just all about free fall,” Eastland describes. “It had a wheel with a brake, which a stagehand held, and when it was time for her to fall they let go of the brake; we slowed her down manually. That was a pretty cool lift that worked out nicely.”
Madonna’s grand entrance on a throne “pulled” by 150 “gladiator” volunteers was a stunning opening moment. London-based design firm Jimmie Martin designed the throne. Madonna is revealed from behind large wings that were fabricated by Michael Curry Design. All Access built the throne cart.
Getting the stage on the field, assembled and with fully operational lighting and video is no mean feat, and it falls to the staging supervisors Tony Hauser and Cap Spence along with cast field director and choreographer, Kristen “KP” Terry. They oversee stagehands as well as a volunteer pool of 500 local people to get the timing all just right. “This year we were in and set within six-minutes, which blew everybody’s mind,” Rodgers says.
Rodgers sums up the unique challenges for the Super Bowl Halftime show while working towards producing an entertaining show for one of the largest television audiences. “The exciting challenge for me is to make it work creatively for the artist and physically for the unique environment of this show. This is my sixth Halftime, and I know I get the credit of production designer, but everyone brings the layers to the big picture, and every layer is key; they are all, THE essential piece.”
Super Bowl Village: “The Epicenter of Awesome”
When the biggest game in football came to Indianapolis, there was dancing in the streets, literally. Hosted by the city, a three-block long party dubbed the Super Bowl Village offered tourists, locals, sports fans and music lovers a place to gather with food, games, live sportscasts, a curling rink, a zipline course and some great live entertainment. On two outdoor stages, the Pepsi Stage and the Verizon Stage, there were numerous free concerts all week, including Bret Michaels, DJ Pauly D, Patti Labelle, Dierks Bentley, Fuel, O.A.R., Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Darius Rucker, LMFAO and Umphrey’s McGee.
Handling the staging, lighting, video, and audio for throughout the village and for both stages was Indiana-based Dodd Technologies in partnership with its sister companies Tyler Truss Systems and Reel Video Systems. Dodd’s Andy Meggenhofen was the lighting and production designer for the village. Dodd supplied LED walls and audio technology throughout the village, as well as a lot of the physical structures along the street including a media center, a welcome center and a structure for NBC and the pre-game show hosted by Bob Costas.
For the two performance stages, Dodd provided a Stageline SL320 for the main stage and an SL100 for the B-stage. Dodd also handled the audio, lighting and video on both of those stages.
“For the LED walls, we utilized Pix2o products, 12.5mm pitch from Reel Video Systems roll up LEDs,” says Dodd’s Scott Renick, who served as a lighting tech for this event. “We had three eight-meter and one six-meter rollup LED walls on the street, all in 16:9 aspect ratios. The eight-meter screen is 15 feet high by 26 feet wide, and the six-meter screen is 11.15 feet high and 19.68 feet wide. The one nice thing about the video walls is that we were able to roll them up when we got into high-wind situations.” High End Systems Axon media servers were used to feed the main stage.
Meggenhofen chose Vari*Lite VL3500 Spots, Martin Professional MAC 2000XBs, MAC 101s and Atomic Strobes along with a standard PAR wash and 4-lights as audience blinders for the main stage. “We are also using 16 of the Elation Platinum Beam 5R units on the main stage,” explains Renick. “For the B-stage, we used a PAR wash with 16 MAC 301s.”
Up and down the street, Meggenhofen used 140 of Elation’s Platinum Beam 5Rs. “They are really nice from a designer aspect, and from a business aspect, they seem to be a sound investment,” he says. “Out of 140 lights, we didn’t have any issues, and you could see the lights for miles. We had W-DMX installed in all of them and were broadcasting a high-end wireless frequency.” Both stages ran conventional DMX and were controlled via two MA Lighting grandMA2s, supplied and supported by A.C.T Lighting. Meggenhofen and Jason Green from Dodd handled programming. A few bands brought their own consoles, and Meggenhofen was able to simply Art-Net them into the stage rigs.
All the fun wasn’t just at the Super Bowl Village; there were numerous parties and events all over the city. Late Night with Jimmy Fallon was in town all week, with taped and live broadcasts from Hilbert Circle Theatre, with Reed Rigging turning the 1916 vintage venue into a modern broadcast facility. DirecTV brought in tons of sand and built a field for the 6th Annual Celebrity Beach Bowl flag football game creating a venue at Victory Field that also hosted a Fray concert and a VIP party. Tom Thompson was the lighting designer for the Celebrity Beach Bowl while LD Victor Fable lit the Fray with lighting direction by Patrick Dierson. While the concert was going on, the team from Staging Dimensions put down platforms over the sand field for a VIP party at the other end of the venue with lighting design by Light Action’s Scott Humphrey. Light Action supplied the lighting for all three of the venues events. The DirecTV Celebrity Beach Bowl was a joint project of Light Action, Applied Electronics, and Staging Dimensions.
Broadcasts from a Who’s Who of sports relocated to Indy for the week, including DirecTV’s The Dan Patrick Show, which shot segments lit by LD Victor Fable. For NBC, a broadcast desk inside Lucas Oil Stadium was designed by Innovative Show Design and used LED video tiles on the front, which were provided by LMG. CYM Lighting provided the lighting package for this desk setup. Meanwhile, parties abounded, including the VH1 & CMT Crossroads Pepsi Super Bowl Fan Jams at the Indiana State Fairgrounds’ Pepsi Coliseum, which was programmed by Kevin Lawson and Felix Peralta for production/lighting designer “Spike” Brant from PEDG.
The night before the big game, 800 select guests enjoyed NBC’s Super Bowl Saturday Night Party at the beautiful Indiana Roof Ballroom. The event was produced and designed by Los Angeles-based Angel City Designs who had Danny Whetstone and his team from DWP Live wrap the room in imagery. “It was 360° of projector mapping using coolux Pandoras Box,” says Whetstone. “We used two Barco FLM R22s at the stage end, and then for all the architecture around the room, we used a total of 10 Sanyo HF15000Ls.” The event’s lighting designer, David Flad controlled the projection.
Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show
Executive Producer: Ricky Kirshner, RK Productions
Director: Hamish Hamilton, Done and Dusted
Production Designer: Bruce Rodgers, Tribe, Inc.
Lighting Designer: Al Gurdon, Incandescent Design
Screens: Sakchin “Saky” Bessette, Joanna Marsal, Moment Factory
Video Technology Designer: Ken Gay, LMG Design Studio
Pyro Designer: Ron Smith, J.E.M F/X, Inc.
Executive in Charge of Production: Rob Paine
Madonna Production Manager: Jake Berry
Madonna Co-Creative Directors: Jamie King, Michel Laprise
Lighting Services: Full Flood, Inc.
Lighting Company: PRG
Followspots: Arc Light EFX, Inc.
Lighting Directors: Rich Gorrod, Bob Barnhart, Dave Grill
Lighting Director/Programmer: Michael “Oz” Owen
Lighting Programmer: Peter Radice
Gaffers: Tony Ward, Paul Bell, Jr., Brian McKinnon, Keith Berkes
Best Boy: Jose David Serralles
PRG Project Manager: Robb Minnotte
PRG Lead Technicians: Matt Geneczko, Jeff Anderson
Arc Light FX Technician: Quinn Smith
Video and Projection
Video Companies: LMG, Inc., DWP Live, Mobius Productions
Video Programmer: Jason Rudolph, Mobius Productions
Assistant Video Programmer: Matt Waters
Video Technicians: (LMG): Steve Bodzioch, Stephen Campbell, Justin Carlson, Dustin Cunningham, Trace Deroy, Doug Eldredge, Zack Heimbegner, Johnny Jordan, Sam Kriemelmeyer, Melvin Legrand, Neil Morrison, Luke Pilato, Stephen Reid, Rod Silhanek, Benjamin Spence, Meaghan Stack, Anthony Tisdale, Nathan Vanderpool, Michael Viehmeyer, Charles Weiner
Staging and Scenic
Staging Company: All Access Staging & Productions
Field Screen Fabrication: Sew What?, Inc., Meghan Duckett
Throne Design: Jimmie Martin Limited
Wings: Fabricated by Michael Curry Design, Inc.
Art Directors: Anthony Bishop, Douglas Cook, Sean Dougall, Amber Stinebrink, Tribe Inc.
Assistant Art Director: Lindsey Breslauer, Tribe, Inc.
All Access Crew: Erik Eastland, Timothy Fallon, Jr., Roger Cabot, Fidel Garza, Thomas Keane, Jesus Arroyo, Zach Eastland, Arturo Martinez, Ryan Funderburg
Production Supervisors: Augie Max Vargas, Brad Duns
Production Manager: Amanda McDonough
Staging Supervisors: Tony Hauser, Cap Spence
Cast Field Director/Cast Choreographer: Kristen “KP” Terry
Rigging Coordinator: Steve Thomas
Head Rigger: Joel Magarian
Rigging Supervisors: David Hernandez, Michael Farese, Denis Machado, Lyle Centola
Pyro Company: J.E.M F/X, Inc.
Pyro Technicians: Rebecca Timohovich, Dimitri Timovich, Bryan Whittaker, Sherry Souza, Carter Hillman, Omar Torres
2 PRG V676 Lighting Consoles
1 PRG Series 400 Power and Data Distribution System
204 Clay Paky Sharpy fixtures
50 Philips Vari-Lite VL3500 Spot
90 Philips Vari-Lite VL3500 Wash
16 Philips Vari-Lite VL3500 Wash FX
19 PRG Bad Boy Spot CMY
442 Chroma-Q DB4 Color Blocks
111 Philips Color Kinetics iW Blast TR
32 Philips Color Kinetics iW G2 Profile
32 Philips Color Kinetics ColorBlast TR
60 Martin Professional Atomic 3000 Strobes with Atomic Color
18 Strong Gladiator III 3kW Followspots
1 Brite Box Flame 1,500W Prototype Followspot
16 Reel EFX DF-50 Diffusion Hazers
14 High End Systems F100 Fog Generators
32 Barco FLM HD20 20K Projectors
796 BasicTech FLED FL-io11 Video Tiles
2 MA Lighting grandMA2 light Consoles (Main and Backup)
12 Green Hippo Hippotizer HD Media Servers (6 Backup)