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Bruce Ferri Lights Heisman Awards with Altman Rentals and Spectra Cyc

PLSN Staff • News • March 2, 2009

NEW YORK — The Heisman Trophy Trust, which annually presents the Heisman Memorial Trophy Award, named Sam Bradford of the University of Oklahoma as the 74th winner of the Heisman Memorial Trophy, and lighting designer Bruce Ferri lit the event, which was televised live on ESPN from the Nokia Theatre in New York’s Times Square. Ferri, principal of Ferri Lighting Design & Associates (FLDA) has lit the Heisman Awards since 2001, and tries to give it a different look each year. The changing venues help with that goal. “Lighting director Ben Carlson and I have worked on the Heisman Awards for a number of years yet no two are the same,” Ferri said. “The awards have been mounted in many different venues over the years, requiring a different approach each time.

“The Nokia is the most formal of all the venues and I think the most visually interesting,” Ferri added. For a design approach, Ferri wanted to give the show a classy Hollywood awards feel and for the participants to be lit cleanly and to pop. “We wanted the backgrounds to be colorful yet subtle,” Ferri said. “This was the first time that the Heisman Awards were shot in HD, so we had to pay more attention to the backgrounds. We had to work harder to make them visually interesting.”

With both time and budget major factors for the broadcast design, Ferri turned to Altman Rentals for equipment support, knowing they would meet his schedule and provide him with exactly the fixtures he wanted. New technology plays a large role in Ferri’s lighting toolbox — as a designer, he was an early adopter of LEDs, for example.

For this Heisman broadcast, Altman Lighting Spectra Cyc LED fixtures played a key role. “In the past, due to time and budget constraints, we were only ever able to light the cyc with two colors — blue from the top and blue and amber from the bottom,” Ferri said. “The schedule is so tight that there is never enough time to experiment with new color combinations. Consequently we always played it safe and just made the cyc blue.

“The cyc ends up being an important background and the standard blue cyc was making the feel of the show stale,” Ferri added. “We wanted an easy way to change colors on the fly to show producers — LEDs were a no-brainer. I wanted something that had red, green, blue and amber LEDs because I don't think you can make enough different ambers on TV with just RGB LEDs. I like the Spectra Cyc because the form factor was familiar — it’s a cyc light. I didn't have to rethink spacing and I didn't have to worry about getting the correct spread lens to make it work; there is no time for that on this production.”

Ferri has worked closely with Altman Rentals on a number of his projects and noted that “Altman Rentals always treats me well.  They go out of their way to help me bring my projects in on budget and their gear is in good shape. Also, they are willing to get me what I need no matter how unreasonable those demands can be at times.”

In addition to Ben Carlson, who was the lighting director for this project, FLDA also worked with Stephen Boulmetis as lighting assistant; Rob Cangemi as programmer; and Ronald Skopac as gaffer.

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