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Keeping it Simple for GM and Chrysler at NAIAS

PLSN Staff • News • January 15, 2009

DETROIT — At the 2009 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), lighting and set designers needed to balance the requirement to generate buzz with a new mandate for less visual extravagance than in previous years. Nautilus Entertainment Design (NED) was again called upon by GM to light their press events and car displays.  This year, Chrysler also requested their services to light their press event, pictured here. "Certainly this is a tough period for the auto industry,” said Jim Tetlow, lead lighting designer. “We have been under a lot of pressure to do more with less money.  However, these exhibits and press events are important for the manufacturers as they want the world to see their new products as they are proud of the new technology and innovations."

For GM’s first press event, it was a road rally and parade of vehicles driving the whole 400-foot length of the GM exhibit.  GM employees lined the path with signs of support for their company as 17 current and future cars and crossovers drove past them to be presented on the turntables onstage. The staging was kept simple with multi-color lighting pools and a clean, sharp focus on the vehicles.  GM kept their big surprise for last. The Cadillac Converj, a battery-powered luxury concept car was a key focal point of the event.  The second GM press event was the announcement that GM will be building a new battery manufacturing facility in Michigan to provide the power systems for the Chevy Volt electric car and the future electric cars under development.

NED staff designer Kurt Doemelt was the onsite lighting director for the GM press events, which were produced by C4 Communications of Birmingham, Michigan, with media content from Aquila Production from New York City.

This is the third year that NED has designed the lighting for the entire GM exhibit. With almost 100 vehicles on display, approximately 1,600 fixtures were used to cover the 112,400 square foot area, twice the size of a football field.  While there were extensive budget limitations for this year’s exhibit, GM made it clear that it was a high priority that the lighting of their cars and trucks should not be compromised.

NED staff designer Don Hill and associate designer Tristan Gates designed the exhibit lighting.

For the Chrysler press event, also located inside their exhibit, a 90 foot wide scrim was the backdrop for the presentation.  Behind the scrim were over 100 orange electric extension cords that were hung from the same truss as the scrim.  These cords were side lit, independent of the scrim and provided a backdrop that alluded to the new all electric products being introduced.

A total of three EV cars were introduced, two of which were revealed by silk covers being whisked away on cue to a flurry of strobe lights. Center stage, the Dodge Circuit EV was first revealed, followed on the right turntable by the Jeep Patriot EV, with finally the Chrysler 200C EV concept car was driven out onto the left turntable to loud applause.

This is the first time that NED has done the Detroit press events for Chrysler, but the company has done many other press events and announcement shows for the car manufacturer since 1987. The production company was Kaleidoscope productions of New York and San Francisco, and the onsite lighting director was Patrick Schulz.

Immediately on the heels of the NAIAS, NED will be in quick turnaround as they make plans to light the 13 events of the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Balls and Dinners. (For related story, CLICK HERE .)

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