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Obama’s Election Speech Lit for Crowd, TV

PLSN Staff • News • November 14, 2008

CHICAGO — U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama gave his election night speech before a hometown crowd of more than 100,000 and a TV audience of millions. C3 Presents, meanwhile, gave its vote to stage lighting rental and production company Christie Lites, which elected to use Martin MAC 2000 Wash XBs to light the historic moments for both the crowd and for TV. “The job was somewhat unusual to light because it was outdoors and at the same time had to be lit for TV in a manner typical of an indoor studio,” commented Huntly Christie, CEO of Christie Lites Orlando. “As such, it was a real mixed bag of lighting. However, the most prominent fixture on the site was the Martin MAC 2000 Wash XB. They were instrumental in making sure that the world witnessed this historic event.”  

Bob Peterson served as LD for the event. “It was a very historical night with a feeling of excitement and also a sense of relief when the results were announced. I received directions from the Obama team that the lighting was to be appropriately conservative with no celebratory effects. The brief was to elegantly transfer from the exuberance of the campaign to the seriousness of the presidency.”

The MAC 2000 Wash XBs, which made up two-thirds of the automated lighting package, were spread out across three 80-foot Stageco towers, a 30-foot high 10-foot-by-10-foot scaffold, a mobile Elevated LED Screen and two stage backlight scaffolds. Light from an extra-bright version of the MAC 2000 Wash was used for stage backlighting, for near audience lighting and to illuminate a row of distant trees. Self-contained Musco mobile lighting trucks handled much of the far field lighting.

“As audience fill light the color temperature adjustment of the XBs allowed me to feather in the transition from the stage lighting to the audience fill lighting,” Peterson said. The stage lighting was set at 4800 Kelvin on Obama, and around 5800 Kelvin on the audience. “I was thrilled with the CT variance capacity of the XBs and delightedly shocked at the light output from them. There was a bank of trees about 1,000 ft away which they unexpectedly lit up.”

The MAC 2000 Wash XB is a new 1500-watt Fresnel that takes the optical and effect qualities of Martin’s MAC 2000 Wash and adds greater brightness — over 60,000 lumens of power — plus new efficient fans, ballast, starter and other new features.

“The combination of Martin quality along with Christie Lites’ deserved reputation for phenomenal care and maintenance of all their equipment assured a fully functional system. We had no failures,” Peterson said.

Peterson did mention challenges, which he said were all present in the “cut shot,” an important camera view from the southwest corner of the park through the main podium into the crowd all the way to the city skyline in the background. “The driving photographic issue was exposing to the skyline,” he said.

Opening the iris to accomplish that task created concern about the amount of uncontrolled light from the huge corps of press photographers on hand.

“I was a bit worried that we might be required to open up iris so much that the press lighting would be an uncontrollable competitive light source,” Peterson said. “In the end the hundreds of Chimeras and Kino’s acted like the world’s biggest softlight and filled his profile to that camera angle.”

The election night event, headed by Emmett Belliveau of the Obama campaign and other duties handled by event producer John Liipfert with the Obama campaign, went smoothly. Christie Lites’ event staff of 15 included account rep Robert Roth who was on the job site from start to finish.
The event survey took place Oct. 14 and 15, a mere three weeks prior to the event. C3 and Obama’s advance team conducted that survey, and Roth attended as well. All major departments were also part of that effort, including lighting, video, staging, audio, security and the U.S. Secret Service.

“Bob Peterson had a clear vision of the lighting and the campaign team (OFA) had a clear budget they had to adhere to,” Roth said. “We then got everybody on the same page as far as what was doable, and Bob sketched out broad elements of the lighting for them.

“The stage wasn’t a traditional square covered stage and was expertly conceived by Bruce Rodgers. It was then a question of us getting the supporting physical elements in place correctly to provide lighting positions,” Roth added.

“The XB was the primary base instrument. I’ve been using them since their launch, including festivals this past summer, and I am very impressed with the fixture’s performance and reliability,” Roth said.

“A special part of this was the scale of the event and what was going to appear on the TV screen at home and in newspapers around the world the next day,” Roth added. “That is where Bob excelled at his craft. The Obama campaign wanted a lack of visible production elements so that when the cameras looked past the President-Elect to the crowd there was not an abundance of technology showing.

“It was about the people, the skyline, the moment; Bob did a masterful job of getting it lit for still camera and television so that all the elements worked in balance with each other,” Roth concluded.


72    Martin MAC 2000 Wash XBs
2    grandMA 2048 Ch. Console  
6    SyncroLite XLs
2    Musco type “C” trucks
72    Altman Focusing Cycs                       
29    2 foot Mini-Strips
3    Jem ZR33 Hi-Mass smoke machines
3    DF-50 Hazers
3    Versa Fans
3    M2 2500-watt Lycian spots       
4    Lycian 1293 3000-watt Xenon followspot

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