Preparations for Super Bowl XLVIII's Halftime Show began early and for lighting designer Bob Barnhart they involved using Prelite Studios' previsualization services to get a jump on working with the actual lighting rig on site at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium.
Barnhart had 16 previous Hafltime Shows under his belt starting as a gaffer and working his way up to primary lighting designer on four of them. "I hadn't used Prelite before, but it proved to be a fantastic application," he says. "We set up at PRG in Los Angeles where we worked for about seven days then moved the entire studio to the basement of the stadium. Because of the bad weather in the east we got the rig two days later than we wanted, but Prelite allowed lighting director/lighting programmer Pete Radice to continue to work with the timecode track three or four days before rehearsal began."
Prelite's Tom Thompson configured two Prelite systems, one with WYSIWYG software and one with Vision software, at PRG on January 7. The systems complemented each other with Vision used for its UVW-mapping abilities and WYSIWYG for its performance.
"There were over 200 Magic Panel 602 fixtures, which WYSIWYG ran really well, along with Clay Parky Sharpys, Best Boys, Color Blocks, Solaris Flares, RGB LED Tape, a moving drum set, four on-stage lifts and all of the video," explains Prelite partner Tom Thompson. "The Vision system had all of the video, the Sharpys, the Flares and the Best Boys. Using the two systems enabled everyone to previsualize things without compromise."
Thompson worked closely with WYSIWYG developer CAST to make sure he had current fixture files for instruments such as the Clay Paky A.leda B-EYE K20s. "CAST even provided a new executable file that extended to cover 200 universes," he reports. "The current release is only good for 100 universes, but that gets eaten up rather quickly these days with Magic Panels fitting three to a universe. So we asked for a new file and CAST responded two days later. We also got excellent service from ESP, Vision's developer, regarding files for the 8-channel Solaris Flare."
"The Hafltime Show was so massive in terms of its integration, universes and channeling size," says Barnhart. "We spent our time in LA figuring out how to get the entire system working. The virtual world showed any problems we might encounter, things we would only have discovered with the rig in realtime when everything is more expensive and it's later in the schedule. We actually found out that we needed to rewrite some software for faster Ethernet and fiber optic systems that we didn't know would be a problem."
By the time Barnhart, Peter Radice and lighting director David Grill arrived at the stadium they had "a rough idea of the focus and color palette and a very good idea of the cueing," Barnhart says. "So when we were working in realtime we knew what overall adjustments to make."
Radice recalls the crew working "in brutal winter weather conditions" at the stadium. "We loaded in Monday two weeks before the game and rehearsals started Tuesday of the following week. We could modify cues while the guys were checking the rig. We weren't waiting for each other so we made the most of our time. When you have a limited amount of time at the venue and a big show it helps to lay the groundwork before you get there. With Prelite we could even see where the lights hit the back of the stadium, which we couldn't see in the booth."
Radice says the Halftime Show was the first time he used any previsualization, and it made an impressive debut. "Tom provided a great Prelite set up; it helped us a lot."
Jason Rudolph was the video programmer/director for the Halftime Show and Bruce Rodgers the set designer.
Prelite was founded in San Francisco February 2000 by Tom Thompson and Norm Schwab as a place for lighting designers and programmers to use technologies to previsualize lighting projects. Its success led to the launch of Prelite NY in June 2001 by Kim Grethen and Rodd McLaughlin. The bicoastal company provides studios where previsualization and creativity take center stage away from the distractions and interruptions of a chaotic work environment and where clients save time and money and minimize stress. Prelite also offers on-site previsualization services for those who prefer the convenience of working at the venue. For more information, visit www.prelite.com or contact Thomas Thompson at 415-883-7727.