Super Bowl Halftime Show – Starring The Who, and THE LIGHTING!

I just heard on NPR last night that 106.5 million plus people watched the Super Bowl on Sunday – more people than any other event on TV in the history of the world.  The last thing that had that kind of viewers was the final episode of M*A*S*H*, back in 1983 – 105.97 million.

(for those of you kids who have no idea what M*A*S*H* is, it was a show about surgeons in a war zone)

One of the things that is still getting some major press is the big spectacle half time show, starring The Who:

For those of you who are like me, I paid more attention to the lighting design for the Super Bowl half time show than I did The Who – I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think they rock.  They did at least when they were younger.  Who did rock this time was the lighting design team and suppliers for one of the biggest shows of the year – and the rumor is that the entire rig had a total of six minutes to get on the field and working.

Oh – and pre-viz/lighting design for the Super Bowl Half Time Show?  It was done in Cast Software’s wysiwyg Suite!  OH YEAH!  (That’s right, I love it, you love it, and it is the epic awesome.)

The Super Bowl XLIV Lighting Team – definitely not an exhaustive list, and my apologies for the hundreds of people who got left off the list:

Lighting Designers:  Al Gurdon
Designer:  Bruce Rodgers of Tribe
Lighting Directors:  Bob Barnhart and David Grill of Full Flood
Programmers:  Mike “Oz” Owen, rocking the Vari*Lite Virtuoso, and Pete Radice
Rental Company:  PRG USA and PRG Europe
Lighting Crew Chief/Gaffer:  Richie Gorrod
Media Programmer:  Jason Rudolph

An update from Jason Rudolph himself – thanks a lot, Jason!

Lee Lodge was the creative producer handling content, which was made by Loyal Kaspar out of NYC.
XL video was the video vendor. The stage was made of 3000+ MiStrips, driven by 2 HD hippos provided by VER, Matt Waters was the server tech.

From XL Video, Ken Gay and Bob McGee were the project managers. Mike Spencer was the system engineer. Luke Pilato was the head system tech. Led techs were Rodrigo Azuriz, Trace Deroy, Douglas Eldredge, David Imlau, Fernando Gutierrez Llama, Curtis Luxton, Stephen Otten, Eric Petty, Rod Silhanek and Don Stevens.

An update from Margaret, who sends the URL of Loyal Kaspar, the company who did the video content –

Update Jason Rudolph writes back (Feb 11, 2010) [Thanks, Jason!]

I can tell you this, the LED fixtures in the rig were Color Blocks, most of the fixtures were VL3500 wash units with the clear lens installed, on the stage were Color Blasts, and Iwhite color blasts.  Atomic strobes all over, and a few lightning strikes for good measure.  There were also a few Alpha Beam 1500s in the rig, but I’m not sure where they were.

Oz programmed on a Virtuoso VX, I was on a DX2.

We had 2 HD hippos, and one HippoCritter for pixelmapping the Color blocks, which we only used for one song, its output was merged with the console output so that we had both as an option.

If you know any people who worked the crew, give them a shout out in the comments – what a terrific job they did!

I am expecting an equipment list soon – I will update this post as soon as I get it from my source.  But for those of you who didn’t get to see this amazing lighting feat, below are two videos, part one and part two, of the half time show.  Enjoy!

(Thanks, Times Online, for the image of The Who!)

From Water, Oils, and Color to Ones and Zeroes and Laptops

single wing turquoise bird

I feel like every designer at some point reaches back to his or her roots to try and reboot the creative machine – for each day I spend learning some new visualizer or media server software, I find myself digging back into the cranial wayback machine to seek out where we started in lighting design, and where we’re going.  It doesn’t really matter what genre of lighting design you prefer, it’s all wavelengths of light at different color temperatures and outputs.  I find that there are a lot of education programs out there who graduate students without knowing some of the basar, factual and practical fine points of working with light as a medium, and it generates a lot of really crappy design.  Very few people want to be hands-on anymore – and it’s not for me to stand in the way of technology ever – but do you ever ask yourself if you can hand-render a design instead of letting your viz software generate it?  It’s not terribly efficient, of course, but can you do it?  Can you hand-calculate photometrics?  Can you find the oval width and length of a beam of light?

I’ve been researching liquid projection teams and some of the more well-known projectionists of the 60’s and 70’s – namingly groups like Joshua Light Show and Single Wing Turquoise Bird.  These groups of projectionists lit for bands like Big Brother and the Holding Company, Steve Miller Band, Velvet Underground, Grateful Dead, and others.  Technology in these areas was pretty basic and complex simultaneously – overhead projectors, slide projectors, an opaque projector with a pan of water underneath into which colored oils would be mixed.  Creativity at its peak – for artistic integrity, creative expression, and audience enjoyment.  I want to be able to imagine a huge projection of oil and water moving and dancing together while seeing The Who, or Traffic (come on, The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys ROCKS!).


Members of Joshua Light Show with their gear

Playing around with video managers like Arkaos VJ and Catalyst give us modern folk a digital representation of this fundamental idea of lighting enjoyment – having a big stage and six DL2s gives another dimension of light.  Adding video into a design – wait, let me rephrase that – adding video visualizations into a design, rather, provides an intangible dimension for audience members, whether the medium is a concert, internal or external architecture video, or something that hasn’t been dreamed up yet.  We can use technology to turn a team of people like Single Wing Turquoise Bird into one, maybe two people – but the good designers who are working embody the spirit of artistry just the same.  We’re doing the work on laptops and high-powered desktop machines now – but the need for artistic expression through interpretive light hasn’t changed.


Joshua White and an overhead projector

Please check out some of the sites I have been looking at for historical reference – a good site on Single Wing Turquoise Bird, and information on Joshua Light Show.  There’s a PDF of a book called Expanded Cinema, about some of this era of projection and design and pioneering of modern multimedia.  I highly recommend it.

Funny enough, the Museum of Fine Art in Houston played a videolast week, on April 17, about Joshua Light Show and musical artist Silver Apples.  Check that out here.  Here’s a great article about the movement at Rhizome – and one last link – an interview with Joshua White from the Gothamist.  Excellent.

Also, here’s a video of work by Joshua Light Show, and below it, work by Single Wing Turquoise Bird:

Bill Graham, thanks for spending money on a light show way back in the day.