Acres Of Light: Glenn Wade's Lighting Design For Mack Truck's Rebranding

Acres Of Light: Glenn Wade's Lighting Design For Mack Truck's Rebranding

© 2014 Jason Mack

Mack Truck has been around for 114 years, and in that time the company has maintained its reputation for tough, reliable products. British soldiers gave Mack its iconic “Bulldog” nickname during World War I for the tenacious performance of the Mack AC truck in the trenches. More than a century later, the bulldog still symbolizes the confidence of the brand, as Mack recently updated the company’s logo and identity elements, which were revealed at a party for press, dealers, and invited customers during the 2014 CONEXPO-CON/AGG trade show in Las Vegas.

Lighting designer Glenn Wade transformed the outdoor courtyard plaza of Las Vegas’ World Market into a backdrop for the event. As the sleeker, more modern logo with the Mack bulldog poised above the Mack word mark and the new tagline, Born Ready, was unveiled, Wade lit the trucks and the surrounding buildings, creating a celebratory environment.

Live Design: Walk us through the key elements of your design and how it reflected Mack Truck.

Glenn Wade: Mack Truck wanted a creative party atmosphere; that was the number one goal. They knew they wanted it to be gold, silver, and black. I pointed out that black is hard to do; I just turn the lights off, and I couldn’t do that. I could get pretty close to the brand’s gold color, and for silver, I went with white light on the silver trusses. It was a fun, festive party atmosphere but not a club feeling, more one that people could come and relax. It was the first time that I worked with Mack Truck on a project. I was brought in to handle the lighting by Dan Stevenson of Events on Sand, the technical producer. Dauntless Creative was the overall producer for this event.

LD: Tell us how the space informed your design.

GW: The sheer size of the space was interesting; it was a lot of building surfaces to cover and a lot of floor surface to cover as well. It was about getting a lot of mileage out of not so many fixtures in a really giant space. I refer to it as Acres of Light. I’m sure that there had to be four to five acres of building and area to light.

There are many textures on the buildings, many different materials, and a lot of kooky angles. It was a fun space to light up. I found it interesting to see what the light did on the buildings, the different materials and faces for the buildings with all of the angles, and being able to get this kind of really big, broad stroke look on all three sides. Essentially, the buildings are arranged in a U-shape around the plaza.

© 2014 Jason Mack

LD: Tell us about some of the challenges that you had to address.

GW: The client wanted to have lots of moving patterns on the ground, so the first thing that we looked at was going up to the top of the buildings and shooting straight down since we wouldn’t have been able to get ground-supported lighting up high enough to really do anything effective with patterns. From the top of the buildings, it was about a 260' throw down to the plaza. Between the logistics and the time-frame that we had as well as with the budgetary concerns, it became quickly obvious that path was going to be cost-prohibitive. I would have been able to do it but not in the time-frame, as I would have had to cantilever the lights off the roof. I was going to use [PRG] Bad Boys at that point because they are the best fixture for that throw distance, but to cantilever out over the parapets of the buildings would have been a massive rigging job.

I then proposed that we move away from patterns on the ground and instead looked at going with all ground-supported lights focused up on the buildings. With this method we could do patterns and get the movement we wanted for the party. I placed 20' high truss trees throughout the space, located to get the best shots on the buildings. We then had one big circular truss at the main central bar area. And again, I used that as a position to light up the bar area plus to get shots of the buildings. There was also a small stage on the side for the presentations and speeches.

So really in terms of challenges were the tight time-frame to get it loaded in, the real estate, and the many miles of cable. We had one day to do the power install and the major power distribution, a second full day to basically get the rig up, and half a day to flesh it out. I programmed it in two nights, and then it was time to go. It was a pretty tight schedule, and of course, the day we started load-in, it rained! Fortunately, it was the only day of rain.

Glenn Wade Talks Mack

© 2014 Jason Mack

LD: You mentioned the power. How difficult was running power in the plaza of the World Market?

GW: It’s actually an interesting space to work in because, clearly, they hold a lot of events there. They were very clever when they laid out the buildings; they put in massive power all around the buildings on the ground level in various places. So it was relatively easy in getting power.

LD: I imagine lighting Mack trucks was also a big part of the design.

GW: Absolutely—they had six trucks positioned around the plaza. For each truck, I tried to light at least three sides of the truck and come in with an extra light from the front on highlights. The way the trucks were positioned, I could ignore the backside of the trucks since people couldn’t see that side. I placed Chroma-Q single-cell LED striplights under the trucks themselves to get some nice light beneath them.

LD: There were also large video projections on the building façades. How did that affect your lighting approach?

GW: The buildings were so good with reflecting the light and the patterns as well as for the video projection. It was a pretty easy process lighting the buildings up, but we did have to do a little bit of tweaking to keep light off the two areas of the buildings used for the video.

The design of the space had both sides of the plaza flanked with video projection. The main projection ended up being about 220' wide by 80' high. That took up the bulk of the surface of one building for video playback. That ran pretty much throughout the course of the evening, with a lot of Mack commercials and video content that was made specifically for the party. On the other side, the video projection was used to reveal the redesigned logo. During the speeches, I lit up the building, and then when I transitioned into revealing the logo, we blanked out that space and the video took over. The logo then remained static on that side for the rest of the evening.

© 2014 Jason Mack

LD: Explain some of the lighting looks that you created for the event.

GW: I did a combination of creating static looks as well as some with movement. I had what I refer to as the gold look, which had constant movement of patterns on the building, swirling movement of patterns. Then there was the static silver look, which basically had no color, so you could call it the white look; I went with fixed gobos and patterns onto the building.

In terms of the floor area, I had [Martin Professional] MAC Auras transitioning between the gold into a white color and doing slow, random movement around on the floor. I put truss toners in and switched between the gold and the no color/silver color. Once the speeches and presentations were over, they had a DJ on stage, and at that point, there were some flash-and-trash looks.

LD: What were some of your key equipment choices?

GW: When we realized we couldn’t do what we wanted to do from the rooftop, my next choice for fixtures were the [Philips Vari-Lite] VL3500s, just because of their intensity. I was confident that the 3500s would be bright enough. On a couple of building surfaces, I was concerned that it might not be, but it turned out quite well actually.

I kept the equipment list dead simple: all VL3500 Spots, MAC Aura wash units, and I had some Chroma-Q single cell LED striplights under the trucks. I also did a ground row with the Chroma-Qs for the back curtain onstage. That was it--four different fixture choices, nice and simple.

LD: Who was your programmer and key crew, and who was your vendor?

GW: Jason Mack was my production electrician, and Seth Rappaport was my programmer. Those are my two key guys, definitely. My vendor was 4Wall and Bob Gaynor. They were fantastic; I love working with those guys when I am in Vegas.

Read and see more in the July issue of Live Design, available for free download for iPad or iPhone at the Apple App Store.

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