grandMA got up close and personal with the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards when programmer Willy McLachlan tapped a grandMA2 system to control lighting designed by Jeffrey Engel. The awards show was simulcast live on TNT and TBS January 30 from the Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center. A.C.T Lighting is the exclusive distributor of grandMA in North America.
"I've pretty much switched over to the grandMA2 full time," says McLachlan who has teamed with Engel for the last 23 years. "One of the challenges of the SAG awards is that it's a seated banquet for several thousand people with a stage at one end of the hall. Although there are no performance numbers on the show, the footprint of required light and the classic set make it very tricky and time consuming to bring out that old Hollywood grandeur. But the grandMA2 allowed me to work quickly and in a non-technical way that felt much more like painting than programming."
Engel agrees that the banquet-style show is "fairly simple compared to some awards shows" but it poses a particular challenge in its quick turnaround. "We had over 200 movers and a lot of LEDs and only eight hours to program about 12 looks," he says.
The new SAG awards set was primarily white with silver accents, classic and sculptural in look with hard, curved set pieces that had to be approached from multiple angles. "We depended a lot on intelligent lighting and color-changing instruments," Engel explains. "The set was 35 feet tall, and because there was video upstage on a very shallow stage, we needed a lot of shutters to be able to see the clips. We had over 40 shuttering instruments, but the grandMA2 command screen, graphic display and touchscreen made things go fast and efficiently. We had seamless integration with the distribution system and experienced no problems at all."
McLachlan points out that grandMA2's "multi-touch interface for shuttering was essential" to the project. "Working my way around the set unit by unit and shutter by shutter would have been prohibitively time consuming. That's the main reason why I wanted to go with the grandMA2.
"Also, the multi-touch interface to color allowed me to use it literally as an easel. I could swipe around the easel to search for color and mix color to the different angles. It was much more like painting on a canvas than programming on a computer."
He notes that the grandMA2 had the ability "to build a front end that is really simple to use and allow Art-Net to control the system. Even though the show was 16 universes of gear, we used just one Art-Net system. My only output of the console was a single Ethernet cable."
A backup grandMA2 was on hand since the SAG awards went live to air. But it didn't see any action because the primary system "worked fantastically," McLachlan reports.
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