Time proved to be a challenge to creating a warm and welcoming environment for a gala marking the completion of the latest Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative in London, as multi-award winning lighting designer Herrick Goldman discovered.
Asked by Bounce Event Management to light the December 6 ceremony at the Royal Opera House's Paul Hamlyn Hall, Goldman confronted numerous challenges:
The prestigious, biennial Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative is an international philanthropic program that seeks out highly-talented young artists and brings them together with masters in the fields of dance, literature, film, music, visual arts and theater for a year-long, one-to-one mentoring relationship. Paul Hamlyn Hall is the newly refurbished atrium adjacent to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Formerly known as Floral Hall, it was designed after the previous theater of the Royal Opera House was destroyed by fire in 1857. The stunning glass and cast iron structure was heavily influenced by the Crystal Palace, the centerpiece of London's Great Exhibition of 1851.
Goldman, of New York City's HG Lighting Design Inc., was tasked by Bounce with devising a lighting scheme reminiscent of fall foliage and a late-autumn afternoon to complement the hall's sole scenic element: a 40x25-foot burnished wood surround that glowed softly from 12 inset square panels. The surround housed a large projection screen at the core of the gala's presentations. Dining tables for 400 attendees were scattered throughout the hall and topped with mirrored glass, autumnal flowers and place settings.
"Adding 40 tables with flat, mirrored surfaces to a hall made of glass, with a large projection surface for the presentations certainly posed some problems for lighting," Goldman recalls.
"The key to the entire design was to impact the hall as minimally as possible with rigging and other lighting elements. The hall itself had to be the centerpiece. However, the mirrored tabletops dictated the use of steep angles to avoid reflection onto the projection screen or into the faces of the guests."
Although Goldman found that the hall's glass and cast iron architecture created a beautiful space, "the cast iron was never meant to deal with modern rigging weights and stresses," he points out. "The hall's five truss girders were the only structural supports from which to hang things, including the lighting and video equipment."
Fisher Lighting of London helped devise a solution in the form of a 50-foot long, Spandex-wrapped "mother truss" system that ran the length of the hall, as high up as possible so it would disappear into the barrel-vaulted glass roof. The mother truss carried most of the lighting for the tables and handled cable management for two small trapeze trusses holding 20K projectors and key lights for the lectern.
The mother truss was hung with Martin Mac 700 spots, "the lightest fixtures that could do the job required," Goldman explains. They illuminated the tables using custom square and rectangular Rosco gobos to simulate shutters. These were overlaid with custom Rosco leaf and grillwork gobos to create a chiaroscuro that played over the mirrored tabletops and slowly moved for a gentle kinetic effect.
Another complement of VARI*LITE VL3000 spots was suspended on the far upstage structural curved girder. "This enabled the VARI*LITES to echo the shape of the curved roof and splash textural elements across the iron roof beams and windows," he notes.
Goldman further enhanced the look of the room with an array of leaf-motif gobos overlaid by Rosco Prismatics and colorizers using both fiery sunset palettes and a more subtle, warm-contrast prismatic blend. "The prismatics gave a kaleidoscopic tonality to the other breakups, and when they were focused in a variety of ways they each looked unique and different," he reports. "Each moving light had a custom load of gobos so we were able to mix and match the textures and slowly shift them as the evening progressed. The animation wheel in the Mac 700s worked wonderfully to provide just a slight amount of breeze in the leafy textures."
In the constrictive space of the balcony area, overlooking the main floor, he opted to use lekos to focus the Prismatics and gobos tightly on each of the square, mirror-topped tables. "We had a warm tone 'fiery' system and a cooler, 'warm contrast' for each table so we could shift between the looks," Goldman explains. "Each leko had a gobo rotator to emulate the kinetic effect that the moving lights were creating elsewhere. In the balconies this had an added benefit and effect as the textures bounced off the mirrored tables and painted the ceiling of the balcony areas in a shifting kaleidoscope of color."
Another effect involved taking the custom Rolex crown gobo and projecting it at the windows to the outside. "The windows are treated with a special UV-resistant coating that makes them reflect very well," says Goldman. "The single gobo appeared on the window itself but was also transmitted to the outside so it could be seen on the sidewalk. As a bonus, the angle was just right so that the bounce off the window cast a third reflection back to a flat wall by the main staircase where the guests entered. Three images from one fixture, all sharply focused and all in distinctly different areas."
In addition, some of the fixtures on the 20-foot long tables and the scenery had Rosco grill-patterned gobos that echoed the round, floral 19th century steelwork of the hall.
The large scenic piece, comprised of a custom wood surround and projection screen, enabled Goldman to mount 13 fixtures on top of the wall, "but construction time was so tight that we had to install the gear and cable incredibly rapidly so we didn't impede the scenic crew," he recalls. The fixtures included VL1000s for backlight to the lectern and VL3500s and Mac 700s to hit the tables closest to the stage. "The VL3500 has a larger beam spread, it's brighter and has shutters so I could cover 20-foot long tables with a single light," he explains.
Twelve decorative squares inset in the scenic piece were set alight with 2x2-foot Rosco Litepads with Rosco dimmers to ensure smooth dimming capabilities. "These elements gave the scenery a special glowing quality and seemed to visually motivate most of the light in the room," Goldman says.
"Least noticeable of all the gear was Total Structures' RSC Lightlock that we used on the key lights that were trapezed down on just two lines," Goldman points out. "Normally, this rig would cause a lot of pendulum-like swaying of the moving lights. But the Lightlock worked to stabilize their motion and held them rock solid."
All of the lighting was programmed and controlled from a grandMA console.
At HG Lighting Design Susan Nicholson was associate lighting designer. Key staff also included Chris Clay from Fisher Lighting with help from Anne Hunter and Chad Tiller at Rosco.
Just prior to leaving for London for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé gala, Goldman was one of the winners of the first annual Redden Awards for Excellence in Lighting Design. The award is named in memory of Craig Redden, vice president at Epic Production Technologies.
Goldman was cited for excellence in theater lighting; he received the accolade at LDI 2009 in Orlando.
"I was very honored by the award as it was given to me by my peers," says Goldman. "Although I never met Craig Redden, by all accounts he was an incredible guy who really supported our industry and our art. To have my name connected with his in any way is incredibly flattering and humbling at the same time."
Earlier last year Goldman received the ISES Big Apple Award for best event lighting design in New York City. He is currently a nominee for the 2009 Henry Hewes Award (formerly the American Theater Wing Award) for his lighting design for the Off-Broadway show, "Rooms a Rock Romance."
About HG Lighting Design
Herrick Goldman has been designing lighting professionally since 1991, and the work of HG Lighting Design (HGLD) has been seen on Broadway benefit concerts, Off Broadway, at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and internationally. HGLD is a design firm with a number of qualified design staff as well as production electricians and programmers for any type of production or installation. For more information, contact Herrick Goldman at [email protected] or visit www.hglightingdesign.com.