Lighting programmer Matthew Piercy partnered with lighting designer Michael Franks to make sure the NFL Draft amped up the glitz and excitement when it literally rolled out the red carpet and made the transition to primetime television.
The 2010 NFL Draft was not only significant for celebrating the 75th anniversary of the event but also for being the first NFL Draft telecast live in primetime. Round 1 aired Thursday April 22 from 7:30 to 11 pm on ESPN, ESPN2 and the NFL Network; Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday April 23 from 6 to 10:30 pm; and Rounds 4-7 on Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. Ratings were high with ESPN's Round One telecast the most-watched draft ever among viewers.
Franks, who heads bicoastal Michael Franks Productions which offers cinematography, lighting design and production services, marked his 14th consecutive year with the draft which once again originated from Radio City Music Hall. He teamed with Piercy for the second year in a row to design and program a show that's unique in broadcasting.
"I love the challenges the draft presents as it continues to grow," says Franks. "We were lighting a TV event in a theatrical venue that combined elements of a live awards show and a talk show with the added component of a red carpet."
Franks required extensive lighting programming to cover all the areas he was responsible for: the red carpet and marquee, the main stage where the draft announcements were made, the green room out of sight upstage where the draft prospects waited, broadcast sets for ESPN and the NFL Network raised on platforms and situated in the orchestra just below the balconies, and other interview areas.
"There were a lot of separate elements, many of them happening at the same time," notes Piercy. "Michael and I started talking in late January about the changes to the draft since last year. He wants to make a great show and has lots of ideas how to accomplish that, but is also open to my ideas of how to get the best results. That makes him really fun to work for."
Franks says that Piercy's "quiet nature" belies the fact that "Matthew brings a lot to the party. Since he's a lighting designer as well as a programmer, that's an added value for me. We were lighting a theatrical event for TV, and there were many layers to it. I only needed to say a few words about something I wanted to try and Matthew immediately got it and implemented it."
Franks and Piercy were challenged by a tight schedule that featured a three-day load in with 12-14 hour days followed by one rehearsal day. A large conventional and moving light complement was obtained from Scharff Weisberg.
Outside Radio City Music Hall five Zap Technology Littlebig 3.5K lights were deployed on top of the marquee to give the feel of a movie premiere. They were programmed with a grandMA console to run in loops over the three-day period. Thirteen 1.2K ARRI HMI fresnels and four 1.2K ARRI HMI PARs illuminated the red carpet.
Inside the theater the conventional lighting rig included ETC Source 4 lekos, assorted PARs and fresnels, and 1K and 2K softlights.
The VARI*LITE moving light rig included eight VL3500 spots, 12 VL3000 spots 12 VL1000 spots, 16 VL3000 washes and 6 VL500 washes. Used mainly to bathe the theater's walls with color and pattern they also lit the main stage, served as backgrounds and added excitement to the draft announcements with ballyhoos. As Draft picks walked on stage they were accompanied by eight Martin Mac 700 spots and 10 Atomic Strobes that lent an awards-show look to the players' selection.
The expansive green room was lit 360º with conventional fixtures so cameras could shoot the 18 top players and their families from any angle and capture reaction shots.
Piercy controlled the majority of the conventional and moving lights on a grandMA 2 console. "The grandMA 2 offers some great features like a neweffects engine and big touch screens," he points out. "It was a natural transition for me from the original grandma. I had to keep track of 4 main sets as well as a number of standups and interview areas. The executors and executor buttons let me keep backgrounds and sweeping jib shots fresh and interesting over the course of the show."
"Matthew never looks at anything that comes up as a problem," Franks says. "He just asks how he can make it better."
John Trowbridge was Franks's production electrician for the NFL Draft.
Matthew Piercy works with Vibrant Design. For more information, visit www.vibrantdesign.tv.
For more information on Michael Franks Productions, visit mfranksproductions.com.