Production Services Ireland (PSI) supplied rigging services and lighting equipment for the Easter Sunday Mass live broadcast from St Peter's Cathedral in west Belfast. The eventâ€˜s lighting was designed by John Gallagher and the show broadcast on RTE1.
Dedicated in 1866, St Peter's was the first Catholic Church in Belfast to be built in the Gothic â€˜revival' style. Its commanding position made it a conspicuous landmark on the southern and western approaches to the city, and its impressive architecture features twin spires.
However, provision was not exactly made then for the installation of a 21st century lighting rig to facilitate a live telecast all these years later.
PSI had the great advantage of having worked in the space once before, in 2008 for another live RTE broadcast. This time the lighting production was a lot bigger and more comprehensive, and required more precision rigging utilizing the Cathedral's original wooden beams.
Either side of the nave where the majority of the congregation sit, is a row of 6 pillars, and the other side of these, an aisle with a narrower set of pews running the full length of the building, right down to the altar, and it was these aisles that had to be used to accommodate the lighting trusses. Lighting positions were needed to fire through each of the 7 arches between the pillars.
The trusses had to stretch a total of 25 metres in length each side. PSI's Sean Pagel led the rigging operation and installed 2 trusses per side, each butted up to make the continuous 25 metre span. Each of these 4 trusses was suspended on 3 manual chain blocks, a method chosen to maximize the height of the space and get the metalwork to within half a metre of the ceiling, which was 7.5 metres at the apex of the aisle.
This gave ideal lighting positions for the 20 Robe ColorWash 700E ATs which were rigged on the trusses, together with 22 ARRI 2K fresnels, 18 PARs and 8 Source Four zooms and PARs.
The big challenge was dealing with the final arch nearest the altar, which offered up no fixing point in the roof for a chain black. Instead Pagel and his team resorted to a bit of â€˜creative' scaffolding!
Between that last arch, circling behind the altar on the floor were 14 strategically positioned PixelPARs, together with 4 Blondes on boom arms, which were focused on the back of the altar.
The rest of the fixtures were stationed outside the building, shining in through the stained glass windows. Exterior lighting comprised 3 x 4K HMIs on wind up stands and 4 Blondes on boom bases, all rigged around the back of the church and behind the altar.
The exterior lighting was fired up for the night Masses, and worked in conjunction with a single 5K fresnel positioned within the first arch each side inside. This combination replaced the natural light that comes in through the windows for the day ceremonies.
Gallagher programmed and controlled all the installed lighting from his CompuLite Vector Green console.
Pagel worked with a crew of 3 other riggers. With no documentation existing as to beam loading, he made an educated estimation and imposed a limit of 150 Kgs per point around the foot square wooden beams. With these also being an architectural feature of the building, they had to be extremely careful with the top rigging, and ensure that there were no exposed steels, etc., and that the integrity of the building was preserved at all times.
Other challenges to be overcome during the get in included working above the pew seating and around the active services and functions of a working church.
Sean Pagel comments, “It's always good to get the chance to work in special spaces, and this certainly is an amazing building! Everyone's hard work and imagination produced exceptional and very atmospheric results for the telecast”.
For more press info on Production Services Ireland, please call Louise Stickland on +44 (0)1865 202679 or +44 (0)7831 329888 or Email [email protected]'. Call PSI direct on +44 (0)2890 814858 or check www.productionireland.com