Bob Barnhart Lights The Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show

Bob Barnhart Lighting design at Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show
(Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images)

What did it take to light the Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show? Broadcast live on CBS on Sunday, February 3, 2019, this could be the most-watched concert—and most challenging lighting job—in the world. Live Design chats with lighting designer Bob Barnhart from 22 Degrees Entertainment Design Firm in Los Angeles about his choice of fixtures and design of his rig, as well as various aspects of the project. Stay tuned for a second chat with the LD on his creation of a Lantern Festival for this event, using 150 Intel Shooting Star Flying Lanterns!

Live Design: Can you point out which fixtures were where and how they were used?

Bob Barnhart: Starting from the high rig working my way down: On the overhead trusses that had to be trimmed very high, we had the new PRG Bad Boy with shutters. We used this fixture to handle backlight on the stage and carve out the field cast. There was also an array of the Philips Vari-Lite VL4000 Beam Wash—these were used to light the stadium audience. The third fixture was the PRG Icon Edge. This is more of an effects/graphics fixture.

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On the club level rail, we had Claypaky Sharpies and TMB Solaris Strobes. These were used for “scale” and tempo. Forty-six PRG Best Boys were used on a DS club level position. These fixtures are used for front light when you don’t want a follow spot.

On the field, there were 48 of the new Elation Rayzor 760s. This is an LED fixture with continuous pan and tilt. It also has a unique new feature, which they refer to as the SparkleLED. This new light was placed on a field truss that was against the upstage wall of the stadium. We used this position to color the air behind the stage beam lights and to give us another level of visual scale as well as taking advantage of the speed of an LED source.

Bob Barnhart Lighting design at Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show

Speaker carts had the GLP GT-1, which is used for visual scale of the show as well.

My favorite lighting position this year was made up of five “PODS” of 16 PRG Icon Edges each. This was to help get away from the linear vibe that we get so much on this show. This tight box of lights allowed us to do different effects and focuses. I think we only scraped the surface of what an array like this can do.

The six video carts had the new Philips Vari-Lite VL10 Beamwash. This fixture has a lot of output throughout the zoom band. It was very useful as the upstage “frame” that wrapped around the stage. The stage was outlined with GLP X4 Bars. This gave [production designer] Bruce Rodgers an outline that helped sell the ‘M’ in all the wide shots as well as becoming footlights when needed.

There were also one million Philips Color Kinetics ColorBlast TRX that did the V light box, as well as 86 Chroma-Q Color Block 2 LED fixtures to help fill in the sides of the ‘V.’

Lighting design and Pyro at Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show

LD: How do you deal with all that pyro?

BB: How do I deal with all that Pyro? I stay away from it!  

Everyone at Strictly FX is amazing to work with. They are in the creative process from the beginning. Bruce Rodgers usually starts working with them as he is developing the set. I love pyro. It puts smoke in the air instantly! The flames are a great effect, accent, and energy.  

Lighting design of M stage at Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show

LD: Any challenges with the ‘M’ shape or other elements of the stage?

BB: Bruce is very collaborative early in the process. The lighting designer and set designer have to work together right away for a successful project to come together. In order for the set to look the way the designer wants, they have to work with the lighting designer so it can be achieved. Bruce understands that, unfortunately, the lighting department has to stay within the laws of physics. I told Bruce during Super Bowl 52, I wanted to do lighting pods next year. The PODS appeared in Bruce’s first passes of the SB53 set designs. As he developed the M stage, we worked out how to do the internal lighting. Erik Eastland of All Access [Staging & Productions] and Tim Fallon, our head carpenter, always do mock-ups for us as we solve the puzzles of how to mount lights or internally light things. So the challenges are worked out well in advance on this show.

LD: Your favorite lighting moment in the show?

BB: No question…the Lantern Festival, of course. I will say I liked the lighting PODS. They were fun and different for us.

Lighting car with followspots at Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show

LD: How did you light on the limo bringing Bad Boi onto the field?

BB: Followspots…the trick was there were 150 lanterns still in the air, starting to return to the end zone…the lantern guy really made it hard for the lighting guy :)

LD: Your overall reaction to it all?

BB: I thought the show went well. I think it looked big and had good energy. I think it had some fun moments and a “wow” moment. The stadium was good to work in, and the local crew headed up by our friend Mark Klopper did a great job for the three-week process.

Stay tuned for Part Two with the LD on his creation of a Lantern Festival for this event, using 150 Intel Shooting Star Flying Lanterns, and be sure to register for his free webcast to air February 26!

Check out the lighting plots, gear list, crew, and the rest of our Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show coverage here.

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