Legendary lighting designer Allen Branton lit the 32nd annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, with a rig by 4Wall Entertainment. The event was held on April 7 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, and broadcast on HBO on April 29. Live Design chats with Branton on his experience.
Live Design: How is the Barclays venue for designing these kinds of shows?
Allen Branton: It presents some real challenges. From a design standpoint, Barclays is cavernous, which means there is a great deal of negative space that we have to try and fill. So we have to be mindful of this in terms of the budget, especially because the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction is, at its core, a charity event.
Barclays is also, as any New Yorker knows, a very active sports venue. So that creates some very real scheduling challenges, especially given the need to get enough horsepower loaded into a venue of that size. Unlike a tour, the television dimension requires an expanded footprint throughout the venue. Gary Lanvy, one of the producers, does a really nice job coordinating, and the Barclays crew is great.
LD: How does it work; do you do an overall plot? Work with LDs from the bands?
AB: Yes, we do the plot and the design. We design a rig that can service the entire show. We absolutely welcome the input from the band’s LDs and creative folks. The time on site, especially rehearsal with each act, is pretty limited, so when people that have experience with a band can give us some insight, that is helpful. In the majority of cases though, the bands leave it in our hands, and we appreciate the trust they and their staff have in us to give them an outcome they are happy with.
Reflecting on the show more broadly, Kevin Lawson (lighting director) pointed out to me that this is our 18th year working on the induction. I know we all feel it’s an amazing responsibility and honor to work on this event each year. With moments like Prince’s guitar solo, jam sessions led by Clapton and BB King, right up to Pearl Jam blowing the arena away, it’s really an amazing privilege.
LD: How do you adjust the lighting for the live audience and the TV viewers?
AB: This is an interesting feature of this show because even though it has many of the characteristics of an award show, it’s also important to the foundation as a live event. So it is not uncommon for Jann Winter to feed us some requests about audience lighting levels and other elements to protect the live viewing experience. Whereas in a typical event like this, we really would focus pretty exclusively on the experience of the TV viewer, there is a need to balance competing interests in this case, and we try our best to leave everyone satisfied.
LD: Any new and exciting gear this time around?
AB: The Robe BMFL was very useful, just the horsepower to coverage ratio in a light with shutter-cuts, really a unique combination and invaluable. It allowed up to lower the fixture count for the audience wash, saving us time, which was really critical for the venue.
The Robe PATT 2013 was also a new addition for us, and it functions a little bit as a set piece in addition to a fixture, with much more efficient power distribution, weight, and control than a classic film conventional, which is what we may have used in the past for a similar purpose. It was a really nice addition.
LD: Vendor? Console? Programmer?
AB: Our vendor was 4Wall, with their team being led by Brad Hafer, and as I say any time I am asked, he and his team are the best in the business.
We used the MA Lighting grandMA2, as usual, and our programmers were Felix Peralta and Kevin Lawson. Though on my crew, they are credited as lighting directors because I ask them to manage large parts of the process, and a programming credit would fall short in describing their contribution.
LD: Any particular challenges?
AB: The greatest challenge, by far, is time. Since the show takes place at a sports venue during the hockey and basketball seasons, we have to take a pretty imaginative approach to getting everything we need in and out of the venue with enough time to do our work and create a great show (hopefully without setting too much money on fire). So it really is a bit of a dance. The limiting factor, interestingly enough, is the ability to get things out in time for a basketball shoot around the afternoon after the show. It’s a credit to crew to be able to pull that off. Gary Lanvy and Brad Hafer are really invaluable here as they have a great understanding of the equipment as well as the venue really helps smooth planning and execution.