Comedy Central Projects A Winner

On November 4, MTV Networks Special Events Department and Michael Stiller Design teamed up for Comedy Central's Indecision 2008 live viewing and after-party at The Park restaurant in New York. Infiltrating the venue's spacious interiors, including a large, glass-enclosed atrium, Comedy Central employees and celebrities gathered to celebrate the historic election night, while the Emmy- and Peabody-Award winning The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report's Indecision 2008: America's Choice were piped in on dozens of screens installed just for the occasion.

Michael Stiller Design worked alongside live entertainment technical consultancy firm Production Glue to round out the team, and Scharff Weisberg was called on to provide the gear.

The visual concept, conjured up by MTVN Special Events scenic designer Ed Coco, called for a Las Vegas-style game-show theme reinforced with campaign colors and accompanied by a political junkie's dream sequence played out across multiple screens. The interactive entertainment included full-sized plinko games and one-armed bandits, customized with the candidates' faces in place of the usual gambling iconography to lend a tongue-in-cheek dynamic to the event.

“We augmented the restaurant's lighting and blanketed the place with red and blue patterns, an abstraction of the usual election-theme stars, and orchestrated a slow, constant shift from one color to the other,” says principal lighting designer Michael Stiller. “Ed wanted to use some kind of color-changing lighting tubes to create a three dimensional graphic, hung from the walls and within the atrium's many indoor trees. I wanted a higher-resolution fixture than what Ed originally envisioned, so we could project fluid patterns across the array.”

In consultation with Production Glue's technicians and Scharff Weisberg's lighting services team, they decided to use 35 Philips Solid-State Lighting Solutions/Color Kinetics iColor® Accent Powercore LED tubes and an MA Lighting grandMA lighting console serving bitmap effects. “Coco provided us with some custom bitmap patterns to load into the console, which we then programmed to animate the media across the entire iColor array, eliminating the need for a standalone media server,” adds Stiller. “The result was a perfectly scaled solution creating a visually compelling look.”

The iColor Accent Powercore LEDs were supplemented with 30 ColorBlast® 12s, also driven via bitmap effects generated from the grandMA console. Rounding out the lighting rig were 120 ETC Source Four ellipsoidals and Source Four PARs, 15 Altman Lighting 6" Fresnels, 12 Arri 150 Fresnels, four MR16 Ministrips, and four GAM Products DMX TwinSpin Gobo Rotators.

Video feeds were projected onto three NEC 42XM2A 42", one NEC PX-61XM4A 61", and 18 Panasonic TH-50PH9UK 50" plasma monitors. Two Samsung LNS3241D 32" LCD monitors were brought in as well. An Extron Matrix router was deemed the most flexible method to ensure that each monitor received its own direct feed.

Audio for several rooms was designated from a select video/audio cable box source and assigned a zone. Each zone had its own audio mix from one of the five Time Warner-supplied HD cable boxes plus a DJ feed. A Yamaha DM1000 console, as well as Meyer Sound and Tannoy speakers, were employed for the event.

The biggest challenge, according to Stiller, was the need to rig and fly all audio, video, lighting fixtures, and cables from an architectural grid made up of various, non-standard steel profiles, leaving little room for error. The team worked diligently in-shop and on-site for the pre-production and testing phases. “Tom Bussey, Eric Tetuan, and the entire Production Glue team were instrumental in getting the job done on time and on budget,” says Stiller. “And programmer Dan Marcus did a great job on the grandMA.” Also on the lighting team were associate lighting designer Tamora Wilson, who led the drafting and directed the conventional focus, and master electrician Lucas Zimmerman, who designed the temporary electrical system and oversaw the installation of the rig.

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