NAIAS in flight


Daimler Chrysler embraced live entertainment at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), held in Detroit in January. For its first live event, Daimler Chrysler held an invitation-only corporate presentation off-site from the show, inside the historic David Whitney Building. The show, which was coordinated by Interone Marketing Group and VLPS Chicago, featured the high-flying De La Guarda troupe of New York. The lighting design of the corporate event was handled by Michael Dalton of Dalton Design in Chicago, who has worked for Daimler Chrysler in the past. "Last year, we converted an abandoned warehouse down by the river into quite a large party." Dalton admits, "I didn't think that we could come up with something bigger and better this year, but we did."

The event had a number of different spaces requiring light, including two club areas, the 120'x 80' (37x24m), four-story-high main atrium area, a cigar bar, and an entrance tent. While the De La Guarda show was handled by its LD, Charles Tigueros, Dalton took care of the rest of the project.

For the club areas, Dalton relied heavily on ETC Source Four PARs and ellipsoidals, as well as Wildfire 400F UV units, two Reel EFX DF-50 Diffusion(TM) hazers, two dozen lava lamps, and two dozen strings of multicolored chili-pepper patio lights. For the atrium area, Dalton used 24 Vari*Lite(R) VL6(TM) spot luminares (with custom Vari*Images(TM)), 36 VL5Arc(TM) luminaires, and a dozen VL7(TM) spots (with custom patterns). Dalton also used six confetti machines, a 36" mirror ball, 12 GAM Torches from GAM Products, and 12 patio lanterns. To complete the project, Dalton used 12 VL6B(TM) spots for the exterior of the building. The eclectic lighting worked, and Daimler Chrysler moved on to Cobo Hall.

For NAIAS 2000, both Ford and GM designed theatrical spaces into their exhibits in the hall, leaving Chrysler without any added attraction. To add zest to the Chrysler/Dodge area, it was decided late in the process to add live entertainment. "By the time Chrysler decided they wanted some sort of attraction, there was no way to integrate some sort of theatre or enclosed space to do a show in their exhibit," explains LD Chris Medvitz of Juice Creative. The solution was an aerial show that would take place over the audience without interfering with the exhibit space.

The performance area had three dedicated sections--the Chrysler area, the adjacent Jeep area, and the Dodge brand area. It was upon that exhibit base that Medvitz came to design the lighting for Antigravity, a New York-based aerial acrobatic troupe that uses bungees, straps, and hammocks. "Having a stage show that you go see within an auto show exhibit is a relatively new development," Medvitz says.

To light Antigravity, Medvitz built his rig from the existing exhibit and product lighting found in each of the three brand areas. He started with a base of 300 ETC Source Four PARs and 220 Coemar CF 1200s provided by The Obie Company of Troy, MI. Because of the high ambient light levels in Cobo Hall, as well as the truss trim of 26' (8m), the CF 1200s were perfectly suited for the project. "With the advent of affordable high-output moving lights, it's made our job a lot easier," he comments.

The Source Fours, which were used to light the exhibit architecture, weren't usable for Antigravity, so, to complete his design, Medvitz added a number of specialty units, including 24 Clay Paky Golden Scan HPEs, 20 Coemar CF 1200 HEs, and approximately a dozen PAR cans. "We had one Coemar CF 1200 HE (making its debut at NAIAS) above each performer, so we could spotlight them with their own dedicated light," Medvitz explains. The performers also use massive hammocks in the show, which he illuminated with the PAR cans. "The PARs were hung above the hammocks to create some downlight into them, which looked wonderful, because the spandex fabric took on translucent qualities."

Overall, Medvitz was handicapped by time. "There was a lot of opportunity to do a lot of elaborate moves, and we could have spent a week programming, but we only had two nights." At the end of the two nights, having the show only partially done wasn't an option--Medvitz, programmer Kevin Royan, and Wholehog technician Joe Allegro needed a finished product. "I had a basic cue structure already worked out," Medvitz says. "We hammered in all the cues right away with basic looks, then went back to the beginning and did layer upon layer of detail work." The show used three Wholehogs from Flying Pig Systems, which were linked together, controlled by SMPTE time code, and worked off audio cues. "It was pretty low-maintenance, once we got it all done, but we had a couple of intensive nights programming."

The 41/2-minute Antigravity show, which began with a blackout cue, featured 14 acrobats and a 20-man ground crew. Because of the intense physical activity required for the show, the performers were only able to do the show a limited number of times per day--but were the surprise hit of NAIAS.