queen for a day

In a world where bigger is better, the Queen Mary 2 luxury liner certainly fits the bill: at 1,132' long with a weight of 150,00 gross tons, it's five times longer than Cunard's first ship, Britannia, and 113' longer than the original Queen Mary. To add further perspective, the QM2 is only 117' shorter than the Empire State Building.

In early January, Queen Elizabeth named the QM2 in a fanfare-filled ceremony in Southampton, England. “The first thing we did was try to persuade them not do to the event in Southampton in January,” quips creative director Mark Fisher. The weather in that part of the UK isn't always the most welcoming and conducive for an outdoor event, and Fisher's concerns were spot on. “The weather was absolutely appalling; although it didn't rain during the ceremony, it rained really hard the night before,” he explains.

Since the ceremony was dockside, and the weather was a concern, Fisher suggested that the event be moved to a more suitable environment. “We recommended to the client that they build an auditorium, and we swore on the Holy Bible that we could arrange everything so they could get some really good television camera shots out of the event, and that's what we did,” he concludes.

Fisher and his team designed a 2,500-seat auditorium that made use of a tunnel to take guests from their afternoon lunch on the ship to the auditorium itself. “When the audience left the ship in the afternoon and came into the embarkation hall, there was a point they couldn't see the ship any longer. Then they came along a walkway, and went through a series of tents into the auditorium,” explains Fisher. The auditorium featured a 100' wide × 30' deep stage, which was home to a choir and orchestra that numbered over 200. The ceremony, which was open to 2,000 invited guests, featured prominent figures in politics and entertainment, and included performances from the band of the Royal Marines, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, opera diva Lesley Garrett, and blues singer Heather Small.

Inside the tent, along with the stage and an approximately 20' high by 35' wide video screen that tracked apart during the ceremony, was the lighting rig, which included four 80' straight trusses for the main stage, two support towers and three straight trusses over the audience. “It was a beautiful event,” comments lighting designer Patrick Woodroffe. Although the guests stayed inside the tent, portions of the event took place outside on the ship, so the lighting wasn't limited to interior locations.

The real focus of the action was inside the main tent, which included a sizeable stage and seating for the audience. “Behind the 100' wide stage was a 40' high gray silk kabuki that wrapped around the back of the stage, as well as to the left and right of it,” Woodroffe reports. The kabuki was crucial to the ceremony. “Heather Small came out and sang a song called ‘Proud,’; which had been arranged for an orchestra accompaniment. At the end of the song, it rose to a really strong climax, so it had a very strong applause button at the end,” Fisher reports. Behind the gray silk kabuki were clear plastic panels that made the whole event possible. “On the button, the kabuki dropped, and the ship was revealed, which was a complete surprise to the audience; they expected the Queen to come on.” The audience gasped as the kabuki dropped to reveal a beautifully illuminated Queen Mary 2.

Dockside, Woodroffe and his team, including associate lighting designer Adam Bassett, lighting director/programmer Dave Hill, and programmer Alex Reardon, focused their attention on the Queen Mary 2. “The challenge was twofold: to provide an elegantly lit environment for the guests for an event that included speeches, video presentations and a series of musical performances, and of course to light up the ship herself,” Woodroffe reports. The task of actually lighting up the boat, which is nearly 240' tall, meant using some serious firepower, which was provided by Neg Earth of London. Woodroffe and his team had plenty of instruments on the dock pointing at the lower portion of the hull, which was on the dark side. “We had 24 Coemar Panoramas, which are 2800W HMI Discharge CMY color changing floods, and 12 4kW Syncrolites, that change color with the use of a scroller, on the dock lighting the ship,” reports Bassett. The combination of two bathed the ship in incredible rich color.

The lower portion of the hull wasn't the only part Woodroffe and his team painted with light. “The front of the boat is very white, so we were able to color it with Panoramas, and then wave searchlights [Syncrolites] around on the top of the boat,” he remarks. “From the dock, we were also uplighting with Panoramas, and we had extra searchlights so we could pan across the boat,” Woodroffe adds.

There were instruments on the QM2 as well. “We craned gear up onto the boat itself,” notes Woodroffe. Placed on deck were 24 Studio Due CityColor architectural floods. “The CityColors are almost the same as the Panoramas, but they're slightly smaller,” notes Bassett. The CityColor, an 1800W projection light, also features a full CYM color-mixing system. To a certain extent, the lighting brought both locations together as a cohesive whole. “The searchlights positioned on the boat were able to drop down and pan through the clear plastic panels at the rear of the stage. This made an interesting connection between the ship and the interior of the tent, which was important,” Woodroffe comments.

The lighting team also made use of four cranes. “The cranes were rigged with a collection of single Par cans specifically placed to light them from within and highlight them as architectural objects,” notes Bassett. “They were used as foreground objects to set off the scale of the ship from the audience's perspective,” Bassett adds. The cranes were also used as additional lighting positions. “The cranes held a number of High End Studio Beams — they work best in exterior environments — that were used to project onto the ship itself,” Bassett concludes.

Interestingly, the cranes doubled as security posts. “They were also used as sniper positions for the security teams covering the event and resulted in the fascinating spectacle of a balaclava-clad policeman re-focusing the Pars he had knocked with a lethal looking rifle slung over his shoulder!” Woodroffe exclaims.

Since part of the event took place indoors (the guests, as well as the musicians were inside the tent) as well as outdoors (the ship) Woodroffe chose to use dual programmers (Dave Hill inside and Alex Reardon outside) to coordinate the complex cueing. “The trick to these sorts of things is getting the timing down perfectly. It's essentially cued like a theatrical show, but with the spectacle of a large rock show,” Woodroffe asserts.

After The Bishop of Winchester appeared to bless the vessel, it was finally time for the appearance of Her Majesty The Queen. “The Queen got up and pressed the magic button [that controlled the champagne bottle outside], and I'm relieved to say that the champagne bottle broke,” Fisher comments. The bottle breaking wasn't without a bit of controversy though. “Contrary to various reports in British newspapers, the bottle was not pre-scored; it was just a conventional magnum of champagne,” Fisher clarifies.

After the kabuki drop and the actual naming, the high stress portion of the event was over and the musical portion of the event began. “After the naming ceremony itself the show finished with a piece of light and pyrotechnic theatre set to the music of John Williams and Beethoven,” Woodroffe notes, “in which the boat was in effect a live backdrop to the stage performers.” The event went off flawlessly. “There were two points where it could have gone badly wrong and it didn't, so I'm very pleased,” concludes Fisher.

The QM2 set off on her maiden voyage on January 12, and arrived safely in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, during the last week of January.


Lighting Director
Patrick Woodroffe

Lighting Director/Programmer
Dave Hill

Associate Lighting Designer
Adam Bassett

Alex Reardeon

Production Designer
Mark Fisher

Robbie Williams

Production Manager
Nick Levitt

Lighting Crew Chief
Dennis Gardner

Stage Manager
Ted Armstrong

Lighting Supplier
Neg Earth, London

Lighting Project Manager
Julian Lavender

69 Martin Mac 2000 profiles
53 Martin Mac 2000 washes, c/w fresnel lense kits
48 High End Studio Beams
18 Syncrolite STX 4200 W Searchlights
24 Studio Due CityColor 1800 MHD architectural floods
28 Coemar Panorama power cyc architectural floods
22 Thomas Par 64 Long Nose / Black Bar 6, c/w CP62
12 Thomas Par 64 Long Nose / Black Bar 4, c/w 250w ACL
48 Thomas Par 64 Short Nose / Chrome Floor Can, c/w CP62
48 Thomas Par 64 Short Nose / Black Floor Can, c/w CP61, CP62
100 Thomas Par 64 Long Nose / Single Can, c/w CP62
20 Thomas Par 64 Long Nose / Single Can, c/w CP62
38 Par 38 120W uplighters
22 Thomas 4-Cell 1kW ground rows
12 2kw tubular ripples
24 Martin Atomic 3K Strobes
08 DF50 — Oil Crackers
04 Breeza fans
01 Avolites 72-channel DMX dimmer racks
04 Avolites 48 channel DMX dimmer racks
01 High End Wholehog III
02 High End Wholehog IIs
01 High End Wholehog II rock wing extension
10 stations of hardwired intercoms
04 Robert Juliat 2.5kW Followspots — truss mounted
2.4 km 1.5mm Socapex
4.1 km 2.5mm Socapex
60 Socapex Fan Out to 16amp
13 Socapex Fan Out to 15amp
33 CM Lodestar 1t Chain Hoists
01 Skjonberg CHC II Hoist Control Systems
04 Follow Spot Chairs
28 3m × 52cm × 52cm Thomas Supetruss Section — Black
02 .5m × 52cm × 52cm Thomas Supetruss Section — Black
32 m × 52cm × 52cm Thomas
A-type Truss Section — Sliver
08 2.5m × 52cm ×52cm Thomas A-type Truss Section — Silver
08 Thomas A-type Hinge Section
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