Earlier this month when Susan Holland Event Designs needed a 30,000 square foot tent from Signature Events set up in a minor league ballpark in Newark, NJ, it was business as usual. When the design evolved into five tents, three stages, rotating musical acts, and an agenda that featured multiple guest appearances, it was time to call for reinforcements. As the production schedule ended up requiring a load-in beginning at midnight before the event, was sandwiched between two double-headers for the minor league home team, required a four-camera IMAG package, layered video imagery, a full complement of moving lights, custom-built staging, seven discrete sound zones, and was coming in on 24 trucks, it was time to go to the specialists. Design one was called upon to make the event happen and they brought in long-time collaborator Scharff Weisberg who provided an array of lighting equipment, video gear, production, and presentation services.
Intended to celebrate the inauguration of Mayor Cory Booker, the event was a fundraiser benefiting Newark’s childrens charities, took place in the outfield of the Newark Bears baseball stadium where a 30,000 sq-ft main tent was erected to accommodate guests and a roster of performers. The evening, created by event designers Susan Holland & Co., began with cocktails in the stands. Dinner, dancing and entertainment followed in the main tent. A production/control room tent and five catering tents were also erected in the bullpens and support areas beyond the outfield fence.
Scharff Weisberg and design one were faced with a very tight set up schedule for the big event. “It was game day for the Bears before the party and again the day after the party,” notes Christien Methot, president of design one, which provided full production management and lighting design for the event. “We only had access to the stadium after midnight for a 6pm party, and we had to be out by 11am the next morning!”
“The time frame was definitely the greatest challenge,” concurs Scharff Weisberg project manager Tony Rossello. “The ball game even ran later than expected, which cut two hours from our set up schedule. All of the equipment had to be hauled from the street and brought onto the field via forklift or six-wheel trucks so no vehicles would damage the turf. But by combining design one’s design expertise and our install expertise, the result was a very successful event.”
The main tent brought the baseball motif inside with round tables, brown tablecloths, green-grass centerpieces, and an all-white, 16-ft diameter center stage. The stage was crowned by two concentric circles of truss hung with Vari*Lite washes and spots from Scharff Weisberg. The north and south ends of the tent featured two large stages where VL500s served as backlights and High End Systems Cyberlights as front lights for the bands. VL3500s were hung low to illuminate the ceiling and bounce light down to give a soft, warm ambient glow to the environment. All of the lighting was controlled by a grandMA console from Scharff Weisberg, which had been delivered to design one’s office for two days of programming prior to the party, using ESP Vision.
“By using grandMA and ESP Vision software,” says Methot, “we were able to manipulate the plots of moving lights for the center stage in realtime, set the looks and get a bird’s-eye view of the coverage in our office. This proved to be indispensable, as we had absolutely no dark time for cueing with the schedule as it was.”
Each of the small stages featured a 15x20-foot screen backdrop. IMAG shots of guest speakers and performers were captured with four Sony DXC-D50 cameras with Canon 33:1 lenses from Scharff Weisberg. Three of the cameras were mounted on platforms; the fourth on a 27-foot jib.
“The jib allowed for overhead, fly-by shots. It was a nice touch for an in-the-round situation,” says Methot. “The jib’s shot was especially beautiful when the young members of the Newark Boys Choir performed. When they sang “God Bless America” we changed the tent’s ceiling from a warm pink to a rich blue with white stars. The camera was able to capture and IMAG the entire scene for us, allowing everyone to have the ‘best seat’ at the same time.”
Scharff Weisberg also supplied a Grass Valley Kayak DD switcher and full SDI package. A compliment of Christie 25,000-lumen projectors stacked double high handled visuals. “The images looked crisp and beautiful even though the party began when it was still daylight,” notes Methot.
Integrated into the production were two Green Hippo Hippotizer media servers from Scharff Weisberg. Controlled from the grandMA via presets, the Hippotizers served as platforms for video content creation by design one. The company layered a copy of the Newark city seal with a video loop of a waving flag and still images of the skyline and Booker’s campaign. Design one also tapped stock Hippotizer color and textural elements as backgrounds for the bands.
“Once we had a grasp of what Susan and the client were looking for, we called Scharff Weisberg to start working on the technical possibilities and advising us on the best way to realize our vision,” says design one production manager Curtis Dunn. “Design one and Scharff Weisberg are an ideal team on an event like this–design one, in addition to offering creative and insightful design support for our clients, is able to bring it's substantial production logistics background to bear in executing those concepts. Scharff Weisberg is unmatched in its breadth of equipment and knowledge and was able to immediately respond to every phase of the process. The level at which we, as designers and producers, can execute grows exponentially when we are partnered with such a strong and talented organization. We had 150 people on this event among eight vendors, not including the tent and catering crews (another 400 people), and the coordination went more smoothly than anyone could have hoped for.”
At Scharff Weisberg, Michael Cruz was chief engineer for the event, Joe Volpe tape operator, and Richard Stucker technical director. Design one’s Todd Gardner served as assistant lighting designer, Barrett Hall and Andrew Merriweather as head electricians, Tim Donovan as head of the audio crew, Paul Copeland as head of the AV utilities crew, Esteban Lima as moving light programmer, and Michael LoBue as assistant production manager. Michael Fiur of Fiur Productions was the executive producer of the event.