TAIT's Building And Signage For The Super Bowl LV Halftime Show

Known for their massive construction of concert touring sets, TAIT contributed to the scenic elements of The Weeknd's Super Bowl LV Pepsi Halftime Show, which aired live on February 7, 2021 on CBS. Live Design chats with Shannon Nickerson, project manager at TAIT, and Karla Ramsey, scenic artist at TAIT, about their involvement in the project, including design aspects and technical details for 17 3D-buildings and signage.

Live Design: Can you talk about the construction of the 3D-buildings in detail, what are the building materials, are they internally lit, what are the fixtures. What are the scenic treatments involved.

Shannon Nickerson: TAIT provided 17 buildings which were built out of plywood, polycarbonate and some with aluminum framework. The material choices were based on the criteria of how they would be used, installed, and to meet the aesthetic of the design. 

The basic construction consisted of precision CNC’d sheets that fit together to incorporate space for the in-laid LED edging, windows and architectural details. To get the different layers, a number of additional pieces were added to achieve the stepped corners, windows, arches and doors.

After assembly, the buildings were sent to our scenic team for texture treatment and finishing. In addition to texturing and painting by hand, some of the details were applied by adding strips of tape and stencils to create the look of concrete, bricks, etc.

Karla Ramsey: The buildings were textured with two passes of Jaxsan sprayed through a hopper gun (this is the type of sprayer used to apply popcorn ceilings). Any desired architectural details were mapped out onto the buildings with tape or stencils before the texture was applied. For the first pass a bit of sawdust was mixed into the Jaxsan to fortify the texture and sprayed over the taped designs.

We then pulled the tape which left us with about 1/4" or so of dimension to the otherwise flat buildings. The second pass of Jaxsan was lightly applied without the sawdust, and just served to marry the very flat areas where the tape had been with the heavy texture from the first pass.

For the paint treatment, we used seven different gray basecoats to create a gradient from dark to light up the choir riser. Once base coated, the buildings were dry brushed with a pewter paint to pick out the details, and a glaze was pushed into the recesses left by the tape out to really bump up the dimension.

All of the 3D-buildings were top coated with a matte clear to protect them from the elements.

SN: After the buildings were texturized and painted, they were illuminated using LED edging and built-in light boxes. 13 of the 17 buildings featured LED edging which outlined the building with a “neon” effect.

The built-in light boxes were made using a smoked polycarbonate which was attached on the inside of the building.  We also added a layer of vinyl diffusion to blend the lights and help eliminate hot spots. During the construction of the buildings, our team was wiring upwards of 600 strips of varying LEDs with lengths custom cut for the edges of the buildings.

Due to the size of the buildings, 9 buildings had holes in the bottom to allow for conventional lighting fixtures (provided by PRG) to light up the building for the light-box effect. The remaining 8 buildings used LED strips by TAIT internally to light up the buildings for the light-box effect. After the buildings were assembled and lighting installation was completed, they went into TAIT’s integration space where our team tested all of the lighting before being packed into carts and loaded onto trucks.

check out Tait's process in this video:

LD: Considering this was during the covid pandemic, what were the largest challenges for the TAIT team?

SN: The main challenge of this project during the COVID pandemic was the underlying concern of coming together with various other vendors to safely build and produce this show without contracting the virus. While onsite and at our shop, TAIT team members took precaution by taking health screenings upon arrival, wearing proper PPE and by practicing social distancing at all times.

Additionally, TAIT limited the amount of people that we sent onsite and we had redundancies on standby in Lititz to ensure that we had back up in the event that one of our team members contracted the virus while in Tampa.

A huge thanks to the entire DPS team for their rock-solid coordination of travel plans, logistics, COVID testing and the care they took with us and all of the vendors. Because of that, our team on site felt well taken care of and safe at all times.

LD: What was the design process, in terms of collaboration with Bruce Rodgers, and Atomic and All Access, how did the many elements come together?

SN: There was a short timeline and a fair amount of work to be done so between TAIT, Atomic and All Access, we worked closely together to determine which bits of scope could be divided up in the best interest of the project. TAIT and Atomic worked together on paint samples, textures and the look of LEDs, in order to ensure that all scenic elements blended well together on site. It helped that TAIT and Atomic are located down the street from each other as we were able to easily pass paint samples and coordinate colors back and forth.

All of our meetings with the production team were very collaborative and it was great to see all of the vendors come together, especially during these times, to support each other and the well-being of our clients and the project as a whole.

LD: Can you talk about the elements in the Infinity room and how it was designed and built?

SN: There were two different types of signs: 1) bulb signs; and 2) LED neon signs. The bulb signs were designed with layer of plywood that fit the sockets and then two-three layers of plywood used to tuck all the wires into the back of the signs.

The LED rope signs were constructed out of plywood that was painted in advance and then the LEDs were attached. One of the challenges of these signs was the letters had to be uniform in size but also be adjusted so there were no gaps in the LEDs. Some of the signs had a gold trim around them which was created by adhering gold vinyl to a polycarbonate that was bent around and take the shapes of the letters or the sign.

Attaching our signs to the All Access walls and ceiling required close coordination and a series of custom made brackets to allow for maximum adjustability on site.

LD: How did you get the set pieces from TAIT to Tampa and how many crew went along?

SN: Every piece was hand wrapped and palletized to keep it safe during transport, and ensure the teams on site could easily offload and handle at the Stadium. TAIT sent a team of four to Tampa to support the set up, operation and tear down of the set elements.

Check out Live Design's ongoing Super Bowl LV Halftime Show 2021 coverage here.

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