As the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs battled it out for the NFL Championship, the Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show brought a little Latin flavour to Miami’s 65,000-seat Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday 2 February 2020, thanks to an explosive show by Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, aided by Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny and Colombian star J. Balvin, and a cast of near 170 musicians, dancers, and performers.
This massive production – an eagerly awaited annual event – was broadcast live by Fox to 100 million viewers worldwide, all of whom witnessed a superb lighting show which had at its centre over 120 Ayrton Perseo IP65-rated multi-function profile fixtures.
The spectacular production was created by the legendary Super Bowl team headed by show designer, Bruce Rodgers of Tribe, Inc. and lighting designer, Bob Barnhart of 22 Degrees, alongside four lighting directors including Super Bowl veteran of 10 years, Jason Rudolf, Dave Grill, Pete Radice, and newcomer Patrick Brazil, who programmed and took responsibility for the Perseo fixtures.
“The show is a complete co-production involving all the team,” said Bob. “So, while Bruce is responsible for the layout and I the fixtures, ideas were bandied around early on and we quickly decided the Ayrton lighting rig would be the centrepiece of the whole design.”
Bruce’s stage design included four runways of light upstage of the main stage, delineated by the same lighting fixtures that would also outline the circular main stage. Bob chose Perseo as that fixture to define the performance area, embedding 13 Perseo units in each runway to provide a dynamic backdrop to the show, and using the remainder around the main stage. He also installed 24 further Perseo fixtures on either side of the tunnels to light the teams as they made their pre-kick-off entrances onto the field.
“The upstage ramps were the background of the show for us,” said Bob. “It’s very hard to get elevation in a set in the middle of a field with only eight-minutes set-up time, so we depended on those four long rows of lights to give us a really strong background.
One section of the upstage ramp containing 24 Perseo fixtures was capable of elevation, tilting five ft into the air during Jennifer Lopez’s song On The Floor. “This gave us a nice hard background for this number,” said Bob. “Shakira’s Empire was perhaps my favourite light cue in the show though. I loved how the Perseo light strobed so effectively – it was the second song in the show and we were waiting to really roll them out in that number. It was great to have an LED fixture capable of genuine strobing instead of using its shutter, and it became an incredibly strong dynamic effect.”
Bruce and Bob wanted to keep to the same fixture across the entirety of the stage for the sake of uniformity, and Perseo’s aesthetic played a major part in Bob’s choice. “Form factor is very important and Ayrton has chosen to pay a lot of attention to its aesthetic design. When choosing a fixture, it needs to look good as well as have all the bells and whistles, especially for TV. If it’s going to be on camera you want the inside and the outside to be as sexy and high tech as possible.
“Perseo is great to look at and, from a designer standpoint, I like that large aperture with its big glass face which you can use to create ‘hokum’ to fill in for camera shots – just glowing the face of it instead of producing a beam gave a nice look in the background.”
The successful fixture needed to be waterproof above all else “because Miami loves to rain as we know from previous Super Bowls there! We got lucky on the night as the weather was fine, but there were several downpours during programming in the parking lot and I can attest the Perseos are truly IP65-rated! We just let them run and they didn’t care at all. They were like dogs in a lake!”
But it is not just the IP rating that Bob found so attractive: “Perseo has many great features: the shutters were something I didn’t think I would need when I first picked the fixture, but as the show developed they became a really handy tool. I was able to side light the dancers during Waiting for Tonight for example and shutter-cut off the spill on the floor and on Jennifer on the centre stage Dance Pole.
“The show gets very colourful at times and Perseo’s colour rendering is very good. Fox used new cameras running 2020 Vision – a new colour rendering system, which increases the colour range the cameras can perceive. It was great to be able to see on camera all these colours that Perseo can produce – even though many broadcasters didn’t broadcast in 2020 Vision – but I can attest they were there! You’ll just have to take my word for it!”
Bob was also pleased with Perseo’s zoom capabilities which belie its compact size: “It’s a tough compromise – you want a fixture to be small, but physical size can limit the extent of your zoom ratio. But Perseo does really well on this front – it zooms out really well. It’s both a good close up fixture and pretty good distance fixture.”
In total, 124 Ayrton Perseo were supplied on a quick turnaround in a joint venture by JamPro Productions of Reno, NV, Mid-America Sound Corporation of Greenfield, IN, LEC of Chicago, IL and Harvest Productions of Kansas City, MO, all of which was facilitated by Aaron Hubbard at ACT Lighting, Ayrton’s exclusive distributor in the US. “We’d like to thank these companies who were willing to pre-order the Perseos with shipment direct from the Ayrton factory in order to make the deadline,” said Aaron. PRG’s Vice President of Television & Special Events, Tony Ward, and his team provided the transportation and onsite technical logistics for the entire lighting system, including the Ayrton Perseo units.
“Aaron worked really hard to ensure we would be able to use Perseo and supported us at every step of the way,” says Bob. “There was a large quantity involved and a short deadline but he made sure they got delivered in time for the big event, ‘hot off the press as seen on TV!’ you might say.”
Crucially, Aaron was instrumental in helping solve the crunch point that guaranteed Perseo’s place on the field. “I’m probably the only one in the world who cares about a lamp’s calibration time but it’s a vital element to us because of the extreme limits to our set up time in the interval,” explained Bob. “We have precisely eight minutes from the moment 500+ half-time crew exit the tunnels until we go live to over 100 million viewers, five to six minutes of which is taken up by the set build before we can make our cable connections. This leaves the last 120 seconds for the lights to receive power. Perseo originally had a two-minute calibration time – which was just too long, especially when the opening cue made a big feature of them from the very first beat as they spring into life in animated waves behind Shakira. If they weren’t there, it would be very obvious. So Aaron made a call to the Ayrton engineers, and within half an hour I had a call back telling me they could re-engineer the software to reduce the time to 70 seconds! So it was game on! It’s very nerve-wracking – I’m living dog-year lives when I’m doing a Super Bowl!”
“The other nice point that helped sell that fixture to me was its LED engine. It has an amazingly flat field with no hotspot (which can really stand out on camera), and there’s no strike problem with the lamp as can happen with a conventional source. With LED, once the power is on, it’s ready to go which takes away another whole layer of worry!
“I’ve become a fan of Perseo. I find I don’t need washlights anymore because good multipurpose units like Perseo do it all, and I heavily gravitate towards these kind of fixtures. Why alternate wash and profile fixtures in a rig if I can have multi-functional lights instead, which give me more tools to work with.
“Ayrton has moved from creating unique effects lighting to truly functional workhorses. For a production like this, you need a truly multi-purpose fixture with an LED source, shutters, iris, gobo options, a frost, prisms, ideally animation wheel – plus they need to be quick and responsive and dependable – all of which Perseo has. With a fixture like that, you have a workhorse that you want to put through your entire rig!”