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CAST Software scores at Super Bowl

Once again, wysiwyg from CAST Software played a key role at the half-time show at the Super Bowl. This year, the game, which was held at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, was seen by 111.5 million US TV viewers, while the half-time performance attracted 115.3 million viewers – both setting records.

Set-up for the half-time show occurs in front of a packed stadium and sometimes in nearly freezing conditions – all in under eight minutes. With this sort of timeline, pre-production is a necessity, which in turn means pre-visualisation. wysiwyg has been used at the show for the past five years.

Lighting designer Robert Barnhart from Full Flood designed the show, which featured Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He worked with Tom Thompson from Prelite on the pre-visualisation, who used wysiwyg R32. The 119m design included almost 1,000 fixtures, 600m of LED tape, a moving drum set, four on-stage lifts, video and 80,000 PixMob hats for the audience.

Thompson and lighting director Pete Radice did pre-programming at PRG in early January. Once the project team was on site in New Jersey, while they continued programming on the previsualisation system throughout the week prior to the show, most of the time they were able to use the real rig.

Radice explained: “We arrived at the stadium with a patched system, focus positions built, and a cue structure in place. Not too long ago, that process wouldn’t have begun until we arrived at the stadium.”

The lights creating the audience backdrop behind the stage were set on four levels – field level plus three levels on the audience balcony rails. Clay Paky Sharpys were located in both the balcony levels as well as behind the LED panels behind the performers on stage. Two hundred and twenty Magic Panels were located stage left and right in tight clusters with 12 Clay Paky B-Eye fixtures located on both sides next to the stage. PRG 4000 Spot fixtures were placed in the stadium catwalk upstage and downstage. Lighting was controlled by a PRG 676. The Magic Panels were fed video content by video director Jason Rudolph while the pan and tilt was done by Radice. The information was merged in custom PRG boxes and viewed in wysiwyg.

The 80,000 PixMob hats in the audience were used to show video effects using people as individual pixels. While PixMob used its own simulator for the video, Rudolph ran that content through wysiwyg while controlling video on a grandMA to cue with the lights.

Barnhart said: “Working with Prelite and wysiwyg was a great situation. The Magic Panels especially took an amazing amount of channels plus all the screens running through the MA. wysiwyg took on around 160 universes. Working with Prelite helped us foresee problems prior to arriving on site, which otherwise could have been very expensive. Once the previz was moved to New Jersey, we could work with Tom over the internet if we moved any lights, so that was convenient. In addition, we got held up two days late from getting our hands on the rig due to weather, so the New Jersey Prelite studio really came in handy!”

Thompson said: “CAST was very helpful making sure we had current fixture files such as the Clay Paky B-EYE. They even provided a new executable file that extends to cover 200 universes.”

The half-time show raises the bar each year, so we can expect to see astounding things in 2015 – hopefully with the game as well, which this year was a rather one-sided affair. Or as Barnhart joked, “The game wasn’t good, but better for Bruno Mars, since that’s what everyone is talking about!”