Full Flood Inc. has chosen Ayrton MagicBlade FX lighting fixtures for NBC’s new, eight-episode American Song Contest, the domestic answer to the hugely popular and long-running Eurovision Song Contest. Volt Lites supplied the MagicBlade FX units, which are exclusively distributed in North America by ACT Entertainment.
Hosted by Kelly Clarkson and Snoop Dogg, American Song Contest will feature 56 live original song performances by artists from all 50 states, five US territories and the nation’s capital. It debuted on March 21 and wraps with a finale featuring the winning performance on May 9. Episodes are also air on NBC.com, Peacock and Hulu.
Lighting Designer Noah Mitz and Lighting Director Will Gossett, both from Full Flood, are using 144 Ayrton MagicBlade FX for American Song Contest, which shoots on the Universal Studios lot in Los Angeles. “That’s by far the most MagicBlade FX fixtures we’ve ever used in an array such as this one,” says Gossett. “We’ve used MagicBlades on other shows in linear arrangements to border scenery or align with trusses, but it’s great to have such a visual impact in the vertical plane like we do on this show.”
Each MagicBlade FX fixture features seven squared 65mm transmitting lenses and a revolutionary FX optical zoom system. The RGBW high-output LEDs can be individually controlled to create airborne virtual scenery or illuminate sets and performers.
American Song Contest has “a uniquely-shaped performance environment” by Production Designer Julio Himede in the style of a forced perspective roadway, which terminates in an upstage wall comprised of various interchangeable lighting elements. “The set has to support 56 performances, each with a bespoke design, over the eight shows,” explains Gossett. “The MagicBlades comprise most of three independently sliding light walls; the three pieces can be configured as one wall element or used in different combinations. There is a grid of 54 MagicBlades in the centre wall and 45 MagicBlades in each of the left and right walls. The fixtures are yoked out 90º to maximize the variety of looks achieved through different pan positions”
MagicBlade FX fixtures were a logical choice to meet the needs of American Song Contest. “They are very versatile and we have yet to reach a limit to the patterns and effects that the MagicBlade FX can achieve in various position and zoom configurations in combination with clever programming by Patrick Brazil,” says Mitz.
“MagicBlade’s unique fixture face – linear with pixels – almost feels like dots moving freely through the upstage space,” Gossett adds. “And we have full pixel control, which adds an element of mystery, too. Sometimes there’s more negative space on the walls; sometimes a sequence of pixels gives a unique sense of motion for slower moments in songs – they don’t always look like lighting effects. But the MagicBlades also have a lot of horsepower to push light out of the wall when we want that intense presence.”
Lighting Directors/Programmers Patrick Brazil, Rob Koenig, and Darien Koop masterfully command a network of grandMA2 consoles in addition to Capture software in an extensive previs process for the set and lights. The consoles remain on site for the current run of shows and additional previs. ACT Entertainment also is the exclusive distributor of MA Lighting products in North America.
Gossett says, “It was quite fun when the entire production team participated in the first camera look-see day, and they saw the wall come alive and go through some looks and effects. It’s not every day that people stop and say, ‘Whoa! What are those fixtures?’ That many fixtures creating patterns and almost bending light is not what people are used to seeing.”
Other members of the lighting production team include Tyler Ericson (Assistant Lighting Director); Matt Benson (Gaffer); Mark Marroquin (Best Boy); David Russell, Janos Bode, Ben Lewis, Jeff Geisser (System Techs).
Photo: © Matt Benson