Norwegian Haze Doesn’t Faze VARI*LITE

Award shows typically present a normal array of challenges for producers and lighting designers. Finding the right lighting to complement musical performances as well as the awards presentations is one. If the event is broadcast live, or filmed live for later broadcast, there are additional lighting issues.

For Idrettsgalla 2002 – or Athletes Gala 2002 – in Hamar, Norway, throw in cold temperatures, ice, a foggy haze and ceiling that was less than ideal for rigging. Lighting Designer Yngvar Thoresen overcame the challenges – and the elements – with a rig consisting almost exclusively of VARI*LITEĀ® automated lighting fixtures.

The annual event to honor Norway’s top athletes was Jan. 4 at Hamar Olympic Arena, the 5,000-seat venue that played host to hockey and speed-skating events during the 1994 Winter Olympic Games. Converting the facility into something other than an ice skating rink is accomplished by simply laying a wooden floor on top of the ice. Not only is the venue extremely cold, especially during rigging, but the ice and temperature can also create a haze problem.

“My first idea for the show was to make a set design that would work even if the haze created a problem at show time,” Thoresen said. “That meant that a lot of the fixtures were locked to their intended positions. I wanted to light the stage effectively regardless of whether or not there was a thick haze. But I also wanted to be able to change the feel of the stage completely at different times.”

The density of the haze was influenced by a number of factors – the temperature outside the venue, the number of people in attendance, the temperature indoors, the humidity inside the building, the heat generated by the lights, and other factors. Even a slight change in any of those elements could affect the atmosphere and make the haze more or less dense. An overly thick haze would have made it difficult for Thoresen to create sharp images on the stage and for brilliant light on the presenters. A lack of haze would have limited his ability to “paint the air” with colors and texture.

Fortunately, the haze worked perfectly, providing Thoresen enough thickness to play in, while still giving clear and crisp pictures.

Rigging was another challenge. The Hamar Arena roof is not made for rigging, and with a span of 12 meters between each rigging point, the crew, led by crew chief Tommy Gundersen, had to carefully plan how to hang the lighting trusses so that Thoresen could integrate them into the set. They also had to decide which lights offered the greatest flexibility, while taking into account the weight of each fixture.

Ultimately, Norsk Scneteknikk AS of Spydeberg, Norway provided an automated rig that included 26 VL2000TM Spot luminaires, 6 VL1000TM ERS luminaires, 60 VL5TM fixtures, 30 VL6CTM units, 18 VL6TM luminaires, and 8 VL7TM fixtures. Programmers for the event were Sveinung Solbrekke and Elisabeth Veka.

“I wanted to make the trusses as ‘alive’ as possible, so I made them ‘S’ shaped,” Thoresen said. “I chose VARI*LITE fixtures for several reasons. They are lightweight, which was essential because of the poor rigging points. I also wanted a great deal of projections, which meant I needed a powerful zoom and optics, and I also value numerous prisms and effect filters.”

Each of the five S-shaped trusses was constructed of two, 6-meter quarter-circle bits and two 3-meter straight pieces. Seven rectangular wood frames covered with white cloth were mounted on the trusses to create “wings,” on which Thoresen hung six VL6C fixtures.

Three of the trusses were tilted inwards to the stage, creating a rooflike structure. The other two were tilted backwards. To light the wings Thoresen used VL5 units mounted in a front truss, on stands and on the stage floor. He hung VL1000 luminaires on a front truss to project stock and custom gobos that created abstract patterns for stage cover and the audience.

A wall underneath the trusses covered the backstage and changeover area. The wall was constructed of white-foiled Plexiglas and was tilted slightly backwards. The walls were lit from behind with a combination of four-way horizontal lights and VL2000 Spot luminaires.

To spice things up during the show, there were six musical acts that ran the gamut in diversity, ranging from contemporary artists such as Hanne Boel and Robbyn to Greek opera singer Mario Frangoulis. Gobos were used for background textures in the close-up shots of the vocalist and the bands.

“It is a great advantage to be able to customize the gobos,” Thoresen said. “And because the VL1000 luminaires have a tungsten lamp, we were able to use them as key lights on peoples faces, without getting a hint of blue or green.”

Surrounding the onstage area where the nominees were announced was another Plexiglas wall lit with VL2000 Spot luminaires. Serving as backgrounds throughout the arena were several wooden frames in different shapes and sizes. These were also illuminated with VL2000 Spot luminaires.

“All in all we were very pleased with both the show and the VARI*LITE luminaries,” Thoresen said, “especially the VL1000 fixtures, which I had never used before.”

The show was telecast on the Norwegian Broadcast Corp. (NRK). After seeing the show, NRK was so impressed with the lighting and design that it decided to use the same stage set for its broadcast of the Norwegian finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in March.

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