November 4 was an historic day for America, as the nation elected its first African-American president. The culmination of an arduous campaign came later that evening, in Chicago's Grant Park, when President-Elect Barack Obama held his presidential acceptance speech before a home town crowd of more than 100,000 revelers. Called upon by event producer C3 Presents to light the rally was the stage lighting rental and production company Christie Lites, the lighting contractor and lighting supplier for the event. "The job was somewhat unusual to light because it was outdoors and at the same time had to be lit for TV in a manner typical of an indoor studio," commented Huntly Christie, CEO of Christie Lites Orlando. "As such, it was a real mixed bag of lighting. However, the most prominent fixture on the site was the Martin MAC 2000 Wash XB. They were instrumental in making sure that the world witnessed this historic event."
The lighting designer for the event was Bob Peterson, who described the evening and his assignment as such. "It was a very historical night with a feeling of excitement and also a sense of relief when the results were announced. I received directions from the Obama team that the lighting was to be appropriately conservative with no celebratory effects. The brief was to elegantly transfer from the exuberance of the campaign to the seriousness of the presidency."
The MAC 2000 Wash XBs, which made up two-thirds of the automated lighting package, were spread out across three 80' Stageco towers, a 30' 10 x 10 scaffold, a mobile elevated LED Screen, and two stage backlight scaffolds. Light from the extra bright version of the Mac 2000 Wash was used for stage backlighting, for near audience lighting, and to illuminate a stately row of distant trees. Self contained Musco mobile lighting trucks did a great deal of the far field lighting.
"As audience fill light the color temperature adjustment of the XB's allowed me to feather in the transition from the stage lighting (4800 Kelvin on President-Elect Obama) to the audience fill lighting (around 5800 Kelvin)," Peterson says. "I was thrilled with the CT variance capacity of the XB's and delightedly shocked at the light output from them. There was a bank of trees about 1,000' away which they unexpectedly lit up."
The MAC 2000 Wash XB is a new 1,500W Fresnel that takes the optical and effect qualities of Martin's MAC 2000 Wash and adds greater brightness (over 60,000 lumens of power), new efficient fans, ballast, starter, and more.
"The combination of Martin quality along with Christie Lites deserved reputation for phenomenal care and maintenance of all their equipment assured a fully functional system. We had no failures," Peterson said.
Peterson does mention challenges, which he says were all present in the "cut shot," an important camera view from the southwest corner of the park through the President-Elect into the crowd all the way to the city skyline in the background. "The driving photographic issue was exposing to the skyline," he says.
Opening the iris to accomplish that task created concern about the amount of uncontrolled light from the huge corps of press photographers on hand. "I was a bit worried that we might be required to open up iris so much that the press lighting would be an uncontrollable competitive light source," Peterson explains. "In the end the hundreds of Chimeras and Kino's acted like the world's biggest softlight and filled his profile to that camera angle."
Championed by Emmett Belliveau of the Obama campaign, with field general duties handled by his event producer John Liipfert of The Obama campaign team, the event came off without a hitch. The night had a magical air to it and the event was viewed as a success on all fronts.
Christie's account manager, Robert Roth was part of the event survey which took place October14-15, a mere three weeks prior to the event! That survey was led by C3, and Obama's advance team. All major departments were represented including lighting, video, staging, and audio, as well as security, and the United States Secret Service.
"Bob Peterson had a clear vision of the lighting and the campaign team had a clear budget they had to adhere to," Roth comments. "We then got every body on the same page as far as what was doable and Bob sketched out broad elements of the lighting for them.
"The stage wasn't a traditional square covered stage and was expertly conceived by Bruce Rodgers. It was then a question of us getting the supporting physical elements in place correctly to provide lighting positions. The XB was the primary base instrument. I've been using them since their launch, including festivals this past summer, and I am very impressed with the fixture's performance and reliability.
"A special part of this was the scale of the event and what was going to appear on the TV screen at home and in newspapers around the world the next day. That is where Bob excelled at his craft. The Obama campaign wanted a lack of visible production elements so that when the cameras looked past the President-Elect to the crowd there was not an abundance of technology showing.
"It was about the people, the skyline, the moment; Bob did a masterful job of getting it lit for still camera and television so that all the elements worked in balance with each other," Roth concludes.
The lighting included 72 Martin Mac 2000 XBs, six Syncrolite XLs, two Musco Type C Trucks, 72 Altman Focusing Cycs, twenty-nine 2' ministrips, three Jem ZR33 Hi-Mass hazers, three Reel-EFX DF-50 hazers, three Lycian M2 followspots, and four Lycian 1293 followspots. Control was provided by two MA Lighting grandMA consoles.