On 5 February Houston, Texas hosted the NFL’s Super Bowl LI, between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium. At the highly-anticipated Pepsi Zero Sugar Halftime Show, Lady Gaga entertained with a high-octane 13-minute performance. Over 115 million people worldwide caught the performance.
Lighting designer, Bob Barnhart of 22 Degrees again collaborated with co-production designers LeRoy Bennett of Seven Design Works and Bruce Rodgers of Tribe Inc on the halftime show. Ayrton supplied 81 new MagicDot™-XT fixtures, 40 new MagicPanel™-FX fixtures and a solitary CosmoPix™-R for the show. Bob Barnhart chose the fixtures to adorn the show’s major scenic elements.
Morpheus Lights, Ayrton’s exclusive US distributor, brought a private demo of the MagicDot-XT and MagicPanel-FX and brought the lights to Bennett’s attention in early November. He immediately earmarked the lights for Lady Gaga’s Halftime Show.
Both Bennett and Rodgers wanted Lady Gaga’s uplifting and determined performance to restore a sense of unity.
Symbols of Unity and Patriotism
Symbolic elements were abundant amongst the scenes of the performance. Half-buried – but still shining – stars surrounded the main stage, and two tall 34ft-high towers served as backdrops. A piano stage shaped like a planet of shining light featured a beating heart at its center that created softly undulating light beams stretching out to the audience.
The message of patriotism and unity juxtaposed Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land and Irving Berlin’s God Bless America at the start of the show, against a backdrop of illuminated drones forming the “star-spangled banner” in the sky.
Lady Gaga Embraces Design
“We presented the design to Gaga, who has very strong views of her own, and she embraced it,” said Bennett. “She is one of the few artists who, once you show them an idea, figures it out and then totally owns it.”
From this, Gaga selected her set list and decided what to do with each number in different areas of the stage. She worked hard to ensure every piece of her performance was perfect, from her dive off the stadium’s roof, concluding with the final catch of the ball as she jumped off the stage.
“She worked so hard, and we wanted to ensure our design matched her level of commitment. She’s the real deal as far as talent goes. She is a great entertainer, but most of all, an incredible human being – honest, open, warm and sincere, and we wanted to bring that across too.”
No Video Walls Used in Show
Instead of using video in the show, Bennett chose to focus the audience attention on Gaga’s performance.
“I wanted something more raw, to say something about Gaga. So Bruce and I came up with the same inspirational tear-sheet – a chequerboard stage with its grid work illuminated from beneath and emanating smoke to add another dimension to what would be traditionally a flat surface.”
Ayrton’s MagicPanel™-FX Takes the Stage
Two tall towers backed the stage to provide scenic lighting and serve as a statement in themselves. The towers appeared, at one point, to be on fire. Adorning the façade of the towers, twenty of Ayrton’s new MagicPanel™-FX, and additional spot fixtures, were placed in a random layout. MagicPanel-FX units were also positioned at the base of the towers for up-lighting.
“I like the MagicPanel-FX because of their brightness and zoom capabilities,” says Barnhart. “I also wanted a contrast to the spot fixture that would share the same real estate. The contrast in the appearance of the MagicPanel-FX, as well as what it can do, gave me a nice tool box of options.”
In addition to the beam capabilities and movement, Barnhart employed the MagicPanel-FX’s internal macros to create graphics that played across the face each fixture. The macros offered great time saving during programming in the limited production time.
Barnhart picked another new Ayrton product, MagicDot™-XT, to form an outlandish piano feature – one of Lady Gaga’s signatures. In this case, the piano took the shape of a globe. All Access Staging & Production fabricated both the globe and the towers.
“The idea came from Gaga herself who wanted a sphere that represented the planet, with a multitude of light beams emitting outward from it,” Rodgers explained. “We designed the shape as a series of custom-bent latitudinal and longitudinal pipes clustered with an array of MagicDot-XT fixtures specified by Bob. This shape melds into a grand staircase, and the entire combination was mounted on a wheeled cart frame to roll it onto the field.”
Gaga’s keyboard connected to the globe. Barnhart programmed a series of gentle ripples and fades of light through the MagicDot-XT fixtures that he combined with slow sweeping movements forming an emotive environment during the song A Million Reasons. A single, spherical, Ayrton CosmoPix-R at the center of the piano globe mimicked a warm beating heart within.
Globe Piano Mimicks Beating Heart
“Instead of the piano just being an inanimate object, it took on a personality of its own with some emotion attached to it that emanated out into the audience,” said Bennett, who also praised the field cast of choreographed Gaga fans that carried Glow Motion torches across the field to connect with the crowd. “It was the closest you can get to video, but without the coldness that can come with LED as a medium. The whole idea was about bringing in a more humanistic, organic side and bringing it down to earth.”
PRG, the event’s long-term lighting contractor, delivered demo units to Barnhart and the scenic team some weeks later. After seeing their capabilities, Barnhart selected the MagicPanel-FX and the MagicDot-XT specifically for illuminating the towers and piano globe.
“I love Ayrton products: they are extremely innovative, super-reliable, and always at the top of the list of things I put into my designs,” says Bennett. “Bob did an amazing job of putting it all together, and I’m happy to say they all behaved themselves on the night!”
Lady Gaga and entire production crew beautifully executed the performance that concluded with Gaga’s now-legendary final catch of the ball.