Vari-Lite is Selected for the NFL Draft
Automated luminaires play a key position in the live television event
Published Monday, August 15, 2005
by Bryan Matthews

On April 23rd, college football players around the nation sat eagerly with their hopes and dreams, waiting for their name to be called and their future to be solidified. It’s the 2005 NFL Draft, a two-day live television event to air on ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports entertainment. With a lighting package provided by Scharff Weisberg Lighting, NFL Draft Lighting Designer Michael Franks was staring down an all-out blitz, but this wasn’t his first draft day, and he was ready to throw the deep-out for a live television touchdown.

"My two primary objectives in lighting the NFL draft were to make exciting, beautiful images for television," said Franks. "And also to highlight and support the excitement of the fans in the room for the draftees that are present at the venue."

The VARI*LITE portion of the complete lighting package for the 2005 NFL Draft included  11 - VL2500™ spot luminaires, 4 - VL3500™ spot luminaires, and 12 - VL1000™ spot luminaires.

"Chris McMeen, and Scharff Weisberg, allowed us the get the equipment we needed on time and within our budget," said Franks. "I have worked with them on a number of jobs and have always found their gear to be expertly maintained."

"Scharff Weisberg Lighting was extraordinarily pleased to provide the newest and best equipment to a great designer for a great event," said Chris McMeen, Scharff Weisberg Director of Theater and Special Events. "We look forward to a long relationship with Michael Franks."

Scharff Weisberg Lighting offers a full compliment of state-of-the-art lighting equipment and support for rental, sale, or as part of a complete package of AV equipment and support. Their extensive inventory includes the latest examples of automated and conventional fixtures, consoles, dimmers and convergence products. For more information, call 718-482-1208.

In a live television event, unforeseen situations and complications may arise at any time without any warning. And like a top-rated defense, new obstacles come into play that can cause the lighting designer to drop the ball if he’s not prepared. This year was no different.

"The obstacles this year were the very low ceiling, a shortened load-in schedule, a new crew, a new venue, and front projection screens that we needed to be careful of with ambience," stated Franks.

With a new draft day game plan firmly established, Franks’ lighting design was able to break free with some nifty play calling, and a few audibles, while utilizing the proper equipment for the proper task.

"Given the short load-in schedule the VL1000™ spot enabled me to be flexible with lighting the ESPN interview areas that don't always get nailed down until we see them on camera," continued Franks. "I used the VL1000™ spots to key in on the host and interviewee, and make adjustments as the positions changed."

He went on to state, "The VL3000™ spot enabled me to make adjustments and changes to the backgrounds once we saw them on camera, without the time consuming process of getting a lift out. It also allowed me to have follow-spot pick-ups of the players, which I felt were important to the look of the show, in a venue where there are limited positions and a low grid. I really liked that!"

For months before the draft, NFL teams intensely study prospective draft picks and put them through grueling individual training sessions. The head coaches and general managers are often able to immediately recognize the intangibles of a prospect - reliability, talent, and dedication - and they are quick to pick the players they know are a "sure thing". Franks is no different, doing the same with his lighting equipment.

"I'm always looking for creative ways to light my different projects and VARI*LITE is one of my most reliable tools that I use to bring the best qualities of the project to light," affirmed Franks. "Whenever possible I incorporate VARI*LITE into my design and instrumentation. The superior optics of the VL1000™ and VL3000™ enable me to light people and scenery with a smooth flat field, and uniform color that is absolutely necessary on camera. They do this, in my opinion, better than any other moving light."

After two days and 255 draft picks, the 2005 NFL Draft drew to a conclusion. The fans have all left, the draft picks have begun meeting with their new teams, and the lights have all been turned off. Some teams got whom they wanted, and some teams missed out. The draft is not always considered a success for the teams that were involved, but for Franks, his draft was an ultimate victory.

"We were successful in achieving all of our goals, overcoming all the obstacles, achieving the look I desired that was up to my critical standard, and we did it on time and on budget."

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