US Open Ceremony Includes Video Mapped to Tennis Court

The US Open tennis classic hit a grand slam the first night of the tournament with an Opening Night Ceremony that set a new benchmark for kicking off the iconic event.  grandMA2 consoles, Clay Paky Sharpy lighting fixtures and MDG hazers played key roles in the ceremony at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, NY.  All are distributed in North America by A.C.T Lighting.

“The USTA charged its entertainment group with energizing its traditional US Open Opening Night Ceremony, and what fans saw this year was unprecedented, immersive and memorable,” says Christien Methot of design one lighting and production design, who served as the lighting designer.  

“Two years ago Michael Fiur, entertainment director for the USTA, asked me to get involved, in conjunction with Overland Entertainment, in creating an opening ceremony spectacular.  They’ve had singers in the past but always used stadium lights.  We started talking about the creative aspects of the show – using video mapped to the court and lighting played in conjunction with the video to fill out the stadium.  We were going to do it last year, but the hurricane blew in.  We learned a lot in the process to put into practice for this year’s event.”

During the ceremony Jordan Sparks paid tribute to the late Whitney Houston, who performed in the stadium 15 years ago.  Sparks sang “Celebrate,” the hit song from the movie “Sparkle” in which she starred with Houston.  Then, for the first time at the U.S. Open, the center court was turned into a giant video board with images of past champions flashing across the court during a high-energy music and light show.  Sparks returned to the stage for the National Anthem; center court was mapped with red, white and blue flag graphics during her rendition.

“The opening ceremony was short and sweet – 20 minutes,” Methot says.  “After Jordan sang ‘Celebrate’ we launched into Taio Cruz’s ‘Dynamite’ with a lighting and video spectacular.  Then during the National Anthem we had theatrical lighting and an abstracted video American flag on the court.  There was really nice size pyro show, too.  A lot of logistics, a lot of collaboration and back-and-forth to get it all done.”

Methot had a pair of grandMA2 Lights running SMPTE timecode; for “Dynamite” it was synched to timecode with MA’s grandMA 3-D software, which had been used in the pre-viz stage, to sync the space.  Ten MDG Atmosphere hazers came into play, and 40 Clay Paky Sharpys lit up the night.  Glow Design, responsible for the video components, ran eight 22K Barco projectors on Dataton WATCHOUT; they provided Methot’s rig with the SMPTE timecode.

“The grandMA2s, MDGs and Sharpys were all mission critical elements of the show,” says Methot.  “They were rock solid and performed without fail.”

Methot deployed 20 of the Sharpys on the court with the other 20 surrounding the audience on the stadium’s promenade level.  “We used them to create the white stars of the American flag for the National Anthem,” he explains.  “They were also the main performers during the ‘Dynamite’ sequence, synched to the beat and dancing to it as though they were dancers in a nightclub.  We picked the Sharpys because they can be seen for miles, have a really concentrated beam and are really fast so they could keep up with a fast-paced song.  Their compact size also allowed us to put them anywhere.  And they were by far the most reliable of all the fixtures.”

Methot selected the MDG Atmosphere hazers after doing a shootout with several other manufacturers.  “The MDGs had the best delivery of haze for an outdoor situation,” he reports.  “The CO2 helped because it kept the haze a little cooler and made it hang a little longer.  They did a great job.”

He was also pleased that the no-charge grandMA 3-D software was “vital in giving us a couple of days of programming in advance.”

Methot rented the equipment through WorldStage.  “They have a strong relationship with Overland Entertainment and really took care of us,” he says.

Working alongside Methot were programmer Jason Baeri and gaffer Randy Treu.

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Posted on April 3, 2013 at 8:57 pm

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