Photos: ABC/Danny Weiss

ABC News’ live coverage of the nation’s Midterm Elections counted on High End Systems LED lighting to do the “heavy lifting” for the Nov. 6 broadcast.

LD Dennis Size of the Lighting Design Group was called in to ensure that the anchors, reporters, political consultants, statisticians and other guests were seen in their best light. To meet that requirement, Size specified 42 HES SolaFrame 750s and 12 SolaSpot 1500 automated luminaires from Main Light to supplement his conventional fixture package and to keep up with the continuously-changing action.

“I’m strictly a High End guy,” the New York-based LD explains. “I was once a strong Vari-lite user, but HES has made great strides with the advances in the Sola line. That is all I specify now.”

ABC’s Senior Production Designer Seth Easter created the special two-story high set for ABC News. The bottom floor featured desks for 20 different anchor positions surrounding the centerpiece – a circular center floor (of Roe black marble 3 mm LED) through which stunning 3D graphics were created for the TV viewing audience. The second floor featured ABC Live’s Digital Studio. Video walls spanned both floors. The entire production was rife with reflective surfaces, ambient lighting and moving anchor positions – all of which provided lighting challenges.

More challenges appeared a month before rehearsals once the studio rig was hung. Size couldn’t get machinery such as snorkel lifts or genie lifts back onto the video floor to make any adjustments for position moves in his conventional rig. “It was incumbent on a lighting design that could refocus and adjust accordingly as the director and show made changes,” the LD notes. “That required a moving light package.”

As with many of his past projects, Size chose to meet the challenges using an HES moving light package from the Sola Series line, which offers all of the bells and whistles of an automated luminaire but with the power benefits and color consistency from its Bright White LED engine.
“The SolaSpot 1500 has been my fixture of choice,” Size says, noting that it was one of the earlier products in the series. “The fixtures perform well. For TV, I like its constant ability to color correct in addition to being able to refocus from the lighting console.”

Associate Designer/Programmer Alex Kyle-Dipietropaolo works with Size. Watching routing switchers of the feed from 20 cameras scattered throughout the space shooting the show, they adjusted lighting in every shot continually throughout the evening’s broadcast. The same set was also used for other ABC shows such as “World News Tonight” during that time, requiring more changing lighting positions. Again, the HES moving lights were called on to focus light where needed.

Of the 500 conventional and moving lights, Size says, “The HES fixtures were doing the heavy lifting. Each anchor had their own unique needs whether it was skin complexion or facial features. Since I couldn’t get to the conventional lights to tweak them, I was able to do that with the moving lights, which were scattered at a geometrical angle throughout the studio.”

Using the more compact SolaFrame 750 on the shorter throws and the SolaSpot 1500 on the longer throws, he covered “every possible position” in the room. “When anchor David Muir wanted to walk around the studio, for example, I was also able to follow him with moving lights.”

As the on-screen talent also leapfrog positions all throughout the studio, the team was able to adjust the color temperatures — the minus green, the plus red, and so on — to adjust for facial combinations. “Again, we couldn’t do that without the HES fixtures, especially when anchors were in front of the floor to ceiling video walls. Having the ability to adjust and pan light one way or another or to tilt it to flood it, and to adjust the color temperature was the real bonus and the requirement.”

Kyle agrees. “The SolaFrame 750s are workhorses. They are fast enough during live events, and also quiet enough, which has been an issue in the past with other fixtures that have their fan noises.”

Additional lighting credits include Jeremy Dominik, assistant designer; and Steve Radice, ABC Studio 2 head electrician. Special thanks to Ivan Sobolov, production manager for ABC News.