Lighting Fame Academy a Reality

February 10, 2003

Reality TV rules the airwaves. The latest proof, the craze surrounding Fame Academy, the UK’s popular reality TV show in which twelve students enter a training academy for ten weeks to learn how to sing and dance.

Produced at Shepperton Television studios and broadcast by the BBC, Fame Academy hit British TV screens last fall. The twelve contestants were evaluated each week and, you guessed it, expelled one by one until one lucky winner was left standing. The winning student walked away with a £1,000,000 music contract plus a host of other nice perks like a London flat, luxury sports car, and more.

LD Darryl Noad
Lighting Director for Fame Academy was Darryl Noad who incorporated a large quantity of Martin automated lighting into the show’s set. “The brief the producers gave me was for the show to look more like an ‘event’ that we were filming and less like a TV show,” Darryl stated.

Working with Producer Lisa Chapman and Director Tony Gregory, both of whom he has worked with before on several projects, Darryl chose a variety of Martin gear to produce the desired look, including MAC 2000 Performances, MAC 2000 Profiles, MAC 600 NT E´s, Exterior 200s and RoboColor Pro 400s. AFM Lighting of London supplied all lighting fixtures.

Studio set tailored for lighting
Viewers watched regular updates during the week, and then every Friday contestants performed in a television studio in front of a live studio and huge television audience. "The studio set was designed by Peter Bingemann, who is a joy to work with,” Darryl comments. “He built walkways and staircases backstage and raised the whole stage 2.5 meters so we could back light the walls of the set without obstructions. We collaborated with Tony to finalise how the thing should be shot.”

MAC Performance and 600 NT backlighting 
Darryl continues, “Because the set has walkways on 2 levels against the back wall for performers and entrances, I knew we had to back light the set to achieve any saturation of colour or movement and still keep separation from the performers on stage. We only had a 4 metre throw from the studio walls to the set, so to back light the set we used 30 MAC 2000 Performances and 30 MAC 600 NT wash lights.”

“I specified the Performances for the animation wheels and the shuttering system. We used these along with some custom gobos, which gave us a whole library of looks to play with. My original plan was to use a mixture of lighting and video effect projection for the back wall projections but I couldn’t afford it so the MAC Performances gave us the most options for the money.”

Stage and audience lighting
The overhead rig consisted of MAC 2000 Profiles and MAC 600 NTs for stage and audience cover. “I like the CTC function on these for use with TV cameras,” Darryl states. He also used other automated lights around the proscenium arch for colour and gobo effects.

Beneath the stage a variety of MAC 600 NTs and RoboColor Pro 400 color changers were used to uplight a Perspex show logo that included Martin Exterior 200s built into 12 Perspex chairs that came up through the stage floor during a voting sequence in the show.

“To uplight the steelwork around the set and on either side of the proscenium arch I used Exterior 200s,” Darryl continues. “I am a big fan of these because they look great in shot!” There were also approximately 120 Chroma hearts built into the set and floor, as well as long and short throw truss spots in the rig.

All told, Darryl incorporated a total of 32 MAC 2000 Performances, 32 MAC 2000 Profiles, 90 MAC 600 NT E’s, 2 MAC 600 E´s, 24 Exterior 200s and 25 RoboColor Pro 400s. 

AFM Lighting support
“Because of the 100% commitment I got from Andy Martin and his staff at AFM Lighting during the run up to the show, and the use of his facilities to test every element of the rig before we went into the studio, we knew it was going to work. In hindsight, the one area I didn’t spend enough time on was the control side, so Svend (Lighting Programmer and Moving Light Operator Svend Pedersen) had a nightmare for the first few weeks running the 2 hogs.”

“The show was a joy to put together,” Darryl concludes, “as all the people involved worked as a team and any elements that crossed over - set, lighting, rigging, etc. - we discussed so there were no surprises on the day.”

Darryl Noad:  Lighting Director
Svend Pedersen:  Lighting Programmer / Moving Light Operator
Stuart Pring:  Gaffer and Crew Chief
Andy Martin:  AFM lighting
Bowie:  Outback rigging
Stage miracles:  Follow-spot operators
Frenchie:  Steel Monkey (set builders)
Lighting suppliers:  AFM Lighting