Lightborne – Conceptualizing Katy Perry’s Super Bowl Half Time ShowC

A 3D chess set was part of the virtual world Lightborne developed for Katy Perry’s Super Bowl Half Time Show. Photo credit: Lightbourne/NBC Networks

Equally balancing the nail-biting action supplied by the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks was the visual spectacle half time performer Katy Perry offered during Super Bowl XLIX on February 1st. With the aid of companies including PRG (lighting) VER (video projection) and Strictly FX (pyrotechnics), event specialist Lightborne presented Perry’s twenty minute mini –concert with eye-popping spectacle that kept fans pumped during the tense game break.

Variety 411 recently spoke with Lightborne producer Dan Bryant to learn more about who they are, what they do, and what it takes to put together a Super Bowl half time show.

Variety 411: Can you tell us when Lightborne began and how you have grown over the years?

Dan Bryant: Lightborne, founded in 1994, was producing TV commercials and branding videos. In 1998 it moved into a state-of-the-art facility and began doing larger commercials for companies like P&G, Kroger and others.

In 2005 our current president Scott Durban came in as EP and we moved into editing and motion graphics music video on acts including Kenny Chesney, Death Cab for Cutie, Rascal Flats and Sugarland. That led into tour and stage work with those groups and others like Bon Jovi and Blake Shelton. In 2011 we got an agent at the Abrahams Agency and we started doing television shows with acts like The Wanted, Taylor Swift, One Direction, Usher, Jay Z, Justin Beiber, and many others. That lead to entire tours for Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, Deadmau5, Kanye West, and many others.

411: Your website defines you as “a concept factory, a design studio, a production company, and an editorial house.” Can you summarize the work you do? Is it primarily live entertainment or are you doing an equal balance of post- production work for film and television?

DB: We have two divisions, a Television commercial and branding video production division and a tour/stage content division.

Our television commercial and branding video production division handles both post and production. We shoot all around the world for companies like ECCO shoes, OneSight/Luxottica, P&G, Long John Silvers, ConAgra and others.

Our Tour/Stage Content division works with show directors on concreting the look and style of the video content. We present multiple style frames for each song and have the artist and director decide what they like. We then begin the animation process.

411: How did your company become attached to the 49th Annual Super Bowl Half Time Show?

DB: We have worked with Katy Perry and Creative Director Baz Haplin on a number of projects in the past, including Katy Perry’s current “Prismatic” World Tour.

411: Describe the process of designing the graphics projected on the lights – did you work with Katy Perry and the choreographer closely to match the elements to the songs and dance movements?

DB: Yes, very early on we started working closely with Katy’s choreographers R.J. Durrell and Nick Florez to coordinate our animation to the dancer’s movements. This was particularly critical for the song “Dark Horse”, where dancers dressed as chess pieces moved precisely around a virtual 3D chessboard that was projected onto the performance surface. We worked with R.J. and Nick remotely on this in the beginning, and then in person for the rehearsals in January, where we would make daily corrections and adjustments on site as the creative process for the show evolved.

411: Describe the construction of the lighting platforms – are you working with a third party who designs the platforms, or do you create them yourselves? Are they LED lights or a different type of material?

DB: Bruce Rogers of Tribal Design created the set for the show, which had a square riser at the center that was embedded with LEDs on both the stairs and the platform, and a 160 foot round projection surface that

411: What are the ways you prepare for this type of show, and keep it running smoothly?

DB: To ensure the best use of time and budget, we relied heavily on d3 projector simulation to run through the 12 minutes of content animating Perry’s show. It allows us to load in all the physical dimensions of a performance – venue, the stage, projection screens, props, set dressing, even virtual performers, and create the entire performance in three dimensions. We embedded our content into the simulation, so that the team could ‘see’ the production ahead of arriving at the physical venue. It’s amazing and cutting-edge.

411: Have you created as complex a display for a film or television project to date?

DB: We’ve created large scale tour visuals for high profile artists including Kanye West, Fleetwood Mac, and for Katy Perry’s current Prismatic tour, but what made this project different was the size of the projection surface, and of course the sheer number of people watching the live performance.

411: Noting you do editorial work, do you also incorporate VFX into your post system? If not, can you describe what you offer editorially?

DB: We have three offline editorial suites in our Cincinnati studio, which are used to edit live action content that is incorporated into the tour visuals we produce.

411: I notice your company is based in Ohio. Can you tell us why base your facility in a state one may not equate with big production work.

DB: There are two reasons this works for us in Cincinnati: First,the cost of living is lower, so we can keep our labor and overhead cost down. Also, production costs are much lower here, but we have a good crew base due to the fortune 500 companies that are based here. We can shoot projects here that would cost four times more in LA or NY.

Secondly, we have an excellent university that provides us with exceptionally talented young designers and animators. So the pool of talent is strong.

411: Lastly, what comes next for Lightborne? Any big upcoming projects, concerts, etc we can discuss?

DB: We are currently in production on a couple of high-profile summer tours that we will be able officially announce in six week’s time.

To learn more about Lightborne, please visit:

 http://lightborne.com/