The first ESPN College Gameday Road Show was at Notre Dame University On November 13, 1993. Since then we have done over 100 road shows at most of the major universities.

I always say that a Lighting Director will never win an Emmy for outdoor daytime lighting. Everyone thinks it’s easy and sometimes it is, on an overcast day with no wind but when the sun comes out and the wind starts blowing, watch out. This could be a Lighting Director’s nightmare.

Over the years we have come up with some innovative ways to improve the look of the show and overcome sun & wind problems which sometimes occur. This roof that you see on the Gameday set is made from a material which allows some of the sunlight through and on to the stage which illuminates the set and thereby providing about 60% of the amount of light needed. In other words it acts as a huge soft light, and it’s free. In the past, networks would typically build an enclosed room and sometime it would be painted black. What a ridiculous thing to do. The Lighting Director is now forced to use a tremendous amount of light to overcome the bright background. Your talent is now squinting, sweating and looking very uncomfortable. With our system the entire stage area is much brighter and now the pupils in the talents eyes quickly adjust to the surroundings. I have rarely gotten complaints from talent when using this method.

We also use a special bobbin weave single net behind the talent. This cuts down on the brightness of the background allowing the Lighting Director the luxury of softening his key light on the talent. The net is a custom made size (36”X14”) and we have added a heavy duty sleeve at the bottom of the net allowing us to slide a pipe through which keeps the net tight even in heavy winds. (See Lighting Tips). The net also serves as security for the talent.

If possible, it is always better to use smaller lights rather than large ones. On Gameday the largest fixture we use is a 1200W HMI Par. When I tell other Lighting Directors the amount of light I use they don’t believe me. When you use a larger instrument such as a 6K, you are now committed to using another to balance things out. With a four position set and the talent sitting relatively close to one another it become very hard to control your individual levels which you almost always need to do. We use only 4 1200Watt HMI Pars with super wide lenses and 4 575W HMI Pars one at each position at a fairly steep angle. These are the lights that give you the flexibility to adjust each position to meet conditions. Make no mistake about it; we could not do it this way without the help of the special roof top and the net. Usually the answer to any outdoor lighting problem is never solved with one course of action. It could be a combination of three or four things and always remember, a cloud could always pass over and then everything changes. I told you it wasn’t easy.

Frank Gatto & Associates is a television lighting & consulting firm based in Boca Raton Florida who specializes in on location broadcasts. Our client list includes all the major networks.