Some of today’s best talents gathered together on stage at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, on June 24th for the 2008 BET Awards. Pyrotek Special Effects, Inc. and Aqua Visual FX collaborated with multiple acts and delivered numerous looks which provided unique and individual aspects to each of the performances. Every design brought forth from Pyrotek added a collection of fresh effects, each with its own distinctive style. The idea for the show’s style came from the BET theme “The Hottest Ticket on Television.” The newest element in this year’s set was the stage right area, which was designed as a theatre’s entrance and was equipped with classic drapes as well as plenty of video and lighting.
The diversity of this year’s special effects included pyrotechnics, custom gas flame effects, cyogenic curtains, low lying fog effects, and a 30-foot wide graphical water curtain. Vice president of Pyrotek Special Effects, Inc. and Special Effects designer of the BET Awards, Lorenzo Cornacchia, collaborated closely with show producer Jesse Collins, production designer Brian Stonestreet, art director Alana Billingsley, as well as Marc Lucas, executive in charge of production, and executive producer John Cossette of Cossette Productions. After multiple conference calls and design changes the show incorporated special effects to more then half of the 13 acts.
Kicking off the opening of the show was Usher’s performance “Love in this Club,”where he appeared at center stage tied to a lift filled with LED lighting while backlit with a fog curtain to outline his silhouette. As the lift ascended Usher danced in a robotic fashion which led into the opening beat that que’d the first pyrotechnic effect of an all fire of 1x25 silver gerbs with flash.
The stage set had two flat-matted carousel systems similar to a treadmill, where one was located downstage and the other upstage moving in opposite directions of each other. They were used to create a number of unique dance sequences throughout the act. The versatile set merged well with the special effects which including 32 Red Comets with tails and 16 Silver Gerbs shooting vertically behind Usher as he closed out his performance. Adding some heat to Young Jeezy’s performance that featured Kanye West were four double-headed Dragons accented by 15-foot flame columns in chase and all fire cues throughout the track “Put On.”The pyrotechnics team included shooter Rob Liscio, pyrotechnician Ray Seymour, and crew chief Bob Ross installed the multiple effects to each act for the awards show.
A cryogenic curtain was placed between acts to create punctuation to the first part of the show. A 30-foot high by 14-foot wide wall formed a backdrop from a 30-foot trim height. “It was such a great backdrop it could have easily been used as the big finale, the audience was eating it up,”comments Bllingsley.Additionally, rapper T-Pain, performed his hit track “I’m So Hood”featuring, Flo-rida, Rick Ross, Big Boi, Ludacris, and DJ Khaled. The set was designed as a circus theme including everything from dancers on stilts to carnies breathing fire. The scene incorporated low-lying fog to help create a dreamlike look. Toward the closure of the act, a 20-foot by 20-foot glittering gerb Waterfall positioned upstage filled the set as a backdrop.
Cornacchia, who is also the effect designer on the current Chris Browns tour, brought in a 30-foot wide water screen to create all the graphics, shapes, and text out of controlled water droplet pixilation. Cornacchia explains, “I knew Chris was going to love the water screen. We’ve worked with Cossette on a few occasions and I’m glad we had the opportunity to use it with Chris Brown’s performance.” The programmed water art for this show combined graphics of hearts, a crown, as well as a face shot of Brown, which came out almost ghostly.
“The creative screen media read really well it’s great to see how it leaves the audience gasping as they saw new shapes coming out of it,” comments Billingsley, who worked with the Aqua Visual FX crew Dan Tom (Aqua FX engineer) and Robert Pratl (Aqua FX crew chief), and Alex Amyot (technician). The screen was built into the set as a recalculating system with a custom designed catch basin and anti drip system. After using 135 gallons of water to run the screen and loading out without one drop of water hitting the stage, Pratl commented, “We’ve really got this down to a science.”