New Yorkers tend to take things in stride — even blackout spread over eight states — so when the power went out on August 14, 2003, New Yorkers showed their time-tested mettle Most tried to accomplish the basic task of just getting home from work, while for others — well, the show must go on, right? That was the case in Studio 6A at NBC for the cast and crew of Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
Late Night's crew was getting ready to tape the day's broadcast when the power went out. Once it was assessed that the situation was more widespread than just Studio 6A, it was time to make some decisions about how to proceed. Late Night tapes at NBC's Rockefeller Center Studios in the GE Building, so back-up power, via generators, was not a big problem. The real problems were no guests, no elevators, no audience. According to lighting director Fred Bock, “We knew we could do a broadcast, we just didn't know if there was enough to fill the whole hour. The only guest we had was [the musical act] The Dandy Warhols, who were already at the studio for rehearsal, so the idea of maybe letting then perform acoustically was played with. We also had our house band and, of course, Conan was here, but when we really looked at it there just wasn't a whole show — so we decided we would do a couple of minutes live and then go to a tape of a previous show.”
Once it was decided to have Conan sitting at his desk with the house band playing an acoustic version of the show's theme song, Bock began laying out the lighting. “I could have gotten more light but the whole idea was to show the effect of the blackout,” says Bock, who decided to go with as minimal light as he could but still control the look. He took clip lights and attached them to the camera stands and then plugged them into the camera's auxiliary outlet. “Those were the ‘mining lights’ [O'Brien] referred to during the broadcast,” jokes Bock, “I used a 2kW unit lamped down to 500W for the band area to finish it off. That was it, that and flashlights.” O'Brien used a flashlight to help announcer Joel Godard read the show intro and the crew held a flashlight over the cue cards. “I was really happy with the look and I think the result was to let people watching see a little of what being in the blackout was like,” concludes Bock.