Rugby World Cup 2003 opened on October 10th at Telstra Stadium in Sydney, Australia, with a cast of thousands, including hundreds of schoolchildren, and a technical crew of about 200. With a budget of AUS$5 million, the ceremony was one of the most technically advanced shows ever produced in this country and was aired on television to an estimated audience of one billion. The event combined culture with contemporary entertainment to salute the internationalism of rugby and the game's values of heritage, camaraderie, passion, and teamwork.

“We set out to create a theatrical-style ceremony using rich visual effects and a broad spectrum of musical styles,” says ARU director of ceremonies Andrew Walsh. “We wanted to celebrate not only Australia but also the spirit of Rugby, a spirit which transcends national boundaries.”

LD Mark Hammer has designed and directed lighting for theatre, musical, and television productions and events. He was involved in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Ceremonies and Centenary of Federation celebrations. Both events were valuable training grounds for the most important production of his career so far.

Hammer began planning the event six months prior, with the only lighting request from Andrew Walsh being to investigate the use of Syncrolites, as he liked their big, chunky beam effects throwing around a stadium. The main creative lighting was left to Hammer, who also had to take into account budget and power restrictions. In fact, the majority of the lighting system was designed around how much power the venue could supply.

“I'd rather spend the budget on lights than cabling and generators,” says Hammer. “It wasn't that hard. Today, the output on fixtures is so much better than at the time of the Olympics, where they had a team of people to deal with power alone. The [Martin Professional] Mac 2000 Wash unit outputs 33,000 lumens whereas the [High End Systems] Cyberlight Turbo, used on the Olympics, has only 12,500 lumens.”

Hammer had three areas from which to light the action on the field: one up high on rigged trusses, the second at Level 3 of the stadium, and the third at ground level on the field itself.

Sixteen Syncrolite SX3K wash fixtures were rigged on trusses 130' high encircling the stadium while eight Syncrolite SX7K wash fixtures were placed on the floor to throw shapes and colors into the sky. “I'd throw them back into the ceiling to light the under side or the frame of the roof,” Hammer says. “They also created a canopy over the floor area. Initially there was going to be a large pyro element to the show but there was a concern that the smoke wouldn't clear in time for the match and so it was scratched. As a result we didn't see the beams of the Syncrolites as much as I had hoped.” Nevertheless, the Syncrolites saved Hammer at least five to ten moving lights per unit rigged, which, thanks to the power restrictions, was particularly welcome.

The main body of lighting came from Martin Professional Mac fixtures: 56 Mac 2000 Wash units (eight with barndoors), 16 Mac 2000 Profile Es, 44 Mac 2000 Profile units, 20 Mac 2000 Performances, 46 Mac 600s, four Mac 300s and 12 Mac 550s. “The Mac 2000 ended up being the main working light, with the Syncrolites adding a bit of oomph,” Hammer says. “The Performances were my pick of the show. I've used them before and I knew that they'd do well, but I was really happy with them. The fact that we could shutter off on a 50m throw and still get great intensity was fantastic. That was the clincher in the deal.”

The 16 Mac 2000 Profile Es with electronic ballasts were rigged on the Level 3 area, eight on the east side and eight on the west, where they could shoot flat across the field. Their extra output, 23,000 lumens compared to the magnetic ballast, which is 19,000, was used for the specially designed gobos, named pizza gobos and manufactured by Gobotech, which were used extensively in the last segment. Pizza gobos were also used in the Mac Performances placed on the field where they could shoot up into the stands.

“We talked about producing more gobos but decided that the Pigi could do all of that, which was great because it gave me more budget!” Hammer said. In all, there were 18 E/T/C Audiovisuel Pigi projectors, the largest projection show ever attempted in Australia. The ability to provide a single image of almost 75,350 sq. ft. has been integral to the ceremony since the initial planning stages.

With the Pigi projectors providing a moving backdrop to the ceremony, Hammer had to work closely with Peter Milne, of The Electric Canvas, the supplier of the projectors and artwork, to make sure the lighting complimented the large projected images. “That's why I decided that the Martin Mac 2000 Washes with barndoors would be ideal on the ground,” he says. “When the Pigi projection was the dominant element in a scene, the lighting came from the ground level. From there the Mac 2000 Washes with barndoors prevented light spilling on to the Pigi images whilst still picking out set elements or people. Being able to shutter them down so that the light did not hit the audience or field of play was a great asset. Really, a lot of my design was just highlighting stuff, a lot of the pretty patterns were done with the Pigi and I was quite happy with that.”

The only manually focused fixtures on the trusses were Studio Due CityColors. All the fixtures focused on the field of play were automated because Hammer didn't want to lose time manually refocusing after a windy night or truss adjustment. Each of the 12 flown trusses held four Mac 2000 Profiles and four Mac 2000 Washes.

“At least with a moving light you can adjust your presets,” Hammer stated. “I also had a circle of Mac 600s on Level 3 that were used for audience lighting. Most of the cameras were situated near Level 3 so the Macs supplied a bit of a lift for them.”

Vertical trusses at Level 6 held 48 Vari-Lite VL2402 wash lights to backlight the audience and the roof. Four Griven Kolorjets on Level 5 provided more lighting of the roof underside. “Initially we placed the VL2402s to light the underside of the roof but we found that they were throwing shadows of the truss work onto the other side of the stadium!” exclaimed Hammer. “They really kicked.”

Further audience lighting was supplied by eight Studio Due CityColor 2.5kW units and eight CityColor 1.8kW units. Six more CityColor 1.8s were placed on vertical trusses, north and south, lighting the walls behind the screens. Six Minicity 250 fixtures, also from Studio Due, provided color and shape to the orchestra stage.

The first of the new Martin Mac 550s, right off the assembly line, were sent to Australia for this important event. Twelve of them were used on the rollout rugby-ball-shaped stage. “They're a great little unit,” said Hammer. “We needed something to give the stage emphasis and then kick out from there. I used the animation wheel on a few looks. We had them coupled with eight VL2402s on the stage and they worked well together.”

24 Martin Atomic Strobes were placed in a circle on the underside of the stadium roof to deliver effective strobe chases around the venue. Four Robert Juliat Cyrano long-throw followspots were placed in the back corners of Level 5 and four Aramis followspots on Level 6 in the centers. Peter Neufeld called the spots. “They were great and have some amazing features,” Hammer noted. “When I found that you could put gobos in them I thought that would be handy. So we used gobos on the bush spirits in the fire sequence and on the water people. Really they were the brightest profile on the show and they were fantastic. The operators loved using them.”

When Hammer saw that the schedule for the event meant that there was no time to program the lighting he decided to go with the Martin ShowDesigner. Martin's Australian distributor, Show Technology, offered its showroom for programming, which began on September 22nd, the first rigging day of the lights in the stadium.

“By then I knew everything was going in as planned and any problems would be minor,” says Hammer. “The first aspect that attracted me to ShowDesigner was the Ethernet element. You don't have to have converter boxes to be running out from the console to the system — ShowDesigner plugs straight into the console through Ethernet. It meant we could talk to the entire system with the minimum amount of fuss.”

Hammer found ShowDesigner to be exceptionally accurate. A Vectorworks model of the stadium was imported into the program and the rig drawn in over it. Jason Fripp and Paul Collison programmed and operated the show.

Two MA Lighting grandMA consoles, bumped up to 4,096 DMX channels each, were used for control. “Everything was run through Ethernet with a fiber-optic main system encircling the stadium,” said Hammer. “Off that, Cat5 runs broke out to ELC DMX nodes that turned the Ethernet into DMX. We ran DMX cables to DMX distribution from there and it all ran very well. You can configure the ELC nodes on a laptop so they were already preset meaning the whole system was ready to go before set up.”

When Hammer put the equipment spec for the Ceremony out to tender he made sure that the lights requested could be used regularly in a hire department after the event. “There's nothing worse than someone specifying a light for a major event that then just sits in the factory,” he said. “Chameleon Touring Systems, who supplied the gear and crew for the ceremony, already had an extensive stock of Martin gear and were happy to buy some more. The Chameleon crew were fantastic, the way the system was prepped and the way it worked impressed everybody.”

Lighting Designer: Mark Hammer

Console Programmers/Operators: Jason Fripp and Paul Collison

Production Coordinator: Brad Gander

Followspot Caller: Peter Neufeld

Technical Manager: Nick Eltis

Rigging: TriPoint

Rigging Consultant: Tiny Good

Lighting and Crew: Chameleon Touring Systems

Pigi Projectors and Artwork: The Electric Canvas