Scharff Weisberg shed some light on the suspenseful 2006 NFL Draft, which was simultaneously telecast live on ESPN and the NFL Network, providing the lighting package for the two-day high-profile event which was held for the first time at Radio City Music Hall. The venue was packed with people eagerly waiting to discover the professional fate of the nation’s top college football players.
Chris McMeen, a six-year veteran of the NFL draft, headed the Scharff Weisberg team, which worked closely with the NFL Draft’s lighting designer, Michael Franks. The company supplied him with a complement of VARI*LITE VL3500 and 3000 washes and spots, Atomic Strobes, a grandMA console and Express sub-console. The moving lights enhanced the growing excitement in Radio City Music Hall and conveyed the who-knows-what-will-happen-next feel of the event to viewers watching at home.
“I’ve worked with Chris McMeen quite a bit in the past and his personal attention to projects is one of the things that has cemented my choice to stay with Scharff Weisberg,” says Franks, a lighting designer for over two decades, with credits ranging from “Saturday Night Live” to the X-Games. He first worked on the NFL Draft in 1997.
“One of the challenges presented by the NFL Draft was lighting the whole room, the stage and four host areas for both ESPN and NFL Network,” Franks notes. “We had to balance all the pieces together with one system that served all our needs and do it on budget.”
Franks also had to devise lighting solutions that were successful in the huge Radio City Music Hall venue as well as on camera. “Aesthetically we really wanted to balance talent against background,” he explains. “We can have an entire room lit beautifully to the eye but for the camera what’s important is the close up. And when the camera goes close up, the background is critical.”
Franks is a fan of VARI*LITE fixtures whose superior optics enable him to light people and scenery with a smooth flat field and uniform color required on camera. “They do this, in my opinion, better than any other moving light,” he attests.
The VARI*LITEs combined with Atomic Strobes to create a ballyhoo that stoked the excitement at the live event and on the telecast. The grandMA console gave Franks tremendous flexibility to control the moving lights and provided access to each channel.
“For a really important live event like the NFL Draft you have to have a certain level of trust with the lighting supplier,” Franks says. “There’s not a lot of margin for error and the budget doesn’t allow for a lot of backup equipment. So it’s great to work with Scharff Weisberg, which can cover both aspects -- TV and theatrical -- of the event. They’re well versed in both languages.
“I can also count on Scharff Weisberg’s gear being in great shape,” Franks continues. “Having everything work is par for the course with them. Good shops maintain their equipment very well. And the personal attention I get from Scharff Weisberg is also very important. I never feel like just another customer; I feel personally cared for.”