Scharff Weisberg Lighting provided extensive lighting and rigging packages for the main conference room and evening entertainment venue — including a rock ’n roll set by Lyle Lovett — at the World Congress on Information Technology 2006 (WCIT) in the Austin (Texas) Convention Center. The biennial congress drew a record-breaking 2,100 leaders from business, government and academia in 80 countries who focused on three key IT issues impacting the world: privacy and security, digital access, and healthcare in the 21st century. Speakers included luminaries such as Steve Ballmer, Michael Dell, and Colin Powell,

Lighting designer Nicholas Phillips was charged with lighting the general sessions plus the entertainment components of the congress at two different venues in the Austin Convention Center. Scharff Weisberg Lighting shipped ten trucks of lighting and rigging gear to fulfill Phillips’ requirements.

In the Convention Center’s upstairs ballrooms, which hosted the general sessions, a set piece consisting of a giant globe wrapped with unifying ribbons — a motif suggested by the WCIT logo — was split in half horizontally along the horizon. It was Phillips’s task to light the globe and ribbons independent of each other so the ribbons would appear more dimensional and seem to curve over the globe.

To accomplish this, he deployed a large complement of ETC Source Four Ellipsoidals with Morpheus ColorFaders. Phillips cites the importance of the ColorFaders’ color-changing abilities. “The first day we had a primary-color palette for the general sessions, the second day we had a secondary-color palette and the third day we went back to the primary palette. hese were long sessions, and everything had to be different for each speaker. The ability to change the color of the globe and the way we lit the ribbons meant attendees never saw the same thing twice during 20 hours of sessions.”

A large number of Vari-Lite automated luminaries also figured in the globe set piece. VL 3500 framing spots with shutters were used to add texture and gobos to the globe. “They were really the only light for the job,” says Phillips, “because of the wide zoom range, short throw and brightness we required.” VL 500 tungsten washes, teamed with T-3 6-cell striplights, created the horizon line behind the globe on the large cyc.

For control, grandMA and grandMA Lite consoles were networked together so Phillips and programmer Seth Rappaport could work in tandem, Phillips on individual lights and Rappaport controlling the entire environment.

Scharff Weisberg’s fast, efficient crew impressed Phillips. “They got everything in so quickly that we were actually a day ahead of schedule for the general sessions. That gave us a lot of time to finesse the details. And production electrician Dan Kirsch was the best!”

Both the client and Richard Carlstrom were “ecstatic” with the look of the general sessions, Phillips reports. “They said they had never seen a corporate show that looked like Broadway.”

Phillips, his assistant Andy Moorhouse, and Seth Rappaport were also responsible for the evening entertainment venue which was carved out of half of the giant exhibit hall and featured performances by Lyle Lovett and Little Feat. The rig for this room consisted of a pre-rig truss system, coupled with a large Vari-Lite rig and Robert Juliat followspots. Control was once again provided by networked grandMA consoles.

Scharff Weisberg’s excellent crew and gear preparation allowed the equipment for this room to be set up in only one day’s time. According to Phillips, “Scharff Weisberg was not only able to shift gears and provide that equipment but also get the package in in a limited amount of time. The pre-rig truss with PAR64 lamp bars is a difficult thing to get -- Scharff Weisberg not only got it, but it was a really beautiful rig!”

During the WCIT project Phillips says he could count on Scharff Weisberg Lighting general manager Ben Saltzman to do more than book the rentals. “Ben was there to help us come up with creative solutions to systems and budget,” he says. “He went above and beyond the call of duty and served as a calming influence at a hectic time. That’s another reason to use Scharff Weisberg!”

Carlstrom Productions’ Joe Hunter was technical director for the WCIT general sessions and entertainment venue.