Unveiling Virgin Galactic SpaceShips In The Stormy Mojave


When Virgin Galactic wanted to unveil SpaceShipTwo (SS2)— the world’s first commercial space line and christened VSS Enterprise —at an event in December at Mojave Spaceport in California, VIPs including Sir Richard Branson, Governors Bill Richardson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and others turned out to celebrate this milestone. John Featherstone of Lightswitch was asked to join the creative team at Group Delphi, where, in addition to providing lighting design, he was a key member of the creative team that developed the overall look and feel of the project.

We caught up with him after the event, plus check out the video footage of Group Delphi’s animation of the original creative.

LD: Tell us a little about the event.
John Featherstone: It was the much anticipated roll out of Virgin Galactic’s Space ShipTwo. To quote them: “Fighting against the stormy Mojave weather, SpaceShipTwo was rolled out today to a spectacular display at Mojave Spaceport…Despite gale force winds and stormy weather, guests gathered on the runway after the press conference to see SpaceShipTwo for the first time. The spaceship was carried down the runway by her mothership, VMS Eve, to a spectacular display of lights, music, and snow which only helped increase the anticipation of her arrival and excitement and awe as she appeared before the crowds.

LD: How was the site set up?
The site was divided into several discrete areas: the exterior and reveal, with the lighting of the presentation, “DNA of Spaceflight,” and the exterior of the structures and event space; a large, 180’x 80’ clear-span tent used for the press briefing and the party post-reveal; and two inflatable structures, used as a “dance pod,” and a “party pod.”

LD: What was the look you were going for?
The concept for the event was to maximize the breathtaking beauty of the Mojave site and present SS2 to the audience of dignitaries, press, astronauts, and accredited space agents in a stunning, exciting, and memorable fashion.

LD: You talk about good planning. How did that prevent possible disaster when the storm arose?
The Group Delphi team was proactive in terms of defining both possible scenarios and courses of action in the event—that certain criteria were met. This meant that not only were production staff equipped with the necessary procedures to follow, but the client clearly understood what were the ‘tipping points’ and the impact of those tipping points.

LD: Okay, so we know the challenges that Mother Nature provided, but were there any other technical or setup issues?
Other than Mother Nature, the simple fact of the show being staged at the end of a runway, on an active airport, in a remote small town, it was a piece of cake!!

LD: Was anything permanently damaged?
Of course, due to the extreme environmental conditions, there was equipment damaged, but ultimately, the result of the event was that it was hugely successful in the eyes of the client and attendees, and no one was hurt—not even a scratch.

Creative Team
Lighting designer: John Featherstone
Assistant lighting designer: Austin Shapley
Lighting director: Dennis Connors
Programmer: Phil Shearer
Production electrician: Jeff Johnson
Technology electrician: Lacey Taylor
Networking and data: Tyler Roach
Runway lights and practicals: Daric Bassan

Lighting Design: Lightswitch
Lighting Equipment: Upstaging Inc.
Production: Group Delphi
Production Team: Internal Network Mariette Systems
Sound: O.S.A. International (On Stage Audio)
Technical Direction: production glue llc
Icon Panel Production: Fabric Images
Icon Panel Staging: Accurate Staging
Internet Service: High Desert Wireless
Domes: Inflate
Rentals, Tenting: Town & Country Event Rentals
Transportation: Lux-Bus America
Catering: Along Came Mary Events

Partial Equipment List Lighting
20 Philips Vari-Lite VLX Wash
12 Philips Vari-Lite VL3500FX Wash
8 Philips Vari-Lite VL3000 Profile
4 Philips Vari-Lite VL1000 Arc with Shutters
8 Philips Vari-Lite VL3000 Profile
4 Philips Vari-Lite VL1000 Arc with Shutters
24 Martin Professional MAC 2000XB Wash PC Lens
16 Martin Professional MAC 700 Wash
32 Coemar ParLite LED
10 i-pix BB7
30 PixelRange PixelLine 1044
24 Philips Color Kinetics ColorBlast 12
34 Zap Technology BigLite 4.5
4 Zap Technology Little BigLiite
280 ETC Source Four PAR 750W
8 1kW Fresnel
24 Martin Atomic Strobe

5 Barco High End Systems Hog iPC

Special Effects
9 Barco High End Systems F-100 Performance Fog
1 Le Maitre Radiance Hazer
100 Star Strobes

Rigging, Truss
8 CM ½-Ton Motors
2 Genie ST-25 Super Tower
16 20" Tomcat Truss 10'
24 12"X12" Tomcat Truss 10'
10 16' Rolling Crank Up “Movie” stands for BB7s

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