Fifty-three contestants walked the walk on stage at Boardwalk Hall when the 88th "Miss America Pageant" returned to Atlantic City in September. Two dozen Clay Paky Sharpy Wash fixtures and a complement of grandMA2 consoles controlling lighting and media were on hand from Atomic Lighting in Lititz, Pennsylvania for the gala telecast on ABC Television. A.C.T Lighting is the exclusive distributor of both brands in North America.
Allen Branton was the lighting designer for the "Miss America Pageant" with Felix Peralta and Kevin Lawson the lighting directors and Laura Frank the screens producer and media programmer.
"It was our eighth year doing the pageant," says Peralta. "It's always a challenge to recreate the excitement of the show; we're looking to enhance and improve the previous year's telecast. With three days devoted to pageant preliminaries, which are not broadcast, we got an opportunity to build the show on site. Friday and Saturday were camera rehearsal days then Sunday was the live show."
Kevin Lawson was responsible for the key light and audience light - an important role for a show where 53 young ladies take center stage. "The show is ultimately about the contestants, and my primary task was to make sure all of them looked good whether 53 girls were out there or one of them was performing in the talent competition," he notes. "In a lot of ways the pageant is like an awards show: They want a certain amount of grandeur, and there's a long-standing tradition behind it. The show has to be exciting but high quality and dignified."
With large groups on stage at times Lawson was challenged to not just bathe the scene with light. "I wanted to shape it enough to make the girls look great and be individually visible," he explains.
Approximately 24 Sharpy Wash fixtures served as the primary stage wash. They were hung across the stage and acted as "workhorses" for the show, bathing the contestants with backlight and color, Lawson says. "They were in pretty much every shot. I love Sharpys Washes: Their field is consistent, their zoom is great. They're bright, the color is constant; they're easily manipulated and fast. In fact, they're good for all shows."
Felix Peralta, who handled the environment lighting, notes that the Sharpy washes "treated some scenery, too, including the bigger-than-life-size Miss America statue, which had six washes on it."
One full grandMA2 console and two grandMA2 lights with fader wing were deployed for lighting. The "Miss America Pageant" was one of the first shows on which the team used 3.0 software. "We enjoyed its many new features," Peralta reports.
"grandMA2 works well as a multi-user system, and that's the most critical element of these shows that Felix and I do together for Allen," says Lawson. "It's one big happy system. We don't have to decide whose lights are whose; the fixtures can do double duty easily. The grandMA2 is the only desk that's really good at this."
Laura Frank, who is the principal of Minneapolis-based Luminous FX, utilized two full-size grandMA2 consoles running servers to screens, which covered the set. Media content helped establish competition segments and "tie the show together," she says. "The screens also gave different live views, different angles of the girls" as Frank pulled up the cameras she needed to spotlight the contestants - which one would win the crown?
John Calkins was the production designer for the "Miss America Pageant".
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