FLDA's Bruce Ferri has been lighting the U.S. Open Tennis Coverage for ESPN for a number of years now and was joined by FLDA LD Fred Bock for this year's production. In addition to the exterior desk for the ESPN commentators there was also a position in one of the suites, next to the announcer’s booth, used during rain delays. Since both the backgrounds for these sets are exteriors it was important to balance the lighting of the talent against the wide-open background. A challenge was that ESPN shoots in High-Definition and does not like the look of using a net in back of the commentators, a practice often employed to reduce the amount of light in the background. Without the net behind the setup Ferri and the FLDA team had to overcome the noonday sun and ensure that the commentators were lit brightly enough so that they would pop out from the outdoor background.
Ferri uses a large amount of light to solve the balance challenge, however with HMI fixtures they would have to stay on all the time, because they could never predict when ESPN would need to switch to the commentary desk and Ferri couldn't afford the three-minute warm-up time of the HMIs. Leaving the rig on constantly meant a lot of heat would build up in the set area. Since the US Open takes place in NYC in late August/early September it is often very hot and humid already and adding heat with the lighting is a recipe for a rather unpleasant environment. This year FLDA wanted to find a solution that didn't require HMIs rather they needed something that could be instant on. Ferri and his FLDA team chose to go with an extensive LED lighting package that gave them the flexibility of instant-on fixtures as well as the benefit of dramatically reducing the heat of the lighting which minimized the discomfort of the on-air talent.
Versatility, power, and heat are serious considerations for Ferri and his team on almost every location shoot and the U.S. Open is no exception. They only had six 15-amp circuits of power to work with making the choice to change to LED fixtures very sensible. FLDA did need to use more lighting units to get the amount of light required but were still able to reduce heat and gained flexibility in cueing and color temperature control. The final design used a combination of the 16 Gekko karesslite 6006DD and 12 Prism Projection LED Studio Fresnels. Due to the brightness of the sun between noon and one, Ferri also added one HMI ellipsoidal with Wybron dousers per person, four in total.
The final broadcast featured a well-lit set that balanced nicely with the excitement of the outdoor venue while still creating a comfortable desk environment for the commentators to focus on the tennis and not the heat.