Designed and Installed Lighting and Supporting Technology for Pardon The Interruption and Around The Horn sets
ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption, which started in 2001, and Around the Horn, which came a year later, had gone without a makeover or a transition to high definition for nearly nine years. The move into the Washington, D.C., offices and studios of ABC and takeover of the newly renovated space that once was home to “Nightline” presented a much needed opportunity for change.
The new studios and the move to HD would significant for viewers, but it also meant the attention to detail on the set, and lighting of talent, was crucial to a good experience.
The PTI set was requested to be a little more compact and elaborate and in the same studio, on the opposite end, Around the Horn was to look like “Tony Reali in a spaceship or an Apple store.”
Working under Emmy award-winning lighting designer Bruce Ferri, we approached the design specifically for high definition. While the lighting is not meant to be a conscious element to the viewer, it is a critical element. We were very aware of our responsibility to grab the viewer’s attention, and get them to stop surfing and stay tuned to the program at hand.
Using lighting fixtures more typically found theaters than TV studios, we were able to light was in a much more controlled and tightly focused manner, lighting the talent at the desk, for example, without spilling over onto the desk itself, which was to be lit with a different light or even lit from within. We removed every single wide flood light that was used in the more traditional style on the Nightline set, and filled the overhead rig with nearly 100 theatrical-style fixtures, focused into tight zones, cropped delicately and accurately on their targets.
In an industry-first, we also integrated a grid of low-resolution LEDs placed behind the key graphics panels flanking the desk. This grid would take an input of simple video animation, but through the graphic panels would bring to life some movement and color – a unique feature at the time, and one signaling the coming blurred lines between video, scenic, and lighting design.
Complementing these backlit panels were a series of other custom-made backlit elements including the desks, risers, overhead fixtures, and scenic elements, all giving a lively, modern, and attention-getting visual display, guaranteed to capture the attention of channel-surfers.
Around the Horn now averages over 525,000 viewers daily, while Pardon the Interruption averages over a million, making them among the most watched sports commentary and analysis shows in history. The lighting designed have gone largely unchanged since the original design, and the use of LEDs and theatrical lighting style has gone on to become the standard in TV lighting design.