When news came out that Katy Perry’s Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched and highest-rated of any in history, there was celebration at Lightborne Communications, the video production services company in Over-the-Rhine.
Lightborne created all of the animated video projections and lighting used in Perry’s 12-and-a-half-minute set, which featured a medley of abbreviated versions of her hits amid phantasmagoric and theatrical staging, costumes, videos, lighting, dancing and set design.
There were numerous highlights. During a snatch of “Dark Horse,” the blue and white checkerboard-square-like stage lights pulsated as Perry and silver-garbed dancers worked out. The visuals tilted, swirled and shifted like a churning whirlpool, even rising upward like fast-built high-rises that suddenly collapsed and disappeared.
And during a dynamically frenetic and musically excellent guest appearance by Missy Elliott, the multicolored lights zipped, circled and flashed like a combination auto racetrack and disco. At one point, projected graffiti-inspired graphics gave the Super Bowl a true street vibe. The lighting embraced and pushed Elliott, Perry and dancers.
While Lightborne president Scott Durban is wary about taking too much credit — many artists, including Perry herself, were involved in the show — he does note that no other company involved in the overall production is based in Cincinnati.
Lightborne got involved because its Tour and Stage Content division already had been working on Perry’s ongoing “Prismatic” world Tour. She will be resuming that tour now that the Super Bowl is over. (Lightborne also has worked on Kanye West’s “Yeezus” tour, Deadmau5’s tour of Australia and Asia, Fleetwood Mac’s “On With the Show” tour, Billy Joel’s Madison Square Garden residence and more.)
Dan Bryant, the head of that division, explains Lightborne’s involvement with Perry’s Super Bowl performance.
“We started working on the project very shortly after she was announced in October as the halftime performer,” Bryant says. “We had done over two hours of content for her Prism tour, so she was already familiar with our company and work. We got a call from her creative director, Baz Halpin, asking us to work on her Super Bowl show.”
“As soon as we found out her set list, we started working with [him] for some concepts that would work with the logistics and constraints of the show,” Bryant continues. “We started doing individual frames to capture the overall idea for a particular song. That process went into November. Once we arrived at a concept for each song that everybody was happy with, we started storyboarding them out to give an idea of what the flow of ideas would be for each song.
“Then in December we started doing animatics, taking all the different frames we created and stringing them out to songs in still-frame form so everybody could get an idea of what it would look like when finally animated. That took us to the middle of December,” he says.
“Then we started animating ideas to rough tracks for her Super Bowl medley. That’s when we started using a really amazing piece of software called D3. It’s simulation software, specifically designed about 10 years ago to simulate any live event on a software platform.”
Eventually, Lightborne had a working 3D model of the University of Phoenix Stadium (where the Super Bowl was played), the performance stage and all the key props. Its crew started loading its animations into that.
“It gave everybody on our team, including Katy herself, a really good idea of what our animated content would look like when projected onto a 160-foot diameter surface,” Bryant says.
In January, a four-person Lightborne team went out to Los Angeles to participate in rehearsals. A few days before the Super Bowl, everyone involved moved to Phoenix to rehearse in the actual venue.
Although everything went fine, Bryant says there was great nervousness as the Super Bowl game began. Lightborne was counting on some degree of darkness for Perry’s show.
“The first and second quarter went by extremely quickly, and my team on location in Phoenix and everybody else with the show was getting nervous because it was still light outside,” Bryant says.
“They had the dome roof open and 15 minutes to show time it was still bright sunshine outside and the field was being hit by sunlight. Luckily some things happened in the game that had the quarter slow down, so it went off without a hitch.”
For more information about LIGHTBORNE, visit lightborne.com.