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4Wall Provides C3 & TPC with Gear and Services for the 2024 NFL Draft

By PLSN Magazine
Jun 24, 2024, updated Jul 9, 2024
 4Wall Provides C3 & TPC with Gear and Services for the 2024 NFL Draft

4Wall provided C3 Presents & The Production Collective with gear and services for the 2024 NFL Draft. This article was originally posted on PSLN.com and can be found here.

The 2024 NFL Draft was held at Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit, April 25-27, drawing a massive overall attendance of 700,000+, breaking the annual event's record set previously in 2019. Speaking of big numbers, here are some fun facts about the production side of the 2024 NFL Draft. The large temporary structure that covered the stage and greenrooms measured 230' wide by 200' deep and the actual performance area on stage measured 60' wide by 32' deep. Total weight for the Theater space hang was 302,063 lbs. There was 9,018' linear feet [1.7 Miles] of truss; 203,000' [38 miles] of lighting, LED, and rigging cables; and the lighting for the Theater/Green Room consumed 1,205,700W. There is certainly no such thing as small thinking in the NFL or for this year's production support vendor 4Wall Entertainment.

Executive Producer, C3Presents brought in The Production Collective, which was headed up by Director of Production, Shawn Worlow to manage the massive technical production for the NFL Draft. Worlow and TPC in turn brought in 4Wall Entertainment as the vendor for lighting, LED screens, rigging, and site lighting. Jon Kusner, and the team from lighting design firm 22 Degrees handled the lighting inside the Theater for the audience on site and for the many broadcast partners. Chris Lisle of Nashville-based CLLD designed the site lighting for the area outside the main structure where most of the fans hung out, the NFL Experience areas, and lit many of the downtown office buildings. Both Kusner and Lisle have worked on multiple NFL Drafts across the country so they knew expectations would be high and they delivered.


Worlow is no stranger to large projects of this scale and has worked on a dozen plus NFL Drafts. "One of the biggest challenges is working with the local organizing committees and municipalities to create a clean and ready site for something of this scale to come into a downtown metropolitan area. Truly the most challenging part is the road closures and the impact on the public and the businesses in these areas; that requires the most planning. Once you've got all that secured, dealing with the production elements, laying them out in big gravel lots, that's not so hard."

"The temporary structure and the stage came from Stage FX," says Worlow. "That includes the back of house-all the green rooms, Commissioner tent, and things like that. It totaled 12,5244 sq. ft. The whole structure was built in eight days, then the pre-rig took four days, followed by a production load-in of seven days. We did put in ground protection, which are aluminum extruded mats 10' wide by 70' long. Once the flooring went in, we couldn't bring in lifts, so everything then had to be addressed from the rig above."

When it comes to considerations that he'd tell other production managers about dealing with this televised event with an immense on-site audience, Worlow comments, "One of the most interesting things is creating a live event that has to play well for a live audience, but at the same time has three or four broadcast TV shows being created inside of it. We are creating a live event for the NFL fans, as well as for the teams and the people who attend, but you've got NFL Network, ABC/ESPN, and all kinds of other entities inside of that that are creating their own shows. The most challenging part is how you balance all those broadcast entities' needs, and the look they each want to see, from a design perspective. Every camera angle matters, but at the same time, we couldn't have dead air commercial time. It's a unique challenge."

Kris Bast of C3 Presents was the Scenic Designer for the NFL Draft. "Kris handles all of the scenic in the Theater as well as all of the venue," explains Worlow. "Meaning he does all the true scenic inside the show, but he's also doing site layout and design around the whole experience. He creates the 'Player Green Room', which varies each year. It was built out with living room seating pods; every player gets a pod where they and their guests wait to be drafted. This year we had 12. Once they get drafted, they go from there to meet the Commissioner on the main stage in the Theater. They do the 'player walk', so we build out a fully dressed out hallway for the transition between the green room and the Theater. They go through that player walkway, stop, and do the showtime cam, which is where they pick up their New Era hat and pose in the mirror, and they head out on the stage to be greeted by the Commissioner and have their moment."

4Wall Entertainment provided all the lighting for both the Theater and the site lighting, the LED walls and I-Mag screens, rigging, and labor for the Draft. 4Wall's Robby Kurtz and Gabe Thruston headed up the support for the 2024 Draft. "4Wall was great, just flawless execution," states Worlow. "Cole Kirkoffe was the Gaffer and led the on-site team under Jon [Kusner]. The team provided by 4Wall was top notch. 4Wall was an outstanding partner and really, this was the smoothest Draft year I've done. It's been a pleasure working with Robby and the 4Wall camp."

Broadcast Lighting

22 Degrees' LD Jon Kusner was back, for his sixth year providing the lighting for the NFL Draft. "The NFL Draft is a funny experience in the sense that it's a humongous show about a person walking out to a single podium and saying, 'the next pick is...' Each year we strive to create a sense of importance, since these young adults are suddenly winning the lottery by joining an NFL team and looking forward to a professional career in sports. There's a complexity of finding a location, building a venue as a means of bringing in the masses of people to celebrate and watch this event. To make it an 'event' is usually a harder lift than the show itself, as once the show starts, as long as we're keeping up with the visual team color experience, there's not a lot of other production values to it."

Kusner works closely with Bast on the look and feel of the Draft. "Kris has the most difficult job on the draft, because not only is he responsible for making the visual story of the event, but he's trying to keep a thousand different elements or departments of the NFL happy. From the photographers where they're going to be, to the graphics organization, to the sponsors, and making the environment of what, again, becomes a relatively straight forward show. Then there is the seesaw of NFL network and ESPN doing coverage of each of the winners. So, we're also giving them a base environment to do their player interviews as well."

As noted, for the NFL Draft, there are two major broadcast entities, with their own lighting designers, that Kusner interfaces with for their broadcast requirements. "My basic responsibility as the broadcast lighting designer is to look at the needs from a camera perspective, but also make the scale of it seem celebratory for the masses. So, the consideration of daylight, the amount of screen influence-or not influence-and balancing the needs of the networks because ESPN and the NFL Network each have their own director with their own agendas. We're almost in the backseat to their needs. Obviously, the prime time element of it is being covered by those two networks, as well as ABC and others. But it is truly a juggle between what I call 'our show' in the Theater, and also keeping in mind what's happening at the broadcast anchor desks, which are also in the venue. I work with LD Jeff Gregson of the NFL Network, and LD Andy McCann from ESPN closely to accomplish that. We're often in communication with each other to say things like, 'Hey, this light over here is whacking our guy in the face', or 'can we all stay on the same color story?' That type of stuff."

At a past NFL Draft in Las Vegas a few years ago, Kusner had to deal with direct sunlight on the stage for much of the show. Here in Detroit, he had ambient light, but nowhere near the levels of direct sun. "This year there were no overly clever solutions needed, just doing the job at hand," says Kusner. "Though there was ambient light happening from daylight, there was never the contrast ratio concern of too much sunlight hitting something or compared to the screen output. Maybe because we did our homework well enough, and we've done it enough times that we've figured out how to prioritize and how to help the process, so it went smoothly."

Kusner's lighting rig consisted of tried-and-true solutions he's used over the years. "Our main key light was the Vari-Lite VL3600s," he comments. "It's a predictable animal in my mind. We had a lot of ACME Pixel Lines as an extension of the scenic environment, which I appreciated because a lot of linear fixtures, off axis, don't read very well. The Pixel Lines really held up very well since they were more scenic extensions than lighting instruments. Our vendor, 4 Wall, was fantastic. Robby Kurtz organized the show out of Nashville, and he was great. He put together a solid group of people. I requested Cole Kiracofe as the Gaffer, so it was a combination of what Cole and Robby came up with for a team. Honestly, it was our most seamless NFL Draft show in years. Cole and Robby really nailed the load-in process."

The NFL Draft celebrates teams and teamwork and that is no different behind the scenes. A huge amount of teamwork goes on to execute the enormous event, and Kusner wants to make it clear that "It's a team, it's not me, it's not Kris," he states. "I live and die by having [Lighting Directors] Madigan Stehly and Jeff Beam with me who are running around because there's so much square footage to cover. We're often dividing and conquering because we can each go and take care of different things. Something that I give [Lighting Director/Programmer] Brian Jenkins credit for, he worked with the video department to take triggers of the team color business coming out of video packages. That way, we were synchronized to the color state; always right on it, rather than listening and pushing a button on the console. The fact that Brian figured out how to automate all those color sequences to play along; he just made it a better experience because everything was so tight. It all comes down to great teamwork."

Site Lighting

The capacity inside the Theater footprint was about 56,000, but the event on the first night alone draws over 275,000 people. So, outside of the Theater structure is where most of the NFL fans watched the Draft, as well as take in the whole NFL Experience that surrounds the event. This was the domain of LD Chris Lisle. "I was contracted through C3 Presents when they were in Nashville five years ago," comments Lisle. "It's a gig I've looked forward to every year ever since. My role is twofold. One, what does the camera see from the helicopter and drone reverse shots? The Theater guys do a great job of lighting the stage, but when then they hit those reverse shots, what are the other things in the environment that we can make really pop, look good, and also be on theme? The second objective is the fan experience. What can we do to make whatever environment is around look great for the fans on-site?"

It's a big audience and a lot of ground-and buildings to cover. Lisle's design required 630' of box truss for the site lighting. "What I love about this project, is that every year when we walk into a new venue, a new city, it's a new canvas," comments Lisle. "This year being right in downtown Detroit, there were lots of skyscrapers and tall buildings that really lent themselves to be nice big canvases to paint with light. Specifically 10 large buildings that surrounded the event I was able to light. The key thing here is, I'm not just lighting them with white light; the whole idea is that we light them so that they can change colors into team colors as those teams are on the clock for their pick. So, if Green Bay was on the clock for their pick, it'll be yellow and green. If the Titans were on the clock, it would have been dark blue and light blue. The NFL was great about working with me and making sure the colors were as close as we could get to what is their true, branded team colors."

With the large site, the lighting positions and control locations were spread out all over the downtown area that encompasses the whole Draft footprint. Lisle's FOH was about 300 yards from the Theater, way out in the audience. There was a lot of planning and considerations that needed to be kept at top of mind. "The challenges we faced were of the expected ones, like weather," says Lisle. "Weather is always a challenge. Granted, we were very fortunate to have all IP65 rated fixtures in our inventory. Then of course the safety aspect from looking at our cable runs and how we can make this a safe show site from an audience standpoint. We ran cable across what I would estimate to be at least a ¾-mile area in a downtown district. So, crossing streets where we know we're going to have significant foot traffic and just making sure our cable runs were nice and clean. I operated about 75% of the scope, but then I had another operator controlling another portion, and then had several assets downtown that were following along with us like projection mapping."

For his key gear choices, Lisle went for quantity and firepower to really make a strong visual impact. "In terms of the workhorses of this show, without a doubt, we had a lot of VL3600s," the LD says. "This was my first time to really get to play with them and I was super happy-very bright, had a great zoom range, and did the trick. Then we used the Elation Proteus Excalibur as our beam fixture this year to really get the Sky Tracker look; looking for the white beams to light in the air. I always like putting big beam fixtures in there just for that old 'Sky Tracker/Syncrolite' effect to get big beams in the air. That's always a fun look for those helicopter and drone shots; to see the white lights waving around. Then, the [CHAUVET] Color STRIKE M, because they're IP65 rated, is always a workhorse to just cover big swaths of light, especially using those for egress areas. They provide a good color wash across general areas."

Like the others, Lisle has nothing but good things to say about the support he got from 4Wall, both in terms of the gear, but also their crew. "From the client rep down to the project manager down to the crew chief on site to the crew itself, it's all top notch with the 4Wall team," he states. "You get a well-prepped rig of new, or nearly new gear that's in great condition. They took the time to think through the challenges of the site. There's a lot of cable and a lot of power, and they thought through how to spread out the power distribution locations so that it made the most sense for this rig. Kyle Russelburg was the 4Wall Lighting Lead for the site lighting and he was so great. The whole crew was really good."

The NFL Draft is one of Lisle's favorite projects to get to work on every year. "It's always a fun project and it's always great to go to a new canvas every year. To explore it and find something unique and cool to light," he says. "That makes the TV experience great, but also makes for a great live fan experience."


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