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LD Seth Bernstein Reimagines the Lighting Design for Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl Utilizing 4Wall Gear

By Drew Quinones
Feb 19, 2020, updated Sep 12, 2022
 LD Seth Bernstein Reimagines the Lighting Design for Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl Utilizing 4Wall Gear

New York, NY- Animal Planet celebrated 16 years of airing the Puppy Bowl, which has become a Super Bowl Sunday must watch for millions around the world. The annual television program consists of footage of a batch of adoptable puppies at play inside a model stadium, complete with commentary, slow-motion replays, and even a halftime show. Lighting Designer Seth Bernstein and 4Wall Entertainment teamed up for the third consecutive year to light the biggest day in canine athletics.


The Puppy Bowl is a ubiquitous part of the Super Bowl broadcasting landscape. Countless households spend the evening flipping back and forth between the game itself and Animal Planet, giving the show high exposure, which commands major interest from advertisers.


"With the show getting millions of viewers each year, the content and design of the show are very important to the network," explained LD Seth Bernstein. "As a pet adoption event, the Puppy Bowl is also an important driver of social change with respect to responsible pet buying."

In 2017, the LD received the call to re-design the Puppy Bowl.


"The first thing I did was look up images to study how the show is shot," explained Bernstein. "The floor of the stadium sits on a 4' platform with an array of handheld cameras roving around getting eye-level shots of the puppies. Additionally, there are many moving overhead elements to the show… like volunteers waving toys on sticks over the fields to get the puppies to move around and a jib for shooting high angle and sweeping shots of puppies."


Bernstein noticed these elements cast shadows on the puppies and the director would have to cut away from the jib or handheld shots.


"I was never explicitly tasked to fix this problem, but a close watching of the show revealed that they were missing out on some really great shots because the front lights were too harsh," said the LD.


To alleviate this, 4Wall provided an updated LED lighting package of Kino Flo Celeb 400/400Qs and Arri SkyPanel 120s.


"Replacing the antiquated 2000w tungsten fixtures reduced the temperature on set so the puppies and handlers were more comfortable," said Bernstein.

The next order of business was upgrading the look of the stadium.


The old set was great for its time, but actual NFL stadium design has changed drastically in the years since the show started," said Bernstein. "This led me to make a close study of current NFL stadiums."


The LD observed that every horizontal surface in a modern stadium is an LED screen. Wanting to mimic that look, Bernstein and Production Designer Katie Akana designed a band of Martin VDO Sceptron LED video battens behind a custom curved plexiglass enclosure.


"This was not only a nod to stadium design, but it also allowed a new level of specificity to accompany every segment," said Bernstein. In the previous iteration, the stadium looked the same whether we were in a sponsor segment, gameplay or anything else. Now, the LED band could change colors and twinkle based on what segment was currently being shot."


Another major part of the "stadium look" are the lighting towers. The LD wanted something recognizable as stadium lights but could also change color and twinkle to add whimsy to the game.

"This led us to select the Elation CUEPIX Panel which I often use on Nike and other athletic-related projects. This fixture was also used at the end of the entrance tunnel where the puppies make their dramatic starting line up debut."


4Wall also provided Robe Pointe moving lights, which were used to replicate large searchlights that are typically parked outside stadiums.


For practical purposes, High End Systems SolaFrame 750s and ETC Source Force Series 2 Lustr fixtures were added.


For the iconic Kitten Halftime Show, 4Wall provided Robe Spikie LED wash beams. These fixtures were placed on the field behind the kitten platforms, similar to the Super Bowl halftime show's production.

Bernstein's most rewarding moment was watching how all the hard work and his lighting design solved the major shooting issue.


"I remember the first time jib passed through the soft lights and grabbed an amazingly cute high angle closeup of a puppy without casting any shadows. Everyone cheered," exclaimed the LD. "I can say without hesitation that we couldn't have done this project without 4Wall and our tireless rep Bob Looney."


Bernstein concluded, "Additionally, during shooting, there's little to no time to swap fixtures, since scissor lifts scare the puppies, so we rely on 4Wall to send top-quality gear that functions out of the box."

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