Olivia Ravenhill

600 GLP X5 Atoms Populate 150 ‘Tree’ Towers in Expansive Set Fabrication

GLP pulled out all the stops for lighting designers Mat Stovall and Manny Treeson when video game developer Blizzard Entertainment’s BlizzCon 2023 was held at the Anaheim Convention Center in southern California recently.

Held for the first time since 2019 (when Covid intervened), Blizzard reconfigured the space so that all four giant halls were requisitioned to give fans early access to the latest updates for all of its landmark games (World of WarcraftOverwatchDiablo and Hearthstone) via themed playable stations. Additionally, the arena was converted into a proscenium stage for hosting keynotes, speaker panels and trailer drops – as well as the spectacular opening and closing ceremonies, all streamed live to millions around the world.

To keep pace with the next-generation technology employed in the video game world, Stovall and Treeson, who have routinely carried GLP fixtures in their respective toolboxes, turned to the German manufacturer again to provide a unique packaged solution.

Working for event producer Zed Ink, the two designers approached GLP towards the beginning of the year, with an idea they had for something special – not just a fixture but a whole scenic solution that could be used at BlizzCon, as well as future Blizzard Activision events. 

“It started when I told them we would be bringing our X4 atom fixture onto the new X5 platform. As avid atom users, this was music to their ears,” says GLP Inc. president Mark Ravenhill.

According to Manny Treeson, they fundamentally wanted to do away with the traditional approach of miles of cable and truss up in the air. A think tank was formed under Erin Hearne Williams, lead creative director of BC23. “We all scratched our heads,” says Treeson, “and then the idea of a kind of ground-supported architectural ‘tree’ with integrated lighting, which could carry weight, banners, scenic lanterns and other elements, started to take shape. Stovall worked hand in hand with production designer Stephen Leonhardt to develop the design layout for the trees.”

This “cadence of structures” distributed throughout BlizzCon would carry the mighty X5 atoms. Their idea was for 150 of these banner-supporting light towers, each containing four X5 atoms – giving a total of 600 pieces.

Ravenhill banged heads with the tech team in Germany, and not only did they believe that this could be realized within the time frame, but GLP’s head of project management, Marc Rapp, knew all the right people for the design, fabrication, wiring and finishing of the scenic parts.

The fact that the atoms would be on the X5 platform was great news, particularly to Mat Stovall – a veteran of this event – who would be tasked with delivering this creative scenic animation. He acknowledges: “Since those towers are 16ft tall we were excited to get the atoms as X5 versions, because they are noticeably punchier than the previous iteration.

“We knew we were definitely up against time with so much fabrication. The fact that GLP knew they would be able to provide both the lighting fixture and the fabrication for these light trees and package it in a way that could be installed really quickly and efficiently is what led us down this road.”

Mark Ravenhill rubberstamped the fixture’s superior output: “It would also give them higher CRI and a larger color gamut than we had previously with the X4 atom.”

The design underwent several iterations of the tower fabric along the way, and appropriately themed powder coat colors were chosen, before being fitted with fixtures and wired, with final assembly taking place at GLP Los Angeles. “One of our production electricians built the first one and just said ‘wow’,” the designers revealed.

This created surreal and otherworldly immersive environments for the various gaming areas.

But it didn’t stop there. Over in the arena, Manny Treeson took responsibility for the lighting of this part of BlizzCon.

Treeson chose another of GLP’s small and versatile fixtures, the impression FR1, to be built into the dimensional structures on stage – further supported by impression X4 Bar 20s that lined the front edge of the stage, and banks of JDC1s for effect and wash use… all in a rig supplied by Illumination Dynamics. This rig was put to use constantly throughout the event, including hosting all speaker panels, which were also streamed to the world. Ensuring that he chose fixtures with proven broadcast performance was essential in Treeson’s design. 

Back in the main halls, Stovall added to the X5 atom towers with GLP impression FR1s and FR10 Bars that were integrated into the set, and scenic elements for the various game titles, while he added banner lighting via impression X4 Bar 20s.

Christie Lites took care of the supply of all lighting and support elements within the main halls.

Manny Treeson was quick to commend his colleague on devising such a clever and imaginative system that was made to be simple ‘plug and play’, stating: “I’m tremendously proud of what we have achieved and particularly what Mat has created.” The latter, meanwhile, praised GLP’s tiny gem, and particularly the X5 atom’s new IQ.Gamut color mix algorithm.

“The added range of color in the X5 Series was a huge benefit. As with any corporation with a specific IP the closer and wider the color gamut you have to work with the more effective it is for the clients – and the happier they are in terms of color range,” he concludes.