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Ferri Lights Up All-LED SportsCenter Studio

Lighting design company Ferri installs more than 1000 fixtures in Bristol, Conn. flagship, also lights LA studio.

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Sure, the touchscreens and giant video displays in ESPN’s new all-digital SportsCenter studio are impressive, but without the right lighting, millions of viewers every day wouldn’t see a bit of it.

That’s where Ferri Lighting Design & Associates came in.

Senior designer Bruce Ferri has a relationship with the so-called Worldwide Leader in Sports that dates back to 2000, before he started his own company.

In the past 15 years, Ferri has helped to light most of ESPN’s studios across North America, including some in Mexico, he says. He helped the company go to HD in 2004 and was there when they went digital 10 years later, installing lights in the new main SportsCenter studio and an annex used for pre-production.

In addition to the work at ESPN’s flagship location in Bristol, Conn., Ferri also installed a new lighting setup for the company’s studio in Los Angeles. Still, it’s a project-to-project relationship, says Ferri, who takes nothing for granted but is already getting ready to load in the all-LED setup for a new NFL set that’s set to launch Sept. 7.

Related: Advanced Helps SportsCentre Modernize

“I know the players well enough and I know what they expect,” says Ferri. On this particular project, there was a higher-than-normal level of secrecy, although Ferri doesn’t make it a practice of talking much about what he’s working on until it’s done anyway. “The (all-digital SportsCenter) set was pretty hush-hush until ESPN did its presentation about it.”

With more than 1,000 fixtures to hang in more than 10,500 square feet of space just a few months after starting work on the site in February, Ferri knew he’d have to go quickly. And, while the Sky Deck suspension rigging system ESPN installed will help technicians walk around on the grid level without lifts or ladders and more quickly replace lights when they burn out in the all-LED studios, the setup, which is typically used in theaters made for some problems in where Ferri could hang lights.

“It took twice as many people to hang the lights below the Sky Deck,” says Ferri. “Framing became a big obstacle at times too.” The automation and rigging system is installed in the steel above the Sky Deck, which is 23 feet up, not too far above the 22-foot-high ceilings, he says.

The plate glass window in the annex became a large reflective surface, something that adds another layer of complexity for lighting designers, says Ferri. “We just learned how to deal with it,” he says, noting the company employed “creative use of masking” that makes the reflection impossible for most viewers to pick up.

The SportsCenter studio went from less than 10 displays in its old version to more than 120 in the all-digital version and that meant Ferri had to make sure the lighting wouldn’t wash out the color on the screens, so he and his team used a technique that meant less color correction when the lights are on.

Ferri also came up with an automated lighting scheme that helps the single operator manage cameras, lighting and automation in the studio.

“The ‘SportsCenter’ design is as much a showcase for power efficiency as it is an aesthetic achievement for ESPN, and we are delighted with the results, particularly given the significance of this installation,” says Ferri. “I have seen several iterations of the ‘SportsCenter’ studio over the years, and this one marks a true milestone for LED lighting. We planned the simultaneous bicoastal ‘SportsCenter’ installations carefully, demonstrating the bandwidth that we have to provide the kind of intensive, high-touch support on which we pride ourselves.”

Here’s a funny look at the impressive new SportsCenter setup:

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