When production designer Anton Goss was kicking around ideas for the huge stage design for the broadcast of China Central Television’s Sports Personality of the Year Awards, one concept kept popping up—go huge.
And huge it was. The enormous circular stage featured 50-foot-tall LED walls, video columns and an elaborate lighting rig to celebrate China’s greatest athletes. The show is a huge deal in China (akin to the Oscars broadcast here in the U.S.), so Goss decided to go over-the-top with his design and see what he could get away with. The Olympic arena that housed the production afforded Goss and his team to go big in every way.
A veteran of big TV stage productions, Goss was contacted directly by CCTV producers last year with an offer to create the stage for the sports personality awards. They didn’t have any specific requests, so he drew his inspiration from the Olympic stadiums built in Beijing for the 2008 Games, and all of China’s forward-leaning architecture.
“My goal was to design something impossibly big,” Goss says.
LED technology is very important and commonly accepted in China, Goss says, and can be more intense than what we would design here is that States, to some degree. Since the audience was used to very impactful television, Goss decided to go superscale with the media elements on the stage. The three main LED backdrop walls were 50 feet tall.
“I wanted to put the athletes on the huge screens standing vertically so you could get an image of someone 50 feet tall, so the entire arena could see it. By the nature of the grandeur of it, that would reinforce the point that these were titans in their field,” Goss says.
The stage design concept started out as an enormous “8,” with circles mirrored as the stage floor and overhang. LED panels wrapped the edges of the stage and series of structural columns that flanked the 50-foot screens.
Drape was used for the initial reveal, to help build drama at the beginning of the show by hiding the huge screens from the audience. Once the curtain dropped, the show began with synchronized dancing and big production numbers.
Lighting was key in bringing the environment to life, and the sheer size of the rig was incredible. Goss and his team also designed a series of 1,000 lights that were built into the wings of the set, so 250 individually controlled lights were embedded in each of the four wings. These were programmed to change color and flash in waves, resulting in a killer show from the stage itself.
“A gray transparent mesh was placed on top of each fixture, so the audience saw each light through the mesh. It looked like 2,000 sources that pulsed and changed like a wave going through the ribs,” Goss says.
Up above, a circular truss provided the stage a true rock concert-style lighting rig.
“CCTV wanted a grander look than they had in previous years, with big beams of light and a bit of a concert feel to it. The design and layout of the fixtures were inspired by the shape of the stage, and we ended up making circles of truss that radiated out from it,” says lighting director Chris Werner of Chris Werner Design.
Amazingly, the whole set was built onsite within five days. Teams worked around the clock to everything built within that timeframe. Goss credited the client with allowing him the space to create the stage on such a huge scale.
“CCTV was very open, collaborative and respectful of the design process to let it be as amazing as it could be,” he says.