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PBS's Electronic Field Trip


Laura Bush christened ScreenLight & Grip's new 10-Ton Grip Truck on its maiden voyage to the USS Constitution National Park in Charlestown, Massachusetts. The First Lady was in town to be a special guest on “Electronic Field Trip,” an educational program that is broadcast on PBS and streamed over the internet to schools. Co-produced by Ball State University and the National Park Service, each episode of “Electronic Field Trip” features a different National Park. In addition to live satellite casting from the Carlsbad Caverns, this episode of “Electronic Field Trip” included live interaction with a Charlestown Public School 4th grade class garrisoned in the Mess Hall of the Navy Barracks overlooking the USS Constitution. Mrs. Bush led the class in several science experiments related to cave geology.

Given the importance of their special guest and the scenic setting outside the windows, the show's producers called upon ScreenLight & Grip Lighting Director Guy Holt to tackle the difficult task of creating flattering light on the First Lady, while balancing the interior lighting to the exterior, so that the USS Constitution could be seen clearly outside. To make the task even more difficult, the Program's Director did not want the television lights to be visible. He was fearful that the Secret Service would jettison the First Lady's participation if the room looked like a hazardous movie set. He wanted it absolutely ship shape.

Guy Holt accomplished the task to everyone’s satisfaction using the revolutionary Porta-Grid Clamp he developed several years ago. Used on major network television shows like NBC’s ED, the Porta-Grid Clamp turns an ordinary drop-ceiling into a full-blown studio grid. Holt used the Porta-Grid Clamp to rig heavy Kino Flo Flat Head 80 fixtures (4’- 8 tube fluorescent lights) flush against the ceiling over each table as high frontal key lights for the participants around the tables. The lights were then dressed with black show card so that they looked as if they were permanent fixtures. To fill in this soft high frontal key light, Holt rigged 6’x6’ book lights with 4k HMI Pars. “A light source that large creates a wonderful soft light that doesn’t throw shadows, which was important“ Holt explains “because cameramen moved constantly back and forth in front of the book lights.” Not only were the book lights very clean looking, with the light and hardware hidden from view, but if seen reflected in the large plate glass windows, they looked like a window on the opposite side of the room. “The final ingredient for success,” explains Holt, “was a layer of ND 9 gel (on the plate glass windows overlooking the USS Constitution) to bring the exterior levels in line with the pumped up interior.”

To power the lights as well as the Satellite Uplink Truck and Production Truck, Holt used the movie blimped 1400Amp Crawford Generator on ScreenLight & Grip’s new 10-Ton Grip Truck. “It was important to have a silent generator so that we would not disturb visitors to the park or the Navy crew barracked in the building where we were shooting,” explains Holt.

Without a doubt, the producers of “Electronic Field Trip” were glad they chose Guy Holt and ScreenLight & Grip to provide lighting for such an important special guest as the First Lady. As Guy Holt demonstrated, a gaffer that supplies the right tools for the job, and uses them in an innovative way, can create remarkable results.



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