Sunday, June 29, 2014

Behind the Scenes: Turn out the Lights!

Behind the Scenes is a weekly series that covers an aspect of the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival presented by Bank of America, from food to films, traditions to (Airstream) trailers. This series will post each Sunday evening, letting you in on another secret behind the Film Fest. Stick with us for all 10 weeks; by the end you'll be an expert!  

During a typical summer evening, large stadium lights perch on the top of the MetLife Building at 1095 Sixth Avenue to light the park from above. However, bright lights and cinema do not mix. During the Film Fest, we turn them off to provide an optimal viewing experience. Read more about the process of darkening the park.

The MetLife building is the green building located on the northwest corner of the park. The light in question are on the top left hand side of the building and look like birds on a telephone wire. 
This photo was taken from the top of the MetLife Building. The stadium lights are the black cubes; in this photo they are flipped away from the park (toward the roof) for maintenance.
When the Film Fest started over 20 years ago, the only option for turning off the lights was to climb to the top of the building. Each week, an HBO intern had this challenging task and turned off the lights manually. In the late 90s, the HBO interns must have been overjoyed by the introduction of a remote that allowed the lights to be turned off from the ground. This remote was in use for over a decade, but did not allow for different settings--the lights had to either be all turned on or all turned off. Approximately four year ago, another evolution came in the story of the lights--a telephone line was installed that controls the lights. Now, a simple call to the telephone number can turn the lights on and off in various combinations, allowing for much more flexibility in park lighting than ever before.

It's hard to believe, but each of the 12 stadium light atop the MetLife Building have only one very small-but-powerful bulb. The bulbs are 2000 watts each, which is just enough to get the light beams to travel the 700 feet down to ground level in the park. When you consider that a typical street light is 250 watts, the stadium lights have the combined power of about 96 street lights!

Left: a lightbulb from the stadium lights atop the MetLife Building; just 12 of these little guys provide 96 street lights' worth of light! Right, the decommissioned remote that used to control the lights.
We hope this post has been illuminating (pun intended)! You are now an expert at darkening the park.

Join us tomorrow evening for A Soldier's Story, a tense murder mystery set on a Louisiana miliary base in the 1940s. This film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor Academy Awards.

HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival 
Mondays, June 16 through August 18
Lawn opens at 5pm
Films start 30 minutes after sundown

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