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Clay Paky alongside the beauties and the geeks
Lighting Designer
Riccardo Barbaglio
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Six couples made up of beautiful, tall and shapely girls and somewhat ugly and fattish, or excessively skinny, blokes without any sexual experience, not by choice but due to their own inability. This is the essence of “La Pupa e il Secchione”, a Mediaset programme adapted from the format of the American “The Beauty and the Geek”.

This is a reality show that bucks the trend, with paradoxical and saucy tones and full of sexual nuances: a circus of the absurd where the beauties must improve themselves culturally and the geeks become “real men” through improbable tests of ability, seduction and cultural self-possession.

The idea was that of mixing the American format with the ingredients that work in other Italian programmes. The result is a sort of comedy show with sexy overtones that has gained great attention with the public and press.

In line with modern trends for TV studios, the “La Pupa e il Secchione” studio is a stage “in the round” with the actors in the centre. This structure offers more than one advantage: it centralises the scene, gives more shooting points and improves audience participation. With respect to the traditional stage, however, this solution presents certain problems during the stage setting phase. “We had to install all the lighting material on the ceiling since there were no other support structures available, while the sound diffusers were hidden inside the set, between one step of the stands and the next” Director of Photography Riccardo Barbaglio told us.

One proceeds by curved lines: from the stands for welcoming the public to the structures and embellishments of the stage, everything is harmonic, soft and embracing. The elements that can be seen are all white, so that they can be colored at various times during the show. “It was a precise choice, taken during the design stage” continued Barbaglio. “We wanted to be able to “paint” the whole set with light, using a different color each time. I often used unusual colors – acid yellows, greens, mauve – that would normally be outlawed from any TV transmission. But this is a “crazy” programme so the light also has to follow suit!”.

Indeed, in “La Pupa e il Secchione”, light is not confined to lighting the scene, but to assist and emphasise everything that is happening, making it more playful and entertaining. The function of light is an integral part of the story line, it accompanies the stories and turns them into a spectacle as if in a parody.

The lighting system consists of 28 Alpha Spot HPE 575 units, 30 Alpha Wash 575 units and 28 CP Color MH units as well as several halogen and conventional projectors. Barbaglio says: “I chose the Clay Paky Alphas for the first time in 2003, because of the quality of the light and the power. Since then I have asked for them specifically in many transmissions that I have directed. They are very versatile projectors that make it possible to interpret any situation in the best way and they are always very reliable.”

Barbaglio entered into the context of this transmission and told us why he had asked for Alpha Wash 575 units since they are the only 575W washlights on the market able to ensure him the required power/light yield ratio. He also repeated his conviction regarding the CP Color MH units, “extremely simple color changers but highly practical for color integration and for lighting backdrops”.

A complicated situation to manage, both for director Stefano Miniucci and for lighting operator Marco Piva, is that of following the actors on stage. “They are always moving” said Barbaglio, “sometimes totally unpredictably, and we let them do it because it’s part of the game. There’s no constraint, there is complete freedom of position and the programme benefits from spontaneous action. This required a lot of work, however, because we have to frame all their movements with the right lighting”. Piva added: “we trusted the aiming of the projectors in many situations: it’s very important, for example, to move from a front view to a silhouette with the certainty of a precise repeat”.

“La Pupa e il Secchione” is about to end its adventure amidst general furore: everyone is talking about it, being ironical and thinking of counter-parodies, but all this perfectly reflects the intentions of the programme. Thanks to the innovative ideas thrown into the lists with an ironic and artistic grasp, this is among the leading candidates for the most followed programmeof the year and its participants, perhaps, at least partly cured of their original problems.