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Lighting Designer
Riccardo Barbaglio
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The musical program Top of the Pops made history in English TV. Since 1964, when the BBC aired it for the first time, it has always been highly successful and has recorded up to two thousand broadcasts.

This program has always been extremely popular with young people and has recently gone international: it is now imported and broadcast by TV channels in Italy, Germany, Australia, France, Japan and Holland. Italians can watch the program on Italia 1, which is presented by Daniele Bossari, the network’s big name in music after his success with “Superstar”. Due to a strong link between London Top of the Pops studios and Italy, the program is able to show both Italian and foreign artists, as well as exclusive star interviews.

The most recent edition of Top of the Pops drew from the immense BBC archive in order to broadcast special tracks. This material is fascinating as it marks the initial successes of current megastars such as Michael Jackson, David Bowie and U2.

Guest stars, videos and tracks are usually chosen from the “Top 40” – Doxa’s special singles chart.


The colors of the sets and environment have to be similar to the original program: a white stage and modular walls, wide black edges and the “Top of the Pops” logo all over the studio.

Nevertheless, local production has complete freedom within this format, for example in lighting design. Riccardo Barbaglio, the program’s photography director along with Massimiliano Cavenaghi, whose 25 years of experience has been spent mostly in TV studios, tells us: “I was completely free to choose whatever lighting design and system I liked. I decided to use a lot of washlights to enhance this type of setting, because the walls are ideal backdrops for coloring. I also didn’t see the point of using powerful projectors, as the studio is relatively small and they would have taken up precious space between the stage and backdrop”.


Barbaglio planned his lighting design following two criteria: ample color and minimal space. He explained why he chose Clay Paky’s POINT projectors.

“I saw a demo of Point MH – the moving body model – before the summer: this real jewel is compact, light and smart, and features a halogen lamp and the purest of colors. My only doubt was how effective this type of projector could be in a TV studio. But it left me speechless: the TV cameras read all the colors perfectly and I was able to achieve the same impact as that of much more powerful projectors with discharge lamps. Point MH’s unbeatable advantage is its compact size – it can be used anywhere, even in a small TV studio!”.

“I showed Point MH to the program’s English producer, who was most enthusiastic. So we decided to install 20 Point MHs on stage just at the artists’ feet, with the dual purpose of coloring the stage and being a part of the set. With its extraordinary ergonomics, it can animate the set just by its presence and also through its Sound-to-Light system, which makes light “dance” in rhythm with the music. In other words, Point MH makes color while “making itself seen”.

We chose the silver model for the set, as it went well with the white studio walls.


The Top of the Pops studios now use another new lighting product, CP Color MH. This is a CMY color mixing and moving body color changer featuring a selection of optional diffuser filters, which cater for various filming requirements and allow you to color different-sized surfaces. The ovalising filter was used on set to color backdrops by shedding colors only horizontally, especially for stage design. “CP Color MH certainly passed the TV camera test”, continues Barbaglio. ”The colors were sharp and clear, and the lamp has a great range. CP Color MHs move their beams from the stage set to the audience and work perfectly in combination with other fixed CP Color 400s, spreading a beautiful base color”.

The lighting system also includes 25 Stage Color 300 and Stage Light 300, some of which are chromed for better TV visibility. Along with 12 Mini Scan HPEs, these products create special effects on stage. Due to the unusual setting, 1200 Watt projectors were used, namely Stage Zoom 1200 and Stage Profile Plus. Andrea Mantovani was responsible for console programming and also provided invaluable support in staging and planning the lighting system.

It comes as no surprise that the parent company greatly appreciated the Italian version of Top of the Pops. This close-knit team of managers and technicians managed to interpret the program’s “youthful” spirit, combining a lively presentation with cutting-edge technology that adds a creative touch to the set. In short, Clay Paky lighting has brought Italian design into the world of international music.