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Spring Festival TV Gala: A conversation with the lighting director

By Wang Siwen


For the first time in his career, 39-year-old Xia Chengzi has been named as lighting director of the Spring Festival Gala in China. To accomplish the huge task of providing the lighting effects for the entire Spring Festival Gala show on TV, Xia is leading the youngest team ever. With preparations having begun in August last year, when it comes to the most-watched TV program in the world, every detail needs to be flawless. Color, texture, intensity… as a lighting director, Xia keeps it all vibrant, creating stage scenes to tell a grand story.

Illuminating the stage with lighting design

Light serves as an essential part of the ceremony, working as one of the most important aspects of stage performances. The quality and style of the performances are closely related to lighting. During the Spring Festival Gala, each program has different light. The lighting must match the program in terms of color and space, including the color of the LED screen, the color of the lighting, and the color of the clothing. All of these must be unified visual effects.

Xia said people always see the splendid LED visual effects, but this year lighting actually accounts for 40 to 50 percent. "We used some movie lighting techniques to make the light in the auditorium softer and more even. As for the stage effect lamps, we used the most advanced lamps to ensure that everyone has a better picture quality experience and lighting effect perception," Xia said.

Xia also proposed a concept called the "violent aesthetics of lighting," which is to use the visual stimulation of lighting to give the audience a new kind of experience.

Memories of the time

The Spring Festival Gala, or Chunwan in Chinese, debuted in 1983, when TV sets were still relatively rare in China. It is China's biggest annual party, an epic extravaganza viewed by billions of people every year. For over 40 years, watching the annual Spring Festival Gala has been a tradition for almost every Chinese family. It has also been recognized by Guinness World Records as the world's most-watched TV program.

The huge project has required the efforts of thousands of people. Xia has been with the Spring Festival Gala team to celebrate the special day from 2009 until this edition in 2024. "Every year, at the company, we witness the whole production process of the world's largest party with the largest audience. I think for me, it is very important. Of course I want to go home and be with my father, and my grandma and grandpa, but I can't bear to be apart from this stage as well," Xia said.

From passion to profession

Xia has a special interest in lighting; being a designer comes natural to him, allowing him to use his lighting paintbrushes to tell the story.

"Since I was in college, this has been a very important hobby of mine," Xia explained. "In fact, lighting is actually my biggest hobby. I feel very lucky to be able to engage in such a job after graduation."

Lighting may no longer be just a hobby or a profession. It's something that is integrated into Xia's life.

He first participated in the Spring Festival Gala in 2009, learning everything from scratch. Fifteen years later, he has ascended to the position of lighting director of the whole Spring Festival Gala, all the way from an assistant.

"From my point of view as a lighting designer, I want to provide better picture quality and more beautiful performances, and then present them very well to the audience, so that they can have a blockbuster experience when watching TV. This is what I pursue."

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