LOS ANGELES — It takes an army to build the massive set for the 2011 VMAs. And over the course of the last week, that tireless militia has been working around the clock to transform the lobby of the J.W. Marriott hotel in downtown Los Angeles into the intergalactic fantasia that will greet stars on Sunday night.
The production has taken over just about every corner of the lobby, with lighting designers hanging a series of shimmering white curtains laced with more than 300 twinkly lights over a space that was previously a couch-filled lounging area. They've also laid down more than 12,000 square feet of black carpet throughout the lobby, covering the nearly 18,000 square feet of real estate the hotel has ceded to the production.
The first thing fans will see when they tune in to the VMA pre-show is the space-age "portal" celebs will be stepping through, a series of four undulating white shapes, the tallest of which is more than 16 feet high. That will eventually lead them to a 100-foot long, glittering paparazzi plaza, where the night's biggest names will face a sea of flashes. That space will be blazed by 1,700 silver-tipped incandescent bulbs that will light up the A-listers for their close-ups.
VMA pre-show production designer Scott Storey promised that viewers at home would not see the same old "step-and-repeat" space they always get at the average awards show, and he wasn't kidding. His vision of eight rib-cage-like towers that will "hug" the talent loom large, their wavy forms broken up by more than 40 pop-art-esque angular "pow" signs for this year's awards show.
The production crew also ensured that the whole thing would look fabulous by laying sheets of black plastic over more than 300 windows and doors on the front and back of the hotel.
The 28th annual MTV Video Music Awards will air live Sunday, August 28, from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles at 9 p.m. ET/PT, following the Selena Gomez-hosted pre-show at 8. See the list of nominees, revisit last year's highlights and vote for Best New Artist by visiting VMA.MTV.com.