News

As the leading global production services solution provider PRG is continually working on some of the most creatively challenging projects; developing the next generation of technology and redefining the industry as well as our company. Keep track of it all in our news updates and case studies. We will also be posting articles and videos featuring some of our industry's compelling creative thinkers; designers and luminaries.

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1/18/2018

A Look Back at LDI 2017

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas…except when it comes to LDI! The PRG team rocked LDI 2017 with a packed booth and back-to-back, hands-on demos of our technology. This year PRG featured the GroundControl™ family of products, the latest Mbox software , ReNEW-DMX and ReNEW-LD and PRG PRG SPACEFRAME™. If you didn’t get a chance to visit our booth, please find our LDI 2017 recap video below as well as a video for each product demonstrated at the show.

LDI 2017 Recap Video

PRG GroundControl™ Followspot System
The PRG GroundControl™ Followspot System allows a followspot operator to remotely operate a high output automated luminaire as a followspot from up to 2,000’ away.

PRG SPACEFRAME™
PRG SPACEFRAME™ is a revolutionary touring frame design seamlessly integrating LED panels to provide industry-changing operational efficiencies and the opportunity for unlimited creative expression.
The carbon fiber touring frame is ultra-lightweight, collapsible and fully wind braced creating an intensive built-in structural strength. This allows for a free-form approach to stage designs enabling artists and designers to think outside the conventional LED box. This latest patent-pending technology from PRG also dramatically reduces pre-tour engineering time, shipping footprint/weight, carbon emissions, load-in and load-out times, as well as labor required on tour and locally.

PRG Mbox
Mbox gives users powerful and flexible control by working seamlessly with media playback, composition, effects, and transitions. Mbox v4 offers more power through modernized API’s, a fully 64-bit code-base, and better utilization of modern operating systems and hardware. The new UI allows for faster, more-flexible, and intuitive setup for outputs and content positioning. But the core concepts of the Mbox software remain – ease of use, speed of programming, and flexibility.


PRG RH+A
RH+A products offer retail, hospitality and architectural lighting solutions.

Until we see you next year, LDI!

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1/18/2018

PRG Case Study - BLUBERI Booth

PRG worked together with Skyline Entourage and their end client Bluberi to develop a comprehensive LED solution to ensure their booth would not only stand out, but also boldly highlight the company’s new products. The highly engaging technology solutions used to immerse attendees included a custom wrap around LED video wall and two LED floors. To illuminate Bluberi’s new products, PRG designed two LED floors, using a combined 138 5.9mm LED floor tiles. For the LED video wall, PRG built a custom truss structure to wrap around a support beam, and attached 100 3.9mm LED panels, which played Skyline Entourage’s content pixel perfect!

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1/18/2018

PRG Case Study - Bosch at CES

Czarnowski, being awarded the Bosch booth at CES, understood the importance of making critical decisions early on. They brought PRG to the table during the planning phase to ensure a successful roadmap and the future outcome of the project. During the 60-day planning period, PRG’s expertise in lighting design, technical efficiencies, rigging and logistics were all brought into play. These efforts resulted in a significant cost savings by utilizing PRG BAT truss (instruments were pre-installed at the PRG shop at half the cost of onsite); updating the lighting design to a fully automated system to avoid extra focus costs and PRG management of the rigging onsite making sure all goals were met. The end result not only brought significant monetary value but also a visually engaging booth and very satisfied clients.

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Duke Durfee
1/3/2018

A PRG Chat with Duke Durfee: Owner, DMD Group West, Production Design

“I would not be surprised, if, in the not too distant future, we will be able to capture the experience from the best seat in the house in a Virtual Reality experience.”

You might wonder, as we did, how to capture the essence of a world-renown production designer when that designer has quite literally touched every aspect of production design on nearly every continent on the planet. To say it is nearly impossible to describe the accomplishments and uniqueness of Duke Durfee, owner of DMD Group West Production Design, would be an understatement. We did, however, have an opportunity to chat with the ever-modest Mr. Durfee and we are happy to share that discussion with you here, but first, we want to give you a bit of background to help set the stage (pun intended).

Duke Durfee has worked all over the world designing meetings and events for Mastercard in Sydney and Berlin, IBM in Maui and Kona, Mercedes-Benz at the Geneva Auto show, the IBM All-Europe Data Mining Conference, and Peugeot's 505 Intro at the Lido Theatre in Paris. He has also designed shows for Apple, IBM, MCI, Microsoft, Compuware, Sony, Sun Microsystems, Bentley Software, Cisco Systems, Nike, Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, MetLife, Mattel, Dow Chemicals, Roche Pharmaceuticals, Mobil Oil, Chevron, Universal Studios, Cineplex Odeon, and Mack Truck. And that’s just his corporate gigs.

Duke has provided insight and expertise to shows like “David Copperfield's Dreams and Nightmares” and “EFX,” the largest special effects stage show in the world, and created theme designs like the multimedia atrium at NikeTown NY, the Rainforest Darkride for Petrosains in Malaysia, and the interactive, motion-based Marlboro Adventure Team exhibit - But wait, there’s more!

Duke’s entertainment designs include the original attraction, Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue at Universal Studios LA, production design for Mariah Carey’s 1996 Pacific and European tours, the Doobie Brothers' concert Rockin' Down the Highway, MTV's Halloween Special (first immersive VR broadcast in the U.S.) and the television series “Sessions @ West 53rd St”. for Automatic Productions and SONY Music. And earlier in his career, he worked on Broadway productions including “Me and My Girl,” “Nine,” “M. Butterfly,” “Dancing at Lughnasa,” and “Metamorphosis”.

With that as a background,…we now share our chat.

PRG: What inspired you to get involved in production design?
DURFEE: I had always been an actor and an artist, in fact, I received two college degrees in the business. But when I had the opportunity to do an internship at the Guthrie Theatre, and I met people making a living doing design work, that’s when it hit me and I knew this was going to be my future. Then, when I worked on my first Broadway show I realized I was suddenly cast into the big leagues. The show was called “The World of Sholom Aleichem,” and the year was 1982.



PRG: Broadway played a key role in your career, can you tell us about that?
DURFEE: After my first show, I quickly learned that Broadway was a small circle, and I was fortunate enough to get into that circle. That’s where I met Jere Harris. He wasn’t the Chairman and CEO of PRG yet but he was the founder of Harris Production Services, which was the industry’s most highly regarded production equipment company. I was working in Jere’s office the day he got the contract for “Phantom of the Opera.” We worked together on that show and on that success, we brought a number of shows from England to the U.S., including “Me and My Girl”, “The Merchant of Venice” and several others. When we saw the digital control systems of these shows, especially the joy stick controls of the helicopter scene from “Miss Saigon,” we knew that the production business was about to change in a very big way. Jere realized that all these individual things on a stage didn’t need to work on their own, that there could be one centralized control system, with perfect timing, and without having to hope that multiple equipment operators could perform in perfect unison. We worked on several projects together in those early days and we still do to this day.



PRG: Can you tell us about DMD Group West?
DURFEE: I opened my own shop when I was in New York. We had some tremendous successes. In 2000, I opened a second studio, DMD West, in the San Francisco Bay to capitalize on the needs of the technology industry. That’s when we really started to get engaged in corporate shows.

PRG: Did PRG make a big difference for you in your career?
DURFEE: The moment for me was in the early days when I realized that Jere really had a vision for a sustainable enterprise, from equipment to crew to technology. Instead of ‘make-or-break for-this-production’ thinking, Jere looked to grow an all-services company. It was a big differentiator and I realized that we could grow significantly by having a long-standing professional relationship and personal friendship with Jere and his team.

PRG: Are there any technologies or equipment that allows you to differentiate your work from others?
DURFEE: If you go back a-ways, the PRG Stage Command System really took off. We first used it primarily for driving winches in the decks. I learned about how to move scenes on and off the stage without tracks for actors to trip on, which made everyone very happy (he chuckled). OverDrive® is also really good. We did a 3D Dome for the Marvel Tour using it, and the effect was incredible. If you think about the changes in the business, from the origins of a backdrop painted on canvas, to a mathematical CAD projected model, to robotics, carbon fiber that makes ultra-light frames for shows like “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” you can see the improvements. That is the type of technology evolution that has really reinvented our business.

PRG: What’s next for business development in stage show production?
DURFEE: I think we’re in a really interesting place right now. When you spend money to produce a play, an opera or a musical, everything works together. The physical environment, the crew, the technology, the audience. It’s really very exciting, but until recently it has been ephemeral. Now producers realize there’s ROI in recording the live event. I would not be surprised, if, in the not too distant future, we will be able to capture the experience from the best seat in the house in a Virtual Reality experience and share that anywhere. That would be truly incredible.

PRG: What’s next for you?
DURFEE: I’ve been lucky that the PRG special projects group has called me in on a number of the most interesting projects, like the 3D Dome in Saudi, among others. I hope there will be more of that. We are bringing theme park entertainment into Urban Areas, which is the first of its kind. There always seems to be something else on the horizon, and I realize there are a lot of really smart, creative people in line to take my place. I do very much enjoy seeing these developments evolve to newer, better and safer production environment than ever before.

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Jim Digby, CEO of Collaborative Endeavor Group
12/12/2017

A PRG Chat with Jim Digby: Owner, Collaborative Endeavor Group and Chairman of the Board of the Event Safety Alliance

“With just three weeks left before the first show of the new tour, I called Bobby Allen at PRG, and said, “Man I got nothing, I need some help,” and Bobby and his team at PRG really pulled through, big time.”


Jim Digby is the CEO of Collaborative Endeavor Group (CEG), which provides international touring strategies and production solutions for the live entertainment and event industry. He has served as director of touring and production for Linkin Park since 2002 and has worked with a long list of artists including Bon Jovi, the Backstreet Boys and Marilyn Manson. Jim is the founder and Chairman of the Event Safety Alliance, a treatise to help industry professionals develop safe workplace practices and change the culture of safety in the live event space. In addition, Jim is a board member of the Behind the Scenes Foundation, which provides entertainment technology professionals who are seriously ill or injured with grants that may be used for basic living and medical expenses.

 



PRG: What inspired you to get into the live performance production business?

DIGBY: I was one of those kids lucky enough to find his niche at nine years old, my fifth-grade teacher made me the Master of Ceremonies and technician for the May Day parade and I was hooked. Thankfully the school district I grew up in had an elaborate and advanced theater and television program, and while I was a mediocre student as soon my feet hit the stage I was home.

PRG: Did you study production after high school?

DIGBY: I tried college but I was uninspired by academia, I wanted to work in the theatrical trades. When college and I didn’t fit I decided that trade school was a better option, electronic trade school - which I loved and excelled in. After that, I got a job at a massive dinner theater - nightclub complex outside of Philadelphia as a technician and special effects operator, this was the beginning of my professional path.

PRG: How did your career in production progress after that?

DIGBY: My career progressed working at various performance venues including a brief two year deployment at Disney World as a laser and pyro technician. My roommate had gotten an offer to do a museum type tour which I piggy-backed on and met the production manager for Genesis and Phil Collins. Shortly after the end of that tour he asked if I would be a part of the Genesis tour without a well-defined role. I almost drowned. I was in over my head but an experienced stage manager stepped in, alongside of a bunch of other great guys, who kept me from drowning. That camaraderie reinforced my love for this business. My journey shortly after included an opportunity to live and work in Japan for a while, more stints with Phil Collins, a tour with Hootie and the Blowfish, Bon Jovi, Marilyn Manson, the 1999 Woodstock Festival. For a period, it seemed like I was working every show that in some way had a riot associated with it! At one point, I was working with both Marilyn Manson and the Bolshoi Ballet, bouncing back and forth between them created a real test of mental stability. I crossed paths casually with the band members of Linkin Park in 2001 prior to 9/11 and when they came back together to launch the first Projekt Revolution Festival Tour in 2002 and with great thanks to another production manager, our time together began. I have been with them since that time.

PRG: Can you describe the design and production process for a Linkin Park tour?

DIGBY: Historically, Linkin Park has a video content-heavy show, and that content, which is custom made by one of the band members, was one of the really unique parts of the band’s tour performances. The most recent tour in support of the album “One More Light,” the band consciously and purposefully decided to not use video at all. As the title of the album suggests “One More Light” was a show built around an extremely well choreographed lighting performance. Initially we engaged a design firm that we had hoped would evolve into an interesting collaboration for Linkin Park, unfortunately it didn’t work out as hoped, leaving us with nothing just three weeks before tour. With nothing more than a Hail-Mary I called Bobby Allen at PRG, and said, “Man I got nothing, I need help,” Bobby and the team at PRG truly responded and accepted the challenge, big time.

I’m a huge proponent of finding strong, talented, independent women to balance the male ego and emotion on the road, I suggested to Bobby if given a choice I would prefer someone that fits this description. Bobby recommended Céline Royer. She has this incredibly strong work ethic, massively creative, and one of the fastest programmers I have every worked with. Initially we endured a friendly-combative relationship as we developed ideas for the tour [Digby chuckles] it became evident from the beginning she didn’t need micromanaging, she had what it would take and she simply nailed it.

In just three weeks, she captured a show that used an incredible representative of the bands wishes and managed to remain cost efficient utilizing an array of PRG equipment and services. As a result of this early win, the band decided to give lighting an even more significant focus for the European tour. It was an impressive result, evoking incredible emotion and was massively successful as far as the principals were concerned.



PRG: Was there a particular moment during the show that stood out or really moved you?

DIGBY: There wasn’t a singular ah-ha moment. Céline had a direction to be as operatic, use traditional theater tactics to create emotion wherever possible. Use one light for a moment and have it be as impactful as 50 - that’s the kind of thing we’re looking for. I remember at one point during the Europe tour, Chester Bennington (the lead singer of Linkin Park who recently passed) told her “you’re the star of this show,” and from that moment on Céline worked at an even more unstoppable pace, which none of us thought was possible. The show was really her vision and the combination of her talents and capabilities of PRG made everything spectacular. If it wasn’t for Céline and Bobby pulling together an incredible team, the tour would have looked very, very different and not nearly the incredible spectacle that it became.



PRG: Linkin Park is one of the most successful touring bands in the world. What’s it like working with them?

DIGBY: The band members have high expectations for sure, not unexpected in my role, demanding is a part of the job. Additionally, the band members have a strong family ethos that carries through the entire touring entourage. When Chester broke his ankle, and couldn’t perform the rest of the tour, the band made sure everyone was whole. That’s a huge statement to the band and its commitment to the human condition.

PRG: What’s it like working with PRG?

DIGBY: PRG is really similar to Linkin Park. They’re not like some production organizations where the band comes first and everyone else is disposable. When you work with PRG, whether you’re the client or a team member, everyone gets a huge warm and fuzzy welcome, they go out of way to be accommodating with an eye for the details. PRG works hard to get the human condition right, so everything just seems to flow in a positive manner. In my experience, I don’t know them to crack under pressure. There’s a culture of productive, friendly leadership and great things happen as a result.

On October 27, 2017 at the Hollywood Bowl, Jim worked with PRG at the Linkin Park and Friends Celebrate Life In Honor of Chester Bennington memorial concert to honor the band’s late lead singer, Chester Bennington. The band was joined by 34 other artists and bands, including Blink-182, A Day To Remember, Avenged Sevenfold and members of Sum 41 and System Of A Down. The concert was an emotive journey, both sad and joyful in remembrance one of the music industry’s top vocal talents, simultaneously raising awareness for depression and suicide prevention through the One More Light Fund, an off-shoot of Linkin Park’s charitable Music For Relief organization.



Jim Digby continues to advocate for safety in live events as the founder and chairman of the Event Safety Alliance. The Event Safety Alliance® (ESA) - http://eventsafetyalliance.org - is dedicated to promoting “life safety first” throughout all phases of event production and execution. The organization strives to eliminate the knowledge barrier that often contributes to unsafe conditions and behaviors through the promotion and teaching of good practices and the development of training and planning resources.

Photo Credit: Bojan Hohnjec

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Rebecca Ramsey PRG Chat
12/4/2017

A PRG Chat with Rebecca Ramsey: Vice President, Association Sales, PRG

“There is something very joyous about working with a can-do team.”

Rebecca Ramsey has more than 20 years of experience in the meetings and convention industry, joining PRG in July 2016. Prior to joining PRG, Rebecca held catering, services and sales positions with Hilton Hotels Corporation in the Washington, DC area and in Charlotte, N.C. In 2005, she joined the Destination Marketing Organization in Charlotte, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority – Visit Charlotte, working with the association market and managing the Bureau Express sales team. Rebecca has also worked as the Director of Sales at the Greater Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau.

During the past 15 years, Rebecca has primarily focused on the Washington, DC association market where she has been heavily involved with the Capital Chapter of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), including positions as a Board Director, Membership Committee Chair, Emerging Professionals Committee, and she currently holds the Sponsorship Chair position. Rebecca also serves on the 2017 PCMA Headquarters Membership Committee.



PRG: What inspired you to get into the meeting and convention business?

RAMSEY: It was actually a complete accident. I stumbled into it working as a temp at the front desk of a country club. That part-time job rolled into a full-time job working in the catering office. I loved the people interaction, the organization process of planning an event, and all the different details.

PRG: Why did you decide to make the transition from the hospitality banquet business into selling the equipment, technology and crew to produce world-class corporate events?

RAMSEY: While I was working at the Hilton in Charlotte, which is connected to the convention center, I worked frequently with the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority – Visit Charlotte. I made the transition from the hotel to the CVB. I became familiar with PRG and all of the work they were doing with associations and the corporate and events market segment. It became obvious that PRG was helping its clients to produce events that were industry-leading, and that really intrigued me. I heard through the grapevine that Jim Kelley at PRG was looking for a national sales manager in the Washington DC market working with national associations and it really intrigued me. After a series of discussions, and interviews, Jim Kelley offered the job to me and I happily accepted.

PRG: There are dozens of companies that do this type of work, why PRG?

RAMSEY: The transition to PRG was an interesting decision. I was working as the Director of Sales at the Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau and while I really liked the position and the people, I needed something more challenging. I wanted to be involved in more than just selling a destination, I wanted an opportunity to become more involved with clients, helping them resolve challenges, to create spectacular events. The position with PRG, the industry-leader, would allow me to be much more involved with what is happening every step of the way, which would in turn allow me to expand my relationship with my clients.

PRG: What is your favorite thing about your job?

RAMSEY: I’m really not a technical person, but the PRG project managers and directors really help to explain the vast array of technologies that are available at PRG, and how they can help clients meet and exceed their expectations. I really enjoy collaborating with everyone in every department, and my clients reap the benefits as a result. There is something very joyous about working with a can-do team.

PRG: You just won a very prestigious nomination from the Capital Chapter of PCMA. Can you tell us a bit about that and how it makes you feel?

RAMSEY: Every PCMA chapter submits a name to the national organization for outstanding contribution to the profession. When the Capital Chapter had its year-end event, I was nominated. It’s quite an honor considering that the Capital Chapter is the largest chapter in the country, and that Washington DC is the hub of the association business.

The nomination definitely makes me feel a little conflicted. I love being recognized for the work I’ve done over the years to help the chapter be as successful as possible, but the chapter has also made a monumental contribution to my career by helping me to build a very large professional network.

PRG: The president of the Capital Chapter said something really nice about you, how does this make you feel:
“Rebecca has been a Chapter volunteer since 2006 and has served on the board of directors including the role of Sponsorship chair for the last three years. Through Rebecca’s dedication, hard work and leadership, the Chapter has not only met its sponsorship needs but has exceeded them. We are so lucky to have dedicated members like Rebecca who volunteer their precious time to enable our success,” said Diane Kovats, President of The Capital Chapter of the Professional Convention Management Association.

RAMSEY: It’s an incredible honor.

PRG: What do you think the “Next Big Thing” will be for meetings and conventions and how will PRG address that?

RAMSEY: I think every organization is trying to figure out a way to increase engagement from membership at their meetings and conventions. Things like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, Digital Polling, Second Screen Enhancements, Experiential Learning, anything that gets people involved and engaged are among the next big things for sure.

The really great thing about PRG is that it is set-up to accommodate all of these technologies. It enables us to learn more about the needs of our clients, to identity unique ways to resolve their challenges, to increase member engagement, and to provide our clients with end-to- end solutions.

PRG: What’s the Next Big Thing for You?

RAMSEY: I really enjoy this side of the business. I was recently promoted to be the Vice President of Association Sales at PRG and I’m making the transition quickly. The position really suits me because it is challenging, allows me to work closely with clients and the entire PRG team. That is the next big thing that has all of my attention.


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11/2/2017

A PRG Chat with Bob Dickinson: Twenty-time Emmy Award Winning Lighting Designer and Founder of Full Flood, Inc.

A really good lighting designer is really an architect, taking an environment and sculpting it into something that is appealing.

You might say Bob Dickinson is “the” television lighting designer. His illustrious career spans decades - awards shows, music shows, game shows, talk shows, and special events - all of which account for more than 1,500 on-screen television credits.

In 1990 Bob founded Full Flood, Inc., a consortium of lighting designers and directors of photography for the multi-camera television industry. The work produced by Bob and his team on such programs as 25 Academy Awards broadcasts, the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics, Super Bowl halftime shows, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”, twenty-two Emmy Awards, the Kennedy Center Honors, and the Grammy Awards, to name a few, has amassed 20 of the most coveted industry awards including 18 Prime Time Emmy Awards and two, Day Time Emmy Awards.

PRG got together with Bob, and his co-designer [Emmy-winning lighting designer] Travis Hagenbuch, to talk about Bob’s background, creative vision, and the myriad projects Bob has entrusted to his PRG team.



PRG: What inspired you to get into the industry?

BOB: When I was in high school I was drawn to the concept of drama and environment that presented life. I was in the drama club, but I was a completely lousy actor. There was a play we were supposed to do and the guy who volunteered for stage crew didn’t show up. Since I had a minor role in the play, the director asked me to just do the lights. Our school had a huge stage and a lot of lights so I ended up lighting the entire play. I knew instantly that form and balance of lighting played a huge role in the show. Since then, I have developed a strong opinion about form and structure in regard to anything. A really good lighting designer is really an architect, taking an environment and sculpting it into something that is appealing. Lighting, even in a film, is the most important and defining part of those images. It’s the same thing in entertainment television.

PRG: How did you get into the television lighting business?

BOB: After I discovered my interest in production, I was keen on being involved in the motion picture industry. I wormed my way into Universal Studios and worked on episodic televisions shows. I was assigned to work with a lighting designer on video tape instead of film and after that I never wanted to go back to film. In the mid-70’s I worked as a lighting assistant and by 1982 got my first Emmy Nomination; I had gone from a lamp operator on film to a designer just seven years later. My first Emmy Nomination was for the television show “Solid Gold” with the Solid Gold Dancers, which was before the launch of MTV. At that time, if a music artist had a new release, there were very little opportunities to present their music on television. As a young designer, I was fearless. I found out that the rock band Genesis was working with moving lights, so I convinced the producers of “Solid Gold” to purchase these moving lights and I worked them into the show as quickly as possible. I started using 160 moving lights, which enabled me to reduce the overall installation from 2,000 instruments to just under 400. The concept and trickery of moving lights was new for TV, but also new for the financial imperative. It was soon understood by producers that their labor costs could drop dramatically since fewer instruments could do so much more. It was the first time moving lights (?)had been used on TV and the show got a lot of recognition; it was transformative for entertainment TV.

A year later I was asked if I would be interested in doing the Oscars. I was in my late 20’s and the Oscars had never used a lighting consultant, they wanted to ‘up’ the contribution of lighting, and my name came up because of the work I had done with moving lights on “Solid Gold”. The one thing that I did not mention to the producers of the Oscars was that my entire expertise was on video tape, I had never done live TV. I guess we did a pretty good job because I have been asked back over and over again.

PRG: What inspired the stage, lighting, set design, and vision for the Emmys?

BOB: The producers didn’t want the show to look like a traditional Oscar-type broadcast. They wanted it to look like a major event, but not typical. The creative inspiration for the show came from the old Warner Bros. helicopter shot flying over the sound stages. We thought we should try to elude to that since everyone identifies that with filmmaking. At the Emmy’s, our lighting was supposed to encourage and embellish the structural stage. We approached the design and the cueing by using a rig that allowed us to make the scenery without creating a big light show. I think the result was extremely handsome. Travis [Hagenbuch] was, is in every way, a co-designer of the show, this was not just my project. It was a design that we arrived at together. The process really was comprised of a lot of creative discussions while the producers were simultaneously wrapping their heads around where they wanted the show to go. Once the production designer gave us the landscape, we went to work.



TRAVIS: The process always starts with the scenic renderings. A large part of our installation was driven by the fact that we had to support the environment, rather than create a light show. The biggest negative space we had to fill was the sky above the sound stages, which was huge, so we needed a lot of visual density to support what was happening down below. Inside the faux sound stage on the set was the live band, so we had to make sure the functional lights were out of sight. You never really saw the lights because we tried to trick the eye, where the lights could do their job but not look out of period in any way.

PRG: Can you walk us through some of the behind-the-scenes process of the Emmys?

BOB: In the scene, the idea was to convince the audience they were inside the sound stage; and that’s where the big old-style Fresnel lights existed, as if they were inside a studio. It was a challenge for sure because it was just a big black box and all the artists and their teams really wanted to give their broadcasts some kind of identity to create front-of-house scenery. So, we chose to populate the space with these old-school 10,000-watt Fresnels, to reference old school Hollywood filmmaking. By the way, the Fresnels are nearly impossible to source. I’m not even sure how PRG found those Fresnels since they are not used much anymore, but as usual, PRG made it happen.

TRAVIS: From there, we worked with the production designer, the producers, and the network. The team really worked together very well, which ultimately lead to a flawless PRG load-in. It really was a very smooth pre-production process.

BOB: Not to say there weren’t any last-minute embellishments or discoveries, which is the nature of creating a flexible environment, but the use of intelligent instrumentation allows this to happen. Not to sound like a commercial for PRG or anything, but the instrumentation they provided allowed us to create an environment that could do almost anything, instantly.

PRG: Speaking of PRG, how was the equipment, crew and technology from PRG instrumental to the Emmy’s?

BOB: In this industry today, requests from multiple shows puts a strain on the inventory from any provider. Honestly, PRG is amazing at providing equipment anywhere in the world, so that we, as designers are not limited to what is convenient for PRG. They make our designs, which can sometimes be whimsical, become a reality, without us having to deal with substitutions and revisions. From a designer’s perspective, it’s a huge reinforcement to know that our design will never be inconvenienced from lack of equipment. Even though PRG has become the gold standard of vendors, they still have not lost track of being viable by keeping their instrumentation functioning, and making it available on time, every time. I think PRG’s real secret is their personnel. Tony Ward, who is head of lighting, is not just some guy who knows what instruments can do, he knows exactly what it takes to get instruments working and what we need to get the job done. The techs are fantastic, too, they are the foundation of any design and they always come through. The PRG staff board operators, the folks we call Lighting Directors, are make-or-break for a rig that is comprised of all intelligent instrumentation. The PRG team is not just any operators, they know how to anticipate the needs of a designer, what technologies to use, and how to make things happen, quickly. On the Emmy’s we could not have done it without the input or expertise of the PRG team.

TRAVIS: PRG’S GroundControl system is simply the best in the industry. It solves so many challenges like being able to put follow spots on the side of the room and on railings without having to go into Queen Box or other seating.

BOB: Travis is so right. Ground Control Spots were cool and they made sense to the producers, since they were able to spend a lot less money on installation. This really is the most revolutionary change in lighting design for some time. The placement of follow-spots is literally unlimited. They are homogenous to any design and the fact that manpower is at ground level instead of dozens of feet in the air relieves many thorny issues. I am finding that I am including more follow-spots than ever before. This is a real game changer!


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10/18/2017

PRG Production Tips #4

PRG Production Tips - #4 - "POWER: Trust But Verify"
by Chris Conti

Power, trust but verify.  That’s my mantra when it comes to power.  Without electricity, a modern show is no different than a play during the time of ancient Greece.  Power is everything.  It has enabled us to up-our-game more than just a little bit since 600 B.C.  So, when we load-in a show it’s imperative that we do everything possible to ensure our shows do not end up as Greek Tragedies. 

Many of the power distro racks that we utilize today for our lighting, audio, video, and scenic systems have all kinds of built-in circuit protections and distribution capabilities.   But most crucially of all, these distro racks have meter bars.  A simple read-out that tells us voltage on each leg as well as current draw.  With a look at the meter bar you can see if your power is doing what it’s supposed to be doing.  Having said all that, I trust meter bars about as much I trust that I can lift a rack up by myself and throw it across a stage.  That’s why I always verify that my meter bars are reading true regardless of the manufacturer.  I carry an all-in-one multi-meter that enables me to measure a bunch of different things. It has a non-contact voltage detector to very if a feeder cable is energized or not.  With the meter, I can also measure the voltages, phase to neutral, and phase to phase on the rack before I energize it.   I do this to double check that the meter bar is indeed accurate and that it wasn’t damaged in transit.  Once energized and under load I can use my meter to also double check the amperage readings on the meter bar. I check the amperage on each phase as well as the neutral.  Again, this to double check that the meter bar is displaying accurate information.  I have also recently expanded my diagnostic tools to include a Thermal Imaging Camera.  With a quick glance, I can instantly see if a cable or a rack is getting too hot indicating that a potential problem is brewing. This probably seems a bit excessive and even paranoid but unfortunately, I have done a few shows over the years where I have had problems that have led me here.  I indeed have had meters damaged in transit, voltage spikes that have fried the meter bar, phases inadvertently dropped, feeder cables not properly tied in, current over loads, voltage overloads, generators out-putting improper voltage, and I even have had a distro and a transformer short out and blow up!  In those particular instances, I am very fortunate that no one was injured and that there was minimal equipment damage.  So, when it comes to power I am cautious. I double check everything, and verify that it is indeed operating correctly and displaying the correct information.  You may want to consider doing the same so that your show doesn’t don’t end up like a Greek Tragedy. Remember, trust … but verify.


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10/9/2017

A PRG Chat with Travis Hagenbuch: Five-time Emmy Award - Winning Lighting Designer and Director

My favorite moment [of the 2017 VMAs] was Pink and her flying car. She started on one end of the room, performed on all stages, and in a seven-minute sliver of time the audience got to see everything we had done.

The roster of shows for which Travis Hagenbuch has provided lighting design or lighting direction reads like a Who’s Who of awards shows, concerts, large scale events and television shows: The Academy Awards, The Golden Globe Awards, The Grammy Awards, The Tony Awards, The Emmy Awards, The Kennedy Center Honors, Conan, The Queen Latifah Show, Fashion Star in Beijing, China… the list goes on. It’s quite a massive achievement when you consider that Travis has only been in the business for twelve years.

PRG talked with Travis about his inspiration, creativity, work ethic, and his team at PRG.



PRG: Travis, you’ve accomplished quite a bit during the past decade. How did you get your start?

HAGENBUCH: I grew up on a farm in Illinois, an upbringing I really admire because it taught me a lot about work ethic and growing up fast. Our family used to go to Chicago to see shows and I thought they were really cool, like an escape from the farm [he laughs]. As I got a bit older I became interested in music, architecture, science and electricity. It was unique combination of different interests for sure but it sort of filled a void for all things outside of the farm. In elementary school, I got into theater and plays but from a production standpoint. There weren’t many kids interested in production, and we didn’t have much in the way of lights and scenery so I convinced the PTA to give me a couple of hundred bucks to go to Radio Shack and start the technical side of the plays. Shortly thereafter I got into community theater. When I started college I knew I didn’t have the discipline to practice music every day, or the drawing for architecture, so I focused on tech and theater. I had to convince my parents to let me go to the College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati. It was a great place for me - many of the kids there went on to Broadway, but I wanted something different for my career. So, I packed my bags and went to Los Angeles, no contacts or anything, but with enough money to last the summer. I went to Las Vegas one weekend with some friends and met lighting director Matt Firestone in a bar. Matt invited me to his next show to shadow him, and that led to working with him at the Stunt Awards in 2007, and it all sort of happened naturally after that.

PRG: Let’s talk about the Video Music Awards 2017, what was your inspiration for this show?

HAGENBUCH: The inspiration was just the romance of the idea of trying to make it all work, I really like being part of something bigger than myself…and working with Bob Barnhart and the whole team at PRG. The challenge was also part of my inspiration. On shows that have a strong set design concept from the start, designers will add light to their renderings. Sometimes their vision is unachievable from a physics perspective, but the first images we saw from Ric Lipson at Stufish in London were really strong, and sparked a wide-range of possibilities.



PRG: Can you walk us through the process of the show from creative meetings to implementation to live telecast?

HAGENBUCH: There were lots of meetings on Skype and conference calls. Given the caliber of people working on this show and how busy they are, it was a bit challenging to get everyone together, so we did a lot of small group meetings to talk about what the goals were and the reality of making them happen. There was a lot of engineering and technology work, a bit of robbing from Peter to pay Paul, and a lot of changes along the way. It was really exciting though…my first look at set design was in April and all the way up to one week before the show ideas were still changing. We all sort of joked about it. I think Patrick Boozer, who worked with us on the show said it best when he said, “We’ll pause the development just long enough to do the show and then load it all out.” [he laughs again].

PRG: How does the creative process transfer into the type of gear and crew you use?

HAGENBUCH: Scenic renderings and tech-savvy set designers keep lighting and video products in mind as they are designing, they know they want, whether it’s a linear shape here, a circular sign there, then they guide us and we’ll turn the stage picture into a silhouette or fill negative space with the functionality of specific gear. It’s the library we keep in our brains or that PRG tells us about or informs us that something new is being developed or can be developed. Bob Barnhart and his company, 22 Degrees, is great to work with on shows like this too because we all bounce ideas off each other. After we come up with an initial plan, I’ll put it into CAD and then send it to the PRG tech team and the electricians will figure out the power, and then production managers will determine equipment, power, crew, and everything else. The great thing is that everyone works together. Everyone understands that the live, variety show circuit in LA is a small group of people and we really do support each other.

PRG: How did the VMAs differ from other shows in the creative process? Timeline? Venue? Solutions?

HAGENBUCH:
The scale of the show! Filling the entire Forum, a 360-degree room, was truly a unique challenge. Think about it…multiple performance positions, multiple stages, multiple camera angels, people performing everywhere. We had to light talent in a flattering way, while at the same time lighting variable backgrounds and of course, face and resolve all the usual challenges you face with a production of this magnitude. The PRG GroundControl Follow Spot system was really helpful because it enabled us to put a small lighting fixture up in the air without sending a human into the beams to operate it. It made it much easier to put smaller, lighter, more cost efficient lights into nooks and crannies all over the place to really make the show look incredible.



PRG: How did you work with the Bob Barnhart and his team to bring the VMA vision to life?

HAGENBUCH: I’ve known Bob for 10 years, this was our third time working together on the VMAs. We work very well together. On the VMAs we both got a look at the scenic drawings early with the initial ideas. I translated our ideas onto paper, worked on the fixture choice, placement, and then did the 3D drawings, planning for lots of tight clearances, and the unique concept applications like Pink’s flying car. Bob and I then work together on the details and he massaged the budgets, and we worked closely together with the PRG team to explore alternatives when needed.

PRG: What was your favorite moment of the VMAs and what would you consider your big win?

HAGENBUCH: My favorite moment was Pink and her flying car. She started on one end of the room, performed on all stages, and in a seven-minute sliver of time the audience got to see everything we had done. And the big win, well, I think it was actually using PRG’s GroundControl, as far as I’m concerned it was the star of the show. The show would not have come together they way it did without PRG, Local 33 and 22 Degrees and their ability to get it all done. We all worked seamlessly together, especially during the last two weeks before the show when everyone worked 16 hours a day. It was just an awesome experience!


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9/28/2017

A PRG Chat with Bob Barnhart: 11-time Emmy Award Winning Lighting Designer of 22 Degrees

Somehow…it all collapses into place.

Nineteen Super Bowl Half Time shows…22 Oscar Telecasts…The Olympics…The Grammy Awards…The Video Music Awards…The MTV Awards…The American Music Awards…The Olympics…Miss Universe…Miss USA…The Rolling Stones…Streisand…Cher…The Eagles…Andre Bocelli…The Ellen DeGeneres Show…Family Feud…So You Think You Can Dance.

If you’ve seen an awards show during the past 20 years, a massive sporting event, a televised epic concert, or some of the most popular shows on television today, you’ve probably seen the masterful work of 11-time Emmy Award winning lighting designer and director Bob Barnhart. When the world needs a visual spectacular, it turns to Bob and his team at 22 Degrees to illuminate the visions of the most creative minds in the world.

PRG had an opportunity to talk with Bob about his background, creative vision, and the many projects Bob has entrusted to his PRG team.



PRG: Bob, your work is bigger than life and it has been seen by billions of people around the world. Where did it all start?

BARNHART: I guess I stumbled through the right doors, by luck, really. I didn’t have any family in the business, no contacts or anything like that. At 16, I started working at a road-house theater on the Chico State campus, unloading trucks, doing grunt work, anything that would get me ‘in’. I eventually started running follow spots on campus for acts like Billy Idol, Joan Jett, and the like in the 80s. It was cool to help run the show while my friends were buying tickets [he laughs]. My big challenge though was that I really wanted to get to the industry, but I didn’t have any contacts to find a way to get ‘known’. An opportunity came up to transfer to California Institute of the Arts, which I jumped on. I knew that I wanted to work in the entertainment industry and I knew that Cal Arts could help, but I guess I was smart enough to know that just because I had a college degree, didn’t mean that I was going to get a job doing what I loved. I needed to be in Los Angeles, and I needed to have a good attitude, a strong work ethic and positive personality. The only way to develop those skills was, and still is, with as many people as I could and learn. That’s how it all started.

PRG: What inspired you to get into this business in the first place?

BARNHART: I guess it was the people of the college-type theater who really inspired me to get into entertainment industry. I learned really quickly that whether you’re the lead actor or the fourth prop person, everyone is treated the same. I felt really accepted at a young age and I was attracted to that.

PRG: You worked with PRG on the Video Music Awards (VMAs) this year and the show was definitely the first-of-its-kind in terms of venue, set design, lighting design and direction. Can you tell us a bit about your inspiration for the show?

BARNHART:
Inspiration for lighting quite often stems from set design. It’s a major driving factor in the overall look of the show, so you need to determine where you want or need to place lights to enhance the set and the performances. The VMA set design by Ric Lipson of Stufish, called for the entire Forum to be used, five stages that became one location with a giant 360-degree environment for broadcasting a live performance. We had to take into consideration that there were 12 individual performances in this massive space so we had to figure out a common-thread, visually, that enabled each performer to perform ‘individually’, using their own creative approaches, while still maintaining the vision of the overall set design. We wanted to make sure that it didn’t look like a performer just ‘dropped-in from their tour’. We had to have a theme that made each performer look like they were part of the entire production. Ric and I decided that the LED Tape activation could be that underlying visual theme and I think it became the signature of the 2017 VMAs.



PRG: It’s gotta be tough wrangling all that creative energy from so many different camps. How do you make that happen…bring the vision to life?

BARNHART: It’s funny…I always thought it would make a great television show to record every phone call or video conference for the production of a show like this, and then show how the visions expressed during those calls actually materialized…but I guess that might take some of the magic away. But honestly, the process evolves from all different corners, individual acts. On our side of the creative team, we understood what each group was thinking of doing, it’s a long creative process, concepts to turn into renderings, technical functionality to consider, audience experiences to create. It’s a massive collaborative effort and everyone just seems to ‘get it’ – to make something bigger than just one person’s view.

PRG: How does that creative process transfer into the type of gear and crew that you use?

BARNHART: At 22 Degrees we do high profile shows all over the world that need to be ideal for everyone involved, from an advertiser, to the audience, to a gear manufacturer. That requires a lot of brain-power. That’s why we work with PRG. They understand the gear, the most innovative and available technology, the equipment that could literally be created to accomplish the task at hand, and the crew that would be necessary to make it all happen. Since PRG is a global company they have a lot of clout with manufacturers and can either source the gear we need or work quickly with manufacturers to make it. We work with PRG on a global basis for shows of all sizes, including our most challenging shows, and they just always find a way to make it all happen, on time and on budget.



PRG: How about challenges with the VMA show? The challenging venue with a relatively short time frame, there must have been some very interesting hurdles.

BARNHART: The VMA production process is very different than the Super Bowl Half Time, which is just one performer with one focus. The VMAs had 12 performers, 12 different creative objectives, so you’re constantly getting on and off calls, understanding that the objectives of each performer are different, and you are continually working to give them something unique and different, but still maintaining the show continuity. My guy at PRG is Tony Ward, I’ve worked with him on countless shows because he never says ‘no’, he finds a way to make it work.

I guess the biggest stumbling block in the VMAs was that we had to turn the venue into a 360-degree performance space using nearly two-thirds of the arena floor, with a lot of key light positions that had to be addressed, most of it done after the scene was set. Think about this, if you go into a theater, you pretty much know where the talent is standing and looking. But when you come into a VMA type scenario like this the talent could be anywhere looking any place. But having all this great gear and crew from PRG on set, well, somehow, it always collapses into place [Barnhart chuckles].



PRG: Was there any particular gear that helped make it all ‘collapse into place’

BARNHART: Absolutely, and it’s something proprietary that I started working on with PRG. It’s the PRG Best Boy GroundControl. It’s a great system that allows this kind of a show to happen, to make it much more viable. Instead of hanging countless truss spots, and the safety and functionality of hoisting guys up there to operate those lights for countless hours, GroundControl allows us to operate the lights on the ground from anywhere in the building. We now use this gear on almost every show, and we will continue to use it again and again, as well as work with Tony and our entire team at PRG.


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9/25/2017

A Grand Slam on the Streets of Manhattan

Every summer, Flushing, New York plays host to the U.S. Open. Leading up to the 2017 tournament, the United States Tennis Association (UTSA) wanted to bring the excitement of the tournament to the streets of Manhattan via the U.S. Open Experience. UTSA hired DKC/Inc!te to plan the event in the historic Seaport District and Inc!te brought PRG on to provide custom scenic, video and audio.

Inc!te challenged PRG to bring as much of the look and feel of the USTA Billie King National Tennis Center in Queens to the cobblestone streets of the historic Manhattan district. PRG rose to the challenge and transformed the street by constructing a roofed tennis court, performance stage, entrance gate and PRG even re-created a 10-foot-tall Unisphere, the famous sculpture that stands near the home of the U.S. Open.



“Inc!te looked to us to make a big impact,” said Chris Hibbard, director of global accounts at PRG. “With the challenge of a tight budget and logistics of an uneven slope and cobblestone street, we knew we needed to employ all our expertise and take time in planning. We solved the challenges through design and use of equipment.”

PRG designed the roof of the tennis court to give a nod to the new roof system at the Arthur Ashe Stadium and built the entire court and roof using 20 x 20 trusses. Working closely with engineer, Shawn Nolan, the team worked on many different options to hide structural elements under the deck system to make the roof appear to be more of a floating and stunning visual element.



PRG also provided video and audio for use by speakers, announcers and DJs throughout the U.S. Open Experience. Additionally, the LED wall was used to reveal the tournament bracket.

“Helping create the U.S. Open Experience was a fun challenge and we are looking forward to doing it again in 2018,” said Hibbard.


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9/13/2017

PRG Production Tips #3

PRG Production Tip - #3 - "Don't Mix Software"
by Chris Conti

Software.  In this modern age, everything uses software to make it work.  What used to be limited to computers and cell phones has proliferated throughout our industry.  Lighting and audio consoles, moving and LED lights, audio and video processors, they all require software of varying types to work properly.  Even some of our core infrastructure like power distros, chain motors and networking gear now require software to run properly.  Software enables our equipment to continually improve with new features and capabilities through continued updates from the manufactures.  However, this is a double edge sword…especially when, mixing versions of software.   Trying to network something like lighting or audio consoles together with different versions of software can lead to all kinds of unintended consequences. Consoles can drop offline, lock up, crash, fail to store information, and even lose information and settings.  Basically, all things that lead to a show-killing disaster. 

So, Production Tip #3 is … Don’t Mix Software!  Things like consoles are relatively easy to manage software versions since we generally don’t have very many of them with us on a show. However, things like moving lights or LED’s are a lot more challenging as it’s not uncommon to have hundreds of them on a show.   This is further complicated when equipment is sub-rented from other shops to backfill shortages, as software versions can differ from one shop to another.  A show with a rig full of identical lights but with different versions of software can behave as if they were different types of lights.  To combat this, do yourself a favor, as you go through resetting the defaults and addressing your lights - take an extra minute or two and check the version of software that is being used.  If you find that your lights do have different versions of software, don’t freak out.  Obviously, you can upload and or cross load software so that everything is consistent.  You can also do some due diligence and go online and look at the manufactures notes on the software and compare the versions.  Sometimes, manufactures release different versions that are specific to hardware updates they may have done.  They also do updates that improve internal menus and settings.  If that is indeed the case then that would be my one exception where it would be ok to have a mixed rig of software.  As I said in the beginning, everything uses software to make it work.  To make sure that it all does work and that you have an uneventful show, check your software and avoid mixing if different versions cause different performance.


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Bat Out of Hell The Musical. Photo: Specular.
9/4/2017

PRG Supports Bat Out of Hell The Musical with Lighting and Video Technology

When Bat Out of Hell-The Musical Co-Producer Michael Cohl stood on a make-shift stage outside the London Coliseum at the press launch of Bat Out of Hell-The Musical in November, he declared his latest project, along with fellow Producers David Sonenberg, Randy Lennox and Tony Smith, and Production Manager, Simon Marlow, to be the biggest rock musical to premiere in London since We Will Rock You. He wasn’t wrong, positive reviews are plenty, with The Times calling Bat Out of Hell: ‘a crazy, wild child of a rock ‘n’ roll musical’, The Guardian declared the: ‘roaring choruses and fairy-tale plot are built for the ENO’s stage’. The Stage said: ‘Bonkers it may be but, hell, it’s pretty brilliant too’, adding: ‘although set in the future, in many ways it feels old-fashioned, like a huge, 1980s arena gig, intensified by Patrick Woodroffe’s blazing lighting.’

With Jim Steinman’s Iconic soundtrack, made famous by Meat Loaf, one of the most ambitious set designs to ever grace the stage of a theatre by Jon Bausor, an innovative use of video by Finn Ross, and an up-scaled, operatic lighting design by Patrick Woodroffe—Bat Out of Hell-The Musical has made a big impact on the UK musical theatre scene, which it will attempt to emulate when the show transfers to Toronto in October.

 

Set against amidst the ruins of a post-cataclysmic city, Bat Out of Hell-The Musical is a romantic adventure about rebellious youth and passionate love. Jay Scheib directs this stampeding musical, which sees wild-eyes Strat, leader of street gang, The Lost, fall for Raven, the daughter of the dictatorial leader of dystopian city, Obsidian amidst the bombastic soundtrack, featuring classics such as: I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That), You Took the Words Right Out Of My Mouth, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad; and, of course, Bat Out of Hell.

Peter Marshall, Director of Theatre for PRG XL, oversaw the provision of kit to Bat Out of Hell: The show initially opened for a twelve-week run in Manchester at the start of the year, before transferring to the coliseum for the summer season from June to August. It was brilliant to continue our relationship with Producer Michael Cohl and General Manager Julian Stoneman again—after supporting them on Rock of Ages, and very exciting to work with Patrick and Finn, providing some of the latest technology on the market, including the Panasonic PT-RZ31K laser projectors. Bat Out of Hell was one of the first installs of these fabulous projectors in the world, which came straight from the Panasonic factory in Japan to the Opera House in Manchester.”

Associate Lighting Designer, Rob Casey worked alongside Patrick Woodroffe: “The overarching theme of the lighting for Bat Out of Hell is to achieve big, operatic backlighting which compliments Jon Bausor’s rugged set. We took a basic set of ideas from Patrick and theatricalized it using numerous positions overhead and around the set. The trusses are trimmed to around thirty nine feet, well out of view and capable of giving a steep-angled backlight, which Patrick is a really big fan of.”

Lighting Programmer Chris Hirst added: “The main workhorse lights we’re using are the Martin Mac Viper Performance moving lights, as well as GLP X4 and X4L LED lights, which we use to achieve a lot of the looks seen on stage. Additionally, we have Martin Atomic and HES Dataflash strobes, a variety of different sized Colorblaze LED battens, Icon Beams, Colorblast CB6 LED lights, and a substantial package of generic lighting fixtures in the rig. All the lighting cues are pre-programmed on a GrandMA2 console to timecode, which allows all the big, strobe looks, yet can still be cued through by a DSM.”

Bat Out of Hell-The Musical makes innovative use of the latest projection technology from Panasonic to add to the overall look of the set and lighting design. Peter Marshall explained: “When we specified the equipment needed for the show, it was clear that only the highest performance projectors would suffice. We opted for the Panasonic PT-RZ31K laser projectors to take on the bulk of the projection work. Being a laser light source, these units are incredibly efficient with a maximum lifespan of around 80,000 hours, suffering minimal light output drop off over the life of the lamp.”

Emily Malone, Video Programmer on Bat Out of Hell added: “The Panasonic laser projectors are brilliant, they’re very bright but also very quiet for a projector of that size, which means they are perfect for theatre. We’re running all the content through a d3 media server, triggered by a GrandMA2 console. The d3 is an incredibly versatile media server which gives us the ability to integrate content across three dimensions, and tie in to Notch, which we feed live camera footage through to apply real-time effects. The combination of using d3, Notch and a GrandMA2 console gives us the maximum amount of flexibility and allows the show to be run by one person, on one console—activating both lighting and video cues.”

Video Designer, Finn Ross, of FRAY Studio design, commented: “The video design for Bat Out of Hell summons the ruined world of Obsidian, the neo-futuristic city in which the show is set. The set is fully video mapped and constantly textured by video to shift us from location to location, in an abstract style inspired by the ruined Bronx of the 1970s. We also use a lot of live camera to present certain aspects of the show as if happening in a dream. We process the camera through Notch to give the image a heightened, dream-like atmosphere. Everything is sequenced in d3, making it very easy for us to rework whole segments of the show in visualization.” Working alongside Finn and Emily was Video System Engineer, Jonathan Lyle and Video Engineer, James Craxton, who designed and implemented the system to realize Finn’s artistic vision.

General Manager Julian Stoneman commented: “Once again it was a pleasure to be working with PRG on such an epic production as Bat Out Of Hell The Musical. The expectation from an audience pointof-view was going to be huge and with the designers that were employed, it meant that the finished product was going to be a class of its own. The designers along with PRG worked as a family, so the time and effort that was put in was never wasted."

Rob Casey described the challenges of adapting the set-up when moving between the two venues: “Moving from Manchester to London was a really big change, the Coliseum is considerably bigger than the Manchester Opera House, so some adjustments were always going to have to be made. That said, we had both venues in mind when designing the show, so very little of the lighting rig changed, with the exception of reconfiguring the way some of it was rigged overhead. When we were in the Opera House, the additional width of the proscenium arch in the Coliseum was marked on the wall, so we knew what would and wouldn’t be visible when we arrived in London. The transition between the venues was very smooth, because the core team was kept the same for both theatres. Production Electrician Rich Mence lead a team of seven production electricians to bring this mammoth production to the stage.”

 

Rich discussed: “I was really excited about working on Bat Out of Hell, I remember listening to my dad’s copy when I was really little, so to be given the opportunity to see it brought to life on stage was an exciting prospect. It’s not like a regular musical theatre show, being so loud and rocky. The load-in schedule for London was fairly quick compared to Manchester, where we had an additional couple of weeks to build everything and technically rehearse it, with the show still being tweaked during preview shows. Because we already knew how the show would run, we spent most of the time before previews adjusting the position of the lights to accommodate the Coliseum stage, which is much bigger than the one in the Manchester Opera House. I’s been a pleasure working with the whole team on Bat Out of Hell; everyone has played a vital role in making the show what it is.”

Rich continued: “The most challenging part of prepping for the show, was that we always had to have in mind that the production was going to move between two different theatres. Usually a show of this size would go into a venue and sit down for a prolonged period of time. We treated Bat Out of Hell like a tour in terms of infrastructure needed, the show tours all its own cable, distro and control networks, which isn’t always the case with a big West End show. Every element of the rig—electrics, smoke effects and pyro, needed to work in both theatres, and be practical to move. Building the rig in the modular way that we did, enabled us to move the whole lot between two cities with only minor alterations needed. Soon, the show moves to Toronto, so we will need to go through the process again, and then probably again after that when the journey continues.”


Peter Marshall concluded: “It may sound like a cliché to say that it was delightful to be involved with the show, but everything about Bat Out of Hell has been brilliant and a real privilege to be part of it. The music, design, people and experience have been amazing. The out of the box creativity shown by all the creatives involved have allowed us to showcase exactly what we can do combining lighting and video in the theatre. We wish everyone involved in Bat Out of Hell all the best for the remainder of their time in London, for the transfer to Toronto and beyond.”

Bat Out of Hell The Musical will play at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre from October 14th to December 3rd 2017.

Photo credit: Specular.

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8/28/2017

World Class Support for Mr. Worldwide

PRG has supported Las Vegas entertainment venues for two decades and in July one of the biggest names to hit the “Strip” called upon the company to provide lighting and video equipment - quickly. Pitbull was scheduled to launched his “Time of Our Lives” residency show at The AXIS at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in just three weeks’ time when PRG got the call to provide screens, cameras and media servers to support the initial eight-show run. Due to its large presence in Las Vegas and the ability to provide video and lighting, PRG could handle an expedited timeline. PRG set up a portion of the equipment in its facility and worked through previsualization which made the process easier for Pitbull’s design team.

We spoke with Pitbull’s Lighting and Production Designer, Tom Sutherland, about the show and how PRG helped bring his vision to life for the one and half-hour, high-energy concert.

PRG: What inspired the staging vision for Pitbull’s “Time of our Lives” show in Las Vegas?

TS: We wanted to play on the idea of the night club party scene - it is a high energy show with music all the way through. There is a big curve in the auditorium that means the stage is fully exposed from all angles - I wanted to create an immersive environment that the audience could feel involved in no matter where their seat was. In that way, the design worked to ensure that every seat got a different experience of the show. To help immerse the audience, we had a wraparound video screen broken up in sections with trusses full of a variety of lighting fixtures.

PRG: Tell us about the staging, lighting and video used?

TS: The AXIS is an 85-foot wide stage, the biggest theater stage in Vegas. There is a curved stage ramp outlined with Sceptrons where the dancers mainly are and a lift stage center for Pitbull. The stage gives a wraparound feel as it goes wall to wall and the curve really helps define the space.

I love putting as many elements into a design as I possibly can, I want to always be building and leading into something else. Features for this non-stop party show included strobes, color blocks, 24 lasers, pyrotechnics and lots of lights including, Icon Edge, Best Boys, X4, Sharpies and Spikies - everything was built to follow the 85-foot stage curve. I felt that every element of the design had to have its own moment. Lasers were used in contrast to the lights, video had big moments where the lights pulled back and vice versa. Programming is challenging for a 40-song non-stop concert but we used all the elements to take the audience on a journey throughout the show.

PRG: How did you work with PRG to bring the vision to life?

TS: I design with a range of products in mind both old and new. Once I put my design on paper, I am locked into that vision even though I know it isn't going to necessarily fit the budget. It then comes down to working with PRG to refine the equipment list, tweak and swap fixtures to fit the budget without compromising or stripping back my vision too heavily. This understanding is invaluable.

Having PRG’s presence in Las Vegas was a great help on this production, I was able to work in Pre Viz with my two programmers, Nick Hansen and Craig Caserta, while Todd Erickson [PRG] and his crew prepped the kit next door. This meant I could oversee the build and answer any questions easily before we arrived on site.


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8/23/2017

PRG Production Tips #2

PRG Production Tip #2 – “One Is None, Two is One” - Always Run Redundant Data Cables
by Chris Conti

When it comes to data cable I have a mantra I like to follow “One is none, two is one.”  Data cable is the central nervous system of lighting, audio, and video systems.  Without data cable the lights won’t turn on or move, nothing comes out of the speakers, and the LED video wall is just a big dumb Lite-Brite.  Redundancy is king…whenever I run one data line I always run a spare.  Obviously, it’s not practical nor cost-efficient to have a duplicate cable for EVERY data cable in the rig.  However, it is reasonable to have a spare on home runs from lighting trusses, speaker arrays, or video walls.  “One is none, two is one” was born out my experience that a critical data cable would, for whatever reason, fail several minutes before the show was about to start.  Having a spare in place, ready, and available enabled our crew to remedy the problem as quickly as possible while minimizing any potential delay to the show.  So, remember … “One is none, two is one.”

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8/3/2017

PRG Production Tips #1

Production Tip #1 – Reset Defaults On Your Gear Before You Do Anything Else!
by Chris Conti

Providing technical advice and assistance to clients and colleagues in our industry is a big part of what I do. It’s a labor of love…mostly labor, but I actually do love it. A common inquiry that I receive is about control issues with their lighting systems. Often the problem or problems they have can be attributed to some esoteric setting that a previous user buried deep somewhere in a menu. So, here’s my tip: Reset Defaults on all your gear before you do anything else. Whether it’s a dimmer, a moving light, an Ethernet switch, a node, or a console, by resetting the defaults you are restoring the device and all other similar devices in your rig to their factory settings. This does three things: (1) Restores the device to a known state by wiping out any odd settings a previous user may have used; (2) Generally restores the device to its most basic configuration; (3) Gives you a fighting chance that everything in your rig will behave the same way, since they will all be configured similarly.


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Tableau Conference On Tour 2017 London. Event Technology supplied by PRG. Photo: PRG/Alison Barclay
7/25/2017

PRG Provides Conference Technology Globally for Tableau On Tour

Premium business and analysis software company Tableau has a growing worldwide audience for their software. Supporting this audience, the organization holds conference events for their clients in a variety of locations around the world. Combining product presentations, education sessions, software surgeries, networking, and social events, Tableau Conference On Tour has spanned North America, Asia Pacific, and Europe, with events in Tokyo, London, and Berlin taking place in 2017.

Supporting this program of events, PRG’s Director of Global Accounts, Nick Barton, is Tableau’s key contact for live event technology and services. He has worked with Tableau since early 2015 and has delivered 14 events for them to date.

For the events outside of North America, Nick leverages PRG’s global network, working with account managers in PRG’s locations worldwide to deliver Tableau Conference On Tour providing matched equipment and services across several countries. He travels to each event to oversee the production and ensure that the final delivery of the show meets the expected high standards.

Each of the larger events consists of a plenary keynote room, with smaller breakout rooms and social areas. To deliver their design, Tableau relies on Production Resource Group (PRG), who supply staging, lighting, rigging, and audio-visual technology and services for the events, as well as expert production staff and technicians.

For the most recent conference at London’s Tobacco Dock, Nick worked with UK Account Manager Rich Pow to provide all the show technology requirements locally in the UK.

Tableau aim to keep the design of their events clean and modern, and PRG support this, providing technical drawings and renders in advance, which can be refined to the client’s requirements.

The design for the London show included custom-built stage set and lecterns, and the use of large video screens in the plenary and across the breakout education sessions. Two large high resolution LED screens, used in split screen format, were situated on each side of the presenter. These displayed playback content and IMAG footage from the live camera. The live mix and output to screens was delivered using a Barco e2 screen management system.

To light the show, PRG utilized a combination of Tobacco Dock’s in-house lighting rig supplemented with a range of their own fixtures, including scenic floor lighting across the main stage. Crew Chief for Lighting was Dana Read, with Nathan Avery overseeing the video elements. Sennheiser radio channels were supplied for the presenters and a combination of wired and wireless Telex comms system was used for the plenary.

Breakout rooms across the site varied from a four-screen wide set-up in the Little Gallery, using Barco projectors and individual screens across the width of the room, to single Panasonic laser projector and screen pairings in the multiple education rooms.

Each breakout room included a custom-built lectern with in-built onstage switching system for presenting from a variety of inputs. Sennheiser radio channels were also supplied in each of the breakouts. Ben Monk oversaw the technical setups for all of the breakout areas.

A ‘surgery’, with Tableau Doctors on hand to help attendees with specific software issues, contained more than 20 workstations, and PRG supplied a pair of matched monitors for each PC.

Multiple plasma screens were used around all the Blend and Beats social and networking areas, including a rigged circle of plasmas in a central walk-through area. All of these displayed information, sponsor logos, social media feeds, and were used for relays of the keynote sessions.

d&b audio speakers were spread across the site ensuring all attendees were fully informed at all times, and between sessions could enjoy some chilled tunes from the Tableau DJ.

To ensure clarity of signal, PRG used an audio fiber system to feed into the plasma circle-truss area, as it was a considerable distance from the plenary.

Tableau’s next event will take place in Berlin later this year, where Nick will work with PRG’s team in Germany to deliver the show.

Photo credit: PRG/Alison Barclay

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6/5/2017

PRG Partners with Hudson Gray to Produce 2017 NBC Upfront at Radio City Music Hall

In May, PRG collaborated with Hudson Gray and production designer Julio Himede to provide scenic, lighting and audio visual solutions to create the architecturally-inspired backdrop for this year’s upfront pitch. Our team caught up with them during the installation of the set at Radio City Music Hall for a quick interview to discuss the inspiration for the set design and the PRG partnership. Here’s a quick recap: 

What was the inspiration behind the design for this year’s NBC Upfront? 

Julio: “The inspiration behind the design for this year’s Upfront was influenced by two things. First and foremost, the NBC brand and what it represents. The brand persona coupled with the understanding the large center screen was to be the real hero and focal point for the pitch, we began to look at how we could enhance the stage design without competing with the screen. We were definitely inspired by the building itself. To enhance the stage design, add depth and complementary visuals, we created descending panels reflective a Radio City Hall’s sun-like amphitheater design–drawing more focus toward the screen. The architecture of Radio City Hall influenced our color choices and scenic elements enabling us to present a very inspired, modern, yet cohesive look and feel. 

 Describe your relationship with PRG while preparing for the Upfronts:

Darren: “We chose PRG because of their ability to come up with solutions and to keep us informed every step of the way. The PRG team is in constant communication with you enabling me to keep NBC informed and confident everything is going according to plan. With PRG, there are simply no surprises. Because of their prep time and solutions mindset, they are anticipating potential challenges and managing them during the design and planning process. They are great about giving progress reports and photos that really give you a great sense of confidence and peace of mind, which is really important when you do something of this scale.”

This was a great partnership and team effort! We enjoyed working with the Hudson Gray team and with Julio Himede and look forward to a continued partnership.

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PRG Spaceframe
5/16/2017

PRG Launches New Technology Solutions as Concert Firsts on U2 The Joshua Tree Tour 2017

Innovative Touring Frame and 4K Broadcast Camera System Elevate Operational Performance, Stage Design and Fan Experience

Production Resource Group LLC, (PRG), the world’s leading provider of entertainment and event technology solutions, announced today that a new product innovation along with the application of an industry-first technology solution – SPACEFRAMETM and a 4K Broadcast Camera System – have been integrated into the design, production and operations for the U2 The Joshua Tree Tour 2017. Both solutions demonstrate PRG’s dedication to innovating products that anticipate the needs of tour managers, designers and artists seeking to push boundaries and deliver a more immersive concert experience onsite or virtually.

“SPACEFRAME and the 4K Broadcast Camera System perfectly demonstrate how PRG excels at seeing an opportunity for innovation that will add operational, economic and creative value from a customer’s perspective, allowing artists to more freely tell their story,” said Steve Greenberg, PRG’s CEO of Global Music/TV/Film.

SPACEFRAME™
SPACEFRAME is a revolutionary touring frame design seamlessly integrating LED panels to provide industry-changing operational efficiencies and the opportunity for unlimited creative expression. The carbon fiber touring frame is ultra-lightweight, collapsible and fully wind braced creating an intensive built-in structural strength. This allows for a free-form approach to stage designs enabling artists and designers to think outside the conventional LED box. This latest patent-pending technology from PRG also dramatically reduces pre-tour engineering time, shipping footprint/weight, carbon emissions, load-in and load-out times, as well as labor required on tour and locally.

SPACEFRAME features and advantages:

  • Carbon fiber fabrication and built-in wind bracing reduces overall weight increasing safety and savings
    • 10 times stronger when compared to conventional fabrication
    • 15 percent overall weight reduction
    • 35 percent weight reduction including wind bracing
    • Integrated wind bracing up to 72 kph
  • Profile reduction and integrated wind bracing results in up-to 50 percent savings in shipping cost in some cases and a massive reduction in the tour’s carbon footprint
  • Specifically for this U2 tour, truck loads are reduced from seven to three - or one less airplane - when compared to conventional LED frame load
    • Compact, lightweight design offers up-to 30 percent reduction of installation/dismantle time and a 25 percent reduction in overall labor cost

“The quality and resolution of LED products have vastly improved over the last decade, but the frames have basically stayed the same. At PRG Projects, we saw an opportunity to innovate the way in which LED walls were assembled and transported, to rethink the construction of the frame and how it might impact the operational side of the business as well as the design experience,” stated Frederic Opsomer, PRG Projects' Managing Director and innovation leader.

Leveraging in-house talent and partnerships already in place, PRG was able to produce the carbon frames from prototype to final product in just 17 weeks, enabling U2 to be the first to take advantage of the innovation. SPACEFRAME has allowed U2’s designer to create a 200 foot wide screen¬, custom painted in silver and gold to mimic the original artwork of their 1987 album.

4K Broadcast Camera System
The U2 tour also marks the introduction of PRG’s 4K (UHD) Broadcast Camera System as a first for concert touring. The PRG broadcast system, developed and integrated over three months, is a combination of products that can operate in 4K (UHD) and 3G SMPTE Standards. This design philosophy allows concurrent production to operate at the highest level of broadcast standards. The system delivers 60 frames per second (fps) with a UHD resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. The concert touring system interconnects cameras and LED wall processors on fiber because of the enormous amounts of data and length of signal distances. The entire broadcast touring system can be set up within an hour and is designed to be operated by one video engineer, eliminating the need for four-to-five onsite engineering positions.

“PRG has been a part of every U2 tour since 1992 and the band always challenges us with pushing technology to its limits,” said Wolfgang Schram, PRG’s director of video engineering. “We have to be creative and that is the fun part.”

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5/9/2017

PRG Brings Polaroid’s 80th Anniversary to Life at CES 2017

PRG Brings Polaroid’s 80th Anniversary to Life at CES 2017 

For the past six years, PRG has partnered with Polaroid’s team to design and develop the CES show site experience to attract and engage thousands in a meaningful way. As attendees move in and around Polaroid’s 110’ X 80’ exhibit space, PRG has been able to artfully integrate sound, light, video projection and movement to showcase a wide array of products, create discreet engagement experiences; and; establish a reasonably quiet zone for a suite of private meeting rooms. 
Moreover, PRG has been able to leverage these solutions to deliver award-winning experiences while using an existing exhibit structure. This approach has saved Polaroid a tremendous amount of time and money. 

CES 2017–Launch of Polaroid’s 80th Anniversary
In celebration of Polaroid’s 80th anniversary, PRG honored Polaroid’s iconic look by centering the exhibit experience around it–using new and existing technology in unconventional ways to give the experience a new look and feel. 

Six months prior to CES, PRG met with Polaroid to discuss the vision for the launch of the anniversary celebration. To enable the client to visualize the proposed solution, PRG rendered the space along with proposed lighting and movement in 3D.  This is referred to as the pre-visualization phase, allowing clients (like Polaroid) to actually review the lighting and movement in situ, simulating the actual experience to be delivered at show site.
Following the pre-visualization phase, PRG staged the exhibit and proposed technology solutions for final approval and to eliminate any surprises at show site. The staging experience, like a dress rehearsal, ensures a successful outcome and typically creates tremendous labor efficiencies–especially for an exhibit of this size and complexity.

Magic Panels
As part of the 80th design, PRG incorporated its Magic Panels to create living Polaroid Cubes, a modern lighting showcase of their classic logo. While these Magic Panels are typically seen in concert touring, PRG brought them in for CES, stretching experiential lighting solutions across market segments. (great advantage!)

The team at PRG understands motion and light are two things the human eye quickly detects. Leveraging that knowledge, content ribbons displaying brand colors, strong imagery and campaign headlines were weaved overhead, as well as vertically and horizontally throughout the booth design creating a more immersive experience, constantly changing to maintain interest. Twelve state-of-the-art projectors, hung in unconventional orientations on overhead rigging and truss, distributing imagery without worry of the projection being blocked. The key to executing a projection design of this magnitude is ample preplanning and engineering, an important aspect of PRG and Polaroid’s partnership success. 

One of the exhibit highlights was the Monkey Tree, an ideation formed to promote one of Polaroid’s newest products, the Monkey Mount. The custom-built treehouse featured an array of monitors with content pushed over the booth’s wireless network. Managing sustained connectivity and bandwidth wirelessly is a considerable challenge for a show with over 100,000 attendees and hundreds of exhibitors. For context, during show hours CES uses the same amount of Wi-Fi as a midsize city. To ensure sustained coverage for this attraction, PRG took over the exhibit’s networking function, setting up Wi-Fi hotspots supported by Wi-Fi mesh technology. 

Audio control is always a challenge on any tradeshow floor, even more so at CES. With meeting rooms, activity areas, the product stage, the Monkey Tree and evening press conferences, audio zoning within the exhibit was imperative. The overall sound system was designed with five dedicated zones within the exhibit, each with individual switches to manage audio levels based on the ebb and flow of the traffic and ambient noise in the hall. Because the audio was controlled independently, the entire booth could push an isolated audio message or the system could manage a complete audio takeover. 

Because the Polaroid experience is and was so heavily dependent on audio and video projection, PRG managed all onsite labor–directing teams and tracking of all labor services at show site, saving Polaroid thousands of dollars. This is one more way the PRG Team added value to the relationship.

Overall, CES 2017 was another sweeping success for Polaroid and PRG, and we look forward to continuing this partnership moving forward. 


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