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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PRG Nocturne Supports Katy Perry Prismatic Tour

LED Video Screens shape Katy Perry’s Prismatic World Tour using solutions from PRG Nocturne

Having completed the first European leg of her Prismatic World Tour and now starting dates throughout North America, Katy Perry invites her audiences into a visually stunning concert experience. “Everything with Katy is larger than life so the design needed to reflect that. The stage itself is a statement,” points out Show Director and Designer Baz Halpin. Helping Halpin and Perry make that strong visual statement is PRG Nocturne.

Supporting her album, Prism and calling the tour the Prismatic World Tour, Perry had a vision of where to start in the look of the show’s design. “She wanted a large triangular LED Video screen on a triangular stage,” explains Halpin. “That was the basis of the design—the shape. Everything else plays into that.” Halpin conceived the enormous 70’ wide by 34’ tall automated tracking triangular LED video screen that is, as he says, “the backbone of the show; it’s used in everything but the unplugged section of the performance. The main challenge was to make sure that the screen wasn’t too overbearing. We spent a lot of time making sure that it wasn’t going to overpower the action onstage.”

The first leg of Perry’s tour took Europe by storm garnering successful reviews throughout the UK. PRG Nocturne’s UK team, who handled the Prismatic World Tour, also supported Katy Perry’s iTunes performance last year at the Roundhouse in London.

To realize Halpin’s dynamic creative design and offer a reliable, globally tourable solution to the challenging element, he turned to PRG Nocturne. “We needed a very experienced crew and an experienced vendor, which obviously PRG Nocturne have that pedigree. They have the experience of dealing with huge shows like this that have to be transported on a daily basis and work every time. It is very important to have their experienced crew and their support to carry that out, which PRG Nocturne does.”

The LED prism-shaped video backdrop, used as both a scenic and dynamic lighting solution throughout the evening as well as for cutting in I-MAG camera shots at times, is actually three separate pyramid-shaped screens comprised of over 700 PRG Nocturne V-9 Lite LED Video Modules. The hi-resolution V-9 Lite product offers a lighter weight LED screen option without compromising image quality. Cutting weight was important, not only to better address touring needs but because of the scale of the LED screen Halpin wanted on the stage. Even with the V-9 Lite it weighs in at 40,000lbs.

“Because the V-9 Lite is so lightweight it’s an ideal solution for touring, certainly it was the right solution for this production,” explains Mark O’Herlihy, PRG Nocturne’s UK Head of Video Services. “Beyond the weight considerations it also still delivers an equally high quality, high-definition picture, which is always important when you have such a strong visual element with such rich content.”

PRG Nocturne is also supplying the Prismatic World Tour with several other LED video elements including their V-9 LED Modules for a rising pyramid Perry enters through at the top of the show, and flexible digiLED LED product that wraps around a huge multi-layered birthday cake set piece. For playback control and to allow truly creative flexibility the tour’s Video Director Omar Montes-Rangel, from PRG Nocturne, is using two PRG Mbox media servers. PRG Nocturne crew on the tour also includes video engineer Eugene McAuliffe, the video crew chief John Moore as well as the LED screen technicians, the camera operators and projectionist.

The PRG Nocturne UK is going to have a busy summer supporting artists including The Rolling Stones, Linkin Park, and Metallica for their European tours. Katy Perry’s Prismatic World Tour will continue to play North American dates through October. She heads to Australia and New Zealand for November and December before returning for a second European leg, ending the tour in late March, 2015.

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6/20/2014 Projects

PRG Expands Leadership Team with Seasoned Marketing Executive

Production Resource Group LLC (PRG), the world’s leading provider of entertainment and event technology solutions, announced today that Stephen Lambright has joined its executive leadership team as vice president of marketing.

With over 20 years of international marketing and brand development experience, Lambright will be responsible for the company’s global marketing strategies, implementation of marketing programs that enhance and expand PRG’s industry leadership, and promotion of PRG innovations to partners and clients. As a member of the company’s executive leadership team, Lambright will report to PRG’s CEO, Jeremiah Harris.

“Steve is a welcome addition to our team,” said Harris. “He has demonstrated thoughtful and creative leadership as an executive throughout his career and is a talented marketer who delivers results. Steve joins us at a perfect time to build a global marketing organization within PRG that will support and engage both new and existing partners and clients, while amplifying our presence worldwide. I am looking forward to working with him.”

“It is an honor to join the exceptional team of people at PRG,” stated Lambright. “The talent and passion at this company is remarkable. I look forward to helping continue to shape and fortify the PRG brand in the global marketplace to ensure our continued growth and success.”

Lambright is a proven marketing executive who brings deep integrated marketing and branding experience to PRG. Lambright previously held executive positions in marketing, strategy, and business development at some of the world’s most innovative companies including XOJET, Apprion, Savi, NetObjects, Narus, and Informix. He received his MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University.

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Miss USA, 2014

3.9MM is the Crown Jewel at Miss USA

XL Video brings the LED punch to the Miss USA show again this year in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Using over 1,655 square feet of Unilumen 3.9mm product, the three sizeable LED walls blended with the traditional scenic pieces to produce a New Orleans-style scenic design as homage to the host state.

By using four HD signal feeds the 3.9mm showed its true potential displaying 4K resolution, which allowed the dynamic content to truly pop off the screen.  The flower covered Mardi Gras floats, twinkling chandeliers, and spinning the Miss Universe content all appeared nearly 3D and could almost be mistaken for actual scenic design pieces when looking at the stage.   “The set was fantastic, due in large part to the incredible state-of-the-art technology XL made available for the show,” shares Donald Trump from the Miss Universe Organization.  

The three LED screens were rigged to hang from truss using the Unilumen hanging brackets specially designed for the 3.9mm product. 

In addition to the 615 tiles, XL also provided four Barco HD-20K projectors and four Barco 4.1 – 6.9:1 high brightness lenses for the front projection house screens that were hung to the right and left of the stage. 

The crew, lead by XL Video veteran John Byrd, provided the superior service that the Miss Universe organization and other clients have come to expect from XL Video.  “Our crew, as always, displayed exemplary service, professionalism, and played part to a much larger production team to help bring to life another beautiful set designed by the Schaffner Stewart group,” praises Bob Magee of his team.  “We are very proud to be considered the go to video vendor for the Miss Universe Organization, and strive to continue this relationship for years to come.”

See more photos of Miss USA Show (Slideshow)

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Billboard Latin Music Awards, 2014

XL Video Creates a Visual Spectacle for Telemundo at the Billboard Latin Music Awards

Continuing a long-running working relationship, XL Video has once again worked with Telemundo to bring their highly creative video staging to life for the 2014 Billboard Latin Music Awards.

The event, which was broadcast live by Telemundo, took place on 24th April at Bank United Center in Miami, Florida and featured performances from Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, Chayanne, Andrea Bocelli & Laura Pausini, and Enrique Iglesias.

Working closely with Telemundo’s production team, XL Video’s Senior Account Executive, Hans Beijer, specified a range of XL’s creative LED products to realize the producer’s design.

The design, based around a theme of curves and circles, featured screens upstage left and right formed from 287 tiles of Pixled F-30 semi transparent LED. On the left performance area, the center of the screen was a custom curve built from Pixled F-15.

Each of these performance areas featured a flown ‘reveal’ which covered the artist changeovers and raised up to the roof for their performances. The reveals were both curved with center panels formed from XL’s flexible Pixled F-9 LED.

Across the top of the stage a curve and 3 circular tickers were formed from 300 tiles of Pixled F-11 LED all 1 tile high. A center portrait screen upstage was also built from F-11, and was positioned behind two columns.

All the onstage columns, swoops, stage edges and several sets of stairs were created using FLX-24 pixels, with over 16,000 used in total across the entire set!

On either side of the stage, XL also supplied two Barco R-12 units rear-projecting on to two 20’ x 13’ screens, which provided IMAG of the presenters and performers for the benefit of the audience in the house.

XL’s Hans Beijer commented: “We were very happy to collaborate with Telemundo to help them make their creative design reality. With multiple types of LED to rig, and the requirement to ensure all cabling was completely hidden, our Project Manager Franck VanDeCayzeele and technicians Freddie, Kyle, Dennis, Curtis and Tom, did a great job to ensure a smooth build.”

See more photos from the Billboard Latin Music Awards Show (Slideshow)

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PRG Supports Global Creatures KING KONG

Eighty years after King Kong first appeared on movie screens, audiences are once again being captivated as the legendary creature is being brought to life, only this time he is live onstage. For the groundbreaking musical, presented by the world-renowned animatronics technology leader Global Creatures, PRG was named the general contractor handling the majority of production services. PRG provided the theater’s structural preparation and the lighting, audio, scenic automation and scenery packages.

When Producer Carmen Pavlovic, CEO of Global Creatures, was looking for a story that fit the capabilities of the company’s animatronics technology but also offered strong narrative and musical possibilities she landed on the to the idea of developing King Kong as a live theatre piece. KING KONG took five years to develop prior opening during the summer of 2013 at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, Australia. To tell this epic story onstage, Pavlovic brought in director Daniel Kramer; production/scenic designer Peter England; costume designer Roger Kirk; lighting designer Peter Mumford; sound designer Peter Hylenski and projection designer Frieder Weiss.

PRG worked closely with the design team as well as the technical director Richard Martin throughout the production process. They started first with ensuring that the theater was structurally prepared and capable of handling the show. With a leading man that is a 19½’ tall, 1.2-ton puppet it was important to address the size and weight of the large amount of machinery required to move Kong but also for the numerous scenic elements. 

Copyright Jeff Busby

Martin explains the massive structural work that PRG helped coordinate, “It was a major project, especially for theatre in Australia; it is unheard of here. The first thing that we did was the venue engineering impact. There were five structural engineers involved to get this into the theatre, and we did a significant amount of work with the PRG engineers. We completely removed the existing orchestra pit lifts; excavated some of the orchestra pit structure in the base to get a bit more depth; put in new supports; and installed three new pit lifts. We removed the theatre stage and all its support; put in new structural support to bear the increased loads, and installed a huge hydraulic lift element covering the majority of the new stage floor. We added in nearly 20-tons of structural steel to the grid; and completely removed 80 fly lines. We also upgraded the power because we needed 2,000 amps in the building. It was a major overhaul and upgrade to the theatre.”

Everything is built to fit within a 63’ grid height; from stage floor to grid surface. They installed a full sub-grid, known as the gantry work platform, at a working height of 32.8’. It covers the entire stage, wall-to-wall; back wall all the way down to the within three-feet of the smoke pocket. This is the operational platform for the crew and flying performers as well as housing scenic elements, automation rigs, winches, lights, sound, Venetian curtains, and connections to the LED wall underneath it. The platform itself weighs 12.5-ton plus houses another 3.5-ton of video processor racks, automation racks, winches, and performers.

King Kong hangs from the main re-enforced grid and moves via a gantry crane-style automation rig, known as the Kong apparatus. Sub-contracted by PRG, Stage Technologies supplied the King Kong apparatus automation system, which specifically controls the Kong’s broad movement on stage, operating in a large “keyhole” cutout that allows him to move around the majority of the stage.

PRG engineered and installed the separate scenic automation system that controls all the flying scenery, the hydraulic lifts, Venetian curtains, and the winches for the flying performers. The scenic/flying automation system uses the PRG Commander automation console. With both automation systems operating in the same area PRG knew it was important to avoid conflicts between the two systems. “We did a lot of studies on impact and potential issues between the two systems,” notes Martin. “Everything was done with safety as the most important consideration.”

Setting the Stage
Peter England’s scenic design for KING KONG includes scenes in New York, Skull Island and on board a ship in the ocean. The first NYC scenes evoke the feel of the iconic black and white photos of NYC in the 1930s and England had PRG construct three scenic walls with I-beam platforms, known as the Times Square walls that concertina to the work platform. There is also a 19 ½’ long I-beam that flies in recalling images of men hovering on the I-beams in the air as they built the city to great heights. In the second act return to NYC England wanted to convey the idea that some of the electrical energy from Skull Island was brought back with Kong so he had the 1,500 rivet heads on the I-beam set electrified with LEDs in them. “It is our version of the Great White Way,” describes England. “We are creating this world of light; bringing the cold hard steel to life.” 

For the penultimate scene of Kong climbing up the Empire State Building, England is especially pleased with the vertical rolling scenic device that gives the effect of Kong climbing up. “That is a beautiful piece of machinery built by PRG. It is three rollers on a single axle, a continuous roll, like a treadmill. It is the façade; a snapshot of the windows on the building that goes around and around; an opaque cloth with cut translucent windows in it that is backlit, to create the illusion of rising. People think it is projection—there is some projection on it—but we would never get the depth of visual effect if it was just projection.” 

England wanted to infer the boat rather than build a boat for the scenes during the ocean journey. “I wanted to do something that was suggestive,” states England, “something new but quite simple in its form. We have a boat shape that comes out of the floor but it is the movement that sells the boat and also gives it some musicality. The simplicity to it totally belies the technology that PRG put in behind it.” Martin agrees, “It is very complicated technology that makes me smile every time I see it. PRG excelled themselves on this; it’s a wonderful bit of engineering. It seems quite straightforward, but it is really not. It is a very heavy piece that travels up, down, and gimbals at a good speed. It rocks ‘n’ rolls around absolutely dead silent, then it drops within a millimeter of where it starts each night; dead accurate.” 

The boat is a motion platform lift, which is cut as a 30’ equilateral triangle that raises out of the stage floor. Using three large hydraulic cylinders that are programmed on the Commander console, the platform moves in all three axes at the same time, mimicking the look of a boat’s bow being lifted and dropped as the ocean buffets it. There are two hydraulic power units 9.2’ below that power the boatlift for a combined 140hp and it moves at 2’ per second. The boatlift weighs 17,000lbs but with people and scenery the weight is 25,000 lbs. The PRG system also provides encoder feedbacks to the video operator so they can sync their video waves on the LED screen with the boat’s movement. 

How though do you work with an automation and scenic shop half a world away? “Today’s technology with e-mail, Skype, etc. it wasn’t that hard,” points out Martin. “PRG were so organized and on top of all the details. As soon as their team had drawings they would send them for review, if we made changes it was immediately passed to all the different PRG departments to make sure that conflicts in systems were handled long before we got into the theater. I can’t say enough about working with PRG. The distance made no difference to the attention and quality of work, it was top of the line.” 

Light the Lights
Space in the automation heavy production of KING KONG meant the lighting designer Peter Mumford had to be creative and economical in his selection of fixtures and hanging positions. “Poor Mr. Mumford and his lights; he couldn’t put in any overhead lighting bars; all of his lights had to be fit around the keyway,” comments Martin. “They had to be out of the way so Kong wouldn’t hit them. Still Peter did a wonderful job, most people don’t realize how complicated it was for him to light this show.”

Mumford’s found that working with the challenges was actually the solution. He explains, “It was not really a question of working around the gantry it was a about working with it. We didn’t have the conventional overhead anything, because all that space was taking up by the Kong machinery. Having designed the rig into the gantry it was a structure, which could contain a very large number of moving lights. I was also able to build some bars into the false proscenium at the front so that was a more conventional position. I also add things like the lightlocks with VL3500; they were at the back of the gantry so we could fly movers right into the floor up against the LED screen. Then big banks of Sharpys left and right. You look for positions, it is like a set with a ceiling, you work with the reality of the way it is. That becomes your canvas and you find how you are going to light it and how you are going to approach it.” 

Along with the VL3500s, his design includes Clay Paky 700s, Sharpys and over eighty ETC Source Four LED Lustr+ profiles. His rig could not include any tungsten sources. “I am using a totally non-tungsten rig, I had to because any tungsten sources would interfere with the infrared projection work,” notes Mumford. “I am a big supported of maintaining tungsten as an available theatrical source but this isn’t the show that reflects that.” Programmer and Associate Lighting Designer Victoria Brennan used an ETC EOS control console, which is linked to the show control backbone for triggering some cues and positions. 

Mumford was pleased with the support from PRG, even from across the globe. “PRG were great, they are always great,” he says. “I work with them a lot in England. I also had an absolutely brilliant crew in Australia.” He also worked closely on this production with the scenic team from PRG, as there was a large amount of set electrification. He put ETC Selador Desire D60 Vivid Luminaires within the Empire State building solely for the effect when Kong falls off said building. They also created pop-up footlights that come out of a floor grill at the front of the stage where Mumford placed Clay Paky Sharpys into the floor that shoot into a white reflective on the footlights. He can then also turn the Sharpys around to be shafts of light into the space. There is LED tape used throughout the set to and glow and resonance to some of the scenic elements as well. 

The Sound of Kong
Sound Designer Peter Hylenski and Associate Sound Designer/Production Engineer Simon Matthews worked with Shelly Lee the Australian Associate Sound Designer to give a voice to King Kong. Matthews explains, “The biggest challenge was the voice of King Kong. Nobody knew what that would be at first. It ended up being performed live. A guy named Harley Durst, every night, vocally performs him. He’s got a microphone; the microphone feeds into proprietary software. King Kong is alive.” 

‘Kong’s entrance is one of the coolest theatrical moments that I’ve seen, or certainly have been a part of,” continues Matthews. “It takes all the departments and when he lands for the first time it’s magnificently loud. He roars and you still don’t see him. You start to see his eyes and his teeth. He’s landed behind this web of lights and a fog curtain. You just see his teeth and just his eyes; then he roars and it’s amazingly loud. People around me in the house gasped. It was a guttural reaction gasp. It was incredible. Then there’s another moment in the show, where King Kong is holding Ann in that iconic, loving gesture. King Kong turns and roars; it’s palpably different. That moment, making the roar live makes it work; you couldn’t replicate that moment with a recording. You do truly forget, as a watcher, as a listener, that he’s not alive. That’s the highest testament to the guys who perform him. In the end, what the technical side has given is the tools.” 

Mostly a Meyer rig with a d&b surround system of M’elodie arrays. “One of the notable things about the system is that we have arrays of subwoofers that are 20’ tall on proscenium left and right,” describes Matthews. “We have 700HPs. We have four of the new 1100LS across the floor in front. There’s a total of 14 dual 18s or 28 subwoofer drivers. When King Kong puts his fist on the ground, you feel it. We have a sound effects operator to take visual cues—‘boom, boom’ that’s 50% of the sound. Without that you’re watching Kong and you think that while he’s really amazing; but he’s not alive unless he makes some sort of sounds. Those sounds need to interact with his environment and with his voice.” 

Matthews feels it is a fairly straightforward sound system. “It is mixed on a Studer Vista 5. It goes through the D-Mitri system. The heart of the system is this mix engine I/O. The Studer goes through that. We also have the sound effects operator that’s using a QLab setup. It’s actually being triggered over Show Control by D-Mitri. The D-Mitri is the master cue list. We run five separate cue lists during the show. The Studer has a range of channels on its own cue list that it exists inside of. Sound Effects has its own cue trigger list; we’ve got the King Kong turbocharge list; and then we have the voice modulation key list. D-Mitri sends the MIDI Show Control out to the lighting and video departments. There’s really nothing else that’s still suited to be that level of show control unless you go to a dedicated show control platform. Even then the flexibility is already in the D-Mitri; you don’t have to build modules or timelines. You just operate it. There are two outputs that come from our audio matrix that go to the video system so they can use whatever sound effect or Kong’s voice to modulate the video that’s being played. That’s another realtime experience.” 

The audio package was provided by PRG out of the United States and shipped to Australia. The system was put together as a normal Broadway show would and then put into sea containers for a high seas journey of about 45 days. “PRG was very supportive. If somebody says ‘hey we want you to go do a show in Australia and the shop is in New York,’ which by the way is 10,400 miles away, I would choose PRG.’ We went in anticipating that there would be problems but we really didn’t have any.” 

The award-winning design work has thrilled audiences and the entire creative team feels that they have achieved a good balance of technology and narrative. England concludes, “I think at the very heart of what this production is, is a true marriage of traditional and ambitious technology; it reflects the story in a way. It is certainly something that no one has seen before. The goal in everyone’s heart has been to create something that has heart, emotion and humanity. It is not spectacle but it is spectacular.”

Further Links:
Designing KING KONG: The Creature, The Sets and the Costumes
Fit for a King – Stage Directions
King Kong Live On Stage – Video

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Robbie Williams Take the Crown Tour

Robbie Williams Take The Crown Tour

When English pop sensation Robbie Williams took over Europe’s stadiums for his Take The Crown tour, Creative Director Willie Williams wanted to make sure that the lighting not only illuminated but also reflected the artist’s energetic performance style. Williams collaborated on the stunning production design with Scene Designer/Architect Mark Fisher and Ric Lipson of Stufish, creating an unforgettable visual kaleidoscope of lighting, scenic automation and video.

The successful 26-date summer tour included a 41’ sculptural head coming out of a massive back video wall along with seven additional three-dimensional heads that moved around the stage. With so much automation, video, and larger than life scenery the lighting needed to be carefully positioned to allow maximum impact with minimal presence. Williams’ had much of the lighting rig built into the set, cleverly masking what was actually a considerable amount of gear.

The Lighting Plot

Production Resource Group (PRG) provided the lighting system and crew. The plot included 130 PRG Bad Boy spots, 138 Martin MAC Auras, 69 Martin Atomic Strobes with Atomic Color scrollers, 12 Zap Big Lites and 12 Novalight Nova-Flowers, PRG Best Boy4000 Spots and additional lighting fixtures. The Bad Boys were selected by Williams to be the primary source because of their output. Noted Williams, “In a stadium—never mind in daylight—it’s all about intensity. None of the subtle features of a fixture count for anything at all if you can’t see them so in many ways the brightest fixture wins. The Bad Boy is still the brightest fixture in its price range. Even though we have a lot of fixtures, due to the scale, we have very few different types; it was a very simple rig, really.” Lighting Associate Alex Murphy agreed with Williams’ assessment of the Bad Boy luminaires. “Once again we were spoiled with the Bad Boys. The light output and zoom range is just great.”

“The biggest issue was knowing that we would be playing in Northern Europe during mid-summer,” explained Williams. “This is death for lighting and the worst thing a designer can do is carry on in denial of the fact that it’s not going to get dark until 2/3 of the way into the show. In the spirit of turning a weakness into strength, I set about conceiving a show that would actually benefit from opening in daylight. I thought about outdoor entertainments that are invariably day lit—carnivals, parades, etc. From this I took the cue as to what kind of show we needed to design.”

He approached the overall production by breaking it down into acts. “Act I is in daylight so we’ve created a sort of Rio Carnival environment. As dusk falls, we move into a focused, centralized acoustic Act II before the video-based home run of Act III. Finally the more contemplative encore section uses the darkness to close out the show with pyro and other effects.”

Pre-rigged Solutions

Production Manager Wob Roberts worked closely with PRG to develop solutions to streamline the load-in/load-out of the lighting. This was an important factor in a production travelling with so much automation and video scenery. The pre-rigging of the lighting in some portions of the plot proved to be very efficient. This was particularly true for the band area roofette. PRG’s team worked with Brilliant Stages so that 65 of the MAC Auras could be permanently mounted onto U-beam. They made sure that all the cabling was hidden inside the U-beam, which was then attached to the main structural beams of the roofette. It took the crew only 30 minutes at load-in to attach the U-beams and plug it all together.

The selection of PRG BAT Truss for much of the rig also proved extremely efficient. Roberts liked BAT Truss for both the space and labor savings it brought to the production. “The time it saved me was really impressive. My lighting crew moved so fast they ended up having to wait for the next staging, scenic, or video sections to be built so they could move on. The lighting pieces were so well pre-rigged that they went in extremely quickly. Everything just rolls into place on the BAT Truss. It was a very slick operation.”

A key use of the BAT Truss was the inverted sections used on the floor rigs. Two 8’ sections with three Bad Boys sitting upright in each were joined with custom brackets, then a seventh Bad Boy unit sat on top of the bracket. The BAT Truss pieces with the lights were easily wheeled into place and bolted together. A Four-light PAR36 fixture and an Atomic with a color changer on one pipe were then clamped onto it. The solution was compact, easily setup, and something that wouldn’t get kicked or moved. This was done on both sides of the stage below the IMAG screens, mimicking in reverse the lighting above the screens.

“I knew that PRG could provide the gear,” stated Roberts. “They have supported Robbie’s shows for a long time and are great to work with. I knew PRG could deliver a tour of this size. They also really came through with a great crewing solution for us.” Roberts continued by noting, “There was no question that I had a top flight crew. 90% of the success of any production is the people and I had the best team out there.”

List of the production team

Show Producer – Lee Lodge
Creative Director – Willie Williams
Stage Architect – Mark Fisher and Ric Lipson, Stufish
Video Director – Stefaan “Smasher” Desmedt
Production Manager – Wob Roberts

Lighting Crew
Lighting Director – Mark “Sparky” Risk
Lighting Associate – Alex Murphy
Lighting Crew Chief – Nick Barton
Systems Chief/FOH Technician – Craig Hancock
Lead Dimmer Technician – Gareth Morgan
Header/Moving Light Technician – Blaine Dracup
Pods/Big Lite Technician – Andrew Beller
Moving Light Technician/Pods – Jason Dixon
High Platforms/FOH/Followspots – Mark Pritchard
Moving Light Technician/Dimmers – Urko Arruza Urrutia
Header/Roofette Moving Light Technician – Chris Sabelleck
High Platforms/FOH/Moving Light Technician – Matthew Bright

Scottie Sanderson – PRG Account Executive

Read more about other PRG Projects

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Bon Jovi Because We Can Tour

PRG Products Drive the Bon Jovi Because We Can Tour

PRG is the lighting supplier for the Bon Jovi Because We Can tour, which is working its way around the world in two distinctly different legs—an arena design version and a stadium design. For both designs Performance Environment Designer Doug “Spike” Brant of Performance Environment Design Group (PEDG) has relied heavily on PRG proprietary products. Since one of the driving principals of PEDG is sustainability, the selection of PRG’s Best Boy 4000® luminaire as the primary light used for the dynamic arena design is no surprise. “Sustainability is something that we’ve always pursued; everything from how we work to the choices that we make in our designs,” commented Brant. “I love the Best Boy; it’s my favorite light. They’re so bright, they don’t draw much power, and they do things that no other light does. It’s amazing how much of a Swiss Army knife of lights that it really is; they were very important to this design. They’ve been great. The Best Boys on the lifts are a very successful element, which supports the kinetic nature of the design. Everyone’s commented on how killer the lighting is.”

Arena Tour - Lighting 

Brant employs 80 of the Best Boys as the key luminaire in his kinetic arena design, which at the core are 32 Best Boys mounted on RSC Lightlock stabilizers controlled via high-speed winches. The lights can move at a rate of five-feet per second, creating an extraordinary amount of creative flexibility. The visually complex design boasts huge power savings. Drawing a mere five-amps per luminaire, the Best Boys allowed Brant to significantly reduce the power consumption for the arena versions of the tour. Altogether, the arena lighting package tours at well under 400-amps in total and is completely run off house power at each arena with no need for additional generator power for the lighting system. “Less than 400-amps for the whole thing; that’s it. That is probably the least amount of power that Bon Jovi has ever had for any show since the band was playing in a bar,” noted Brant.

Chris Shaffer, Dimmer Tech for the arena leg of the tour commented, “We were on a 400-amp service but in theory we could have been on a 200-amp service with additional rebalancing, but for safety we went with 400-amps. We used house power the whole time we toured throughout the US; no generators needed. It was the first time that I’ve toured with essentially just Best Boys in the rig and their really low power draw makes a big difference.” In comparison, Bon Jovi’s The Circle tour in 2010 had fewer lights but almost twice the power draw.

Arena Tour - Power & Distribution 

The arena version of the tour also uses the PRG Series 400® Power and Data Distribution System, which Shaffer described as “one of my go-to products. The timesavings are big when compared to traditional distribution systems. When I loaded the PRG sled rack with four S400 racks and S400 power disconnects, all pre-cabled, the dimmer beach set-up time including all power and data distribution was only four minutes; it’s exceptionally fast. It’s one of the reasons that I prefer that system. If I had to set this up with traditional power and data distribution systems it would take around 45 minutes, that is a big difference when setting up and a really big difference when breaking things down. It’s the only system in the world that I want to use. It is fast and it is absolutely reliable.”

The built-in redundancy of the Series 400 system is another benefit that Shaffer relies upon to make his life easier on the road. “Because everything virtually patches, when it comes to troubleshooting, if for some reason we lose a box or something like that up on the truss, I can setup a virtual patch so we’re not running additional data lines up to the truss. There’s a massive level of redundancy without the need to pull the extra cable; that’s one of the things that makes my job easier and makes us look good. Once you have real confidence in your system like I do with the S400, you can easily and quickly troubleshoot any problems.”

Another plus of the Series 400 system is the neat and contained system it lays out at dimmer beach compared to traditional systems. “Initially we had planned that I would setup 65’ away from the cable picks,” Shaffer explained. “That was because traditionally dimmer beaches are so messy because of all the multiple racks, the data racks, and the patches, but with the S400 being so clean, especially with the sled it has allowed me to move up to 15’ of the cable pick without any complaint about clutter or mess in the SR area from the artist. That’s another advantage of the S400, the huge lack of clutter.”

Stadium Tour Brant also designed the completely different stadium design version of the Bon Jovi Because We Can tour for the summer leg. For lighting he again relies on the PRG luminaire family for his primary fixtures. He has 68 PRG Bad Boy® Spot Luminaires at the heart of his design with 29 Best Boys in the rig as well. PRG Nocturne also supplied the stadium leg with the camera package, PRG Nocturne V-18 LED 18mm LED modules, and the PRG Nocturne V-9 Lite 9mm LED modules.

For the stadium leg of the tour Dirk Sanders, Technical Designer for Control Freak Systems (CFS), who put together the complex video control systems for both designs, selected the PRG Mbox® Extreme media server. There are four Mboxes used and Sanders refers to them as “the workhorse server for this show.” He explains, “The Mbox is our de facto media server tool. At CFS, we are very much about the right tool for the right artistic idea. There are times were the Mboxes are being used to spread the content, and there is a high level of connectivity between all the tools because we use the Mbox’s MultiScreen Gobo feature to map the wall. It was about the right tool for the right job, but also Mbox gives us the right paintbrushes to route video effectively. Mbox really helped solve quite a few challenges.”

Arena Photos Copyright 2013, Andy Babin / Meteor Tower 

Stadium Photos Copyright 2013, Ryan Mast / Meteor Tower

Additional Coverage 

The Role of Director of Programming For Bon Jovi’s Because We Can Tour (Live Design article)
In Control For Bon Jovi’s Because We Can: The Tour, Part 1 (Live Design article)
Bon Jovi Because We Can Stadium Tour Video Equipment and Personnel (Live Design article)
PLSN Production Profile: Bon Jovi Because We Can World Tour (PLSN article)

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PRG Surrounds Oblivions Sky Tower

For Universal’s new sci-fi movie Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise, Cinematographer Claudio Miranda, ASC, and Director Joseph Kosinski filmed many of the visual effects live in-camera rather than using blue screens. For the scenes in the “Sky Tower”, a set built almost entirely of floor to ceiling windows and highly reflective surfaces, Miranda wanted a 270° sky surrounding the set so that he could shoot in almost any direction. Using on-set projection and capturing the sky and clouds in-camera allowed Kosinski, Miranda, and the actors to truly inhabit Production Designer Darren Gilford’s stunning futuristic set.

The projection solution provided by PRG included 11 Mbox Extreme media servers and 21 Barco FLM-HD20 20K projectors to cover the 494’ wide by 42’ tall projection screen. The final resolution was 18,288 x 1,920 pixels and consisted of 62 synched layers of 1080p video. PRG Project Manager Zach Alexander, the Media Operator on the film, created a seamlessly blended image using the Mbox media servers to control cloudscape footage shot with three cameras over two–three weeks on top of a volcano in Hawaii. Alexander used the PRG V676 control console to call up the sunrise, full day, sunset, or night sky options. During filming Kosinski and Miranda selected the sky looks by viewing and selecting the video clips on the V676’s Media Window, prior to shooting. The front projected sky also provided almost 95% of the lighting used for many of the Sky Tower scenes. Alexander operated a separate system for the smaller “Cloud Tower” set with a PRG V476 control console, two Mbox media servers, and six Barco 20K projectors.

PRG Lighting Programmer Philip Galler controlled a wide variety of LED lights that were installed in Cruise’s bubble ship and in the Sky and Cloud Tower sets, along with banks of Kino Flo fluorescent fixtures. PRG Bad Boy Spot luminaires were used to simulate shafts of sunlight for the bubble ship cockpit sequences.

Project Contact: Brian Edwards

Additional Information: 

Tom Cruise Discusses Oblivion on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Film And Digital Times Magazine feature on Oblivion

Oblivion: Universal ©2013 / Bill Dobbs
Universal ©2013 / Bill Dobbs

Photo Credit: Universal ©2013 / Bill Dobbs, Universal ©2013 / David James

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How To Train Your Dragon

Projection Reaches New Heights with High-Flying Dragons

The immersive environment of DreamWorks’ How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular pushes projection technology. Not wanting to rest on their laurels, Global Creatures, the masterminds behind the #1 grossing world tour of 2010—Walking with Dinosaurs, are once again amazing audiences and pushing the entertainment technology envelope. Having teamed up with DreamWorks Animation, they are now sending dragons soaring through arena skies and immersing audiences in the mythical Viking world of DreamWorks’ How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular. Based upon DreamWorks' Academy Award®-nominated film, How to Train Your Dragon, the production has the largest number of animatronics ever to tour the globe, including the beloved dragon Toothless, who weighs over 7,500 pounds and flies over 1.2 miles during a performance. That is equivalent to having a Range Rover soaring through the arena.

Four years in the making, the show maximizes every inch of performance space as dragons soar overhead and effects encompass the arena including large-scale cinematic projections. To engage the audience, Director Nigel Jamieson and the design team have carefully balanced the amazing creature technology with production values of equally impressive scope to let the dragons inhabit a believable world. Sonny Tilders, the Creative Director, and his team at the Creature Technology Company, the animatronics arm of Global Creatures, produced 23 dragons representing 12 different species, some with wingspans of up to 46-feet.

Because of the turning radius needed by the dragons, the entire arena floor is utilized, which has pushed all the technology in terms of quantity, placement, and coverage. In order to create a suitable stage environment for creatures of such scale the Production Designer Peter England; Projection and Costume Designer Dan Potra; Lighting Designer Philip Lethlean, and Sound Designer Peter Hylenski have designed richly integrated production elements on an unprecedented scope.

One scene that really exemplifies the beautiful integration of the various production values is when the dragons and actors dive underwater. “Everyone talks about the underwater scene,” notes Production Manager David Wright. “From the production end it is one of those scenes that is very satisfying in how the audience experiences it; it is the magic at work. Nigel [Jamieson] and the designers are talented illusionists; the way the lighting and the video work makes that magic happen. In the underwater scene there is fantastic lighting, amazing video and sound effects, and then we have eight bubble machines around the perimeter of the show floor. Bubbles filled with helium rise up to the ceiling. It is a wonderful moment in the show; an absolutely lovely scene.

Integration on Dragons really was literally a top-down endeavor explains Wright. “It is hard to take one department and look at their individual challenges; everyone had to really embrace the fact that it is an integrated show. When we trim A/V it has a cascade effect. Everyone has to trim with the tracks; all choices were determined by consideration of all the departments. That was an important part of the process in planning the show down in Sydney. It was definitely a big benefit to have one company, PRG, supplying all the production packages. As I said the integration factor for this show is key to its success. The fact that they had an overview of all the departments alleviated a lot of concern that the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing. Everyone working together has made it so much easier, especially as changes or adjustments needed to be made; PRG can work as a single group to make those adjustments.

There are two rigging systems on Dragons, one is the first-ever touring flight track system, which weighs over 28-tons, for the animatronic dragons. The other rig is a static conventional truss system, for the production elements, that has a stage right and stage left truss that go the entire length of the show floor with a cross run of truss at mid-arena that runs between them. “The rigging required a lot of focus at the start,” comments Wright. “PRG's first task was the rigging and they delivered a system that has really worked for all the departments; it is the building block for the whole show. From there they then integrated all the lights, sound, video, and special effects packages from that. The integration on all of that through PRG has been great.

The primary challenge for the entire team—designers, puppeteers, and  technicians—was figuring out how to stay within the roof weight limits.  “That was something that all the departments really had to address and it  took a lot of work to get it down to weight and keep the integrity of the  show,” describes Wright. “When we originally put the show together in  Sydney we were at 98-tons (196,000 lbs), then we got down to 84-tons  (168,000 lbs), which was still too much for the arenas in North America  so we had to cut back again to make it fit. The guys back at PRG were constantly coming up with ideas of how to combine stuff so that we had less weight; in projection alone they cut three tons for us by changing the hanging method. Right now we are at 153,000 lbs and nothing was lost that affects the show.

Cutting down weight and fitting into the crowded rigging meant that the projection—a central aspect of the Dragons show—would need to be carefully laid out. Projection is the primary scenic element and is at the heart of both transforming the arena and transporting the audience to the Viking world. The projection spans more than 20,000 square feet throughout the entire arena with an upstage center projection wall; custom built out of a perforated sheet metal that is equivalent to nine movie screens combined. There are wings on either side of the center wall, which are built up over the seats. The production also covers the full arena floor with its own flooring and ground rows to create an enormous projection surface. PRG Nocturne provided the video playback system and the projection system. The show has 26 Barco FLM R22 20K projectors. Playback is handled on three PRG Mbox EXtreme media servers providing content—two main and one backup.

When you are projecting video over an entire arena floor plus the entire surface of the set and wings into the seats, it takes a lot time trying to find places that will work for the physicality of the image,” explains David Lemmink, PRG Nocturne General Manager & Director of Engineering. “There was a lot of math involved to figure out all of the projector distances. Adding to the challenge was finding the positions in the crowded rig; we are literally within inches of other devices. We had to have enough throw distance but not be obstructed by the rig or any of the objects that are flying through the area.” Both Wright and Lemmink noted that obviously there are times when the dragons do cross paths with the projection beam but quickly point out that if an actual dragon flew through the air it would make a shadow.

The final positioning has the projectors shooting down onto the arena floor actually mounted straight down. Damian Walsh, Operations Manager at PRG Nocturne, notes, “We worked with a lot of people at Barco to make sure that this was a feasible possibility and to clear the mounting method with them. We knew that lamp flicker would be imminent to some extent, so we started with brand new lamps for everything. They are now running the show going on a six-lamp rotation; we rotate six lamps ever 200 hours to keep the overall brightness of the show at a good level. Having the support of Barco, like we have, has been invaluable.

The bulk of the projectors are hung on the stage right and stage left trusses projecting onto the floor. There is another set of projectors that hang mid-arena, about where the scoreboard might be, that project onto the front of the set itself. The side wings are projected onto from the ends of the left and right trusses on either side. Lemmink points out, “Every position has at least two projectors. For some areas there are an overlap of up to four projectors. Everything is edge-blended so that it appears seamless between the quadrants on both the floor and on the set itself. Then there are two HD rasters—floor and set—that are played back by the Mboxes and are synchronized with the soundtrack and dialog. Obviously to do a raster of the size of an entire arena floor, the projection distance becomes extremely critical especially since we are projecting straight down so we are limited by the size of the image that we can create, which essentially required us to break the floor raster into six specific regions that each overlapped. Each one of those uses the extreme spec of the FLM 22K projector. In other words, we are about at worst-case as wide as you can go with those projectors.

Walsh describes the issues with selecting lens. “We have three double-stacked projectors shooting straight down for a total of six projector stacks; three on each side. It took a couple of weeks of finding the correct math to get these images stacked correctly. The projector trims at 13m – 17m (42.65-feet – 55.77-feet) to the edge of the lens; the trim changes depending on the venue. We are using a fixed lens, which is the worst thing possible to actually have to be using, but with the trim height that we are playing at we couldn’t go to the first zoom lens. Everything has to be digitally zoomed inside the machine, which of course can cause problems itself. But that’s why we have the genius of the amazing projectionists we have out there. We sent two of our best projectionists—Justin McLean and Drew Welker.

Walsh continues, “The higher trim works better for everybody, because 17m falls into what the native throw of the lens is. That’s why we used the 4:3 projectors instead of HD projectors because it’s more of a square surface than a rectangular surface; 4:3 just made more sense. Since the projectors for the floor are stacked we needed to get the image to lens as close enough together as we can, one is upside down and one’s right way up to get the lenses as close together as possible.

For the upstage center screen a standard shooting style is employed with four projectors, two each that are double stacked to hit the center screen. “This was redesigned because the projectionists weren’t happy with the brightness of the image that they were getting to work with every day,” comments Walsh. “When we used a fixed lens it was somewhat fish-eyed and it’s got the biggest, widest aperture in the whole suite of lensing. So we ended up going to the shortest zoom lens that Barco makes for the FLM projector; it’s like a 1.4.

Having addressed the challenges and stretched the boundaries of the Barco projectors, Walsh concludes. “We are all really proud here at PRG Nocturne to be part of this production. It was amazing to work with Global Creatures. They have a very clear vision of what they want to achieve and it’s exciting to have a client with a great dream but is also realistic about attaining it. They were extremely flexible, willing to compromise, yet knew how to never compromise the show. The whole group was just phenomenal and I can't say enough about David Wright; each different venue poses a whole new set of challenges and I know he is the right man to handle them.

After a hugely successful run in both Australia and New Zealand, How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular flew into the United States on the North American leg of the tour. The show's worldwide tour is produced by RZO Dragon Productions and exclusively promoted by S2BN Entertainment.

Creative Credits:
Nigel Jamieson: Stage Adaptation & Director
Sonny Tilders: Creative Director
Peter England: Production Designer
Gavin Robins: Movement Director & Associate Director
Dan Potra: Costume and Projection Designer
Philip Lethlean: Lighting Designer
Peter Hylenski: Sound Designer

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L-Arc-en-Ciels 20th Anniversary at Madison Square Garden

When the Japanese group L’Arc-en-Ciel became the first Japanese band to headline at New York City’s Madison Square Garden the production team turned to Production Resource Group, LLC (PRG) to provide a complete production solution. PRG provided lighting, video, audio, and staging, as well as technical crew for the international concert event that was simulcast to Japan.

Production Manager Tom Hudak’s decision to partner with PRG was based on two key elements—ability to supply the entire package and in-house expertise across multiple disciplines. “The key production challenge was installing a system that we had never seen before in a limited amount of time,” explained Hudak. “In terms of coordination it was much easier working with one company.”

To ensure a smooth load-in on a tight schedule at Madison Square Garden, PRG provided several of their proprietary products, which are designed to address the challenges of live entertainment events. The L’Arc-en-Ciel show marked the debut of PRG’s Rolling Deck. The portable decks are engineered for rapid deployment and they can be easily repositioned and reconfigured. The design is based on a standard 4-foot x 8-foot (1.22-meter x 2.44-meter) platform. The Rolling Deck system uses quick lock-in legs with heavy-duty casters so the stage can be quickly assembled and rolled into place in the arena. For L’Arc-en-Ciel the mainstage was 48-foot deep x 48-foot wide and it also had an 8-foot deep x 88-foot wide downstage thrust. There were also two 16-foot x 32-foot wings for the backline equipment and the monitor consoles.

Hudak was pleased with the speed of the stage assembly; especially when it went up in even less time than planned. “The new PRG stage was a massive advantage,” he said. “It’s very well engineered and it went together beautifully. They were able to put the whole mainstage up in just over an hour. It was astounding.”

The PRG Rolling Deck system is packed with features that make it both a safe and an efficient staging option. It uses an extruded aluminum frame design with a plywood top over an aluminum skin. This design provides a Class-A fire rating to the deck. All the platforms Roto-Lock from underneath to quickly and easily lock together large stage decks. The sturdy castered legs are available in 4’, 5’, 6’ and 8’ heights so unstable adjustable legs are not needed. And, a heavy-duty threaded-rod leveling feature engineered into the casters allows for precise leveling of the assembled stage deck.

The heavy-duty legs, which easily lock into place with a slip pin that requires no tool, are available in either a straight or bent version. The bent legs provide conflict-free joining of platforms during fast reconfigurations. The platforms are placed on legs fitted with either single, double, or quad mounting pin nodes for joining Rolling Deck sections. This innovative mounting pin node means that extraneous legs are removed from the set-up without compromising safety or stability. This unique leg system also minimizes the crew needed for installation and repositioning. The system also uses diagonal supports, which are all the same length to help avoid time-consuming sorting and to guarantee fast, accurate, and safe assembly.

For the large video walls in the L’Arc en Ciel design, the production chose PRG Nocturne V-28 LED Video Modules for its 28mm resolution, 30% transparency, and easy install. A total of 1,680 V-28 modules were used to create the screens which included two 29-foot wide x 22-foot high downstage LED video walls; a 41-foot wide x 22-foot high center upstage video wall; and two 20-foot wide x 22-foot high upstage side walls. “I was very impressed with the V-28 screens, they just blow the competition away; especially in terms of brightness and how fast they go up,” described Hudak.

Designed for use with a purpose-built quick-deployment touring frame, the V-28’s modular design makes the product lighter and easier to hang, providing rapid install and efficient disassembly. Available in different panel sizes, the PRG Nocturne Touring Frame allows for the creation of customized LED video configurations. Every V-28 LED video module is precisely color calibrated for accurate module-to-module color matching to ensure a superior image every time.

Power and data distribution for the band’s Madison Square Garden concert was managed by the PRG Series 400® Power and Data Distribution System. The Series 400 system saved the production time during load-in as well as significantly reduced the possible points of failure throughout the distribution system by cutting the need for the numerous additional opto-splitters and mergers required in conventional distribution products.

“This was a very high profile show for the band and technically it was quite challenging on such a tight schedule,” said Hudak. “But we made the right decisions, using PRG for the entire production package. Everything was handled well and the production came together the way it was supposed to.”

PRG continued to support the L’Arc-en-Ciel tour on their European and Asian dates.

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Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark Takes Entertainment Technology To A New Level

Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is a massive technological achievement that required both meticulous engineering and the development of new technologies to create unprecedented production effects. From the installation in the theatre, which required extensive renovation to receive the show, to intricate coordination between the lighting, video and automation systems, the technologies developed for Spider-Man will no doubt be utilized in future productions.

PRG supplied and integrated the lighting, audio, video and automation systems, as well as engineered and built the massive scenery and supervised the extensive renovations made to the theatre. Essential to the integration of the technologies were several PRG proprietary products, including the Mbox Extreme® v3 Media Server, the V676® Lighting Control Console, PRG’s Stage Command® System (SCS) and the Commander™ Motion Control Console as well as the Series 400® Power and Data Distribution system. In addition to the core features of these products, PRG developed new features, which have been permanently incorporated into the products for future productions.

For all of the technical departments, the scale of the systems was the primary challenge. “Spider-Man’s biggest challenge was really just sheer size,” said Production Sound Engineer Simon Matthews. “The audio system is 50% larger than any other Broadway show.” For the main audio control, PRG supplied a Meyer/LCS CueConsole 2, used in conjunction with Meyer/LCS D-Mitri Digital Audio processors. Three Avid Digidesign Profile consoles handle additional audio mixing and routing. The audio system sends SMPTE triggers to the PRG V676® lighting console to trigger the video system and it receives MIDI from the V676® as a DMX channel to trigger audio cues from lighting. The centerpiece of the sound system is the Meyer D-Mitri mixing system, which has a very large input/output set up, 144 in x 144 out. “We aren’t limited; each speaker can essentially get its own mix,” said Matthews.

Spider-Man also has Broadway’s largest wireless RF system, which runs 100 wireless frequencies on a daily basis. “This system includes RF microphones; god mics; in-ear monitors for the aerialists; walkie-talkies; wireless intercoms; and then a whole slew of 2.4 GHz for all of the standard access points for control networks,” explained Matthews. “Lighting uses quite a lot of wireless for control and there is wireless in some of the props.”

PRG also provided a closed circuit video (CCTV) package in conjunction with a redundant intercom system for all of the stage managers, automation operators, orchestral performers and anyone who needed to be able to see what was happening during the intricate production. The 45-camera system handles the cueing and coordination of the orchestra, housed in two separate rooms below the stage, as well as providing needed life-safety support for both the scenic automation system and performer flying rigs.

The task of lighting Spider-Man as he scales walls and flies through the air fell to Lighting Designer Don Holder. “When you go through the show scene by scene, there are about 58 individual scenic set ups. Nearly every piece of scenery had built-in lighting and then there were all the moving parts and all the performers flying above the stage, above the audience, all needed to be lit. It was very complicated to say the least,” said Holder. PRG provided a package that included more than 1,800 focusable fixtures, 157 automated fixtures, 554 LED fixtures and over ¼ mile of linear LEDs.

The control solution had to provide seamless integration of the lighting and video during programming and performances. Both the Video Programmer Phil Gilbert and the Automated Lighting Programmer Rich Tyndall used the PRG V676® Lighting Control Console and while each programmer had his own console, the consoles were networked together and utilized the same show file. The V676® has a feature called partitioning that allowed the two programmers to assign a specific set of channels of fixtures to each individual console, so they never interfered with each other. Gilbert used the V676® to control the Mbox media servers, and Tyndall used a second V676® to control all the automated lighting in the show.

For the power and data distribution needs of the automated lighting system, Production Electrician Randy Zaibek is using PRG’s Series 400 Power and Data Distribution System. “It has been invaluable over the long haul,” said Zaibek. “With the amount of changes and shifting that we had to do in terms of universes and power; I didn’t have to run any extra data lines to any position thanks to the flexibility of the Series 400 system. I could easily just go back and re-port any universe to any location.”

Essential to the lighting design was addressing the complication presented by the overhead flying. Holder and programmer Tyndall had to devise new methods of lighting performers who perform in mid-air literally anywhere in the theatre. The lighting rig is trimmed on stage at over 40’ because the fixtures must be positioned above the fly wires. The action takes place all over the theatre, upstage to downstage, left to right, from onstage to the balcony, so it is a completely three-dimensional environment. The traditional followspot positions in the theatre wouldn’t work because the followspots had to reach from one end of the theatre to the other, so new followspot perches were installed.

“I think of the followspots as the first layer of the flying lighting. They can follow the flying anywhere in the theatre and they were incredibly helpful,” explained Holder. “The second layer involved tracking the flights with automated lights using positioning data received from the flying system and finally we put in the infrastructure so that the entire space was illuminated. In the end most of the flying sequences use a combination of all three techniques and I think the results were pretty successful.”

“At one point PRG was sending trucks everyday to handle changes and adjustments being made in the theatre,” commented Holder. “PRG was really great about it. I think they were very supportive; I needed their backup and they gave it to me.”

Scenic Designer George Tsypin, a trained architect, is an opera designer whose inventive scenery has made him world-renowned. Spider-Man’s Technical Director Fred Gallo, also PRG President, Scenic Technologies, noted, “PRG worked with George for the longest time, coming up with ideas and different ways of doing things; we had to actually invent ways of automating and engineering scenery that had never been done before.”

Among the highly articulated scenic pieces PRG engineered, the Chrysler Building, which reaches out from the stage and unfolds into the audience, is particularly remarkable. In its hanging (stored) position, it is pointing vertically straight down and folded in half. As it flies in, it actuates and opens to a total length of 50’ in a horizontal position and it extends over the fourth row of the audience. Adding to the effect of the web-slinger’s bird’s-eye view, the stage floor rises up on an angle, revealing lightboxes built-in to the ramps that are digitally printed with stylized Art Deco building elements. Associate Scenic Designer Rob Bissinger explained, “That particular scene shifts the audience’s perspective so they view the stage as if they are standing on top of the Chrysler Building looking down onto the street, it is absolutely breathtaking.”

In Tsypin’s design, even scenery that at first-look seems straightforward is not what it appears. “For me, one of the most successful and magical elements, scenically, are the City Legs,” said Bissinger. “We have four sets of legs in the show, which are large panels with city graphics printed on the front that move in and out and also light up in different colors. Each panel moves independently and is able to not only track side to side but also tilt up to 45º, which gives us these sweeping cityscapes. The effortless way these legs move and the lightness in which they have been engineered to me is nothing short of a miracle.”

“We tried a lot of different techniques to varying levels of success and then finally the engineers at PRG came up with this kind of internal web-like structure, that would actually help keep the legs plumb and square even as they tilted and went off their center of gravity,” explained Bissinger. “As these web frames inside the legs catch little bits of light, they give them an internal life and an internal structure that is both Spider-Man-like and architectural. It was a really great thing to be able to work with an engineering team that also understands the beauty of the visuals, of the artistic impact of what their engineering is doing. And that was something that I found very unique to PRG.”

For the ‘Bouncing off the Walls’ scene, PRG determined that carbon fiber would be an ideal material. “We needed frames and support for scenic pieces that had to have high strength and low weight,” explained Mark Peterson, PRG Project Manager, Scenic Technologies. “We explored many different options and ended up working a lot with carbon fiber. It has the rigidity of steel, but is lighter than aluminum.” Scenic panels representing Peter’s bedroom walls, 18’Wx14’H, were fabricated using carbon fiber tubing and covered in spandex. For the Manhattan apartment, carbon fiber frames with rare earth magnets were used to quickly assemble the walls for the scene.

For the stage floor ramps that double as lightboxes, PRG designed custom LED fixtures. When not lit, the stage deck is black, but when lit and raised at an angle, the floor becomes part of the skyscrapers set. “The Plexiglas tops are digitally printed on the underside in blacks and grays,” noted Peterson. “There was no real depth to be able to diffuse incandescent lighting properly and there would be too much heat. So we decided to design our own version of a white LED board, which let us mount the boards into different configurations to fit the trapezoidal lightboxes. We provided 250 LED dimmers to deal with the enormous amount of circuits needed for the whole floor. All together, we have about 9,000 LED boards in the floor ramps.”

The ramp construction allowed for intricate articulation when they were raised up. The trapezoidal pieces are 37’ long and 12’ wide on the narrow, downstage side and approximately 16’ wide on the upstage end. All of the stage ramps are hinged on the downstage line. The center ramp has an additional ramp built into it that can go up another 14’. This added articulation reinforces the illusion of forced perspective that is used throughout the scenic design.

Gallo is particularly proud of the solution PRG engineered to meet the challenge of the speed required when moving the ramps. The stage ramps actuate up and down; going up to a maximum height of 14’ with a speed capacity from 0’ to 14’ in under four seconds. Said Gallo, “Since the ramps had to move really fast, a hydraulic system was deemed the only sensible way to go. We put in a hydraulic pump room specifically for this show and then plumbed it all with steel pipe rather than hoses, because of the amount of oil that had to be pumped around the building. This is the largest hydraulic automation system on Broadway.”

Tsypin’s design called for three scenic elevators downstage, where the theatre’s orchestra pit was located. However, the pit wasn’t deep enough to accommodate the scenic lifts. “To put in the three elevators, we had to dig out the pit another seven feet,” said Gallo. “The problem was that we were on New York City granite; bedrock.

It took six weeks with heavy machinery to excavate deep enough. We started with jack hammers; then we brought in a specialty hydraulic robot that jack hammered on its own; when the rock got too hard, we brought in crews trained in digging subways, who drilled holes and used a hydraulic splitter. Then we poured concrete to create a sub-base to put in the three lifts.”

Two PRG Commander consoles are used to control the automation effects, one for scenery in the air and one for deck effects. They control 145 different automation effects in the production, including PRG’s proprietary Stage Command System (SCS) winches and other automation devices. To put this in perspective, a typical Broadway musical has 15-20 automation effects with the largest musicals topping out at about 50 effects.

Media Designer Howard Werner believed that it was crucial that the projections be seamlessly integrated with the scenery and lighting. He specified a video system that provided the maximum flexibility in manipulating content. PRG met the demands of the specification with a mix of proprietary products, new software features and a new 15mm LED video product.

Mbox Extreme media servers, controlled by the V676® lighting control console, were used for content management. For Gilbert, the V676’s® Media Window, which displays all the video clips graphically on touchscreens, made programming easier. “The console interface really gives us a ton of geography to lay out palettes and presets and all the things a programmer uses to manipulate servers,” said Gilbert.

There are eight LED panels, each 8’w x 33’h, that are configured as four pairs of legs, which track on and off stage. The LED panels are completely covered with a 15mm SMD LED video product that was provided by PRG, and the legs were covered with black rear projection screen to soften and blend the LED imagery. In addition, they were covered with black sharkstooth scrim material so that when there was no video being displayed, they disappeared. If lit, they look like standard black fabric legs. Each leg weighs 1,300 lbs., has 100 video tiles and can track back and forth on stage to put video just about anywhere the creative team wished to underscore a scene.

“Since the legs are fed by the Mboxes, we have a myriad of specialized layer and fixture controls that allow us to discreetly address each individual leg and gives us a lot of control on a layer by layer basis for how those LED screens are mapped,” explained Production Video Electrician Jason Lindahl. “The best part about working with PRG was the response that we got with developing these new features for this show. We had a pretty tall order for this show, especially for the media servers but nobody at PRG batted an eye.”

One of the biggest challenges for PRG involved the requirement for the video content to track with the LED legs as they moved on and off stage. To ensure the accuracy of the video mapping, the video system received positioning information from the automation system that drove the LED walls. Encoders were added to the SCS winches which feedback the video panel position to the Mbox. Both the automation and the projection systems know exactly where the LED legs are at any time, allowing quick and accurate mapping of video content while the LED legs are moving.

PRG developed two modes for the video output from the Mbox—Discrete mapping and Projected mapping. In Discrete mode, the video projection tracks with the LED leg as it moves, with the image appearing to be attached to the individual leg. Essentially, a single pixel of video output from the Mbox is mapped to a single pixel on the LED output and tracks with the screen. In Projected mode, the output appears to be projected onto the stage, not attached to the individual leg, but simply allowing the legs to move through the projection. The PRG Mbox allows the Discreet or Projected mode to be set for each individual LED leg.

Looking at Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, it is easy to see how new products, features, materials and techniques created for this groundbreaking musical will affect theatre technology moving forward and will become standard for future productions and for the live entertainment industry as a whole. Perhaps the unprecedented level of integration among all the production systems is the true technical legacy of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

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