Before the 2011 Radio City Christmas Spectacular opened in Boston and Durham, North Carolina, lighting designer Paul Turner partnered with Prelite Studios to preprogram the lighting for everyone's favorite holiday shows.
The most recent company of the Christmas Spectacular transitioned from being arena-based productions to traditional theatrical presentations. Boston's Radio City Christmas Spectacular was staged at the Citi Performing Arts Center - Wang Theater and the Durham show at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC).
"Since we were no longer in arenas we were starting from scratch with a new hang and a new lighting console," says Turner. So he joined Prelite's Rodd McLaughlin in a rehearsal space in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina about ten days prior to the load-in at DPAC to previsualize the two versions of the show based on their new staging requirements.
McLaughlin, who served as Turner's lighting programmer for the Christmas Spectaculars, notes that lighting for the shows was designed with two venues in mind. "Fixture placement and trim heights were kept as consistent as possible, and we programmed using X, Y, Z coordinates (i.e., 3D space) to ease the transition between locations: If we needed to make changes onsite we just updated where the lights were in the console and the presets would automatically update themselves," he explains.
Turner's moving lighting complement, which was based on the original theater design of Radio City's lighting designer of record David Agress, featured Martin MAC III Performances front of house and MAC 2000 Profiles and MAC 700 washes overstage. A traditional theater front of house hang of conventional fixtures rounded out the design. Two grandMA consoles were networked together for lighting control.
Working with Prelite enabled Turner to turn off the scenic elements as needed, making them invisible at times to better see what the lights were doing. "We used Autodesk 3ds Max to model the scenery and set up the previs. We then used our own custom scripts to quickly export that data to grandMA 3D," McLaughlin explains. "We continued to use previs throughout the process even when we had the real lights as we were able to 'see' behind curtains that were brought in or when the carpenters were working on another scene. Resolving the flips that occur when using X,Y,Z was considerably easier when we could see the rig from above without the legs and borders in the way."
Jeff Capitola was the producer of the Radio City Christmas Spectaculars with Gary Memi serving as the onsite producer. Brenda Gray was associate lighting designer and Devon Allen assistant lighting designer.
The time between the Christmas Spectacular shows in Durham and Boston found Turner again teaming with Prelite. "We had a Prelite mobile system for two days to preprogram Mary J. Blige's show at Club Nokia in LA as part of the American Express Unstaged live-streamed concert series in partnership with VEVO and YouTube," he says. Mike Baldassari was the TV lighting designer for the show with Turner acting as lighting director/programmer.
A proponent of Prelite for the last decade, Turner has seen the technology evolve as his lighting needs have grown and changed. "There have been great improvements in Prelite's hardware and software," he reports. "We no longer wait for processing - we can have the whole rig turned on and it will look the same onstage as it does in the Vision software. I can preprogram complex musical numbers outside the theater without the cast and scenery - that's a serious time saver."
Prelite was founded in San Francisco February 2000 by Tom Thompson and Norm Schwab as a place for lighting designers and programmers to use technologies to previsualize lighting projects. Its success led to the launch of Prelite NY in June 2001 by Kim Grethen and Rodd McLaughlin. The bicoastal company provides studios where previsualization and creativity take center stage away from the distractions and interruptions of a chaotic work environment and where clients save time and money and minimize stress. Prelite also offers on-site previsualization services for those who prefer the convenience of working at the venue. For more information, visit www.prelite.com or contact Thomas Thompson at 415-883-7727.