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Prelite Provides Consultation And Training For The Sydney Opera House's New Previsualization System

Prelite, which helps lighting designers and programmers use emerging technologies to previsualize lighting for productions, has trained five members of the lighting department at Australia's iconic Sydney Opera House (SOH) on the venue's new in-house PreViz system.

“The SOH has seven performance spaces and is one of the busiest performing arts venues in the world,” says Bruce Ramus, the head of Ramus Illumination and a design mentor for SOH. “To achieve a consistently high standard of lighting for a vast array of shows requires preparation that, with such a full schedule, is often impossible. The PreViz room that (Prelite partner) Tom Thompson helped set up provides the means for the lighting staff to pre-plot and pre-program all manner of lighting rigs before the gear enters the venue.

“The PreViz system also provides an excellent training forum for design, innovation and technical knowledge which all adds up to a higher level of expertise in the staff and translates to better-looking productions,” he concludes.

As the head of lighting for SOH Toby Sewell was “most interested in the ability to pre-plot shows” in the PreViz system and tap its training potential. “We can have virtual lighting rigs in our venues and train our operators offline with no audience,” he points out.

Two years ago Prelite provided similar training on a Prelite-branded system closer to home, at Radio City Music Hall. Prelite furnished an entire in-house system for the famed New York City theater. After consultation with Prelite, SOH decided to source locally all the hardware and software needed to create an extremely fast and expandable PreViz system.

Tom Thompson traveled to Sydney to train the staff on the Vision software and associated CAD programs, Vectorworks and 3ds Max software, used in the previsualization process. “Tom also provided great assistance in fine tuning the purchase of video cards, monitors and desktop computer,” says Sewell.

In addition, Prelite provided training documentation and will regularly update online documentation. Support and maintenance for the next year will be supplied along with a potential training update next fall.

SOH quickly put its PreViz system to work on the award-winning “Jerry Springer: The Opera” which opened on April 21. The controversial opera, based on the TV talk show, opened in London in 2003 and made its Carnegie Hall debut last year.

“Our PreViz system performed very well and enabled us to pre-program a complicated production with more than 400 cues in under four days,” notes Ramus. “This allowed the show to be mounted in a very tight timeframe and look like we'd spent weeks rehearsing. Without the PreViz system expectations for the production would have to have been reduced considerably.”

Sewell was pleased with “how the palettes and cues came back even with the slightly different trim heights between the ideal (PreViz) and the real (the venue). With a narrow window of four days from bump in to opening night, pre-plotting was the only way to realize a complex music show with such limited venue time.”

The new PreViz room is part of major technical, architectural and educational upgrades planned for SOH through 2013. “The immediate future involves an upgrade of the basic infrastructure,” Sewell reports from installation of a DMX-over-Ethernet network in every venue to the purchase of new consoles in six main venues, a new moving-light rig, venue-specific luminaires and multiple-venue dimming systems. It is apparent from their involvement with Prelite in creating their previz system that the Sydney Opera House is very serious about pushing their infrastructure to the highest level.

About Prelite

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 or contact Thomas Thompson at 415-883-7727.

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