The 41st Annual Academy of Country Music Awards was held recently at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and Pyrotek Special Effects http://www.pyrotekfx.com/home.html was on hand to add a cascading graphical waterfall for the young up and coming country singer, Taylor Swift.
Lorenzo Cornacchia, (vice president/director of Operations) of Pyrotek Special Effects, worked alongside production designer Brian Stonestreet and art director Alana Billingsley with Pyrotek’s newest phenomena, Aqua Visual FX. Billingsley worked closely with the Aqua Visual FX’s technical production team to implement the water screen system into the set design. With approximately 60 gallons of water within the self-circulating system Billingsley and the Aqua FX team created a custom basin design. This allowed for the system to roll on and off the set with minimal connections. Taking no more than approximately five minutes, the water screen was set up over the period of a commercial break. The catch trough system was designed to fully drain and be rolled off with out any spills.
Cornacchia comments, “It was our original goal to make this system into a show worthy product and to ensure that we could roll the basin and connect all the hosing in a matter of minutes and be ready to go live without any water hitting the deck. We also compensated for the water modules hanging above the stage and utilized our anti-drip system to ensure that not one drop of water hit the stage floor prior to and after Swift’s performance.”
The seven water models were set at a 36.5-foot trim height which created the 14-foot length water screen. The equipped anti-drip controller system of actuators beveled the 420 nozzles. The unit acts as a sump-style processing system catching any potential drip mishaps and drains the excess water back down to the main basin below the stage. “In creating the touring model of this system, our engineers and designers really focused on additional layers of protection,” explains Cornacchia.
The special effects crew working on the set consisted of crew chief Bob Ross, lead technician for Aqua Visual FX Robert Pratl, Aqua Visual FX programmer Dan Tom, and head pyrotechnician Mick McGuire. As setup and rehearsals commenced, the Taylor Swift camp didn’t expect much more then a rain curtain effect. LD Robert Dickinson worked with Cornacchia to create a white wash to illuminate the water. The water was programmed to fall in the shape of words that spelled out specific lyric cues, synchronized precisely with Swifts vocals.
After witnessing Taylor Swift’s performance it is difficult to tell who was more stunned—Taylor or the audience who gave a standing ovation. Cornacchia notes, “It never gets old seeing people’s expression to the screen—They are thinking, ‘Is that water, projection, a lighting effect…?’ It’s always worth a good laugh.” Stage manager Garry Hood commented upon completion of the show, “This was the slickest and best system I’ve ever seen—it is going to be a huge hit.”
Additional acts in which Pyrotek implemented designs included; a rose petal look during Sugarland’s performance of “All I Want To Do,” as well as a 30-second 20-foot gerb waterfall for vocalist Miranda Lambert who performed her hit song “Gun Powder & Lead.” The effect ran off two angled truss pieces, one from off stage left the other from off stage right leavening an opening for the centered upstage video wall.