BRC has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Ryman Hospitality Properties, the company that owns and operates the Grand Ole Opry, ever since the agency was first brought in a decade ago to reimagine the Opry’s backstage tour after the venue had flooded. Most recently, they masterfully reimagined the Opry’s guest experience both during the day and evening hours.
This latest project had two goals, one emotional and one practical. “They really wanted to have an experience, particularly during their daytime tour, that would emotionally connect guests to the importance of the Opry in the world of country music,” explains Brad Shelton, BRC creative director. “On a practical level, they wanted to take this room that was their old retail space and make it a state-of-the-art, adaptable room that can serve as a theatre during the day and be transformed into a VIP lounge at night.”
The narrative of the tour focuses on the iconic circle. For about 30 years, the Grand Old Opry lived at the Ryman Auditorium, and when it moved to its new home in 1974, the center of the stage was cut out and placed within the stage at the new Opry. “The circle is considered holy ground in country music because anyone who's anyone in the world of country music has stood on that that circle,” notes Shelton. “Garth and Trisha talk about how when you step on it for the first time, it feels like you're on stage with the ghost of the people who have performed there before.”
The resulting backstage tour immerses guests within a concert-like environment: a custom 23.1 surround sound system, designed by Joe Wilbur of TechMDinc. with JBL Professional and Clair Brothers loudspeakers and subwoofers, envelops the audience in David Kneupper’s custom score; a versatile lighting design by NYX Design elevates each emotional moment; and media projected onto string curtains from Rose Brand brings the Opry stage to life.
For several months, BRC searched for the ideal non-traditional projection surface. The translucent string drapes provide a crisp, clear image and were specifically coated with a silver spray to reflect more light back to the audience. “This provided us an optimum surface on which we could project full images that still allowed light and beam to pass through, giving a holographic quality to the projections of Garth and Trisha,” explains Edward Hodge, creative technical director at BRC. Reminiscent of fringe, a favored accent of country music stars, the string drapes also help decorate the nighttime VIP lounge space, which similarly boasts 13 leaded crystal chandeliers on motors.
Each piece of content features motion graphic treatments. When guests enter the Circle Room, the walls are lined with what appear to be photographs from Opry performances. Using a combination of Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro, motion graphics then transform the images on the side screens into additional homes for the media. A Panasonic PT-RZ21K projector brings the main drape to life, while Panasonic PT-RZ120BLU projectors handle the smaller inset drapes, all fed by a four-channel SDI 7th Sense Infinity media server. The side screens, Samsung Commercial LCD displays, are fed by five Blackmagic Design HyperDeck Studio Mini players.
“To ensure that the local staff can monitor show quality, all video content routes through a Blackmagic multi-view switch so that each feed can be independently verified,” adds Hodge. In the lobby, a custom programmed SEDNA digital signage system feeds the Christie Digital LED wall. “This gives us all the options of digital signage with the benefit of a fully synced multi-screen playback for daytime operations.”
NYX designed a versatile lighting rig within the Circle Room to accommodates all the moods of the tour’s storytelling. “One of the challenges of the lighting system is that the room actually starts at the back of the house at 30 feet, and it goes down towards the front of the stage all the way down to 12 feet, which means that, we need to make sure that the lighting is scaled accordingly,” says Hodge.
Clearwing Systems Integration supplied the lighting package of nearly 400 fixtures, which features a total of 288 GLP lighting fixtures, including 132 custom RGB pixel nodes, 60 X4 Atoms, 40 impression FR1s, 26 KNV Cubes, 22 impression X4 Bar 10s, and eight KNV Arcs. “We ended up using the GLP Atoms instead of traditional house lights so that we could have full color in the house light package so that the audience never feels like they are watching a film of the show but that they are actually at the show,” he adds. The rig also comprises 34 ETC Irideon FPZ units, 18 ETC Series 2 Source Four LED Lustr+ fixtures, and 21 Claypaky Axcor Spot 300s as well as LED tape from Apollo and City Theatrical and Enttec pixel tape.
Josh Selander programmed over 350 lighting cues on an ETC Eos lighting console. “This small intimate space has over 45,000 desk channels, and thanks to Josh and our friends at ETC who built us a custom Eos rack mount system, we were able to craft organic, crisp lighting sequences,” states Hodge.
MDG designed a multi-head haze system for the theatre. “It creates the longest-lasting, finest particulate, with no smell, which is especially important in these small intimate spaces,” notes the creative technical director. “Our clients require systems that are low maintenance and created for a heavy-duty cycle, and MDG delivered on all fronts.”
Over the past four years, BRC has collaborated with TechMDinc. on a custom QSC Q-SYS-based show control software solution. “Custom code inside the Q-SYS Core manages all systems, creates system logs, cues show moments, and handles all show logic,” explains Hodge. “We also use an Alcorn McBride V16 frame-accurate controller to ensure our timeline-based cues remain perfectly in sync.”
“Edward and I have probably seen the show a hundred times,” concludes Shelton, “and I've yet to see it without audience members walking out in tears because there's this emotional connection that they have with the Opry, and we’re so honored to help highlight that.”