grandMA3 Software Provides Control For Carrie Underwood’s Residency At Resorts World Las Vegas

Multi-Grammy Award-winner Carrie Underwood debuted her first Las Vegas residency, “REFLECTION,” in December at the new Resorts World Theatre where lead lighting designer and creative producer Nick Whitehouse and joint lighting designer Brian Vaughan used the grandMA3 software to control the lighting. ACT Entertainment is the exclusive distributor of MA Lighting products in North America.

Underwood’s career-spanning, hit-filled show, featuring her eight-piece band, aerialists, dancers, and a virtual orchestra, opened the new 5,000-seat theater at Resorts World Las Vegas. Among the spectacular moments on the 13,550-foot stage were a hall of mirrors, a car which descended from the rafters and was set ablaze, and a grand finale surrounded by waterfalls. Underwood has sold more than 66 million records worldwide and garnered 7 GRAMMY® Awards and 15 Academy of Country Music Awards (including three for Entertainer of the Year) to name a few.

The show marked the first production on which Whitehouse, who is CEO/CCO of Fireplay in Nashville, used grandMA3 with grandMA3 software. “REFLECTION” is one of a growing number of shows taking advantage of the all-grandMA3 hardware/software configuration.

“We’ve had a great relationship with MA Lighting and ACT over the years and decided to try running grandMA3 software for Carrie’s residency,” Whitehouse says.  “ACT gave us a lot of support to get us to a place where we were really happy with the software.” Whitehouse and Vaughan, who is Fireplay’s Director of Lighting, designed Underwood’s 2019 The Cry Pretty Tour 360 arena tour and many of her broadcast performances during the pandemic.

“This was a really big show filled with set pieces, video and other visual elements,” Whitehouse notes. “There’s not an inch in the grid that’s not used for lighting, automation or scenic.  For this show, we used a lot of big rock ’n roll beam-style looks. We based our cues on the music and video environments to accent and make the lighting feel like an extension of what’s happening on stage.”

Whitehouse and Vaughan both had grandMA3 systems at home for the previs. Their consoles were connected by Just Industries’ the.BRIDGE, a secured peer-to-peer VPN solution, which is also distributed by ACT Entertainment.

“I was in California with a new baby, and Nick was in Nashville so the.BRIDGE enabled me to be live in session with Nick and the team,” explains Brian Vaughan.  “In another first, we used Unreal Engine with the Carbon plug-in to build the entire stage in previs so Carrie could see the lighting, video and automation.  Carbon gave us full support of grandMA’s viz-key connectivity so we didn’t need a rack of processors in previs.”

The grandMA3 with Unreal and Carbon also helped smooth the period from previs to rehearsals.  “Instead of loading a duplicate rig in Nashville, we did everything virtually to feed the consoles and big screen,” says Whitehouse.

Vaughan worked with the theater team to integrate the rig with the house lighting, and he and Whitehouse partnered with Nate Cromwell, Underwood’s tour lighting designer and director, to program the show.  Cromwell programmed BlackTrax real-time tracking into the show and operated the grandMA3 system, which featured active and backup full-size grandMA3s and two grandMA3 processors.

“All the improvements that come with grandMA3 are really positive,” notes Whitehouse. “I was pleasantly surprised by how everything just worked – I don’t think I’d go back to grandMA2.”

He says, “The grandMA3’s phaser side allowed us to do some really cool chases and moves not possible with the old software. The layout of time code and markers makes it really easy to follow along when you’re programming. The user interface layout is also much nicer and customizable for whatever you need to do.”

Vaughan likes the way the console handles and says the grandMA3 “takes multi instance fixtures to the next level – a much needed improvement.” He also cites the customization possibilities with the grandMA3. “You can make the console your own.  You can make it fit you and your show.”

Whitehouse emphasizes that because of the new hardware and software “ACT’s 24-hour support was invaluable to us. They went out of their way to make sure we were fully supported.”

Nate Cromwell took advantage of the “educational software and online tools to help me learn grandMA3 quickly. They really made it possible for me to jump from grandMA2 to grandMA3, a very powerful platform.

“Take a house like Fireplay and a powerful console like grandMA3 and the result will be a gorgeous and breathtaking show!” Cromwell declares.