In terms of area, this may be the largest production ever done at Prelite. It’s the perfect “candidate” for previz: a massive outdoor spectacular such as this has no “main curtain” to keep its inter-workings concealed from the public, thus making it impossible to sustain the “wow” factor. In addition, the lighting fixtures on the bridge were unable to remain there longer than the four days allocated for load-in, final focus, the show itself, and load-out. And finally, FAA approval for these big, bright lighting fixtures from Syncrolite was its own struggle, so it very well may have been impossible to use these lights in the manner necessary to create such a show.
Being aware of all of these factors in advance, Don Richards of FogHorn Creative and Lighting Designer Norm Schwab contacted Prelite. The show consisted of 75 Syncrolite 7k’s, a 1.7 mile long bridge, a slow-moving barge, a 9’ mirror ball, and about 25 square miles of landscape. After running some tests on different software suites, it was determined that WYSIWYG would be the best option for this endeavor, given the requirements.
There was very little room for error as the team had one night of darkness prior to the show to focus, test and tweak any of the cueing. The model was built using mainly objects and terrain downloaded from Google Earth and Sketchup’s 3D Warehouse. Both sources provided a good starting point file-wise for the WYSIWYG visualizer file. Not only was the bridge, Alcatraz, and the Marin Headlands part of the file, but other local attractions such as Coit Tower, Chrissy Field, and The San Francisco Yacht Club served as good camera (POV) locations during the previz session.
Syncrolite sent one of the fixtures to Prelite so orientation and functionality could be verified over the 5 day previz period. During that period, Norm and Mark Gilmour (Assistant LD) worked with Eric Docktor (GrandMA programmer) to create the lighting focuses and looks and to sequence the cueing with the soundtrack that would be played on a local FM radio station. Don Richards was very involved, keeping the music updated and offering fresh creative vision. By the time they left at the end of the week, they had a completed cue sequence with SMPT time code matching the length of entire soundtrack.
Once on site, after a systems check and focus update on the bridge, it was time to test the cueing. There were two rehearsals, neither of which had pyro, of course. The show lasted for approximately 18 minutes, so unless you were outside watching the lights dance during the 36 minutes of the rehearsal time, the things they did, coupled with the enormous fireworks display was a surprise the night of the show. Maintaining the secrecy of the event to this degree had been more difficult, and impossible depending on how far into the past you want to compare.
And when it all came together, lights, sound, and pyro, it was truly something that no one had ever before seen.