Universal Studios, Los Angeles, is home to the Universal Amphitheater, theme park, and a retail and restaurants entertainment area called “CityWalk”.  CityWalk opened in 1993, and in 2011 underwent a huge renovation that incorporated new lighting and interactivity for the entertainment complex.  Lightswitch, San Francisco was commissioned to enhance the environment with new, state of the art lighting, while Control Freak Systems created custom interfaces that would allow for the lighting, video, and attendees to interact.


CityWalk is an outdoor environment which remains open to the public, making it impossible to accomplish any lighting programming during the day (due to ambient light and patrons), and difficult at night as some people remain from the daytime.  The biggest challenge, however, was the fact that, as is possible with ANY installation, construction was running behind schedule and some of the lighting fixtures were not ready to be installed in time for programming.  This is a recipe for disaster, given the fact that the “opening” date had been set and advertised for ages.


Designer Norm Schwab contacted Prelite to make up for these prohibiting factors, as he saw no other way to achieve their goals.  Models were created at Prelite in Novato, CA and the system was shipped, along with Prelite Host Mike Robertson, to Hollywood.  Once Mike and the previz system arrived, the design team was able to keep regular hours, regardless of the presence of the public and sunny California skies.  They continued to work despite the fact that much of the new construction had not been completed and not all of the fixtures were installed.  They had a nice office away from the public with a complete model of the finished design loaded onto the previz machines, which were connected to the programming consoles.  Programming continued throughout the days using the models and systems provided by Prelite, with occasional breaks to get some sun.


A multitude of cues were created and the interactive Control Freak system was put to the test, checking how video and lighting could interact.  Adjustments were made and new ideas borne while the construction continued into the night.


Once the real environment was created, the design team was finally able to see in reality what they had been “living” for the previous weeks.  They were eager to test what they had proven in their Prelite session; it did not take long to realize that everything lined up as planned, and they were right on schedule for the original grand re-opening date. 


Had they not utilized the previz technology, and the modelling expertise offered by Prelite, they may not have made their target date, or perhaps it would have been unspectacular.


Event at CityWalk:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zasLZQM2DA

Screen capture of previz system: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0ElpBvixek