Two days before tee off at the 37th Ryder Cup at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, KY, a black-tie gala was held on September 17 in the 2,400-seat Whitney Hall at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. With production services provided by the New Jersey office of NMR Staging and Events, guests were surprised by an appearance by legendary golfer Samuel Ryder, brought back to life via the Musion® Eyeliner System of holographic images that took the guests by surprise. A performance by country music superstar Carrie Underwood, plus dinner and dancing in a large tent to the band Head Over Heels, rounded out the evening.

Held every other year, and every fourth year in the US, the Ryder Cup is one of pro-golf's most prestigious events, with matches between two teams of 12 golfers each — one team from Europe and one from the US — produced by the PGA of America and of Europe. “This was the third Ryder Cup gala we did,” says Ed Conrad, executive director of staging and events for NMR worldwide. “We started doing site surveys in Louisville over two years ago and liked Whitney Hall. It has ample rigging, a good fly system, and is centrally located to the team hotels. It can also handle big-name artists, with ample dressing rooms.”

The first challenge for Conrad was finding an interesting way to reveal the golfers to the audience. “I had thought about a hologram but couldn't find the right technology,” he notes. “Then the president of our company came across the Musion Eyeliner system from Digital Illusions in Cleveland, and I went to see it with Mallory Crosland, a senior producer for PGA broadcasting. The technology blew us away, and we decided to incorporate it for the event.”

Now You See Him

The Eyeliner holographic technology was used to put Sam Ryder, who died in 1936, on stage. “We went to Los Angeles and hired an actor to play Sam Ryder and tell the audience how the Cup came about,” Conrad explains. “The system is so real that it looked like the actor was actually live on stage, so we put in some visual tricks, like a golf ball coming straight at the audience, plus a virtual flag and the Ryder Cup trophy morphing on the screen.” Ryder also appeared and disappeared from one side of the stage to the other and sat in a holographic chair at one point, putting the technology through its paces. Ann DeVilbiss, creative director and owner of Digital Illusions, a reseller of the Musion Eyeliner System in the United States, developed the content along with Conrad and the PGA.

In fact, the Musion “screen” is a type of foil that is stretched tightly and, essentially, cannot be seen. “It's very dependent on good lighting control,” says Conrad. “You don't want to reveal the screen so you have to be careful with your backlighting and washes.” A rig of conventional and automated fixtures was hung from the existing grid in the theatre. An additional truss was flown in for two Barco FLM HD18 projectors directly over the Musion screen driven by Grass Valley Turbo ISSR playback devices. “The Barcos were double-stacked and pointing straight down onto a 16'×9' RP surface parallel to the stage. We then rotated the Musion foil facing the other direction, offset 45° to the screen,” says Conrad. “The RP screen is usually on the floor, but we flipped the entire system due to the rake of the theatre and other logistical issues. The foil of the Musion screen collects the images via a system based on Pepper's Ghost. The foil has incredible tension making it nearly invisible, adding to the illusion.”

The scenic design for the evening included a central stair unit provided by Pete Guerin of Philadelphia-based Pro Vision Productions. “The set is a custom welded unit of steel tubing, Staging Concepts decks, and Plexiglas®-faced stair unit,” says Guerin, who also provided a 100'×30' Main Light Industries fiber optic drapery backdrop that was upstage of all the scenic elements. A 30'×35' arch of 12“ Tomcat truss was used to hold the Musion screen. “There was too much tension to put it on a pipe batten, so the truss arch was bolted to the back of the stair unit,” notes Conrad. “Chroma Q LED fixtures [from AC Lighting] surrounded the arch, so your eye didn't get a visual clue, but there was a support system for the screen. We didn't want light on the truss but had the fixtures focused out.”

After his scene, the holographic Sam Ryder introduced Dan Hicks from NBC — not a hologram — who in turn introduced the golfers that stood on the stair unit flanked by 10.5'×14' Da-Lite RP screens used to show their career highlights via Barco R12 projectors. Flags from the US and the various European countries represented by the golfers were shown on the hologram screen as the players were introduced. “The actual Ryder Cup trophy was spinning slowly on a downstage platter to remind people why we were there,” adds Conrad.

The lighting for the Whitney Hall section of the evening was designed by Pennsylvania-based freelance lighting designer Dave Schultz. “I laid it all out in [Cast Software] Wysiwyg,” says Schultz, who was primarily concerned that the audience couldn't see the frame for the foil screen. By using the Robe 700 spots above in a deep blue and the fiber-optic curtain background, he was able to create the proper light levels, “as bright as possible without showing the foil and not shining through the hologram,” he notes. The rig was designed so that Carrie Underwood's lighting director Brian Jenkins (who works with Seth Jackson, the artist's lighting designer for her current tour) could come in the day of the concert and create his looks. Mirash Lekaj assisted with the lighting in Whitney Hall and designed the lighting for the tent.

Sound Choices

Lou Castellucci, director of audio services for NMR, served as audio engineer, while Mitch Grant, of Oceanside, CA-based Special Event Audio Services, was the audio systems engineer for the gala. The audio design for Whitney Hall featured the DiGiCo CS-D5 digital console, allowing the production to manage 24 inputs of video, myriad wireless mics, recording/playback functions, and outputs for both the live audience and broadcast recording decks. By using Digigram EtherSound technology, Castellucci was able to keep the audio fully digital by sending eight channels of EtherSound out of the console to the Nexo line arrays via Nexo 242 digital processors.

“Since we already owned the EtherSound Cards for the Nexo NX242s, it only made sense to have a digital board that could handle the EtherSound outputs as an option,” Castellucci explains. “DiGiCo, in its forethought, made it available. What it allows me to do is keep my drive-lines from the DiGiCo to all the digital processors and to control all the processors and console via a Dell Precision laptop running Auvitran ESMonitor software — no more having to go out to the racks and change my processor settings manually.”

As Whitney Hall has two balconies, Grant found the Nexo line arrays a good choice. “The height of the space could present problems for even coverage from top to bottom,” he says. “The Nexo line array, even with 18 speakers per side, was not obtrusive or too dominant in the space. They sound much bigger than they look.” As a result, Grant did not need to add fill or delay for the balconies but did use Nexo CD18 subs, four per side. Underwood's FOH engineer, Rob Rankin, brought his own Midas XL4 analog console and ran his outputs into the DiGiCo board so that Castellucci could maintain ultimate control.

Out in the tent, for the dinner/dancing part of the evening, Grant used a different approach. “The challenge, as in any tent, is that you can't fly too much weight from the structure,” he notes. That called for ground stacks of loudspeakers, including Nexo's Alpha E system (two S2 sub woofers, two B1-18 mid-bass speakers, and two Alpha EF per side) plus ground-stacked Geo D line arrays (four per side) as outfills, used with a Yamaha M7CL digital console. “We wanted to make it sound warm and involving but not too overwhelming for the people up close. The Nexo Alpha E speakers excel in that environment,” says Grant.

As for the very different parts of the evening, Grant sums it up by saying, “Two different situations called for two different solutions, but they both worked very well.” Not only was the event a success in terms of design, but it also served as a lucky charm for the entire US team. Maybe having Sam Ryder on their side brought some extra magic. The US celebrated its first Ryder Cup victory since 1999, making it a historic occasion in more ways than one.

GEAR LIST

WHITNEY HALL SOUND SYSTEM

DiGiCo D5 Console running Digigram EtherSound

Nexo Geo D Line array PA (18 per side)

QSC PL 6.0 Amplifiers

Nexo CD18 Subs (four per side)

Shure UHF-R wireless with KSM9 Capsule

360 Systems Shortcut Personal Audio Editor

RDL SPDIF/AES Converters

Nexo NX242 signal processing via Digigram EtherSound, with Auvitran card in DiGiCo console

WHITNEY HALL VIDEO

8 Grass Valley Turbo iDDR Turbo

2 Folsom Screen Pro II HD SDI

1 Folsom Encore SC Controller

2 Folsom Image Pro HD SDI

Sony DigiBeta Playback Decks

Sony Beta 2800 Record Decks

Sony HDDV Record Decks

2 Barco FLM HD-18 (For Hologram)

4 Barco SLM R-12+ (for I-Mag screens)

Da-Lite 10.5'×14' RP Screens

Da-Lite 1639'× 9' RP Screen

WHITNEY HALL LIGHTING

1 High End Systems Wholehog 3

1 Hog 3 PC for Backup

6 Robe ColorSpot 1200E AT

10 Robe ColorWash 1200E AT

16 Robe ColorSpot 700

10 Vari-Lite VL3500 Wash

2 Vari-Lite VL3000 Wash

8 Vari-Lite VL2000

4 Vari-Lite VL1000 TSD

40 AC Lighting Chroma-Q ColorBlock DB4

8 ETC Source Four 26° Ellipsoidals

18 ETC Source Four 50° Ellipsoidals

4 ETC Source Four 50° Ellipsoidals with SeaChanger Color Engine

48 Berkey Colortran 12° Ellipsoidals

18 Berkey Colortran Ellipsoidals

14 ETC PAR Wide Flood

44 ETC PAR Medium Flood

16 Strand Lighting 2kW Fresnels

2 James Thomas Engineering PAR36 9-Lite

1 Main Light 100'×30' Fiber Optic Drapery

TENT SOUND SYSTEM

Yamaha M7CL console

Nexo Alpha E speaker system per side:
2 S2 subwoofers
2 B118 mid-bass speakers
2 Alpha EF

Yamaha amps (T5N and T3N)

Nexo Geo D line arrays (4 per side)

Radian Micro Wedge stage monitors

TENT LIGHTING

1 Jands Vista T2 Console

3 ETC 48 Sensor+ Dimmer Rack

12 High End Systems 250 Studio Spot

20 AC Lighting Chroma-Q ColorSplit

20 AC Lighting Chroma-Q ColorBlock

34 ETC Source Four 36° Ellipsoidals

30 ETC Source Four 26° Ellipsoidals

24 ETC Source Four PAR Six-Circuit Lamp Bars

94 ETC Source Four PAR Up Lights

145 Pin Spots

CREDITS

Ed Conrad, Technical Director/Producer

Mallory Crosland, PGA Senior Producer

Hope Walker, PGA

Lou Castellucci, Audio Engineer

Mitch Grant, Audio System Engineer

Dave Schultz, Lighting Designer

John Frazee, Master Electrician

Mirash Lekaj, Assistant for Lighting, Whitney Hall, and Tent Lighting Designer

Larry Lenoff, Chief Video Engineer

Duane Wright, Video Engineer

Charles Luyt, Video Engineer

Mike DeMers, Video Engineer

Eric Rothchild, Camera Op

Orrin Hogan, Graphic Artist

Ann DeVilbiss, Creative Director/Digital Illusions

Hal Basset, Digital Illusions Technical Director

Mark Hanna, Digital Illusions Engineer

Pete Guerin, Scenic Designer/Provision

Devin Williams, Master Carpenter

Jason Ertwine, Carpenter

Mark Hoffman, Scenic Carpenter

Dean Wickham, Technical Drawings

Peter Bell, Head Carpenter, Kentucky Center

Terry Schwartz, Lighting Director Kentucky Center

Mickey Holden, Holden Production Group/Content

Producer (Outboard Screens)