Howard Ungerleider of Production Design International (PDI) discusses lasers and special effects for Star Wars: In Concert
No live show based on Star Wars material would be complete without over-the-top special effects. Howard Ungerleider of Production Design International (PDI) consulted on lasers and pyro, complete with a blast of eight cryo cannons accompanying the sound effect of Darth Vader’s chilling mechanical breathing to intro “The Imperial March.”
Two high-power green YAG laser systems and three additional green DPSS YAG laser systems, each with 11 positions, crisscross the arena for various segments. “The big issue when using lasers is not to use them just to use them,” says Ungerleider. “Not a lot of systems can compete with that huge screen, so we have 60W high-power lasers because they cut though anything. The positioning and placement is in and around the audience to surround the room and bring the audience into the movie, when needed, and to enhance the experience, not dominate it.”
Control of the laser system is via Pangolin software, and all cues are manually triggered by lead laserist/designer Scott Wilson of PDI. “Scott has a great vision, and he worked with Seth and Steve to create the actual looks,” says Ungerleider. AJ Seabeck is the laser safety officer. The pyro system, provided by PDI partner High Tech FX (Brian Panther), includes six active flame effects built into the stage decks by All Access. James Beardmore is the pyrotechnician.
“Steve Cohen is one of the best designers I’ve worked with for timing and color, so to be able to work with him and Seth was a great experience,” says Ungerleider. “We could only get the best result.”