When lighting directors Jim Chapman and Benny Kirkham went on the road with Aerosmith's Rockin' the Joint tour, PRG was there to solve their technical dilemmas. The pair created a cue intensive show based on Michael Keeling’s original design that required two operators, but they didn't like arbitrarily splitting the system between two consoles. Instead, they each wanted their console to control all the parameters of all of the lights. Unfortunately, there wasn't a console on the market that would allow that specific kind of dual operation.
That's when the software designers at PRG's Research and Development Department in Dallas, TX, stepped in to make their vision a practical reality. "Much of the new software for Virtuoso® was already in development, but when Benny and Jim came in they had some specific needs that we were able to accommodate," explains PRG systems engineer Mike Snyder. The resulting software has taken lighting console technology to the next level. "No one has tried this on any board," notes Kirkham. "The way we have it now with full access, Jim can control part of a light, and I can control another part of the light, and we can shift during a cue - it gives real breadth to the system," he adds. Essentially, Chapman's and Kirkham's separate consoles act as one.
Aerosmith has a reputation for intricate shows, and the current production is no exception. "The new software on the Virtuoso allows us to put in more cues and add in more things, so you get a nicer light show," remarks Chapman. In fact, the pair controls over 250 lighting instruments, including 38 Martin MAC 2000 washes, 34 MAC 2000 profiles, 6 Vari-Lite VL3000 profiles and 31 Atomic Color Strobes. With both men trigging cues during the show, the complexity is unbelievable. "I'm not sure you could trigger a show that has as many cues as we've got even using something like SMPTE," notes Kirkham.
"The new software makes the Virtuoso much more versatile when it comes to playback. It allows fader action for triggering a full parameter cue. It also allows flash button and swap button control of playback cues with full parameters. By making buttons more powerful and more versatile, you can use them for more things," Kirkham notes. Of course, that's not the only new feature written into the Virtuoso's software. "The add/kill/swap is one of my favorite features, and moving the bump button down closer to the faders makes it physically easer for me to use. I run the board very hard, and it can take the beating I'm giving it," adds Chapman.
The new software has other features as well. "There are some new data display features in how status and data is presented as well, and support for external trackballs," notes Snyder. The software also includes hand held remote support, as well as a version of the console software that will run on a Macintosh without additional hardware.
Not only do Chapman and Kirkham now have a console that fits their specific needs, but they also have PRG's support behind it. "We've had people backing us up and supporting us when we've asked for certain things. PRG's service on the road is unbelievable," Chapman asserts.