Each year, the Trans Siberian Orchestra (TSO) brings something new to the table, and this year was no different. Pyrotechnical effects designer Doug Adams works very closely with TSO founder Paul O'Neill and long-time friend and lighting designer Bryan Hartley. Pyrotek Special Effects and its sister company Laser Design Productions enhance the show with a range of lasers, flames, and new innovative effects. “Talks of new designs and proposals start literally after the completion of each year’s tour,” comments Adams. The new gas effect called the “Fire Screen” is manufactured by the engineers and designers at Pyrotek. The screen is a modular programmable pixel-based unit, which presents the ability to control various propane flame effects from high to moderate speeds. The fire-screen systems give users the capability of shooting a lazy flame bar or fire jets which, when in an all-on cue, can create a wall of fire up to eight feet tall. As well, the system can integrate various-sized fireballs and flame columns. The screens can be custom-built and programmed to integrate various chase sequences and flame effects into all types of scenarios.
Recently, TSO used over 18 modules per tour leg, equating to 72 feet of fire screen. “This year’s biggest challenge was definitely the incorporation of the Fire Screen”, Adams notes. “We were trying to work out some of the bugs that presented a bit of a learning curve throughout the ten days of rehearsals. A primary focus was to try and keep the Fire Screens as close to the artist and audience as possible while doing it safely and retaining the impact.” Hosing, cabling, and priming were some of the original concerns Adams anticipated. “A challenging aspect to the placement was flying the modules,” he explains. “The Fire Screen at specific points is situated on the truss squares at a height of six feet. It would be raised and lowered up to a trim of 20 feet on the upstage.”
After working out the set-up, the following challenge was programming the designs. “The original code that was used for programming was very time-consuming,” he notes. Not being able to provide the versatility Adams was hoping for, the company brought in a Road Hog console that they relied on as an interface between protocols. “Lighting programmer Nick Militello truly stepped up and helped us with the programming of the Road Hog,” Adams says. It allowed them to operate the screen as a lighting fixture, with chases, sequences, and matrixes that allowed Adams to program essentially anything they wanted the Fire Screen to do. The new element of the Fire Screen covered the whole stage in the acts “Prelude to Madness,” “Carmina Burana,” and in the final bows.
This year’s show also included a beefed-up finale with a great deal of more airburst, comets, and mines. As well, Adams designed a spectacular S-style gerb-chase that had ninety-six 1X30 gerbs (1 second gerbX30 feet tall) detonate in three seconds for the act of Sarajevo.
With a youthful smile on his face, Adams commented how he still enjoys the ability of putting together a fantastic no holds bar design. “It’s fantastic to have carte blanche to simply go nuts with the effects”, he stated. “You truly have to tip your hat to Elliot Saltzman (Tour Director), Patrick Whitley (Production Manager) and all those involved in the tour that are doing at least eight shows a week on each coast which sometimes include two shows in a day. You must truly have your ducks in a row and be thinking of load-in, load-outs and reloads of the effects. That’s where Patrick Whitley came in and he’s excellent with helping the crews with the structure so it would be very fast for the allotted time we have to make it all happen”.
West Coast Pyro Crew:
Pyro Shooter / Crew Chief: Keith Maxwell
Pyro Tech #2: Clint Ranse
Pyro Tech #3: Ray Seymour
Pyro Tech #4: Hans Lundberg
Pyro Tech #5: Noam Sigal
EFX Tech: Kenn Macdonald
East Coast Pyro Crew:
Pyro Shooter / Crew Chief: Tristan Ford
Pyro Tech #2: Nick Zangari
Pyro Tech #3: Jan Sanderse
Pyro Tech #4: Danny Silvestri
Pyro Tech #5: Allen “Al” Domanski
EFX Tech: Simon Brierley
Laser Design Productions added a more diversified full-color look with the addition of two air-cooled 10-watt full-color diode lasers for this year’s TSO tour. Designing the lasers for TSO, Doug Adams worked with East Coast laser crew chief and programmer Jason McEachern. The stage set includes the 10-watt full-color diode laser at the center upstage area with a second located at front-of-house. Additionally, they included four 5-watt DPSS KTP NdYag lasers positioned stage left and stage right.
“There are more than a couple hundred laser cues alone throughout the shows,” notes Adams. “Adding the 10-watt diode lasers at front-of-house shooting towards the stage provided looks that added much more fullness. The front-of-house diode laser system allowed us to create a 360-degree surrounding feel engulfing the spectators on the floor level.” An additional 60 bounce mirrors were positioned on the stage floor and trussing creating various beam matrixes and scan looks. A combination of laser looks are emitted from custom-built projectors, scanners, and macchida effects resembling a spider web cascading over the audience.
Adams explains, “The upcoming advancements we now have at our disposal allows us to fundamentally work with new looks for each stage design we work on whether classic, in the round, stadiums, or amphitheatres; it’s the ability to provide a new opportunity to create an impact.”
Laser Equipment List:
Two 10 watt Full Color DPSS/Diode Laser (Center Stage & FOH)
Four 5 watt DPSS KTP NdYag laser
Six LDP 10 Projectors
60 Bounce Mirrors
Pangolin Control Software
East Coast Laser Crew:
Laser / Crew Chief: Jason McEachern
Laser Tech: Jason Bridges
West Coast Laser Crew:
Laser / Crew Chief: Gordie Hum
Laser Tech: Brian Van Trigt