Given that my eyes and ears had just been inundated two-plus hours by a plethora of unique images and sounds during the course of Celine Dion's new Las Vegas extravaganza, a simple text scroll rolling down a giant LED screen seemed almost quaint. And yet, those graphics got my attention.
Why? Because the text listed the show's full credits, just like a feature film. That's when it hit me: I had just witnessed a true multimedia show in a theatrical setting, at the Colosseum at Caesar's Palace. Dion's A New Day is not a “concert,” nor a “theatrical presentation,” nor a “Vegas show.” Rather, it's a hybrid, combining elements and approaches from all manner of live and packaged events and presentations.
At the center of it all was Mitsubishi Diamond Vision's gigantic LED screen, which served as far more than a backdrop or a conduit for cool IMAG. Instead, the much-ballyhooed screen debuted as a virtual, constantly changing set piece and an important lighting instrument, thematically wound into the fabric of the show's creative essence. As such, it's an important development in the staging world, which is why we've devoted considerable space to detailing the show as a whole, and the LED presentation, in particular, in this issue's cover story by Stephen Porter. (See page 34.)
But Dion's show, of course, is a high-budget, Vegas affair, and Mitsubishi produced, over many months, a custom-engineered LED solution unique to her needs, including a door in the screen for Dion to walk through from backstage. What, therefore, does all this mean for the staging world, generally, including the touring market? According to Bill DuLaney, Diamond Vision's national sales manager, the success of the Colosseum screen has, potentially, huge implications.
“Since the show opened, we have received numerous inquiries about building and incorporating such screens into other types of shows,” says DuLaney. “We've had requests about unique designs, curvatures, different aspect ratio sizes — portrait size, and so on. Some of that interest has been from various theaters and shows, and some has come from the touring market.”
DuLaney suggests the modular design and construction of even Dion's gigantic LED screen has great potential to translate into the touring world for those looking to go beyond, in DuLaney's words, “passive LED.”
“Even this screen [at the Colosseum theater] is modular and was designed specifically so that it could be deconstructed and then repurposed in some other way when this show finally runs its course,” he says. “Generally, for touring shows, LED screens are passive — they show replays or enhancements or IMAG. This show demonstrates they can be active participants — interactive with the performers and sets, and can be used creatively to create moods and synch with music. The extensive use of 3D imagery in this show, for instance, is something that rock tours would be interested in. The ability to make digital scene changes and spend less on physical sets and props is something that is most attractive.”
At press time, DuLaney expected Mitsubishi to be able to announce in about 60 days new contracts to build special LED screens for both fixed venues and touring shows in the Dion model. He doesn't necessarily visualize this sort of thing becoming commonplace because such applications would often have to be custom-engineered, and therefore not available through traditional rental channels, nor cheap.
But for major acts, he sees active LED screens standing poised to infiltrate the staging industry and move LED technology far beyond traditional applications.