The New York Rangers management had a simple request for its 2001 season opener: Do something that no one has ever seen. “The Rangers have market research showing that people expect a big spectacle at games, especially openers,” says lighting director Patrick Dierson.

After September 11, Rangers management wanted the October 7 home opener to pay tribute to the New York City Police and Fire Departments and Ground Zero recovery workers. With this in mind, Dierson found the Catalyst, an innovative new video image processing system then in prototype from High End Systems (Austin, TX). He immediately saw the product's potential for incorporating moving video images with his lighting design.

Dierson's original design called for 26 Catalyst units. Unfortunately, he says, High End “didn't feel it would have that many production units finished in time.” In fact, the company had one available unit; the others were caught in customs, returning from the PLASA show in London, where the Catalyst was launched. So one it was. Even then, “that one unit was released the week of our load-in,” laughs Dierson.

Dierson rented the Catalyst unit and projector system from MB Productions of Fairfield, NJ. In doing so, he became the first-ever user of the new technology.

For the season opener, Dierson loaded 20 30-second video clips into the Catalyst. (The unit's Apple G4 computer stores the video as QuickTime files.) He coupled the Catalyst with a Digital Projection 15sx Lightning DLP projector. “The Lightning has an amazing output of 12,000 ANSI lumens, which allowed me the punch that I needed for such a large image,” says the Dierson. “I lensed the Lightning to throw an image from blue line to blue line on the ice, which is approximately 54-feet wide. The images look great on the ice and compare very well with the automated fixtures shooting from the scoreboard.”

Much of Dierson's work was reserved for the second intermission, where he designed looks featuring scenes of New York City; a flying American flag; red, white, and blue color washes; and hundreds of white stars, all of which could be moved around the building. “This is a whole new way of incorporating video into lighting design,” he says.

Dierson also upgraded the Garden's automated fixture package and control system, which now includes 10 Clay Paky Stage Zoom 1200s and two Martin MAC 2000s. In addition, Dierson wanted a controller that any operator could run easily, so he chose a grandMA light from MA Lighting. “I also needed looks for each team using the Garden, including the Rangers, the Knicks, the Liberty, and St. John's Red Storm,” he says. “I use 20 instant access buttons and 10 playback faders per page, for a total of 30 looks.”

For the Rangers' season opener, Dierson brought in a full grandMA console to run the rental package and to control the house grandMA light; he also added 40 Stage Zoom 1200s and 40 Stage Color 1200s from Clay Paky. “I really like the Clay Paky fixtures,” says Dierson. “They have features that I get only from them, like repeatability of focus and position.”

“The management was very happy about the lighting and the Catalyst's video imagery,” says Dierson. “With that many spectators, they usually get a handful of complaints, but for this show they only got compliments.”

Michael S. Eddy is the technical editor for Lighting Dimensions and Entertainment Design magazines. Based in New York City, Michael has been involved in the entertainment technology industry for more than 19 years.