Since 2001, Prelite NY has been providing lighting designer David Agress with previsualization support services for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular productions outside New York. So it only made sense that this year, when Agress was invited to design the New York production, The Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, he would call in their services. Agress, along with programmer Cory FitzGerald, worked closely with Rodd McLaughlin of Prelite NY, who was able to build a 3D model of the Music Hall that included the large new LED screen added to the show this year. McLaughlin even gave Agress and FitzGerald digital Rockettes.
The digital Rockettes were invaluable to the design process because this year Radio City added “The 12 Days of Christmas,” an elaborate production number that had previously only been seen in the road shows. “Using Prelite was ideal for the “12 Days” number because the Rockettes are choreographed into over 17 different, specific formations for the number and we wanted to have a jump on those. When the Music Hall goes into tech-mode there is no stopping,” explains FitzGerald, “We used the Prelite OnSite rig with the figures that Rodd had built in various formations based on the choreography layout so that we could do the focus points and have the cueing structure all done and when we actually got onstage with the fixtures all that was needed was updating focus points, which made it very, very fast through the tech process. That number can take up to two days to tech and we did it in about five hours.”
Agress was equally impressed, “We could do basic, raw focus, which turned out to be so precise that we literally finished the whole number in four and a half hours. It put us ahead the first day on the stage and we never looked back. We did the whole Christmas show without an hour of overtime. I started working with Cory the day of load-in, so we had about five or six days onsite before the cast came in. We worked while the show was loading in. During that time, we pre-lit 12 Days. We found it so accurate that when the cast came onstage it was dead on to the point where we were fixing the spills on legs. You would turn on the system and when the leg came in there was the spill exactly as it was on the screen. It was really impressive.”
Besides “12 Days,” Agress and FitzGerald used the idea of the digital Rockettes to set other focus positions. Agress explains, “We built a line of Rockettes that was wall to wall and we had the ability to move them up and downstage. We also made maps of the Rockettes, every two feet up and downstage to be able to pull that focus up any time we needed it, just as a quick backdoor for lighting. We focused downlights, crosslights, top, and back at each position all up and down the stage. We had so many focus positions at our disposal that we made a quick use of time.”
Time savings have long been a key factor of using either the studio services or the OnSite rigs of the New York and San Francisco Prelite Studios. While the time savings are the main factor for Agress wanting to use Prelite, he also sees a huge secondary benefit. “We knew that adding two new numbers and retouching the entire show was going to take a lot of time; and we had quite an agenda of what we wanted to do. Because of Prelite we got that time right at the beginning. We did everything on our list and we had time to spare. We touched every number in the show. Obviously, one of the key benefits of using Prelite is the time savings, but besides saving time, you avoid the pressure and there is nothing worse than working under pressure. There is nothing like going into first tech with something in the board. Just for that relief of mind, it was worth it. With Prelite I am saving time for the company; saving pressure for myself. The time we were given to work with the cast, we spent making the show look good instead of doing the endless housekeeping chores that have to be done first.”As well as supporting this year’s Music Hall home production, Prelite NY was also pleased to once again provide its services for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular productions outside New York. In addition to its eight week run at Radio City, the show was also seen this year in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Nashville, and Toronto. Agress’ Radio City schedule—while tight—did allow him to continue as the lighting designer for the road shows with Paul Turner returning as the lead programmer for all of the shows. Because of Agress’ commitment to the New York show, Turner was the lighting director for this year’s newly added Toronto show.