Just a little over a month after Harrah's New Orleans Casino opened its Masquerade lounge in July 2005, Hurricane Katrina roared through the Big Easy. Located on the edge of the French Quarter, Harrah's was spared the extensive type of damage incurred by much of the city, and the wind damage to the exterior was pretty much superficial. Yet, in spite of all the problems it did encounter, Harrah's in New Orleans was able to reopen last February in time for Mardi Gras.

In Biloxi, Mississippi, where Katrina also caused serious devastation, some of the casinos, such as the Imperial Palace and the Isle of Capri, were open by last December. But Harrah's Grand Biloxi Casino Hotel was wiped out and didn't reopen until August 2006, with a temporary casino operating in undamaged parts of the hotel, as its Gulf-facing side was completely destroyed, and the property was razed for future development. Others, such as the Hard Rock, a new property slated to open just about the time the high winds and floodwaters of Katrina hit, have still not been renovated.

“One issue with Masquerade was the personnel, with most of the tech crew moving elsewhere due to lack of work and housing,” notes Jon Langrell of John Levy Lighting Productions (JLLP) in Los Angeles.” The casino closed down the Friday before the storm so the staff could prepare for the storm or evacuate, and the casino could be secured properly. Then they couldn't come back. They had no place to stay.” Langrell served as lighting designer for the Masquerade project, while John Levy served as creative director. “The major obstacle in the case of Harrah's was manpower rather than damage,” Langrell adds.

A year later, the Masquerade lounge is back in business yet with a scaled-back performance schedule. “They no longer do the live shows that were programmed,” says Langrell, who reports that the show systems were dry and not really impacted by the storm. The lounge itself is an octagonal space with a soaring 50' ceiling located in the hub of the casino, where escalators are in place for future expansion that was put on hold after the hurricane. The centerpiece of the space is a 35'-tall acrylic tower outfitted with lighting and projection gear, above a 360∞ stage elevated 10' above the floor, ringed with Faux Fire®, from Technifex, Inc., in Valencia, CA, who built the tower.

Inside the tower are 20 Panasonic PT-D5500U video projectors and 8' vertical RGB LED strips from Orgatech Lighting Systems, while six High End Systems Studio Spot® 250s and six HES Cyberlights sit atop the structure along with additional 3' horizontal sections of LEDs and conventional fixtures including ETC Source Fours in various sizes. “About the room and in the lighting cove are ten Martin Professional MAC 2000s, an additional four Studio Spots and more conventional gear with Source Four zooms with High End Color Merge on them,” says Langrell.

The video productions were produced by JLLP, while the show control systems — designed by JLLP and Edwards Technologies (ETI) in El Segundo, CA — run the daytime mode via time clock and offer manual overrides. All show and AV elements of the room are controlled by a master AMX show control system. A Flying Pig Systems Wholehog 3 (rack-mounted Hog in a box) was built into the show control rack, provided by ETI, while a Wholehog 3 console is in the booth for nightclub mode, for a light jockey to take the room off manual mode. This console is also used for live bands.

“The room was originally designed to offer several varying programming options,” Langrell notes. “During the day, when the room can be used as a lounge and sports bar, the tower acts as a subtle color organ in daytime hues and then presents custom video productions — or ticklers — every 15 minutes. These contain Harrah's branding and the sights and sounds of New Orleans.”

“At night, the lounge takes on more of a nightclub feel with music videos playing on the TV, and the JLLP-produced video programming on the tower is more sexy,” says Langrell. The programming for late night entertainment was originally intended for a series of four live shows with dancers and singers — called Bevertainers — who would also perform solo acts on small stages located around the perimeter of the bar.

For the live shows, currently on hiatus, the singers perform with a click track, where timecode is fed into the Wholehog 3 rack-mount, triggering the average 800 cues per show. “The workhorses of the live programming were the Mac 2000 profiles from upper rail positions and the HES Cyberlights from the tower, serving as back light, truss spots, and patterns,” notes Langrell. The Bevertainers can also step up to one of the small stages, enter their code into the show control touchscreen, and have the show control command the sound and lighting to cut over to the stage for the their performance.

“While the overall lighting rig is small — with only four universes — one universe was for the LEDs in the tower, set up in 24" RGB pixels. Using the Wholehog's Learn Timing feature, the master SMPTE timecode was fed into the Wholehog, and Darcy Jamison, the programmer, and I ran the show manually, and the Wholehog would record all of the button presses down to a 30-frame per second resolution,” explains Langrell. “Programming the cues took two weeks; locking it to timecode took only two days, as the Wholehog allows for cue time placement editing, so we ran the shows a couple times to rough in the cue placements and then adjusted the times to get the cues to be dead-on. This is important for the LEDs in the tower, as they have an incredibly fast playback rate, and the flashes and effects we could bring into the 30-frame resolution made for some amazing sequences.”

The final, or DJ Mode, was designed for a DJ to create a live music mix and work closed circuit cameras on the crowd. “The images are projected on the tower from the 20 video projectors mounted inside. The lighting is also taken over to manual mode using the Wholehog 3 desk in the booth,” says Langrell. “Including the theme park ride-type show control as a major element in the design, the room operates automatically 24 hours a day, with manual commands to start live shows, trigger videos, and switch to DJ Mode.”

MOON OVER BILOXI

Levy and Langrell also worked on casinos in Biloxi that suffered damage from Katrina, including The Isle of Capri and its Lava Bar. “Even before Katrina, the Isle was looking to update its brand to a younger, more modern image,” explains Langrell. “With the stiff local competition and what was to be the opening of the Hard Rock, the Isle wanted a central ‘wow!’ element incorporated with a center bar.” Isle Design and Construction executives, along with their architects Cary Jones and Freidmutter Group, turned to JLLP for entertainment concept development and show consultation, as well as the lighting design and production oversight.

The Lava Bar is designed with 16 6' lava tubes, stacked to create an 18' tall lava lamp on a 60' tower with 12 Sanyo HDTVs for sports events, with an additional 30 flat screen Sanyo HDTVs on a ring around the tower. These screens are primarily for the custom designed five-screen productions that help brand the Isle of Capri. Color Kinetics iCove LED color-changing strips serve as cove lighting, with ColorBurst 6s used in the tower for up lighting. Six HES Technobeams provide both routine atmosphere lighting on the tower as well as choreographed light shows during video shows and add colored light to the lava lights and the screens during non-show mode.

“The lava tubes were a custom design and fabrication, built by Electric Louie in Los Angeles, and took some creative engineering to achieve the final result,” Langrell says. Concealed in the base of each tube is a 1000W heating element that turns on and off depending on the internal temperature of the tube. Sensors in the tube report temperatures back to a central control panel where the heating is regulated to keep the lava moving in the tube at the desired rate. A show control system from Creston runs the lighting and video shows.

CHILLING OUT

The Imperial Palace was the least damaged of all the casinos on the Gulf Coast, reopening as of last December with a several phase design process. “After opening, the ownership's first priority was to build a flagship bar, called Chill,” says Langrell, who teamed up with Friedmutter Group's Rob Schaffer and Stacy West to develop a lighting concept that would allow the bar to be a chameleon and change moods on a whim. “It can change by just the touch of a button from a classy, swanky martini lounge in tans and chocolates, to a deep, dark red lagoon lounge for intimate afterhours drinks, to an upbeat, rocking show bar,” Langrell points out.

The heart of the lighting in the bar is the Light System Manager and Light System Engine by Color Kinetics, with multiple discrete playbacks of lighting looks and shows from multiple controllers and from show control. Starting from this, functionality in the lighting was designed in show zones, the exterior sign, the exterior columns, the interior tables, ceiling, bar, and the custom designed back wall, a state of the art color organ.

The design team developed fabric ceiling panels, edge-lit with Color Kinetics iColor Cove MX Powercore, which was also used on the bar front and the bottle stands. Color Kinetics ColorBursts and ColorBlasts were installed in the tables with translucent tops, strong enough for dancers to work on. In conjunction with Prosound, JLLP also designed the AV system for televisions, DJ, and stage sound systems, where each TV can receive any HDTV feed on the property, all is controlled via a central manager touchscreen station.

The LED wall for the stage was build by PRG Scenic Technologies and contains 1,200 nodes of Color Kinetics iColor Flex SL 4" centers for a low resolution video wall. “The wall was designed with a blackout scrim and chrome frame, with large HDTVs where each individual LED node was addressed, creating a virtually unlimited range or lighting programming possibilities,” says Langrell, who worked with PRG programmer Wes Hacking to create both standard mapped lighting shows and integrated animation pieces readily available for free on the web, such as snow, fire, and other effects.

“The lighting is never stagnant. Even in the most calm mode, the lighting is changing softly and effortlessly to different hues of tan and browns,” says Langrell. “Each show zone has a controller backstage where the entertainment manager can select the mood desired. From the modern art feel of Mondrian, to the red and blue rock and roll, to a feeling of a lounge on the Starship Enterprise, the Chill lounge can offer it.”

Working in Biloxi, post-Katrina, was quite an experience. “It was incredible being there the week after, with the labor shortage, difficulty in material procurement, and basically working in a disaster area,” says Langrell. “At times, we would wonder if helping rebuild a casino in such a situation is the best thing to do. It was, as rebuilding and reopening the casinos in Biloxi provided for thousands of much needed jobs. And taking a look at the eager electrical and construction crews working 12-hour shifts on a 24-hour construction schedule, there was a sense of pride and determination in the locals, from the top executives to the apprentice electricians.”

Beau Rivage, Closed By Katrina, Reopens With Gala

Exactly one year to the day that Hurricane Katrina ravaged Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, the hotel reopened on August 29. When Katrina's 40' waves demolished the facility last August, the casino, nightclub, and theatre were destroyed, along with much of the lighting gear, including all of the HES DL.1s, which had recently been installed.

After a redesign and renovation, the hotel's 17,000-sq.-ft. Magnolia Ballroom opened with a gala event whose lighting rig included 28 High End Systems DL.2s, 64 Studio Beams, 12 Studio Spot 575s, 12 Studio Color 575s, four Intellabeams, and two Flying Pig Systems Wholehog 3 consoles running five Wholehog DP (data processors). The lighting for the event was designed by in-house LD and board operator, Boon Casey, with the HES DL.2s programmed and operated by Scott Chmielewski of Digital Media Designs.

“We had a 100' by 60' truss grid with 14 DL.2s running along each side and Studio Beams on there as well,” says Chmielewski. The ballroom was transformed for the event, which was used for the dinner and entertainment part of the evening, with performances by Jerry Seinfeld and Kool & The Gang.

“The goal of the lighting was to create an immersive multimedia environment,” adds Chmielewski. “A white spandex structure created a concave dome that covered all the walls and ceiling of the room, with the DL.2s projecting onto the fabric. It looked absolutely stunning, and the audience was astounded. They had given us the go-ahead to awe the VIPs when they walked in.”

The Beau Rivage owns all the gear used for the event, with the exception of some of the DL.2s, which were rented from Main Light Industries. Programming was done using two Wholehog 3 consoles with five DP2000s for a total of 20 universes of DMX. “The entire rig went up in two days. We had one and a half days to program and four hours of the show,” Chmielewski notes.

Other spaces at the Beau Rivage include The Camellia Ballroom, which features a HES Catalyst Media Server and 16 Studio Beams, 16 Studio Spot 575s, and 16 Studio Color 575s, controlled with a Wholehog 2. The Brew Pub (a live venue and night club) was outfitted with 24 Studio Commands, 12 Studio Color 575s, and 32 Technobeams, run by a Wholehog 3 console. A total of five Wholehog 3 consoles are in use throughout the hotel's facilities, which are helping bring top-name entertainment back to the Gulf Coast.

Credits And Selected Equipment Lists

LAVA:

Owner: Isle Of Capri

Architects: Friedmutter Group Atlantic City, Cary Jones

Lighting Designer and Entertainment Consultant: John Levy Lighting Productions, John Levy Principal, Jon Langrell Senior Designer

AV designer-contractor: Interactive Solutions.

General Contractor: Yates Construction

Feature Bar fabricator: Advance Manufacturing

Lava Tubes: Electric Louie

Selected Equipment

16 custom lava tubes and control system.
180 feet Color Kinetics iColor Cove MX Powercore
24 Color Kinetics ColorBurst 6
2 Color Kinetics iPlayer 2
6 High End Systems Technobeams.
24 Altman Par 36 pinspots.
1 Alcorn Mcbride Light Cue.
1 Lutron Grphic Eye Dimming package.
1 Crestron Show control and TV control package.
30 Sanyo 50" HDTV
4 Sanyo 20" HDTV
4 Sanyo 32" HDTV
4 Sanyo 42" HDTV
3 Panasonic HD LCD projectors.

CHILL:

Owner: Imperial Palace Biloxi

Architects: Friedmutter Group

Lighting Designer and Entertainment Consultant: John Levy Lighting Productions, John Levy Principal, Jon Langrell Senior Designer

AV designer: Pro Sound in conjunction with John Levy

General Contractor: Roy Anderson Construction, Gulfport, MS

AV Contractor: Sintech

Lighting and LED wall fabricator: PRG Scenic Technologies

LED Programming: Wes Hacking, PRG

Selected Equipment

1200 nodes Color Kinetics Flex SL.
400 feet Color Kinetics iColor Cove MX Powercore
18 Color Kinetics ColorBurst 6
1 Light System Manager, five controller keypads
48 Thomas Par 56.
1 ETC Smart Fade lighting controller.
1 Lutron Graphic Eye Dimming package.
1 Crestron Show control and TV control package.
2 Panasonic 50" HDTV
4 30" Panasonic HDTV.

MASQUERADE:

Owner: Harrah's New Orleans

Architect: WATG, Las Vegas

Show Producer: Dick Foster Production, Las Vegas

Creative Director: John Levy, John Levy Lighting Productions, Los Angeles

Lighting Designer: Jon Langrell, John Levy Lighting Productions, Los Angeles

AV designer, installer: Edwards Technology, Los Angeles

Tower Fabricator: Technifex

Selected Equipment

24 ETC Source Four PAR
17 ETC Source Four 19° Ellipsoidal
15 ETC Source Four Zoom 15°-30°
15 HES Color Merge Unit
10 HES Studio spot 250
10 Martin Mac 2K Profile
48 8' Vertical Orgatech LED strips RGB
12 3' Horizontal Orgatech LED strips RGB1 HES Wholehog 3 Rackmount (Hog in a box)
1 HES Wholehog 3 console in control booth
1 DP2000 processor
400' Color Kinetics iColor Cove powered by PDS 660's (Bar Die Fronts)
15 Color Kinetics ColorBurst 4s (in hot spots)

Video System

Tower Column

Panansonic PT-D5500U Video Projectors
Panasonic ET-DLE050 0.8 Fixed Lens for Projectors

Bar Area at Tower Column

AMX Modero NXT-CA12 12" Touch Panel
42" Plasma Video Monitors (By Owner)
Wall mounts for above (By Owners)