Producing the Carolina Hurricanes' Stanley Cup Pre-Show

When the Carolina Hurricanes reached the Stanley Cup finals, it seems no one was more surprised than the Hurricanes themselves. Luckily, Steve Dubay of Stageworks Lighting in Raleigh, NC, had faith in the team and pitched a video pre-game show to its entertainment director when the Canes were still in the playoffs. Dubay enlisted the help of his grad school friend Adam Dunaway, of Images in Illuminations of Chicago, to propose a show concept and equipment package. When the Canes got to the finals, the two put together a pre-game video show in a very short amount of time. Unfortunately, although the Hurricanes won a game in Detroit, they were unable to win any home games. But, as they say in sports, there's always next year.

To view video clips of the Carolina Hurricanes' Stanley Cup pre-game show, click here. Thanks to Adam Dunaway for converting and hosting these clips on the Images in Illuminations website.

Amy L Slingerland: Tell me how your company got called in on this project. Do you often do work at the arena?

Steve Dubay: We primarily do services for opera, theatre, ballet, more traditional theatre applications throughout southern Virginia, the eastern half of North Carolina and South Carolina. All of us here are also in the local union, so we all work at the arena doing various things. We have in the past rented them motors and cables and sundry things, we haven't really produced any major events over there, primarily because we don't have enough stuff in house to pull one off. This was kind of an oddity that this event came up.

I was working a game as a followspot operator, back in the playoffs when they were playing Montreal. I used that as a gateway and wandered into the control room one day and talked to Pete Soto. He's the director of CanesVision, he directs their entertainment during the games. I had worked with him previously, being part of his crew during the season. They had just showed on television the first home game at Montreal; they had a large-format Pigi-type projection on the ice. He had seen that, and that sparked interest in his mind. I had taken it upon myself to get some numbers from some people for different projection options, and had something to hand to him. And he said, "Great. If we get that far I'll give you a call."

ALS: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

SD: That's kind of what happened. From that point, my friend Adam Dunaway--he and I went to grad school together a few years ago--I knew he had been doing a little more high-profile large corporate shows and had resources for pyro, lasers, projections. I contacted him originally to get these base numbers. [The Hurricanes] made it to the next round, but [management] still weren't willing to give us any kind of deposit, but [Adam] came down anyway, did a site survey, started planning, doing a plot, getting gear lined up. We lined up all these vendors with the line, "This is not a definite thing yet, it may happen, it may not," but everybody on the list was really good about it, they realized this was a special situation, and that if we did get to the next round they'd definitely get the gig. Finally, they knew for sure they were going into the Stanley Cup. Pete called up and said, "All right, let's do it!"

The most fun part was the arena itself. Of course, they hadn't planned on doing these playoffs. There were all kinds of shows booked into the space--arena football, during away games they bring in 5,000-6,000 fans to watch the game in there--and for arena football they cover the ice with Astroturf. Once we knew on [May] 28th, we knew the home games were going to be scheduled on [June] 8th and the 10th, and that was our window to get everything here and up in the air.

In Detroit the first two games, apparently the NHL wasn't happy with the ice, and here they're laying down Astroturf and playing arena football the day before the third Stanley Cup game. We had all this pyro lined up on the ice and [the NHL official] ix-nayed the whole thing. We weren't even allowed to load in anything on the ice. We had to go up in the elevator, bring the gear out and use it on the catwalk 92' off the ice. I knew we wouldn't have a lot of time, but I didn't realize that it would be absolutely forbidden for us to drive truss or motors or anything on the ice surface. That was a challenge. I had to pay all my union guys a rigger's rate because they're working at 90'.

It actually turned out to be a blessing, because we had direct access to all the gear during the games. The Catalyst systems weren't really happy where they were sitting, from a video standpoint, because they were 30º off-axis. They were sitting 50' away from the ice they were shooting on, at an angle, so there were keystoning issues we had to deal with. The Coemar Panoramas we colored the ice with worked great from where they were.

The other time aspect of it was that we had an arena football game on a Friday and it took them until 3am to get rid of the Astroturf. We couldn't program anything, we couldn't see the ice until 3:30am, and then there were two on-ice practices starting at 9am.

ALS: What kind of equipment was installed on the catwalk, and how was it arranged?

SD: We ended up putting most of the gear in the spot baskets which hang beneath. There are eight spotlight positions around that are suspended underneath that catwalk. And the Catalysts and two of the Panoramas on each side ended up in the side spot baskets along with a spot and an operator. There were also Cyberlights that are always there. That was nice because we had the custom patterns already in them. The catwalk in the middle had a couple of service cats that went across so you can access the scoreboard, which was good because we had to rig a bunch of pyro and stuff off the scoreboard. That also provided a place to hang the 10º Source Fours we added for the second game because we realized we needed to spotlight some of the graphics underneath the ice, symbols for the Stanley Cup and the Hurricanes logo in the middle. Then we had Source Four PARs and scrollers that lit up the architecture above the catwalk to give another layer to the show for the audience.

ALS: The two Catalysts, are those house equipment or were those brought in?

SD: Those were provided by Intelligent Lighting Creations of Chicago. They provided the operator and Wholehog to control everything. Their guys were great. The Catalyst system is great because with the extreme angles we were at with the projectors, we were able to anti-keystone through the software. We were really blessed with the fact that the Catalyst has all these modes by which it can manipulate the video on the fly. The nice thing about it as well is that it has two-line video feeds, and under the time compression we could take two separate feeds from the scoreboard switcher. They would feed us whatever was going to the Jumbotron, and they could tile it and give us two separate images so we could spread it out and do on-ice projection.

ALS: Who designed all the imagery and lighting that went into the pre-show?

SD: The pre-show, concept-wise, Adam Dunaway headed up the whole thing, and most of the actual design came from Pete Soto, the TV director, who was calling two live video feeds. Sometimes there would be clips from previous games and highlights, and they were also able to send graphics and player's names and stats and all their custom logos and things. For the ice coloring, we had the Panoramas up there, and Troy and Matt Pearlman, our Catalyst/associate LD guy, banged in a couple of color washes to augment what was going on with the video feed. When it came down to it, the show happened live and Pete was calling the shots. I did the light plot, figuring out where things were going to work on the catwalk, Adam conceived the overall picture, and Troy the programmer did the bulk of figuring out where the image elements would end up on the ice.

ALS: There was some exterior lighting on the arena.

SD: We did a chase, like a "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" thing. The Irideons would switch from white to red, and they washed the lower-level facade, right in front of the box office. Then we put PAR cans in a row across the top third of the building in an arc, chasing back and forth. It looked really nice when they did helicopter fly-by shots. The most exposure we got was out of the cheesiest effect, but it was at least something on the building, to signify something special was going on. We're an ETC dealer and our southeast rep George Doukas said, "I can send you some Irideons, just give me a call." And people eventually started jumping on the bandwagon for donating things, giving us a little more gear here and there, just filling out what we needed.

ALS: You also did some downtown video projection. Was that live broadcast?

SD: Because the local Budweiser distributor had bought the rights to show the game live outside the arena in a big tent, the Hurricanes did not allow us to show any live footage. They offered us a Beta reel of headshots of the players and their stats and Stanley Cup graphics and highlights from the rest of the series. We dumped that onto a hard drive and made a big loop and that was projected onto the buildings on game nights.

ALS: Is there anything else you'd like to say about the project?

SD: I learned a lot. It was an incredibly compressed time, budget, compressed everything. There was the stress of not knowing whether it was going to happen or not. We ended up having an excellent crew from IATSE Local 417. Without those people we could not have pulled this show off. At the end of the day, it was a good experience all the way around.

The saddest story was the pyro: There was an excellent pyro show, but we never set any of it off. They were only going to do all this stuff if they won the game. There were line rockets to the scoreboard, air gerbs all over the place, there were 60 streamer cannons. Maybe a third of our budget was tied up in pyro that we never even got to set off. The other part of the pyro horror story was we were going to do propane cannons and CO2 stuff on the ice for the introduction of the Hurricanes players, which is something we could do regardless of a win or loss. We did a pyro test outside, and they had a thermometer and measured the heat off the propane cannon. At 20' it was 103º. [The NHL officials] said you'd lose 1/4" of ice.

Production Design Coordinator/Lighting Director/City Projection Design & Coordination
Adam Dunaway, Images in Illuminations

Associate Lighting Director/Production Manager
Steve Dubay, Stageworks Lighting

Associate Lighting Designer
Josh Allen, Stageworks Lighting

Producer/Video Director
Pete Soto, CanesVision

Arena Outdoor Lighting Designer
Starree Markham, Stageworks Lighting

Assistant Lighting Designer/Wholehog Programmer
Troy Fujimura, Intelligent Lighting Creations

Arena Projector/Video Technician
Jamie Quinn, American Audio-Video

Catalyst Technician
Matt Pearlman, Intelligent Lighting Creations

Media Conversion Consultant
Ron Steinberg, Glenn Steinberg, RentCom

Projection Consultant
Bill Knowles, RentCom

Pyro Design
Eric Larsen, Steve Calderero, Images in Illuminations

Crew
IATSE Local 417

Suppliers
ETC, Intelligent Lighting Creations, Midco AV, RentCom, Stageworks Lighting

Equipment

Arena Interior

2

High End Systems Catalysts

2

Christie Digital Roadie X10 video projectors

4

High End Systems Cyberlights

8

Coemar Panorama Cycs

12

ETC Source Four PARs

12

Wybron Forerunner color scrollers

6

ETC Source Fours 10º

1

ETC Sensor 12x2.4kW dimmers

1

Flying Pig Systems Wholehog II control console

1

Jands Hog 1000

Arena Exterior

2

ETC Irideon AR500s

12

ETC Source Four PARs

3

NSI 4x600W dimmers

Downtown

2

Barco R12 DLP projectors

2

Sanyo 7700 projectors

1

digital hard disk playback system

Beta decks, DV cameras