As I walked through the brand new Wynn Las Vegas Casino Resort and Country Club, I tried to soak in as much of the opulence as I could on my way to will call. I couldn't help staring at the great, gold tower every time I walked back to my hotel during ETS-LDI last fall. Now, not only was I lucky enough to be in Las Vegas during the grand opening of the casino, I was also fortunate to have a ducat to the opening night of Le Rêve, Wynn's contribution to the Las Vegas theatre scene. Created by Franco Dragone, known for his many Cirque du Soleil creations, Le Rêve calls itself “a small collection of imperfect dreams” and provides its audience with an evening of entertainment that is a treat for the eyes and a delicious break from the outside world.
Le Rêve is housed in the Wynn Theatre, a 2,087-seat arena space that provides the audience an intimate relationship with the performance regardless of seat location. The feature central to the show is its 68.5' diameter pool that contains a rather ingenious set of lifts to provide a center disk, an outer ring, three “vom” entrances, and sometimes all of the above or none at all. Above the pool, the domed roof slopes to a tiny cupola in three stages, a lower ring for actor access, a series of projection surfaces set behind the slats of the dome's window-like structure, and finally, three rows of white sculptures, each defying gravity in its own unique way. The lower grid is at 66', while the show's high grid is at 82' above the water level.
Everything in the show looks effortless, whether it is the performers dropping in from above for a mad aerial tea party (unlike anything Alice ever dreamed), or a character rising up from the depths below, perched on a tree that would find itself at home on a Tim Burton set. Once again, Dragone succeeds in making us laugh out loud with his clowns, while he artfully sneaks the next bit of equipment or scenery into place. The production design succeeds in creating a unique atmosphere for each dream, a new look for each story. The minimal to non-existent use of live moves lends simplicity to the design and serves the flow of the performance admirably.
Heading up the magic is lighting designer Koert Vermeulen. The design process, as with all Dragone's shows, was unique. “Franco likes to shake the stage,” says Vermeulen. “He will ask for lighting states from different parts of the show or specials for scenery not in the scene to make sure that we haven't missed anything that would make the current scene better visually.” To that end, Vermeulen and his programmers used 2,500 control channels to create almost 1,500 looks, a veritable buffet for Dragone to feast on. “He wants you to come at him with 1,000 solutions so that he can pick the 10 best,” Vermeulen adds.
Dragone picks his 10 best during the show's “creation sessions.” The design team works with Dragone for several hours each rehearsal session to figure out what the end result of a moment should look like. Then, Dragone leaves the space while the creative team scrambles to figure out the transitions into and out of the new concept. This is the technical rehearsal.
The design process started two and a half years ago in a 30' test pool in Paris. Vermeulen had worked with water before but nothing to this scale. “My dream is to make the water come alive, to make it an actor,” he says — quite a task considering water, preferring to reflect, doesn't transmit light very well. Rings of LED fixtures (a combination of Color Kinetics C-Splash and Hydrel custom fixtures) complement the Wibre Wet/Dry MR16s and Hydrel PARs to light the area just below the surface. Robert Juliats with Wybron CXIs and Martin MAC 2000 washes are used to top light the splash from the numerous jets (10 pumps moving 13,180 gallons per minute) and spouts (422 in pool outlets moving water at 1200 cubic ft. per minute). Vermeulen added vibrancy to the water through his choice of color and his ability to separate the water into layers by manipulating the color of the splash differently than the color of the tank water.
The big problem in the pool, however, was not the lighting of the water itself but the show deck, called the Mondo. It is covered with what can basically be described as a bar mat made of old tires to give traction for the performers. Because of this surface, the Mondo lacked any flexibility to be visually different in each dream and was not as aesthetically pleasing as was originally hoped.
Vermeulen solved this through template washes — lots of template washes. “I used anything I could,” he chuckles. “The movers [Clay Paky] were great, so were the HMI Profiles, the Source Fours, and the Robert Juliat tungsten fixtures.” Every one of them was in a sharp, sharp focus. “Franco doesn't like to use soft gobos very often,” he adds. Major kudos to the programmers and the electricians who focused the show because the template washes are seamless — no gaps, no overlaps. Scenically, this gives the deck its own life during the performance, as different templates are used in different scenes. Sometimes, the Mondo relates to the architecture of the scene, while other times, it relates to the emotion of the scene.
In many of the show's looks, only the template washes could be used, since additional light for the performers would only wash out the templates and light up the Mondo. “I had to find a delicate balance to lighting the performers without destroying the space,” Vermeulen says. “Very often, you start by lighting the actor, then the costumes, and after that, you treat the scenery. This was very much the opposite; it was much more architectural. I had to give the space a direction first and then find the performers. And tie-breakers always went to the space.”
Dragone takes advantage of the sharp templates with his blocking, keeping things mysterious and not revealing everything at once. This highlight and shadow look — not quite being able to see faces — really supports the dream metaphor, and the templates are one of the top visual treats of this production.
But why not add some sidelight that doesn't hit the Mondo? Because one-third of the theatre's domed ceiling is taken up with six giant projection screens (rear-projected with Barco ELM R18 projectors), that doesn't leave much room for box boom positions. The screens, sectioned by mullions, have a French window look to them. “It is to be an eye to the outside world. It was never to look like big projection screens,” says Vermeulen. He and content designer, Dirk Decloedt, support the show with images that never distract from the performers.
Vermeulen and Decloedt worked together to keep the color palettes of the two designs coordinated. “Sometimes, he would put an image up that Dragone would like, so I would make my lighting state to match,” Vermeulen says. “Other times, Dragone may have preferred the lighting, and Dirk would adjust his animation to match me.”
In this modern age of media servers, why did Vermeulen choose to serve his media from a system of Doremi V1 HD decks with a Medialon show controller (plus all of the sundry routers, splitters, and switchers)? “You have to remember that we put this together three years ago,” he explains. “Catalyst was only in version 2, and others were still in the code stage. Besides, I didn't need the bells and whistles that media servers offer. I needed something reliable to play back every time, on time. And I didn't want to have to deal with daily software upgrades for effects that I wasn't going to use.”
The decision on how to create the media also influenced his decision on how to serve up the content. “We had six animators working in Softimage XSI Maya, 3DS, MAX, and Poser to create these panoramas that would further the feeling of a world outside of the windows for the audience.” Imagine putting a tripod with six cameras into an animated star field. Then project those six images and presto, the theatre feels as though it's flying through space. By fully creating and manipulating the content at the animation stage, they were looking for reliable show control playback, which they got from the Medialon, the Doremis, and programmer Daniel Bonitsky.
Lighting playback wasn't as smooth a process, however, but it was as successful. Vermeulen had used a Martin Maxxyz previously but not on anything of this scale. “The console was slow in the beginning,” he says. “It is, after all, a piece of software, and a show this large kept straining the memory of the desk.” Remember those 2,500 control channels and 1,500 cues? Since Vermeulen had to be able to call up any cue at a moment's notice for Dragone, all of those unused sequences, palettes, groups, effects, and cues were bogging down the system memory and slowing the console. Martin worked closely with programmer Michel Suk to stabilize the software. “I must credit Michel for getting us the console we have now. He was so patient and so committed in his efforts.” Because of this collaboration between programmer and manufacturer, the show had a stable (and speedy) Maxxyz in early April, in plenty of time for the final push.
The numerous pieces of scenery that either fly into or emerge out of the pool require wireless dimming and provided Vermeulen with another DMX challenge. He selected the City Theatrical WDS Wireless Dimming System and gave it a rave review. “It is perfect. We had some issues at the beginning since radio waves don't like to travel through water, but they adapted the system. I was impressed.” You just have to be careful in monitoring the batteries. “If the battery gets below 11.5 volts, the dimmers will stop working.” The system is used to control just about every type of device in the show, from LEDs to HMIs, saving the need to circuit any of the aerial and some of the submerged effects.
But the biggest rave that Vermeulen had was for his lighting team. Whether it was his staff: associates Michel Suk and Jean Philippe Trépanier; assistant Joshua Alemany; ETC Emphasis programmer Jeff Harrison; and media system/Medialon programmer Daniel Bonitsky; or the Wynn Theatre staff led by Janene Steele and Stephanie Weiss, Vermeulen always had great things to say about his support. “Everyone contributed to the final look of the show which is why it is so successful,” he says. “One piece was relit 15 different times. Everyone — programmers, associates, assistants — got a chance to write a look for that scene.” (On a personal note, I tip my cap to the assistants who maintained the photographic database for those 1,500 lighting cues. This allowed Vermeulen to recall a previous lighting state — that could have been written a month previously — by exact sequence and cue number by pointing to a picture.)
While Le Rêve is not going to affect social change as a piece of theatre, it is a wonderful escape from our own reality, if only for a few hours. We follow the “Every Man” character through this series of imperfect dreams, and we see what he sees.
Le Rêve at The Wynn Las Vegas
|100||ETC Source Four® 19°|
|75||ETC Source Four 26°|
|87||ETC Source Four 36°|
|30||ETC Source Four 50°|
|30||ETC Source Four Zoom 15/32°|
|27||ETC Source Four Zoom 23/50°|
|24||ETC Source Four 10°|
|16||ETC Source Four 5°|
|9||Selecon Zoom 10-28°|
|55||Altman PAR64 VNSP|
|50||Altman PAR64 NSP|
|78||Altman PAR64 MFL|
|15||Altman PAR64 WFL|
|18||ETC Source Four PAR NSP|
|6||ETC Soursce Four PAR MFL|
|24||Robert Juliat 2kW Profile 710 (10-25°)|
|21||Robert Juliat 2kW Profile 711 (8-16°)|
|36||Robert Juliat 2kW Profile 714 (15-40°)|
|9||Robert Juliat 2kW Profile 713 (29-50°)|
|10||Robert Juliat 2.5kW HMI Profile 930 (9-28°)|
|6||Robert Juliat 2.5kW HMI Followspot Cyrano|
|34||Strand Fresnelite Fresnel 2kW|
|14||Strand Bambino Fresnel 5kW|
|10||Strand Fresnel 2,5kW HMI|
|3||Strand Fresnel 4kW HMI|
|91||Wybron CXI Colorchanger 7,5|
|50||Wybron CXI Colorchanger 12|
|24||Wybron Coloram 10"|
|13||Wybron Eclipse II Dowser|
|66||Apollo Comspecs 7,5|
|21||L&E Fresnel 500W|
|37||StarPars 150W CDM|
|9||Clay Paky CPColor 150E|
|35||Clay Paky Stage Profile Plus SV|
|14||Clay Paky StageScan 1200 HMI|
|33||Martin MAC 2000 Wash|
|30||Martin Atomic 3000 Strobe|
|315||Color Kinetics C-Splash|
|246||Hydrel Custom 3W Luxeon LED|
|21||Hydrel Custom RGB LED CE-5054|
|16||Wibre MR16 Wet/Dry|
|35||Hydrel #4427 PAR64|
|25||Hydrel #409 MR16 spikelight|
|2||Lux Lumen Custombuild underwater fixture with 18×3W LEDs for throne|
|On WDS system:|
|45||Lux Lumen Custom integrated 1W Resin LEDS for Spell|
|4||Lux Lumen Custom integrated 18×3W LEDs for Quarts|
|10||James Thomas PAR16 fixtures for Resto|
|11||James Thomas PAR16 fixtures for Tree|
|6||James Thomas PAR16 fixtures for Clock|
|1||Custom system of dimming fluorescents and JT PAR16 fixtures for Videosphere|
CONTROL AND DIMMING
|2||Martin MAXXYZ console 8 universes|
|1||ETC Emphasis™ 3D 5000 server|
|1||ETC Insight™ Console|
|13||City Theatrical WDS wireless dimming system|
|9×96-channel ETC Sensor® Dimming System (GFCI)|
|ETC Distributed DMX control system|
|6||Barco ELM R18 Director Videoprojector + TLD 0.8 lens|
|7||Doremi V1 X2 402 HD recorders|
|2||Leitch Panacea 16×16 Video Routers|
|7||Panasonic AG-MX70SD SDI Video Switcher|
|3||Sony LDM530 5.6×3 Monitors|
|1||Medialon Show controller Version 3|
|6||Extron IN3264 Video distribution amplifier|
|1||Sony J5 Betacam Player|
|1||Eiki 10.000 ansilumen LCD Videoprojector for Videosphere|
|1||Apple Wireless Video Network for Videosphere|
Koert Vermeulen: Lighting designer and projection system designer
Dirk Decloedt: Video content designer
Michel Suk: Associate lighting designer and Maxxyz programmer
Jean Philippe Trépanier: Associate lighting designer
Jeff Harrison: Board programmer, ETC Emphasis
Joshua Alemany: Interim assistant lighting designer
Daniel Bonitsky: Media System and Medialon programmer
Janene Steele: Head of Department Lighting and Video
Stephanie Weiss: Assistant Head of Department Lighting and Video
Matthew Paupst: Maxxyz operator
Melanie Binam: ETC Emphasis operator
Kimberly Maynard: Lead followspot operator
Eric Cantrell: Projections operator
Tracer Finn: Followspot operator
Richard Amiss: Followspot operator
Nate Barmer: Followspot operator
Nate Pease: Followspot operator
Dale Ripingill: Followspot operator
James Buggie: Electrician
William Harlow: Electrician
Roger Skinner: Electrician
Lighting and lift systems provided by PRG.
For additional information on PRG's lighting system installation and integrationat Wynn Las Vegas, visit our online articleat: www.lightingdimensions.com/projectnews/PRG_Wynn/index.html.