Live Design has told the story of the band Genesis throughout its 40-year history. Herewith the story of the Genesis, with production values that LD Patrick Woodroffe and set designer Mark Fisher could only pray for. In the beginning, the Bible tells its believers, “God created the heavens and the earth.” In the Beginning, the latest and largest show produced by Sight & Sound Theatres® in Lancaster, PA, tells the story of creation on a canvas that surpasses touring and Broadway spectacles.

Its very name derived from Matthew 13:10-23, Sight & Sound is the biggest faith-based live theatre in the US, dedicated to bringing the many thousands of viewers who flock to its Pennsylvania Dutch Country locale closer to God through its elaborate presentations. A new chapter began in its near 30-year history of multimedia shows when the 2,000-seat Millennium Theatre, built to replace a venue that had been ravaged by fire, opened in 1998. The Millennium has a 300' stage — 80' deep with 48' trims — that wraps around three sides of the audience, which has enjoyed inspirational shows such as Noah — The Musical. Sight & Sound is restaging that production, which boasted 55 performers, 87 live animals, and a three-story ark, in a custom-built theatre set to open in Branson, MO, next May.

In the Beginning was in the works for more than two years before it opened on March 30 for a seven-month run. The two-and-a-half-hour show, which begins with the creation of the world and is highlighted by a massive Garden of Eden set, has 46 castmembers to enact stories including the fall of Satan and Adam and Eve, and cloaks them in a total of 337 costumes — human, angel, and animal — designed by Joanna Ziegler. A menagerie of real and animatronic animals situated among the 140 set pieces on stage is also part of the production. The set elements were built in-house under the supervision of artistic director Jay Petersheim. Sight & Sound employs 500 personnel in Lancaster to get its shows up and running; other key creative personnel include lighting designer Joe Basinger and associate LD Melissa Blair, audio designer Darren Ingram, and media designer Brooke Walter.

Projections are interspersed throughout In the Beginning, but the most concentrated use of video comes right when the house goes dark for the eight-minute sequence depicting the seven days of Earth's creation. “Days two through six are all media elements,” Walter says. “We did some HD film shoots of animals, like birds of prey, intermixed with media and stills taken by [Sight & Sound founder] Glenn Eshelman. We put a lot of it together with Adobe After Effects but also used the Autodesk Maya and NewTek LightWave 3D programs for our animal sequences. The creation of land was done with e-on Vue 3D software for natural environments. Flying through space and the formation of the planets were also achieved with media.” The media is played through Dataton Watchout and controlled via Trax; Digital Projection HIGHLite 12,000 projectors shoot the high-resolution images (a final output of 2,432×1,024 pixels achieved by overlapping the projectors at 10%) across the 40'×100' screen.

Walter's work, which unfolds across the huge screen as the introduction of Adam onto the scene is being readied, is informed by what the sound and lighting departments are doing. “Everything we do runs off SMPTE, which we get from Darren,” she says. “In rehearsals, I work closely with Joe to figure out, for example, if he has a SMPTE time where his lights are fading up. Then I can get the same SMPTE time so my media can fade up with it so it all goes smoothly. We test lights with media using visual contrast to ensure that we can still see the media through the lighting. New for this show, I created video storyboards and worked very closely with Joe on them. He told me the lighting positions, and we went through different scenes. I would then create the lightplot for each scene in After Effects, so everyone could see what he was creating. When he describes what he's planning, you can sort of see what he's doing, but with QuickTime Video, which showed truss movement and moving-lights movement with music in time with the SMPTE track, everyone was on the same page.”

Ingram's contributions kept everyone on that page. “Before we even get to rehearsals, I print out a CD with the show track on one side and the SMPTE track on the other, so everyone can do all their preprogramming before anything hits the stage,” he says. “The entire show is controlled from audio. I stripe SMPTE stripes to all the places where music actually runs, so when that SMPTE rolls, everyone can program to it. When we're holding and letting the action just happen from the stage is when everyone goes to manual cues.”

Basinger is an old Sight & Sound hand, having joined the company in 1991. Technically, In the Beginning is the most complex show it has mounted. “In terms of sheer size, we've hit the back wall of the theatre with this one,” he says, adding that a PRG-installed ETC Sensor Dimmer Rack and more lighting positions were added for the show. “And there's a lot of flying. Not just lighting trusses, but more Vegas-type effects with the performers, including a swing flying 30' above the audience. The music from the scratch track, which I was working with two years before the show opened, gave me ideas for colors and timing. Ordinarily, I don't do a lot of research outside of the Bible, which I then over-dramatize for theatrical effect. But here, we went out of the box a little, as there were so many unknowns, and we wanted to come up with something worthy of the subject.”

Appropriately for a Genesis-based production, “Let there be light” is a driving factor behind the show's look, and the phrase lends itself to a spectacular light show treatment in one sequence. There is illumination in abundance in the theatre: 2,200 conventionals, 80 automated luminaires, 125 color changers, 1,200 dimmers that handle 2.5 million watts of light, 50 lights sprouting from the Tree of Life, and 960 lights housed in the set pieces. With “actors flying and rolling across the stage” and a plethora of epic-sized environments, knowing how best to use them was a challenge. The show has seven followspot operators working 13 lights. “It's difficult to draw attention to Adam and Eve unless you focus in on them with lighting, and as this was our largest show countwise in terms of equipment, whittling it down to a programming format was difficult,” he says.

“I didn't think we were ever going to be done,” says Blair. “With 2,000-plus lights, you have to be organized. I probably had twice the number of cheat sheets and shortcuts than I ever had. And I took full advantage of Lightwright, which I love.” Basinger adds that WYSIWYG, for prefocusing, and the QuickTime movies were also “enormously helpful” for the task at hand. The lighting took a year-and-a-half to design, four weeks to focus, and eight weeks to program a total 800 cues on two workhorse consoles, an ETC Obsession II for the conventionals and 24 High End Systems Studio Colors (used for set washes), and a Flying Pig Systems Wholehog 2 for the moving lights.

Playing their part to pull it together were master electrician Diana Lusk, moving light programmer Jeremy Stolsfus, lighting operation supervisor Jason Russell, and an additional crew of two board operators, six deck electricians, and three relief lighting techs. (Luke Bates is Basinger's assistant LD in Branson.) “At points, there were three focus teams that were focusing different locations of the stage at the same time,” Basinger explains. “Because of the difficulty getting to many of the lights once the sets were in place, we contacted PRG about their focus chair, which we had seen at LDI. The chair could be anchored in whatever location we needed that couldn't be reached with a lift. It worked out very well.”

Once in their proper places, the instruments were tasked to perform different functions in the show. “Clay Paky's Stage Scans bring to the party a lot of effects, in prism and color, that a lot of the other units don't have,” Basinger says. “I see them every year at LDI, and they're just wonderful fixtures. I found them perfect for a scene where Adam and Eve watch the Northern Lights in the sky above the mountain range in the Garden of Eden. We also used them to create lightning storms, with various lightning gobos with the strobe effect and iris moving open. This worked very well for the ‘Judgment’ scene, after the ‘Fall of Man,’ when the mountain collapses into a smoldering volcano. Clay Paky has really turned its service around in America, which helped me decide on choosing more of their units for Branson.”

Basinger uses ETC Source Four ellipsoidals for their clean beam field and color temperature. “They also are used to create shafts of light through the trees in the Garden of Eden. I used Selecon 90° units for a lot of the clouds on the cyc. The electric was very close to the cyc, which made these lights very useful.” With its emphasis on the celestial, the right sky is essential to In the Beginning. “Taking a blank cyc, I used 365 conventional lighting fixtures, 300 of them with various cloud gobos, which enabled me to create horizon lines and many different sky looks.” A single Vari-Lite VL3000 creates moving sunrises and sunsets. “We went through a bunch of fixtures at PRG in New Jersey and found that it was the smoothest when you went really slowly with movement.”

The other key element in a show that moves Heaven and Earth is water, a sleight of hand on the designer's part. “We did a lot of R&D on the 30 waterfall effects used,” Basinger says. “We found that using GAM Film/FX with the fire loop inside of ETC Source Fours gave the best result. The waterfalls are made of frosted Mylar strips that shake. Their movement, along with the movement of the Film/FX, gave us the best look.” Color Kinetics ColorBlast LEDs housed in plastic “crystals” are placed within the onstage “ponds” for different watery looks and textures. Waterfall mist is created by generous application of LeMaitre haze.

Pani projections, on seven units rented from PRG in New Jersey and controlled via the Obsession II console, are also a part of the lighting mix. Basinger explains, “In Act I, which finds Adam and Eve banished from the Garden of Eden, there is a half-sphere set that rises on our stage lift. I project photographic Earth gobos on the sphere from two Stage Scans and slowly rotate them. The Panis have several uses in the show, including flowing lava projections for a volcano and waterfall movement on drops. All our drops — the only element we don't fabricate on site — are made by Adirondack Scenic.”

The LD explains how the different parts of the show synthesize. For the “Fall of Satan” segment, Basinger says, “The challenge was: how do we make it look like he's falling from Heaven to Earth? Gloatingly, he rises up with his elaborate costume from the floor. That costume explodes when God appears. It gets sucked up into these tubes that go into the floor, and Satan is reduced to a more dingy outfit. He falls in slow motion to the floor on the fly rig as the lighting truss behind him flies up; the lights move in such a way to make it look like he's falling from Heaven. As a believer, you have an image in your mind of what it looked like when Lucifer was cast out of Heaven, which we try to make the lighting pertain to.”

Most of the scenes are accompanied by what Ingram calls “a sweeping Cecil B. DeMille-type soundtrack, like The Ten Commandments,” which was composed by David T. Clydesdale and performed by a 72-piece orchestra in Prague. (The audio operations supervisor is Gary Parke, and there are four audio technicians on the project.) The score, created in-house, is pumped through the house sound system, which includes an InnovaSon SY80 digital console, Level Control Systems Wildtracks units, and speakers drawn from Electro-Voice, EAW, Altec, and JBL. “The cues are huge, one big one after another,” Ingram says of the soundtrack.

This is not to say that In the Beginning lacks quieter, more reflective moments. Basinger describes one: “There is a scene where the angel Gabriel comforts Eve after Adam has died, and they sing. It's like a camera move. You're in a wide shot, but you want to go directly to a closeup, which you should never do. You should die down. Eve walks to a certain area on stage as the lights around her slowly sneak out. By the time she gets to her mark, everything is gone, and she's standing there by herself. It takes about a minute or so to get to that. We slowly train the audience's eye to what they need to feel; abrupt movement interferes with the emotion we're trying to create.”

As big as In the Beginning can be at its grandest, it is a prelude to the Branson theatre Sight & Sound is constructing. Noah is the same show that delighted an estimated 850,000 Lancaster visitors upon its premiere in 1995, updated with 21st-century entertainment technology: the latest Clay Paky gear, ETC EOS consoles, and the Peavey MediaMatrix Nion in place of the MediaMatrix in Lancaster, for openers. “Line arrays will allow for more pinpointing of performers, aurally, from the stage,” Ingram says. “Acoustic Dimensions is designing our sound equipment placement, with side-mounted speakers on the mains to cover the far edges of the theatre.” It will need innovative reinforcement: The 300' round theatre, rising 400' high, has an ark shape for its interior, suitable for both the Bible and Branson.

“Audiences come to a Sight & Sound presentation for two reasons: to have their faith confirmed or to see something that they believe in that makes them feel really good about what they believe,” says Basinger. “A believer can relate the stories to their own lives; nonbelievers can come out changed if they open their eyes and their ears and their hearts. That's why we do these types of shows. You feel it, you see it — that's what theatre is all about.”

The writer blogs about entertainment at Between Productions (www.robertcashill.blogspot.com).

SIGHT & SOUND THEATRES MILLENNIUM THEATRE INVENTORY

LANCASTER, PA EQUIPMENT LIST

LIGHTING, EFFECTS, AND VIDEO

42 Clay Paky Stage Scan

8 Clay Paky Golden Scan

2 Clay Paky Astro Scan

24 High End Systems Studio Color

12 Color Kinetics ColorBlast 6

1 Vari-Lite VL3000

31 GAM Film F/X

7 GAM Twin Spin

110 Wybron Forerunner

14 Wybron Coloram II

1 GAM Star Strobe

7 Diversitronics Mark 2000 Box Strobe

1 Diversitronics PAR Strobe

2 LeMaitre G300 Hazer

4 LeMaitre Radiance Hazer

2 LeMaitre Show Fogger Pro

1 LeMaitre Power Fog Industrial

2 Look Solutions Unique Hazer

10 Pani Projector with DMX Shutters

2 Digital Projection HIGHlite 12000Dsx+

1 Dataton Trax

1 Dataton Watchout

Creation of media: Adobe After Effects, Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple QuickTime Pro, Autodesk Maya. e-on Vue, and New Tek Lightwave

CONTROL/DIMMING

ETC Obsession 2 Console

Flying Pig Systems Wholehog 2

12 ETC Sensor+ 48 Module Racks

CONVENTIONALS

1,001 ETC Source Four Ellipsoidals (10°, 19°, 26°, 36°, 50°)

4 Selecon Pacific 45-75° Zoom

41 Selecon Pacific 90° Zoom

69 ETC Source Four PAR VNSP

83 ETC Source Four PAR NSP

189 ETC Source Four PAR MFL

145 ETC Source Four PAR WFL

95 ETC Source Four PAR XWFL

48 Altman PAR46 ACL

32 Altman PAR64 ACL

6 Altman ½ PAR

3 Altman Micro Flood

7 L&E 4½" Fresnel

17 Altman 6" Fresnel

3 Altman Q-Lite Jr

41 Altman Sky Cyc 3 Cell

54 Altman Ground Cyc 3 Cell

72 Altman Ground Cyc 6 Cell

64 Strand Coda Cyc

24 Altman 6' Border Light

9 L&E PAR16 Border Light

15 Lycian 400 HTI Followspots

14 Wildfire 400W Long-Throw Spot/Flood

28 Dimmable Fluorescent

4 ETC Source Four Bases for Planets

500 12V Xenon Lamps

STUDIO, LANCASTER, PA

Mac G5 dual 2.7 GHz with 2.5GB RAM and dual monitors

Steinberg Nuendo 3 for mainproduction

MOTU MachFive Version 2 sampler

Various Plug-Ins and Libraries

Mackie Control Universal

3 FireWire drive RAID for audio

2 MOTU 2408 Mk3 Audio Interfaces

MOTU CueMix Console Software

TC Electronic PowercoreFireWireDSP Unit

2 Genelec 1031 A Monitors

Onkyo Surround Sound System

Roland BOSS VF-1 FX Processor

PreSonus Digimax LT 8-Channel Preamp

Presonus ACP88 8-Channel gate/compressor

BLUE Dragonfly Mic

2 AKG C12 VR Mics

Electro-Voice RE 20 Mic

Shure SM7 Mic

Digidesign Mbox 2 Mini with Pro Tools 7 LE

AudioMove Software for File Transfers to the LCS

G4 Mac running Pro Tools MixPlus 24 system using an Apogee AD 8000 SE Audio Interface

Aten USB KVM Extender for allowing mixing in the theatre via Ethernet

Kensington Expert Mouse with scroll ring (extremely useful when dealing with 400-plus tracks in Nuendo)

Liters upon liters of Diet Mountain Dew

AUDIO FOH CONSOLES

InnovaSon SY80 digital console

48 Channels Analog In for Mics

16 Channels AES Inputs

16 Channels AES Outputs

32 Channels Analog Output

32 Channels Analog Inputs

LEVEL CONTROL SYSTEMS

3 LCS Wild Tracks units for 72 tracks of playback

5 frames configured for 120 inputs and 120 outputs

80 Channels CobraNet output

16 Channels Analog In, 16 Channels Analog Out

48 Channels AES Digital In, 48 Channels AES Digital Out

1 Transporter for cue list execution

1 Fader Pack (16 faders) for misc. level control

MAIN HOUSE DSP

Peavey MediaMatrix MM980
6 MM DPU Cards

6 MediaMatrix CAB 16o CobraNet/Analog Output Converter

1 MediaMatrix CAB 8o CobraNet/Analog Output Converter

1 MediaMatrix MM8802 BOB

FX PROCESSORS

2 TC Electronic M2000

1 Lexicon MPX-1

1 Yamaha SPX-990

AMPLIFICATION

20 Crest Audio 7001 power amps

14 Crest Audio 8001 power amps

5 Crest Audio 4801 power amps

1 QSC PLX 3602 power amp

3 QSC CX 404 4-channel power amps

HOUSE SPEAKERS

12 Custom E-V three-way main boxes with X Array components

Each with 2×15“, 2×8“, 1 Vari Intense Horn

4 EAW SB1000 subwoofers

26 EAW JF80 fill speakers

4 UB42 Balcony Delay speakers

4 Altec DTS 94 Rear Surround speakers

6 EAW UB82 Rear Surround Speakers

10 E-V Custom two-way speakers for Overhead Surround

15 JBL two-way Speakers for raised seating Overhead Surround

MONITOR SPEAKERS

8 EAW MK2364 overhead stage monitors

4 E-V Custom two-way speaker for side-stage overhead monitoring

10 EAW JF80 front stage-lipmonitors

Anchor AN-1000X powered monitors in various sets as needed

1 stereo mix of Sennheiser Evolution G1 IEM

RF

32 Sennheiser 1063 transmitters

16 Sennheiser 3532 Dual Receivers

16 Shure UHFR UR Series transmitters

8 Shure URD Dual Receivers

2 Shure UA845 Antenna DAs

4 Professional Wireless Helical Antennas

3 TOA MP1216 Multichannel monitor system for RF monitoring

MISCELLANEOUS

1 MOTU MIDI Express XT for MIDI timecode/program change distribution

1 Tascam CDRW700 for miscellaneous CD recording

BRANSON, MO EQUIPMENT LIST, OPENING MAY 2008

LIGHTING, VIDEO, AND EFFECTS

45 Clay Paky Alpha Spot HPE 1200

13 Clay Paky Alpha Wash

5 Clay Paky Stage Scans

70 Wybron Forerunner Color Changers

10 Wybron Power Supplies

2 Pani P500 Parabolic Spotlight

8 Color Kinetics ColorBlast 12

4 LeMaitre Radiance Hazers

CONTROL/DIMMING

2 ETC Eos consoles

2 2X10 Fader wings for EOS

60 Net 3 Gateways by ETC

1,440 ETC Sensor+ dimmers

23 LynTec Panels w/500 Various Square D Breakers

CONVENTIONALS

671 ETC Source Four Ellipsoidal (5, 10, 14, 19, 26, 36, 50)

14 Selecon Pacific 45-75° Zoom

55 ETC Source Four PAR MFL

61 ETC Source Four PAR NSP

87 ETC Source Four PAR VNSP

164 ETC Source Four PAR WFL

6 PAR46 ACL Rack

44 PAR64 ACL 600W

8 ProCan PAR64

5 Altman 8" Fresnel

55 Altman 6" Fresnel

150 L&E 4½" Fresnel

20 Altman 3 Sky Cyc

46 L&E Ultra Cyc

3 Altman R40 6' Borderlight

219 Altman Micro-Flood

2 L&E 14" Cyc

12 L&E PAR16 Mini-Borderlight

12 Robert Juliat Super Korrigan Followspot

6 Diversitronics DMX Par Strobe Cannon

3 Diversitronics Mark 2000 Box Strobe

AUDIO

INNOVASON SY80 DIGITAL CONSOLE

48 Channels Analog In for Mics

16 Channels AES Inputs

16 Channels AES Outputs

32 Channels Analog Output

32 Channels Analog Inputs

LEVEL CONTROL SYSTEMS

3 LCS Wild Tracks units for 72 tracks of playback

5 frames configured for 120 inputs and 120 outputs

80 Channels CobraNet output

16 Channels Analog In, 16 Channels Analog Out

48 Channels AES Digital In, 48 Channels AES Digital Out

1 Transporter for cue list execution

1 Fader Pack (16 faders) for misc. level control

PEAVEY NION MEDIAMATRIX SYSTEM

2 QSC PL6.0 II Type-1 Amps

14 QSC CX1102 Type-2 Amps

14 QSC CX902 Type-3 Amps

3 QSC CX702 Type-4 Amps

8 QSC CX502 Type-5 Amps

29 QSC CX404 Type-7 Amps

42 QSC WL-2102w Main Line Array Loudspeakers

2 EAW MQ1364e Crossfire Long-Throw Loudspeakers

2 EAW MQ1394e Crossfire Short-Throw Loudspeakers

2 EAW MQTD412 Crossfire Low-Freq Loudspeakers

4 QSC MD-S218 Subs

28 Bag End TA6000-I Front-Fill Rim Loudspeakers

2 EAW UB52 Side Surround Loudspeakers

2 QSC WL-2102w Main Delay Loudspeakers

2 EAW MK2394 Terrace Delay Loudspeakers

6 EAW MK2394 Rear Surround Loudspeakers

4 EAW UB52 Terrace Surround Loudspeakers

19 EAW FR153z Overhead Effects Loudspeakers

4 EAW MK2364 Stage Overhead Loudspeakers

10 EAW JF80 Portable Trough Loudspeakers

3 Shure UA845 Antenna Distribution Amplifiers

2 Shure HA-8089 Wireless Microphone Antennas

45 Countryman E6 Headset Mics

8 Countryman B6 Lav Mics

17 Shure UR4D Wireless Mic Receivers

34 Shure UR1 Transmitters

InnovaSon Analog Input at Stage Box

Fiber to FOH

Wild Tracks and Mics from CaveInto InnovaSon Mix Box

InnovaSon Mix Box (signals mixed at Control Surface)

LCS Matrix 3

2 TC Electronic M-One XL Processors

2 TC Electronic M3000 Processors

PreSonus ACP88 Compressor/Limiter/Gate