The new Wynn Casino and Resort in Las Vegas has left nothing behind in its complete manifestation of excess, and we're talking in the frame of “to exceed.” Steve Wynn is the golden boy behind the new Las Vegas. With his progression of properties — the Gold Nugget, The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio — each has surpassed the last and certainly reshaped the culture and aesthetic of the gaming industry globally. In building Wynn, it is clear that the goal was to surpass again, and this time by an order of magnitude, all that had been accomplished previously. Many of the amazing new production installations at Wynn have been dissected and discussed in other articles and in other places. So it is left to me to escort you to one of the fabulous lake-side bars for a cocktail.
Ah, but make no mistake. Your attention span will not be left unaddressed here either. The beautiful panorama that sits before the patrons is dominated by a still, reflective lake called The Lake of Dreams. At the far end, a massive rough-hewn slab trickles gently with water. A lush alpine glade marches up the steep hill beyond — a hill that completely isolates the observer from the crazed glitter of the strip beyond it. Curiously, some preternaturally still, nude humanoid forms stand in the water, facing the slab, always good for conversation.
The beautiful ambient lighting dims, and the show begins. The water froths, coming alive, glowing, liquid light begins to flow, simple and iconic imagery reflects from the slab, and rising from the water, a giant head, an attractive woman, sings (or perhaps more properly moans) a haunting melody, her lips perfectly synced, her eyes scanning the crowd. A stunning, huge amount of light sweeps from the hillside, as two playful puppets, designed by Michael Curry, appear magically, jerking and dancing hypnotically, interacting with the projections behind. Really, there is no adequate way to describe this. It is related to a theme park ride; it's the bastard stepchild of mammoth operatic design; it's decidedly as flashy as a concert; it bears a resemblance to a giant child's pop-up book; but ultimately, it goes somewhere new. Environment as story. Malleable atmosphere at enormous scale, whatever that means.
I got background information from the designer, Patrick Woodroffe. I also queried Woodroffe's programmer and project technologist, Patrick Dierson. Also, my wide-ranging inquiry led (almost inevitably) to the doors of Scharff Weisberg. Let's start with Woodroffe, the mind behind it all. He needs no introduction for most, having had his hand in some of the most seminal concert designs of the last 20 years.
Woodroffe talked about how the project was first conceived and how the creative process took shape. “The lake was always there, as was the mountain, but other than that, we didn't know what we wanted to do,” he says. “Steve Wynn wanted the environment to come alive, but when we first met in 2001, that was that all we had. Slowly, we came around to the idea that it should be a piece of ‘Light Theatre,’ that we didn't want anything that was real or three-dimensional. It was only when Michael Curry became involved much later that we saw the benefit of some real elements that would counterpoint the soft images. Like all these sorts of things, it was a slow and laborious process — lots of hard grind and disappointment with occasional flashes of clarity and resolution. As we started to involve other people in the design process — Franco Dragone, Kenny Ortega, Karin Fong from Imaginary Forces, Michael Curry, and a host of other players — the piece became clearer and stronger, until it finally came to life at the beginning of 2005, when everything was built and installed.
“We worked very slowly to begin with, installing, proving, and focusing the system and getting an idea of what the environment was about,” Woodroffe continues. “Generally, what we discovered was good and beyond our expectations: the hillside was brighter and stronger than we expected, the projection was striking, and the lake was much, much more defined than we could ever have wished for. How we used the system was more difficult to understand, especially without an audience to respond to. Steve Wynn was very involved in the process, helping us to understand the expectations of the public, simplifying the scenes and the composition and generally tightening and directing the process. When we finally were able to show the final pieces to test audiences consisting of friends and employees of the hotel, the reaction was so positive we had enormous confidence before the hotel opened. But it was some journey, as you might expect, and I think the difficulties and challenges of the experience only made the results more rewarding.”
When it came to finding out how the projection system elements were assembled and developed, I contacted Scharff Weisberg. This was not your average show in terms of playback format and resolution.
“We needed to find an economical solution to HD/2K playback,” explained Scharff Weisberg R&D engineer Chris Keitel, who served as project manager. “The resolution of the imagery, native 2,048×1,080, fell outside the realm of standard HD 1,920×1,080 and into the area of special-purpose boxes.”
Bill Kneissl of New York's Big Show Construction Management, who interpreted Wynn Design and Development's requirements and developed specifications for both the projection and show control systems at the Lake of Dreams, commented on the critical involvement of SWI: “Everything the client was looking to do was just beyond what the technology could do at the time,” he says. “So it was important to find people who agreed this would soon be possible or who could figure out how to make it possible.”
It is, somehow, not surprising that the custom delivery system was based around a Macintosh G5. There has been an increasing awareness on the digital intermediary and animation side of feature-film postproduction that the dual 2.5 GHz G5, empowered by the latest graphics subsystems and fast disk arrays, is capable of full frame playback at 2K resolution. What does that mean? It means that these media powerhouses can pump high quality frames through fast enough, and at sufficient quality, to make final decisions on the digital masters of feature film.
In this case, the horsepower of NVIDIA's latest hot graphics card, the G-Force 6800Ultra, was leveraged by Scharff Weisberg “code freak” Josh Silverman to deliver the requisite 30 frames per second at 2,048×1,080. Silverman utilized Apple's QuickTime to playback the synchronized high res frames across three Barco XLM 25 projectors on the waterfall and one Barco ELM R18 on the head.
Imaginary Forces accomplished the content design. This is a company that truly occupies the uncharted territories of macro level convergence. With initial roots as a motion graphics design company, Imaginary Forces has grown to a place of prominence at the intersection of art, architecture, and advertising. They design branding environments and integrated installations combining media and structure. These forays into scenic media are reinforced by their dynamic and powerful content aesthetic. In this case, their work was elemental, dramatic, and scenic. The media interaction with the physical elements was remarkable.
The colorful lakebed animation is accomplished utilizing 4,008 Color Kinetics C-Splash II units. The key to the success of this system, visually, is in the use of a massive aeration system that creates a uniform bubble and froth. This provides a perfect diffusive surface for the LED fixtures to work their magic.
“Once we learned the way that water reacts with light and discovered techniques to use this unusual element as a projection surface, we were away, but the process was a long one,” Woodroffe says. “Because of the transparency of water, it doesn't take any sort of light unless it is agitated in some way, either from the battering of the waterfall surfaces or from the air bubbles within the body of the water. Steve and his team at Wynn Design were able to guide us, as they had lots of experience with the volcano at The Mirage and, of course, with the fountains at Bellagio. We mocked up and tested every element of the show in the two years before installation began, and this gave us a real understanding of what we would expect.”
Controlling over 4,000 fixtures is bound to tie a few knots in your average world of DMX. Patrick Dierson, programmer of the feature, had a lot to say about the challenge and how it was solved. “The lighting control system that Paul Franklin designed was technically amazing,” Dierson says. “They have multiple protocols including ETC Net2, MA Net, and ArtNet, all running across a single network. Through a Pathway Connectivity relay driver, we are able to send a binary signal back to the master show control system that enables the confirmation of shows being loaded by the [MA Lighting] grandMA Replay Units. This basically allows the show control operator to see that the lighting system has received commands and is playing along nicely with everything else.
“A grandMA control system was chosen to run the show because of its solid networking structure,” Dierson continues. “With the MA system, we were able to have multiple consoles running at the same time in different locations to facilitate programming.” The show itself is ultimately controlled via a master grandMA Replay Unit in the control room. However, the bulk of programming was performed at a remote location with a full grandMA console acting as the main interface, while a grandMA light was used in the same programming sessions to program the PixelMAD system which handled the lake LED fixture control.
When the project began, the new proliferation of pixel mapping devices for DMX control didn't substantially exist. Richard Bleasdale's PixelMAD had cut its teeth in several concert applications, including Radiohead's 2003 tour, where it was used to feed James Thomas Pixel Line 1044 fixtures. The system maps the pixels of QuickTime movies to the DMX channels used to control color and level values. On the surface, the interface looks similar to High End System's Catalyst™.
“The LEDs were ultimately controlled via DMX through the PixelMAD system so, in essence, it was a distributed media device,” Dierson says. “It was considered to be the best way to control the large quantities of units. The PixelMAD software enabled us to have precise control of the imagery that would ultimately be mapped across the LED units.” The extremely complex lighting and lighting control systems were provided and installed by Production Resource Group.
With the resort built and the lake in public view at last, the attention has turned to the future. Woodroffe says the installation will continue to evolve. “The whole attraction of the scheme is the proposition that it will constantly change and evolve as we come to understand the environment and the expectations of our audience,” he says. “For all of us involved in the project, we very much see it as a continuing part of our work in the future.”
Lighting (provided by PRG)
Dimming and Control
|1||MA Lighting grandMA Console|
|1||MA Lighting grandMA light Console|
|4||MA Lighting Replay Unit|
|6||MA NSP Processor|
|6||Dell Axim PocketPC for MA remote (w/wireless)|
|7||ETC Sensor SR24 Dimmer Rack|
|6||ETC Sensor SR48 Dimmer Rack|
|2||ETC DMX Contactor 3-phase for Syncrolites|
|28||ETC DMX Node, Two-Port|
|8||Artistic Licence Ether-Lynx|
|1||Artistic Licence Up-Lynx A node (to Medialon)|
|2||Pathway Connectivity DMX Contactor|
|26||Pathway Connectivity Opto-Splitter|
|1||Pathway Connectivity RDM Manager|
|6||Pathway Connectivity RDM Repeater|
|4,008||Color Kinetics® C-Splash 2 Submersible Fixture|
|750||Color Kinetics PDS-150e Power Supply|
|288||GAM Products Star Strobe|
|30||High End Systems EC-2 Environmental Color-2®|
|38||Martin MAC2000 Profile II E|
|118||Martin MAC2000 Wash|
|6||Martin Atomic Strobe|
|2||Syncrolite SD-6 Status Display (Remote Data/Control)|
|2||Apple G5 tower (PixelMAD)|
|3||IBM ThinkCentre Rack Mount Computer|
|2||Stealth Computing 1u LCD Monitor/Keyboard|
|1||Rhino JR Removable SCSI Enclosure|
|1||Atto Technology Ultra 320 SCSI Card|
|1||SCSI Hard Drive (Content Storage) 300GB|
|4||MIDI Solutions M8 8 Input Merger|
|2||MIDI Solutions T8 8 Output Thru|
|4||APC UPS 450|
|1||Black Box ServSelect KVM system|
|1||Brainstorm Electronics SR-15+ Distripalyzer|
|10||Cisco 2950 24-Port Switch|
|8||Cisco Aironet 1200 Wireless Access Point|
|5||Cisco Catalyst 2950 Switch 24-Port (w/2 Fiber GBIC)|
|1||Cisco Catalyst 2950 Switch 48-Port (w/2 Fiber GBIC)|
|5||Cisco Catalyst 3550 Switch ( w/8 Fiber GBIC)|
|5||Cisco Redundant Power Supply (RPS) 675|
|3||Middle Atlantic 16-Space Wall Equipment Rack|
|3||Middle Atlantic 20-Space Wall Rack|
|2||Middle Atlantic 38-Space Rack|
|3||Middle Atlantic 48-Space Control Rack|
|9||PowerDsine 12-Port Power over Ethernet (PoE)|
|6||PowerDsine 24-Port PoE Injector|
|1||Ethernet Patch Panel (w/16-Points)|
|1||Ethernet Patch Panel (w/24-Points)|
|1||Ethernet Patch Panel (w/40-Points)|
|41||Ethernet Patch Panel (w/8-Points)|
|9||Fiber Patch Panel (4-Pairs)|
|2||Fiber Patch Panel (12-Pairs, Total of 24-Pairs)|
|5||Fiber Patch Panel (12-Pairs, Total of 60-Pairs)|
|4||Fiber Termination Rack (Expansion, 4-Pairs)|
Show Control System (provided by Scharff Weisberg)
Control Software: Medialon Manager
Computer Systems: Dell Dimension P4 3.4GHz
100BaseT Switch: HP Procurve 4000
Relay Interface: Opto 22
Serial Interface: Moxa nPort
Database Software: Microsoft SQL Server
KVM Switching: Raritan
NAS: Snap Server 4500
Printer: HP Color LaserJet
Video Playback System (provided by Scharff Weisberg)
Control Software: Medialon Manager
Control Computer System: Dell
Dimension P4 3.4 GHz
100Base T Switch: HP Procurve 2524
Relay Interface: Opto 22
Serial Interface: Moxa nPort
KVM Switching: Raritan
Video Playback Computer: 3 Apple G5 (Dual 2.5Ghz)
Video Playback Master: Apple G5 (Dual 2.5 Ghz)
Video Playback Software: Custom in Max MSP Jitter
Video Content Type: Uncompressed QuickTime
Waterfall Projector: 3 Barco XLM H25
Disk Projector: 2 Barco XLM H25
Head Projector: 2 Barco R18
Media Storage: 6 Apple XServe
Fiber Channel Switch: QLogic Sanbox
WYNN CREW LIST
Lighting designer: Patrick Woodroffe/PWLD
Associate LD: Adam Bassett
Lead programmer: Patrick Dierson
Asst. programmer/system technician: Ron Schilling, Wynn Las Vegas
Asst. programmer/system technician: Alex Ares, Wynn Las Vegas
Show control programmer/operator: Jason Goldenberg, Wynn Las Vegas
Lighting control systems engineer & designer: Paul Franklin
PRG project manager: Jim Holladay
Scharff Weisberg project manager: Chris Keitel
Technical director: Wyatt DeFreitas, Wynn Design & Development
Front feature manager: Danny Murphy, Wynn Las Vegas
Front feature production manager: Paul Meyers
For additional information on PRG's lighting system installation and integration at Wynn Las Vegas, visit our online article at: www.lightingdimensions.com/projectnews/PRG_Wynn/index.html.