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Lighting Designer Jeffery Smith Previsualizes The Gala Opening of Dubai’s Atlantis The Palm At Prelite’s New York Studio

AtlantisFor an event the magnitude of the star-studded grand opening of Atlantis The Palm, the $1.5 billion luxury resort in Dubai, seeing lighting elements programmed prior to the load-in for the gala was essential. Lighting designer Jeffrey Smith selected Prelite to help him previsualize the lighting for the $20 million private party attended by a Who’s Who of A-list celebrities and tycoons on November 20, 2008. Prelite offers lighting designers and programmers a comfortable place to use emerging technologies to previsualize lighting prior to being in the venue.

The seven-star Atlantis The Palm is the flagship resort on Palm Jumeirah, the palm-shaped artificial island located off the Jumeirah coast of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The gala grand opening featured a multimedia show in which 3D animations projected on the hotel’s facade combined with lighting and several spectacular Grucci fireworks displays — reputed to be seven times the size of the fireworks at the Beijing Summer Olympics — to tell the legend of the lost continent of Atlantis.

“Jeffery had a short turnaround and wanted to program the show in our studio instead of working long hours on site, at night in the extreme heat of the desert,” notes Prelite partner Tom Thompson. “This enabled him to limit the live show run-throughs to rehearse the lighting and kept more secrecy surrounding the event activities.”

“Prelite gave us the ability to see what the final product would look like without going halfway around the world,” says Smith who is also creative director at lighting manufacturer Syncrolite. “They gave us the freedom to create the show in a very comfortable environment.”

Prelite partner Rodd McLaughlin and Michael Eddy acted as studio hosts handling all the technical and customer service aspects of the project. They set up Smith and programmer Cory Fitzgerald with a grandMA console of their choice, and a computer running Vision realtime visualization software, which was selected from an array of software packages as the best tool for the job.

Smith and Fitzgerald input information into the grandMA on the first day. Then they were joined by show producer Edd Griles who brought a single-screen copy of the animation with time code. On day two the trio built the show from beginning to end. “Edd said, ‘How would we have done it if we didn’t have Prelite?’ He was blown away by our ability to finish in such a short time,” Smith recalls.

The lighting designer deployed 90 Syncrolites for the building’s illumination sequence: 32 XL10s, 14 5K3s, 16 MX3000s, 18 5K2s and 10 5K2HPs. Four Syncrolite technicians installed and maintained the rig on site.

Smith’s main challenge was to complement both the projected animations and the fireworks and carry the story of Atlantis beyond the hotel itself. A light beaming from the hotel’s top accompanied animation of the formation of our galaxy; wide washes and flashes evoking lightning aroused emotion when the continent of Atlantis was destroyed.

When Smith left the Prelite studio “all I had to do was touch up a few focuses on site and we were ready to go,” he points out. “Prelite was a very valuable tool for creating that kind of enormous spectacle.”

In addition, all the programming information compiled in New York was sent back to Prelite’s San Francisco headquarters where 3ds Max animations of the lighting design, to timecode, were created. “With the Prelite animations we were able to have frame-accurate cues matching the animation on the building which we could play back on a computer or laptop and show people what the show would look like,” says Smith.

He also gives kudos to Prelite’s host concept. “The way the studio is set up with knowledgeable people to host you and help you whenever needed is very impressive. They really bent over backwards to host us — we got rock-star treatment. That added to making the experience extremely enjoyable and comfortable,” he reports.

About Prelite

Prelite was founded in San Francisco February 2000 by Tom Thompson and Norm Schwab as a place for lighting designers and programmers to use technologies to previsualize lighting projects. Its success led to the launch of Prelite NY in June 2001 by Kim Grethen and Rodd McLaughlin. The bicoastal company provides studios where previsualization and creativity take center stage away from the distractions and interruptions of a chaotic work environment and where clients save time and money and minimize stress. Prelite also offers on-site previsualization services for those who prefer the convenience of working at the venue. For more information, visit www.prelite.com or contact Thomas Thompson at 415-883-7727.

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