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Jack Morton Worldwide Uses Prelite to Previsualize Lighting Design for Dreamforce and VMworld Conferences

Dream Force

Dream Force

The Jack Morton Worldwide-produced general sessions at Dreamforce 2011 and VMworld 2011 reaped the benefits of using Prelite Studios, LLC to previsualize their extensive lighting design needs. In addition, Prelite helped make the transition to the lighting rigs for each conference’s gala concert – Metallica headlining Dreamforce and The Killers at VMworld – smooth and efficient.

Dreamforce 2011, the ninth annual conference held by salesforce.com, is now the world’s largest enterprise software conference. Salesforce.com is an enterprise cloud computing company whose cloud platform and apps, including its flagship CRM solution, helps employees collaborate easily and connect with customers like never before. Dreamforce registered 45,000 live attendees this year with another approximately 35,000 joining online.

Lighting designer Paul Efron utilized Prelite onsite at San Francisco’s Moscone Center during the load in; Prelite cofounder Tom Thompson acted as Prelite host and Efron’s assistant lighting designer.

“I use Prelite any time I can, especially when there’s a compressed load-in because there are so many advantages,” says Efron. “Prelite enables us to previsualize so much in advance – we save time we don’t have onsite, can adapt more easily to unforeseen changes and integrate better with the gala act.”

The big scope of Dreamforce and the short load-in period – less than three days for the entire show and approximately 850 lights – made Prelite an essential first step for Efron, he recalls. “We were lighting the entire South Hall of the Moscone Center, including all the architectural aspects. Prelite allowed us to rough in a lot ahead of time, previs the scenery and get the focuses in place.”

“It took quite a bit of programming to create a show of that magnitude,” says Prelite’s Tom Thompson. “The South Hall is often divided into three, but Paul lit the entire hall and its walls and arches, mostly with moving lights, plus the stage.”

Prelite came in especially handy when it was decided to move part of the stage more than 20 feet upstage after everyone arrived onsite. “The stage size and position changed dramatically,” Efron reports. “But Prelite gave us the flexibility to adapt onsite, which was huge. No matter how well you prepare, things still happen onsite and it’s better to see them in Prelite than when you’re up in the air.”

Efron deployed VARI*LITE VL3500 spots shuttered to the walls and scenery, VL3500 washes to zoom out wide and shoot far, and VL100 spots for the far side walls. Martin MAC 301s off the center rig were used for effects play-ons with LED PARs inside the truss. “The salesforce.com CEO likes to walk out in the house so we used followspots to catch him, and we washed the audience with broadcast support lighting, which we also preprogrammed,” he adds.

After the first day’s general session there were about six hours to ready the stage for the gala concert by Metallica. “Metallica had their own rig – similar to what they use for a stadium tour in Europe – from lighting designer John Broderick,” says Efron. “Because of the short turnaround Tom modeled their lighting in our system in advance: John gave us his files and Tom gave him back a file to work with. It would have been very difficult to do without Prelite.”

To save time, Metallica’s rig was hung as part of the Efron’s general session rig. “We got it to fit with ours and stay out of the sight lines of the main projection screen,” Efron notes. “It was great to be able to take a look in Prelite and make sure our sight lines were clear.”

Following the concert the lighting changed back for another general session the next day.

The general session programmers were Phil Shearer and Rob Smith; the Metallica programmers were Rob Koenig and Troy Eckerman.

VMworld, the convention for the latest virtualization technologies and strategies, which can help organizations realize their visions for a cloud computing approach to IT, was held at The Sands Expo & Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Lighting designer Norm Schwab teamed with Prelite host Mike Robertson to program the general session onsite during the load-in for the event, which featured massive projection surfaces – a main screen about 100 feet wide flanked by 200-foot surfaces – plus a cyclorama almost 70 feet wide. Some 12,000 people attended three general sessions in the room with The Killers concert sandwiched in between.

“We worked closely with Jack Morton creative director Don Richards who did a lot of the media content for the screens,” says Schwab. “We lit the cyc to match the videos in color, texture or pattern using custom gobos to coordinate with the projections’ triangle and cloud motifs. There was little time to program anything live – we would have had no chance without Prelite.”

The most challenging aspect of the conference for Schwab was a SMPTE-synchronous event – a tour of the history of computing and virtualization without narration – that ran during the opening module. “It was a stunning widescreen, stylized computer animation – feature-film quality,” he recalls. “The lighting had to complement it and spread over 400 feet of the room. We covered the cyc in the middle with lighting effects and lit the audience with color, pattern, sweeps and other movements to enhance the media.”

To accomplish that, Schwab ran SMPTE time code through two grandMA lighting consoles, one of which programmed the stage effects and the other the house effects. “We could see the lighting and the media in Prelite, synchronize them and see what everything would look like before the show,” he explains. “We only had about eight hours with the actual rig before the event, so working with Prelite was a real benefit.”

Approximately 1.5 miles of trussing was installed for the general sessions. A complement of 500 moving lights, including Martin MAC 3s, 301s and 2000s and Clay Paky Alpha Beams, was supplied by Christie Lights.

“There were no major surprises onsite,” says Schwab. “Setting up for The Killers concert after the first day’s session was the most complex activity.” To transition to the festival-style event hundreds of trees were brought in along with tipis, food stations and alternate stages. The space was changed back for another general session the next day.

Seth Rappaport and Jason Mack were the programmers for the general sessions with Rick Voigt producer and Chuck Knuth technical director.

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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