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San Francisco Ballet Finds Prelite Previsualization Services Invaluable for Complex Lighting Demands of World Premiere of “Borderlands”

The unusual lighting demands of the world premiere of “Borderlands,” a modern dance piece performed by the San Francisco Ballet at the War Memorial Opera House, were facilitated when Maria T. Mendoza took advantage of Prelite Studios’ previsualization services before arriving on stage.

Mendoza, key lighting programmer and Assistant Master Electrician with the San Francisco Ballet, had worked successfully with Prelite on a number of corporate productions. “I was very excited to finally be able to introduce Prelite to the Ballet and apply the process to a more theatrical environment,” she says.

Mendoza set up the full Prelite system in the Ballet’s electrical shop ten days in advance of hitting the stage. “Choreographer Wayne McGregor’s ‘Borderlands’ was an unusual case for us. We usually use our lighting inventory of 600-700 conventional fixtures to which we add movers, HMIs and other lights depending on the designer’s request and production budget,” she explains. “The lighting designer for ‘Borderlands,’ Lucy Carter, came up with a rig consisting of 32 six-foot RGBAW ColorBlaze TRX fixtures that spanned the stage; they were configured eight each on four system pipes about ten feet apart.

“The set featured three large gray canvas frames, about 50×30 feet, that basically created a three-wall boxed set,” Mendoza continues. “Once San Francisco Ballet Master Electrician, Kelly Corter, and I saw the lighting plot and Lucy’s intentions, we immediately thought of Prelite given the limited on-stage time we’d have once the lights and set were physically set up. There was no way my fellow board op Anna McGriff and I could be programming on-stage for ten days with a full crew standing by.”

Prelite was especially helpful in supporting the pixel-mapping feature on ETC’s EOS lighting console. “We used pixel mapping in conjunction with the standard console protocol; cues would use one or the other. This was the first time for the Ballet and myself using the EOS Pixel Mapper, and it was very effective,” Mendoza reports. “I have used various media servers and consoles in this application before, but we decided to stick with the EOS in-house and for the ballet’s eventual tour. There was a bit of a learning curve, but the folks at ETC tech support were incredibly helpful, and Prelite tech Adam Rechner was with us on site at all times so that any issues that might have come up could be addressed immediately. With Prelite we were able to tackle the EOS Pixel Mapper learning curve without using up precious stage tech time.”

Mendoza found many other advantages to using Prelite as well. “Once Lucy arrived on site we spent days recording and creating every imaginable way of loading media, grouping and building effects for hundreds of individual channels. Prelite allowed us to then take all of the content clips, groups and effects and see how they interacted before actual live cueing began.”

She is convinced that “there was absolutely no way that we would have been able to be prepared for a rehearsal one day after install without all the work we did with Prelite. I’d recommend Prelite to anyone who has a time-consuming programming project and very limited on-site time. We would not have had the same outcome without it.”

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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