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NYC’s Radio City Christmas Show Gets Even More Spectacular

by PLSN Staff • in
  • Articles
  • December 2017
  • Features
• Created: December 14, 2017
Ultra-high-res projection-mapping extends from four to eight of the venue’s proscenium arches, and all native 14,000-by-14,000 pixels were mapped for the FOH projection. Photos courtesy Radio City/MSG.

Since it premiered in 1933, the annual Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes has always wowed the New York City crowds taking a break from gawking at the big tree and window-shopping the holiday offerings lining the streets near New York’s Rockefeller Center. But the 2017 show can make a credible claim to being the most spectacular show to date, with an assist from a complete technical overhaul that includes a new 8K LED video wall and 14K digital projection-mapping extending to all eight of Radio City Music Hall’s iconic prosceniumarches.

An 8k LED video wall resides upstage

Working on behalf of Madison Square Garden Co. (MSG), the lease-holder and management company running Radio City Music Hall’s shows, the visual design team including content providers Obscura Digital and batwin + robin productions, which helped optimize existing video projection and LED content for the new video setup.

By extending the visuals from four arches to eight, this year’s show draws Radio City Music Hall’s 6,000-plus capacity crowds into the magic of the season during a series of highlights that include the energetic tap number, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and the finale capping the 90-minute spectacle, “Snow.”

The arches are separated by different video content

The upstage LED wall that serves as the backdrop for the Christmas Spectacular has been upgraded, and it now ranks as one of the largest 8K resolution LED screens in the world. VER supplied the wall of ROE Creative Display’s 3.4mm LED tiles covering a span of 8,064 x 3,456 pixels, plus a couple of LED “legs” (3,312 x 576 each). Radio City Music Hall also owns and installed 36 Christie Digital 4K30 Boxer projectors running as 18 double-stacks. They are all located on the side floor of the theater shooting upwards.

The crew had 11 days of tech rehearsals, including two days of dress rehearsals, to get it all mapped and programmed perfectly.

The projectors shot all the way to the back of the balcony

The projectors aren’t individually dedicated to a cove of the proscenium. Obscura use architectural mapping and masking techniques with the projectors to “jump coves.” In the end, each of the seven proscenium arches was mapped out to be fed media individually, or as a whole image, when all the projectors were blended together. All native 14,000 x 14,000 pixels were mapped, pixel-for-pixel, for the FOH projections.

The designers who optimized the look of all those pixels for the 90-minute show needed to provide a finished product within a two-month time frame — which is actually a very short span of time for a show of this magnitude, which could easily consume six months of production time. To meet the challenge, Obscura Digital had a crew of 15 working pretty much 24/7 to get it done in time.

An 8k LED video wall resides upstage

The playback servers are Delta 7th Sense Media Servers playing 4092×2160 at 10bit YUV uncompressed. That, Obscura Digital says, is another industry first. The playback was executed with 4K 2SI @ 60FPS — true 4096×2160 single 12G SDI distribution across all of RCMH. Once the programming was all done, the video elements were time-coded in with the rest of the show’s production elements to ensure a level of precision that would border on perfection — like the performance of the Rockettes themselves.

Obscura provided awe inspiring content

“Fans will be awed by the updated technology in this year’s Christmas Spectacular,” said Larry Sedwick, senior vice president of production, The Madison Square Garden Company. “We’ve expanded upon the existing projections to create a wholly immersive experience for our fans from the first row to the third mezzanine. It’s truly the most immersive theatergoing experience available in New York and beyond.”

“As content creators, we’ve had the privilege of working on many large scale architectural projections from the Vatican to the Empire State Building to the Sydney Opera House,” said Matty Dowlen, chief of production of Obscura Digital. “We’re honored to now work on something as iconic and beloved as the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes.”

Radio City Music Hall owns and installed 36 Christie Digital 4K30 Boxer projectors running as 18 double-stacks. They are all located on the side floor of the theater, shooting upwards.

This year’s show runs Nov. 10-Jan. 1. For more, go to www.rockettes.com/christmas.

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