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Crossfade Design Sharpens Buffalo Sabre’s Looks

PLSN Staff • Sports Lighting • November 9, 2017

The demand by audiences for more entertainment value for their buck has opened a whole new industry for live entertainment designers, that of sports. Following the example generated during the Predators/Penguin playoffs, the National Hockey League (NHL) is advocating all their teams to step up entertainment production surrounding their teams’ games.

The design partnership of Crossfade Design, which now includes principals Michael Nevitt, Eric Wade and Jason Robinson have built a firm reputation for creating better sports fan experiences for the Cleveland Cavaliers, HBO, Top Rank and ESPN Boxing along with the work they’ve done for Super Bowl halftime shows. So it’s not surprising that NHL teams have been calling on Crossfade as well.

“We really have fallen into and are filling, a much-needed niche in sports entertainment,” says Eric Wade. A recent case in point: the Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey franchise in Buffalo, NY. Crossfade Design worked to provide new lighting looks along with a new operating system for their home rink, KeyBank Center Arena.

Crossfade Design can update the programmed looks remotely.

    Remote Programming
The KeyBank Center is an extremely busy venue. Between the days when sporting events and concerts are filling the 19,000-capacity venue, the staff is kept busy preparing the ice or setting the floor for another event. There is little or no time for programmers to get in the arena to update looks.

The solution the Sabres managers and Crossfade came up with was to update and install a grandMA Light front-end control system featuring the MA 3D visualizer, which facilitates remote programming. An Art-Net system was already in place, which they plugged into via a solution from Pathway Connectivity. Additionally, all programming is set to timecode. Whenever new looks or additional seasonal, special event programming is needed, a file is sent to Crossfade, who then strip in a new timeline.

“We now program all of their shows remotely from our studios and then upload that to a file folder onsite for their operators,” says Wade. The local operator receives a 30-minute run through task program to ensure all cues are being hit.

“Working with Michael Nevitt and the Crossfade team has made programming the various light shows we use throughout the hockey season a smooth and easy process,” says Kelsey Schneider, the Sabres’ director of game presentation. “They have been great with taking our vision and making it come to life on game nights.”
The first step in setting up the remote programming process is to build a very accurate 3D file of the entire building, then calibrate the system onsite. This ensures that in the virtual world when light “A” goes to center ice, that move is duplicated in the real world.

Crossfade has several design studios, the default locations for building and programming files. “However,” says Wade, “we have the remote programming set up so we can do it anywhere. We just had a guy in India work on a file for us.”

The Sabres also wanted to create a unique new entrance look for their team. “Our design team came up with an ‘X’ type truss with custom LED ‘Crossing Sabres’ mounted to the truss, which flies in and out on high speed motors.” The DMX controlled scenic element was created made by Ben Rodman of Infinity Productions. Cryo smoke and lights complete the picture.

    The Crossed Sabres
“The player entrance that we have added for the 2017-18 season has created something that is unique to KeyBank Center,” says Schneider. “We wanted to create something that highlighted our team and spoke to our pride in the Sabres logo, and the crossed Sabres did just that. It creates an extra element of excitement and enhances the atmosphere when the players take the ice for the start of the game.”

Wade, Nevitt and Robinson have known and worked with each other for more than 25 years. Each has been involved in various capacities at the leading edge of intelligent lighting console development and operation.

“All three of us have been doing previz for years,” says Michael Nevitt, “but we’ve never attacked a full project like this with the majority of it being pre-visualized remotely. We started looking into the concept and it seemed to be doable, given the circumstances. The ice is always the same, and the arena is always the same and trim heights remain the same. This is quite the opposite of touring situations, where those parameters change daily with the different venues.”

Crossfade has a group of top-notch programmers, both on staff and freelance who handle various projects for the designers. Mark Pranzini did the initial onsite programming with the new entrance look, while freelancer Justin Cheatham, based in New York City, has a previz system to update the system remotely when in-house staff is booked up on other projects.

“The player entrance received a lot of positive feedback on opening night, and now fans are interested in coming to the game earlier to see the swords in action as the team takes the ice for the start of the game,” says Schneider. 

The scenic element is backed by box truss.

Lighting Upgrade for Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center


  • Buffalo Sabres Director of Game Presentation: Kelsey Schneider
  • Crossfade Design Team: Michael Nevitt, Eric Wade, Jason Robinson, Sam Brown (Associate), Sam Schad (3D Rendering)
  • Programmers: Justin Cheatham, Jason Winfree, Mark Pranzini
  • Sabres Console Operator: Dan Kinda
  • Project Manager: Brian Mann



  • 1          grandMA2 Light console
  • 1          grandMA2 OnPC/Fader wing w/ Tracking Backup
  • 1          Rack mount PC OnPC/MA3D Visualizer
  • 8          Claypaky Sharpys
  • 12       Vari-Lite VL3500 Wash FX
  • 8          Vari-Lite VL3015LT Spots
  • 8          High End Systems Intellaspots
  • 16       Martin Atomic Strobe
  • 2          Radiance Touring Hazer
  • 2          Circle truss (12” box, 14’ outer diameter)
  • 16       Box truss (16” x 16”, 8’ sections)

Entrance Setup:

  • 4          Elation ACL200 LED pars
  • 6          Elation ACL360i
  • 1          Elation WDMX system
  • 4          Euro truss HD44-300 truss
  • 1          Euro truss BLK044-2 Corner Block
  • 1          Custom LED lighting “Crossing Sabres” scenic element, DMX controlled
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