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Visual Support for Radio City Christmas Tour

PLSN Staff • News • December 17, 2008

NEW YORK — Every year, more than a million people get their holiday kicks by traveling to New York to see the Rockettes at the annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular in New York. Well over 100,000 more wait for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular Arena Tour to come to them. In all, 34 trucks and 16 buses travel to 18 arenas with capacities between 7,000 to 12,000 people. Along with the precision dancing of the Rockettes, the touring production includes lighting effects and projected imagery, flying sequences, a set that surrounds the audience, snowfall and a Living Nativity scene. Digital content designers and creators Idyll Hands Imagery, Inc. provided transitional content and projection for the touring show.

“Very early on in the planning for the arena show, David Agress, lighting designer for all of the Radio City productions, came to us to provide effects for a couple of the transitional segments,” said Rodd McLaughlin of Idyll Hands Imagery.  “I’ve known David for many years, and when the opportunity arose to work with him on this we were thrilled.”

Agress asked Idyll Hands to create visual transitions projected onto curtains prior to two Radio City Rockette segments.  “While the transitions are based on elements in the New York Radio City Christmas Spectacular, they have been considerably changed and reinvented,” he said.  “Since we have the ability to project onto a front curtain in the arena show, these elements have become more important.  Also, since these audiences are not in New York, it’s key to represent to them the look of Christmas time in the city.”

Shown prior to one Radio City Rockette number, the New York At Christmas segment is a montage of stills and video clips sourced from New York photographers and stock footage libraries mixed with 3D elements crafted by McLaughlin and conveying the feel of the city during the holiday season.  

The Memories segment, shown just before a 75-year Rockettes’ retrospective, uses a 3072-by-768 edge-blended pixel space for an array of family Christmas photos projected onto a gathered, curved drape.  “It’s a silk Austrian curtain that descends downstage.  The projection is not meant to be a bright, crisp image but rather evocative of family memories among everyone in the audience.   Rather than purchasing photos we were able to personalize our image base by getting family pictures from the entire production staff.”

McLaughlin designed and executed the montages using software that included After Effects, Motion, Photoshop and Premiere, with art direction by Agress.  A trio of High End Systems DL.3 projectors were used for projection.

“Rodd worked closely with me from the beginning after I storyboarded and selected a lot of the clips,” said Agress.  “Then Idyll Hands made the magic happen.  All the movement and transitions were better than I could have anticipated, and Rodd replaced some images with ones he knew would work better.  It was a total collaborative effort, and it worked out great.”

Agress decided to make further use of McLaughlin’s prelighting capabilities.  “He really understood the show from a lighting standpoint and plugged into what I was looking for,” he said.

The director and choreographer of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Linda Haberman, was “so pleased with the work that Rodd and I created that she decided to put the segments into the New York show this year,” said Agress.   “The arena show is based on the Radio City Music Hall show, but it gave us the opportunity to improve on what we did last year.  By putting these elements from the arena back into New York we’ve come full circle.”  

Paul Turner is the lighting director and programmer for the arena show and has been the lead programmer for all the Radio City Music Hall road companies.

Based in New York, New York, Idyll Hands Imagery is headed by Rodd McLaughlin and Patrick Dierson who have decades of experience in lighting, video and projection.  Idyll Hands provides digital content design and creation from the ground up or can transform clients’ ideas into digital content for media-server playback.  

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