It Takes A Lot Of Power To Sink The Titanic

It Takes A Lot Of Power To Sink The Titanic

Byline: Michael S. Eddy

Talk about spring cleaning: In September 2001, after 20 years, Jubilee, the Las Vegas extravaganza, got new dimmers. The theatre at Bally’s Casino and Hotel (originally the MGM), opened on April 23, 1974 (with another show, Hallelujah Hollywood), featuring a then-state-of-the-art Kliegl dimming system, designed by theatre consultant George Thomas Howard. In 1974, with a slider patch and 6kW and 12kW dimmers, you had the latest and greatest equipment. Time and technology have moved on.

Technical director Chris Nelson says, “Our old Kliegl dimmers were original to the building and we had maintenance, safety, and efficiency problems.” Nelson brought in the systems integration team from 4Wall Entertainment, headed by Bill Lairamore, to provide equipment and engineer the data network. “They had pulled a lot of DMX cable,” says Lairamore, referring to the addition of a full DMX network three years ago. “We put in a Pathway Connectivity Pathfinder system. It’s a combination of an Ethernet and a traditional DMX system, with DMX sending data to moving lights and scrollers, and the racks addressed through ETCNet II.” In some racks, he says, dimmer universes split in the middle: “You’d reach the end of one domain in the middle of a rack and pick up the next one. Without putting in massive amounts of mergers and equipment, it would have been almost impossible. Net II made it very easy.”

The renovation gives the theatre a dimmer-per-circuit system. “We were always limited by our patch system,” says Nelson. For example, the theatre was designed so that everything terminated in three locations. Two were dimmer racks/patch panels and one was a patch panel only, with no power. The electrical contractor, Bombard Electric, pulled in power while Jubilee was still running, before renovation began. Bombard removed approximately 60,000lb (27,000kg) of Kliegl dimming. In its place they installed 25 ETC Sensor dimmer racks with 769 D20AF modules [1538 20A dimmers], 204 50A modules, 83 100A modules, and 34 Dual Relay Modules. Referring to one of Jubilee’s big scenes, Lairamore laughs, “It takes a lot of power to sink the Titanic!”

Time was of the essence, with three weeks allotted for the project. “We did the entire thing on paper first,” says Nelson. “We started with getting the power to the place, reviewing the conduit, since the as-builts weren’t quite right; we had to do new site surveys.” Lairamore adds, “There are hundreds of DMX outlets in this building. We had to tone them out and make sure that the wire pulls were correct, that this wire did really go from this point to this point.” Lairamore adds that the pre-planning paid off: “We had months to figure this out, to tweak the drawings, to get everything approved.”

Over the years, control was upgraded to ETC Obsession and Flying Pig Systems Wholehog [superscript]??I consoles. “With the show dark, we had the time to gut the booth and rebuild the space, completely and efficiently. Now it looks like the starship Enterprise,” says Nelson. “We had to transfer the show from the Obsession to the new Obsession II console,” says Lairamore. “This took only a few days, but we had to make sure the cues timed out, so my guys watched the show several times.” The re-cueing process took place before the show went dark. Nelson says, “It’s great to have all these dimmers, but then you have to convert all the cues from the reaction time of the old dimmers to the new ones.” Another issue was circuit numbering. “Back then, dimmers were so expensive so you wanted to build a nice strong unit to do many functions; now you want every dimmer to be a separate circuit,” says Nelson. “Our numbering scheme referred to the location, the wattage, and its horizontal location. It was very complicated, involving numbers and letters, but computer boards can’t relate to that, so we changed to a straight numbering system and re-labeled everything.”

In addition to Nelson, Bally’s personnel involved in the project were Louis Bradfield, head electrician, and Drew Strozza, assistant technical director. (Bradfield has worked this room since it opened in 1974.) Principal crew people from Bombard Electric included Jason C. Bosnos, Ron Hatter, Barry Darensbourg, and Eric Anderson. Other 4Wall personnel on this project were Randy Kee and Buddy Pope.

During the renovation, the attacks of September 11 took place and Bally’s delayed Jubilee’s re-opening for an extra week. “We used the extra time to tweak some things,” says Lairamore, “but it was ready to run in the time frame that they gave us.” Nelson says, “We stuck to the original deadlines and used that extra week for double- and triple-checking.” This was beneficial: “SMPTE drives so much of our show, and there are times that we have five or six cues a second, and we wanted to be sure all of these would execute,” says Nelson. “There were some things in the macros we had to redo but we didn’t have any real problems. Once the show opened we had no problems; we worked out all the problems in rehearsal.”

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