Modern redesign of Johnny Carson studio features ETC Rigging

Date Posted: 5/22/2014

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Based on appearances alone, it may be hard to believe that the new state-of-the-art iHeart Radio Theater in Burbank, California, used to be the home of NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. When Clear Channel Communications began the process to refit the former home of the late night show, it was clear they had quite a few challenges on their hands, particularly when it came to rigging. ETC worked closely with systems integrator PRG and entertainment design company Sholight to plan the massive overhaul and redesign.

"We needed to find a rigging solution that was modern, efficient and versatile," states Littman, owner and principal designer of Sholight. Therefore, the old counterweight system was removed and ETC's motorized rigging system was installed in its place. "ETC's Prodigy rigging system seemed to be a natural fit for this project," he explains. "I had been aware of ETC's Prodigy line for some time. We kept a close watch on what ETC was doing with Prodigy and saw it develop into a really fantastic rigging solution."

Says Littman: "Unlike with a conventional counterweight rigging system, Prodigy requires only a single operator. Via the Foundation controller, the rigging operator is able to safely move multiple battens in and out at the same, review weights, as well as create stacks of cues for live moves during a show. The fact that show files can be named and stored means it's easy to switch between custom show trims and standard house trims." A total of 36 ETC Prodigy® hoists were installed to manage the 32 electrics, three speaker arrays and one utility batten in the large, versatile space. "After seeing the system installed and operating for a few months," he elaborates, "it was hard to imagine using any other system."

Four Sensor3™ and Unison® DRd power control racks were also installed within the venue, along with twenty-four Selador® Desire® D40 Lustr+ luminaires, 44 Source Four PAR™ units, 68 Source Four® fixtures, a Unison Paradigm® Central Control Server with an 18-inch touchscreen. "We chose to use Sensor3 for both theatrical and architectural systems," explains Littman. "This allowed us to achieve our goal of creating one unified control network for both systems, allowing operators to seamlessly switch between console and architectural controllers. All lighting-control information is handled over a single ETC Net3 IP network, rather than multiple DMX universes." ETC's Desire luminaires also fit the bill with their impeccable performance. "The D40s' x7 Color System is able to create beautiful, mixed, bold, saturated colors, as well as more subtle tones, and they do it with little to no color shadowing," he describes. "They performed perfectly on camera."

After the installation when they got to see the equipment in the venue, everyone was exceptionally pleased with the results. "The entire experience from design to implementation with ETC was great," says Littman. "Due to the sheer size of this project and the amount of equipment being installed, one misplaced piece would have had a huge cascading effect across the whole project. ETC recognized this issue and worked closely with Jim Holiday and Zach Alexander at PRG to ensure that even before the construction process began, we were sure all the pieces would fit perfectly into place as designed."

The 20,000-square-foot iHeart Radio Theater regularly hosts live events and performances, such as album release parties, that take full advantage of its new, high-capacity rigging system. "Prodigy is without a doubt the rigging system for the 21st Century. It's safe, intelligent, and efficient, which is why we are big supporters," Littman explains. "We are hoping to have the chance to use the new, heavier-capacity P75 Hoist on a future project. I think moving forward and looking at future installs, Prodigy will pretty much be our go-to for rigging."