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"Spend a day at KÁ"- Special Report from LDI 2008

Discussion in 'Stage Management and Facility Operations' started by gafftaper, Oct 29, 2008.

  1. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Well last Thursday thanks to the good folks at LDI I had the adventure of a lifetime at Cirque Du Soleil: KA. I got a three hour backstage tour with the T.D. of all 9 floors of this $200 million building. We had a dinner break. Then after a few minutes hanging in the control booth. I got assigned to work on stage with Tony the deck electrician. The guy's been there from the start and knew every detail of the space. Although his job is primarily moving around a few lights during set changes and fixing things if there's a problem, he helps the other departments with set changes too (a great lesson for those with the King/Queen of the booth complex).

    The Assistant L.D. (I think) gave me a wireless clearcom pack set to a channel that only he, myself, and Tony were on so I had a private audio tour as we went along. However before I could go backstage my tour guide had a problem. With only 2 or 3 minutes before curtain it was discovered that the riggers had stepped on some instruments and blown the lamps again... apparently a regular problem in this one specific location. So while the show was starting, my guide was installing new lamps on stage. Once that was sorted out I was delivered backstage walking through the house high in the air on the catwalk network. Once in the back there was a series of doors slamming and people standing around casually talking. I was confused and shocked and asked why aren't people being quiet. It turns out when you have 4000 speakers in a theater (including speakers inside every seat) you don't have to worry about being quiet back stage.:rolleyes:

    So Tony takes me around a corner and suddenly we are standing just inches off stage on a catwalk 30' above the real floor, watching a scene on a flying stage. The scene ends and we move for Tony's first cue. Hugging a stairway we crawl within inches of being seeing. He points to a specific light hanging on a rail on stage (as projections of flaming arrows fly inches above our heads) and says "when the scene is clear wait for the actors to leave the stage, the crew to go on stage, and when this stage manager finally goes up the steps you go to that point and watch... then I'll pick you up when I leave the stage". I can't believe I'm where I'm at having the conversation I'm having. Then the fist bumps began. Apparently every time an actor leaves stage and meets a technician there is a fist bump. Tony said, "Go along with it. If you don't do it you'll only confuse the artists." So I proceeded to fist bump my way through the evening. Then we rush up the steps. He starts helping with the set change giving me a detailed narration of what he is doing on the com. When the change is done we go in the back and he plays air guitar. Oh yeah I like this guy :cool:

    From there on it was non-stop insanity. With Tony saying things like, "When I wave my hand I want you to stand exactly HERE so you don't get killed." What a rush. Watching massive lifts moving, twisting and turning the massive main deck, acrobats flying and I'm inches away underneath or above them in the dark.

    At one point he says "don't look up." So I look up of course.... just in time to get hit by 3 or 4 lightning strikes... I went blind for a few minutes so it's hard to know how many for sure. I think this is the product... I'm not sure which model they have but let me assure you one should never look at 3 or 4 of them at once.

    Then there was the great climactic battle where 16 people are suspended on their own independently controlled high speed winch lines high in the air battling. I got to stand directly under them watching the battle and dodging things thrown to the floor in the fight.

    I could go on for days about the technology in this show: The stage lifting system as described in this video that was linked to in the main LDI 2008 thread is like a massive Disney ride. Oh and that stage on that lift has a touch sensitive deck that sends messages to the booth where to put projections to make the deck ripple when people walk on it in the battle. There's the IR motion sensor system that tracks artist movement to project bubbles around them when they are "underwater". There's real and projected flaming arrows, Pyro, 4000 speakers, Over 3000 lights... it's unreal. My favorite excess are the "Lighting Panels of Doom". During the Wheel of Death scene, these two huge panels come flying in. 24 rows tall by 8 rows wide... 192 PARS per panel. One per side of the stage = 384 Pars (looked like S4 or similar). All running around 30-40% for a nice orange glow. When the scene is done they go away never to be seen again. Awesome look both lighting and architecturally. It must have cost at least $100k-$200k to buy, build, and install for only about 4 minutes of show. THAT'S AWESOME.

    So thanks to all at Ka and LDI for making this possible. They are one amazing group of people. Thanks to Tony for taking me all through the dark places and bring me back alive (but exhausted). Finally, A special thanks to the anonymous CB member who works at Ka. I had a fabulous time in your world my friend. Thanks for sharing. If you ever get to Seattle let me know I've got a killer black box theater to show you. :mrgreen:

    Want to work for Cirque? According to the KA T.D. your best bet is to be a college student and get an internship. A very high percentage get hired. Once you get in then you are set as Cirque likes to steal crew from other Cirque shows. Others I talked to (not KA employees) said that it appears they like to hire young hotshots who have a short but impressive resume (and preferably a degree). They don't seem to like hiring old dogs.

    To anyone who has any questions about the show ask a way. I spent 6 1/2 hours there and have a pretty good picture of how things work I can probably answer most of your questions. If I don't know the answer I bet our CB friend who works there would be happy to whisper the answers in my ear via P.M. to share with you.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2008
  2. Hughesie

    Hughesie Well-Known Member

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    re: "Spend a day at KÁ"- Special Report from LDI 2008

    That will be interesting for me as only touring shows (that are already staffed) come by Aus. As for the degree part i feel in this day and age we are moving away from having unqualified crew like the traditional "roadie" as the industry becomes more formalized, so when i had the chance to leave school and get a diploma instead of my orginal plan of just going out and working i didn't hesitance.

    This said it still comes down to who you know and what connections you have but when you apply for a job at cirque du soleil (and many other companies) you don't deal with a person you deal with a system that asks you to submit a resume and nothing more.

    Maybe working for cirque is just a pipe dream but i think in life and in work you have to aim high and have a goal to work towards and just crossing your fingers isn't going to work.

    To Gaff, I only have a few questions

    • What desk are they using for FOH Main mix
    • What kind of dsp system are they using (i think its a meyer external system as anything on board just wouldn't handle 3 streams by 4000 chairs)
    • Finally, how are the sound effects played back, and is it on timecode
     
  3. Kelite

    Kelite Apollo Staff Premium Member

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    re: "Spend a day at KÁ"- Special Report from LDI 2008

    Thanks for the exclusive 'behind the curtain' play by play, gafftaper, as well as the time spent chatting with us at the Apollo booth about your time spent in Vega$. It seems as though your time away from the Pacific north wet was time certainly well spent.

    We appreciate you tasking the time to pass along your KA experience!
     
  4. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    re: "Spend a day at KÁ"- Special Report from LDI 2008

    Ah the show about a stage....fond memories of their backstage tours...I had a friend who worked KA....then got hired away..to do Cirques big show in Japan.
     
  5. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    re: "Spend a day at KÁ"- Special Report from LDI 2008

    As has been stated previously, Cirque had a booth at LDI, and was conducting both pre-arranged and on-the-spot interviews. I believe [user]dvsDave[/user] talked to them about recruiting directly from within ControlBooth.:)

    Yet another reason to be on one's best behavior and use proper grammar, spelling, and syntax on these boards. Prospective employers ARE watching.

    [user]Hughesie[/user], some of the answers to your questions may be found here: TPUS Cirque Du Soleil KA.
     
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  6. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    re: "Spend a day at KÁ"- Special Report from LDI 2008

    Tell me if I am wrong on this, but aren't the vegas shows half hired through the hotels and not by cirque personally? For some reason I remember seeing a posting on Artsearch or backstagejobs that said something like that.

    I have a friend who is out with Corteo right now, and he got the job via a USITT interview, but he already had fairly extensive touring experience in both arena and theatre shows. The last time I worked one of their shows, (Saltimbanco arena tour) most of thier crew was under the age of 30 minus their PM and head rigger. Most of their crew also barely spoke english. They are very much a "promot from within" company, and they treat their crew very well. They expect a lot, but at the same time you will be flown from location to location, and if you are somewhere longer then a week will be staying in a corporate appt, not a hotel room.

    They want everyone to have a degree in entertaiment technology. They also want people that know their field inside and out.
     
  7. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    re: "Spend a day at KÁ"- Special Report from LDI 2008

    You're not wrong, but you're not correct either. For the resident Las Vegas shows, all non-management positions are hired by and work for the hotel. However, Cirque has full veto-power, and in many cases, exclusive hiring power, by telling the hotel whom it wants them to hire. I advise all interested parties to complete an online application at both the CDS website AND the hotel's. Cirque is currently ramping up to hire probably two hundred (or more) technicians for its seventh Las Vegas production, at the $9.8 billion CityCenter, opening late 2009. Many will come from existing shows, creating a ripple effect due to openings in those shows.
     
  8. Kelite

    Kelite Apollo Staff Premium Member

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    re: "Spend a day at KÁ"- Special Report from LDI 2008

    According to the City Center website:

    < Robert F.X. Sillerman, Chairman and CEO of CKX, Inc., commented, “I am pleased that during this time, when we remember Elvis Presley and celebrate his life, we are able to announce his return to Las Vegas, a place where he truly rose to iconic status. And with the remarkable creative talent of Cirque du Soleil, fans who saw Elvis perform, as well as those who never had a chance to see him, will be able to experience Elvis in an entirely new and exciting way. This will be the first step in establishing a twenty-first century presence in Vegas for the King.” >

    So we may soon be saying "Elvis has just entered the building!"
     
  9. bdkdesigns

    bdkdesigns Active Member Fight Leukemia

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    re: "Spend a day at KÁ"- Special Report from LDI 2008

    So it would appear as though the CityCenter is looking to hire 400 techs total then? In talking to one of the people in charge, I was told they are looking to hire 200 techs full time for the CityCenter for special events. I'm assuming they would be doubled up so it would appear as though there will be a huge hiring spree going on soon there.
     
  10. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    re: "Spend a day at KÁ"- Special Report from LDI 2008

    Hughesie if you really want to work for Cirque I would seriously think about coming to the U.S. for college. You will probably have to move to Vegas to work for them anyway. From what I heard, the majority of their road and international shows are staffed by selecting people who already work for Cirque in Vegas. Then they replace the Vegas pool with new hires. Which makes a lot of sense. Not saying that's the way everyone get's hired into the Cirque family, but it sounds like the majority get hired like that. If you want to try to stay in Oz and get hired for only work there, it may be possible to do that but the majority who get those jobs will have come from another show, probably starting out in Vegas.

    I think Derek's link answered most of those questions. I didn't get much info on the sound system actually. They have a recording studio in the basement that the musicians play from live. They talked on the tour about using the live band to vamp and stall to cover delays if something goes wrong technically. If that's true, then I'm guessing that any recorded effects sounds are probably manually triggered. Also there are just too many ways that the show could be delayed for things to be automated. I'll P.M. our CB member on the inside for more info on the topic.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2008
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  11. What Rigger?

    What Rigger? I'm so fly....I Neverland.

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    re: "Spend a day at KÁ"- Special Report from LDI 2008

    Hey Gaff!

    1. I think I got gipped, and shoulda signed up for this instead!
    2. And if you think you and others were close to being seen, maybe you also found out how many guys were actually standing in full view of the audience, invisible due to being dressed in black and not being lit. We used to do that all the time when that room housed that "little" show called EFX.
     
  12. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    re: "Spend a day at KÁ"- Special Report from LDI 2008

    A couple answers to Hughesie's questions about sound effects playback from our friend at KA. He doesn't work with sound so he's going to check and get back about the playback system. However...

    "There are recorded effects. The explosions do not sound impressive without them (fancy flash pots really) and have manually triggered effects to go along with them. Also, the thunder is triggered during storm by the operator which sends a signal to projections to create some of the lightning. The FX for the arrows is all recorded on a loop (not tied to individual arrows)."

    To Rigger. With the redesign, there really is no "stage" it's a hole with a bunch of lifts. All except one are constantly traveling the 30 vertical feet between stage level and basement 1 and basement 2. The only deck surface that is potentially in view at all times is the one installed way upstage which doesn't move vertically but can move 50' horizontally up and downstage. This deck is hidden by a black curtain when it isn't in use as it is the home of some fairly large set pieces (including the Wheel of Death). So although I doubt anyone would notice you, as you described, with the design of this show there are very few opportunities for a technician to be in view on the deck because the deck doesn't really exist in a normal sense. Most of the crew work during the show seems to take place in one of the sub basements.

    Now on the other hand up in the air, there are several scenes where things are wide open all the way to the grid and back wall, exposing multiple catwalks backstage. These wide open scenes also tend to include flight. So when you have up to 16 artists flying at the same time, I'm sure there are a lot of riggers up there using their ninja skills during these scenes as you described. However I only went up there in the pre-show tour so I couldn't tell you how it works during the show.
     
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  13. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    re: "Spend a day at KÁ"- Special Report from LDI 2008

    I've seen rehersals of of those scenes gaff....and all I can really say is that...well it works. Lots of prescise movement, lots of belly crawling. The scene at towards the end with the giant tree/bug things in particular takes 2 or three people a piece if I remember correctly.

    You haven't mentioned two of my favorite things about this show.

    1) They have a track for the elevator. As mentioned before the space is 9 stories tall. They know where the elevator will be at every minute of that show. Oh...btw its for cast only.

    2) You can't get on a plane if you've been up in the grid. They shoot of so much pyro the residue just covers you.


    Oh and EFX ROCKED!

    Hughsie send me a PM and I'll see if I can't put you in touch with several different people who have been through the internship program and some who still work for Cirque.
     
  14. What Rigger?

    What Rigger? I'm so fly....I Neverland.

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    re: "Spend a day at KÁ"- Special Report from LDI 2008

    So Grog, I take it you've met and/or heard the story about the pyro guy that tested 'hot' for residue at McCarren airport as well, eh?
     
  15. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    re: "Spend a day at KÁ"- Special Report from LDI 2008

    Grog's right. They have one elevator. It's movements are all carefully pre-planned and someone has the job of making sure it's waiting in the right location at the end of every scene. If an actor has to go from the basement to the grid, it would be very bad if they had to wait for the elevator.

    They have these big red emergency kill buttons all over the theater. If anyone in the cast or crew sees something dangerous they hit the kill button and the S.M. will order all hydraulics to stop and the show holds where it is until they can figure out what's gone wrong. Kind of scary but a good idea in the long run with so many things moving.

    Here's another good one. If something goes wrong and the show has to wait they start a timer. If the timer reaches 20 minutes they call the show and issue refunds. They have a little over an hour between shows, 30 minutes from house close to house open. If show one is 20 minutes late then it's also making it nearly impossible to get the second show reset as well. It's better to cancel one performance and have the time to get things fixed for the second show than it is to make two audiences mad and miss the gate on two shows.

    I'm not sure that they would be happy about me saying publicly how much they make on one show... but let's just say the gross for a two show night is probably more than Van and Icewolf's theaters gross in a year combined. On the other hand they have something like 100 technicians, 80 artists, box office staff, a massive training room and medical staff giving rehab work all night long, office staff, ushers... the expenses go on and on. They shoot off a total of 240 pyro shots a night. Any idea what the electric bill is? Then are the many very expensive parts that must be maintained and replaced. The overhead must be insane on this show.
     
  16. SlappyJack

    SlappyJack Member

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    %26quot%3BSpend a day at KÁ%26quot%3B- Special Report from LDI 2008

    Hey, all.

    I completely forgot being shown this thread a year ago and the other day someone at work brought it up, so I thought I'd see if I could find it. I forgot how glowing gaff's review of my typical behavior was.

    So, Hi. I'm Tony the Deck Electrician.

    On the elevator : Yes, there's only one; but no, it's not artists only. They don't make the riggers run all the way from the basement to the grid during the show, and if you time it right you can hop a ride if you're going where they are.

    During reset, however, if you mess up the elevator timing for props while they're moving those big puppets around I personally get to hear about it from my girlfriend.

    Feel free to say hi!
     

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