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The lighting of Cirque's Mystere

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by iLightTheStage, Jan 31, 2009.

  1. iLightTheStage

    iLightTheStage Active Member

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    I just wanted to send out a recommendation for anyone who visits Las Vegas. The other week I saw Cirque Du Soleil's Mystere for the first time (thank you cheap dress rehearsal tickets). I have to say, it was so refreshing to see a lighting design with real substance to it. So much lighting design in this town seems to be "hey, look at the toys we can afford!" and then using them pretty poorly. This show had nothing more advanced than maybe a dozen moving mirror units, some gobo rotators, ERS units, PARs, ACLs (about 36 or so on a moving batten), and some foggers and hazers.

    The show absolutely blew me away with its use of color, direction, intensity, purpose, and the other main element of design I can't remember (I always got that question wrong in college). It was soooo refreshing to see a show with actual lighting Choices instead of 'flash and trash'; and it was all done with technology over 10 years old. That should really be an inspiration to anyone in theater who can't afford all of the toys.

    So, in conclusion, if you travel to Vegas and can only choose one show to see, I highly recommend Mystere for its lighting (plus, it's a really good show).

    [and highly caution anyone who wants to see Chris Angel's "Believe". I've heard nothing but horror stories about sitting through that show.]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 31, 2009
  2. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Cirque's "Ka" is an interesting contrast to your description of Mystere. On one hand the vast majority of it's lighting is conventional. On the other hand it has around 3300 fixtures... I was told that they had 3 or 4 fixtures hung for a year or two before they noticed they were never used. Even though they have that many fixtures the majority of scenes are quite dimly lit. The joke backstage is "3300 lights but none of them ever go above 25%". There are some movers but most of the lighting effects are done with video projection... and done amazingly well too.

    I was told that the design was done on a scene by scene basis. They would start rehearsing and the designer would say, "I want lights here, here, and here". The next day it was, "turn that one off... but don't remove it, and add one here and there". The theater was designed to support this strategy with circuits all over the place, not in a traditional 1st electric 2nd electric sort of layout. When you wander the multiple levels of the theater backstage there are all these lights in seemingly random locations as a result.

    The end result is a show that is very nice to watch but I left my tour thinking that there was no efficiency or elegance to the lighting design. The design is sort of "Soviet" (if we throw enough instruments at it eventually we'll find a combination that looks great). There's one scene in particular that I think best demonstrates this point. Take a look at the large rectangular "lighting panels of doom" in this video. They fly these two huge panels in for a scene a little over 5 minutes long. Each panel has 196 pars on it. The 392 pars alone had to cost in the neighborhood of $50k, then add the cost of designing the panels and the system to fly them... the total had to be in the $100k-$200k range... and as you can see in the video they weren't on more than about 35%. :rolleyes: Perhaps someone should have said, "Yes we can build 20' high flying lighting panels of doom, but should we? It's a nice effect but do we NEED it?" However when you have the kind of budget they had for this show no one asks questions like that.

    It's a breathtaking show to watch and I recommend everyone go see it when in Vegas. There may never be another show built incorporating $200 million of insane technology on the level of Ka. There are stunning visual images that will blow your mind (thanks particularly to the video projections, fabulous sound system, and the crazy flying stage decks). However, it's not a show to watch and take notes on how to be a lighting designer.


    ...and yes the reviews about Chris Angel's show are really horrible. On the other hand Cirque has a history of opening shows that are sort of lame, retooling them and making them a success. Although from what I hear the number one problem with the show is Chris Angel can't do live magic. So it would take a pretty major change to save it. It'll be interesting to see what happens.
     
  3. iLightTheStage

    iLightTheStage Active Member

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    Ka is the next on my list to see. I'm at the mercy of deals that are offered to a friend who is a spot op for one of their other shows...can't really afford $130 tickets (stupid recession drying up all work in vegas!)

    The concept of "Believe" is really off too: a magician in the magical world created by cirque just doesn't work. How does that make him special? That, and their original concept for a hidden-wire flying system failed during original rehearsals, so all of his wires (I think just 1/8" wire rope now) are absolutely visible, killing any possible suspension of disbelief for a magician. Visible wires are fine for Cirque performers, but for a magic act where his ability to fly is supposed to be the "ahhh" moment, it is just stupid. /rant
     
  4. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I thought Vegas residents got off season deals for like $50.

    I did a day long backstage tour during LDI. Then decided to go back and see it the next night from the audience. I was over budget and so I just purchased the cheapest ticket (back row $70). I was amazed at how the show was really not bad at all from the "cheap" seats. They said on the tour they consider the area about half way back the "best" seat in the house. They also talked about how the show expereince is completely different depending on where you sit. Sitting toward the back gives you a big picture you don't get down front where down front you are more enveloped by the show. I was happy with my "cheap" seat.
     
  5. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Well Cirque is a whole different beast.

    1. It must be so nice to work with an unlimited budget! *lol* You want a light? Sure we will hang it! You want 392 PARs in two custom flying rigs? When do you need them?

    2. That being said, like you said it is a spectacular effect. If you want that sort of thing in your show and want it to be known for WOW! that effect rocks, then you have to spend the money.

    3. Cirque is actually more theater and dance than concert, hence the lack of movers. Like magic shows and dance shows the lights have to be precisly placed and you can not take the chance that a moving light motor will fail, or it will come on at the wrong time/wrong place and reveal too much.

    4. Running 100 lights at 25% and running 25 lights at 100% are two totally different looks. There is a reason for both. Now this is not to say that they should not strike units that never come on, but in the case of Mystere I can see where the designer would need 3000+ units. Just like the rig for Alegria was huge (I worked under the TD for that tour) but with their scenery, it was actually a conservative rig (says the guy who had to focus 200+ units).

    We did a course in my LD track on the lighting of Cirque, it was actually quite facinating.

    Mike
     
  6. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    I find this thread a little funny. I think Mystere doesn't seem flash and trash because it was flash and trash when it opened, what 20 years ago? The toys have gotten better and flashier so now it doesn't seem so flashy compared to other cirques shows but personally I thought it was full of flash and trash.
     
  7. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    It should be noted that the same Lighting Designer, Luc Lafortune, lit Mystere and KA, as well as O and Zumanity and many of CDS's touring shows. All were done with a "design as you go" approach. Unlike theatre, no script arrives from the playwright with everything more or less set in stone, and all bocking complete in a rehearsal hall before a show even moves into the theatre. Once the architectural and scenic elements are complete, all Cirque artistic and production staff spend about six months in the space putting the show together. This is known as the "creation" process, and is what leads to the "hang a light here; now leave that one, but hang another light there" approach. A very unique (and expensive) approach, which usually (but not always) results in a spectacular production. Cirque shows are also never truly finished; modifications continue to be made to even Mystere, after sixteen years.

    Mystere
    is my favorite of all Las Vegas CDS shows as well. Perhaps it's because it was their first in a resident purpose-built space, and not in a tent meant to tour. Unlike others, it seems to me to rely more on the human-achievement elements, and not on gimmickry such as massive pools of water, hydraulics, and projections.

    EDIT:
    Lighting fixtures have gotten more efficient and reliable since 1993, but no more "flashy." Except for LED sources like the ShowPix/StudioPix and high-powered ShowGuns/Syncrolites/BigLites (which have not been used in a Cirque show to date), what toys are you speaking? Of all things I have heard Mr. Lafortune referred to as (both positive and negative), "flash and trash" is not one of them.

    Mystere has nowhere near 3000+ units. More like 1000 conventionals and 30 movers (Clay Paky Stage Zooms, IIRC).
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2009
  8. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    I do love Luc LaFortune. Along with Kevin Adams they are a couple of my favorite designers.

    Mike
     
  9. iLightTheStage

    iLightTheStage Active Member

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    Most of the local deals are 2-for-1 which averages at around $50 per; however, the hard part is coordinating schedules with someone else, instead of just being able to see the show by myself.

    And yes, many of the shows are better from the back because you can see the big picture. Sometimes it bothers me in the shows that there is no real focus because SO much is going on all over.

    I have seen O, Zumanity, and Le Reve (yes, not really CdS), but I really did appreciate the focus on the acts, although two of the acts seemed to be rather lackluster...but it might have been simply because this was a dress rehearsal. It was also really interesting to see the "see-saw" act screw up twice...made it a little more "hey, they don't actually land this 100% of the time"...more human.
     
  10. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    I worked a cirque in/out awhile back dor saltibanco. Their entire rig was alpha spots and washes. I want to say they had 160 or so. The only conventionals they carried where a few acl's and 4 6 bangers for rehearsal light. My freind who is out an a tent tour has a mix of fixtures. They do something kind of interesting though... Ever new city they are in they do a full lamp swap on everything, as well as new gobos and color. Now, that's a budget.
    Posted via Mobile Device
     
  11. What Rigger?

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

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    Mystere is still the shizznit, even now. Not bad for a show that doesn't really do maintenance calls that much anymore.* The upstage truss unit on that show is their first attempt at what became the 'slab' in KA. They knew what they wanted way back then, just didn't have the ability (yet) to make it real.

    *Per the Cirque guys who let us in on that info during my LDI rigging "class".
     
  12. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Grog and Derek's argument/discussion moved here: Talkin' trash & flash.
     
  13. photoatdv

    photoatdv Active Member

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    Well if they are replacing everything for the heck of it every stop, they should at least be donating the used stuff to a school or community theatre. Hint, hint whoever our cirque secret agent is... my school could definately use that stuff...
     
  14. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Sorry Photoatdv... they only replace lamps, gel, and gobos all of which are probably pretty well trashed by the time they are done with them. You might get some life out of the lamps but they won't be reliable, which is why they swap them.

    As for our CB Cirque secret agent, he/she works in Vegas and doesn't have that much pull. Although if you are interested I bet he/she could probably get you a killer deal on used hydraulic fluid, crushed cork, Zumanity sweat, or a few thousand gallons of "O" pool water, call now! The first caller get's Chris Angel for free! ;)
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2009
  15. VegasLites

    VegasLites Member

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    Yup folks, he's right they don't change out with every town. Just when the fixtures hit there hour marks (automated). If they are conventional (leko's,pars etc.) only when they blow. Gobo's and color are changed out when they break, or if they fade (dichro's shouldn't but...it depends on the manufacturer). Travel can be hard on fixtures so glass breaks more often on tour than fixed sites.

    And believe me when I say that if we could donate unused stuff to schools and communities we would here in Vegas...it's not Cirque it's the casino boss man. Assets are assets...we own it we keep it or throw it away. It makes me sad:(
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2009

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