Imagine the design parameters for a four-part object weighing 2,100 lb in freefall and safely stopping just over the heads of theater goers. Then imagine pulling off this stunt in every performance with the desired shock effect and with no one getting hurt.
Anyone who has seen Phantom of the Opera knows that the crashing chandelier scene in the Paris Opera House climaxes the performance. Of course, Phantom in Las Vegas’ opulent Venetian Hotel had to be bigger, scarier and more thrilling than competing productions in New York , London and Paris.
In what can be termed an unusual but classic mechatronics project, several contractors sought to all but crash an opera-house size chandelier in every performance at the Venetian. The chandelier has two major parts in the show. When the audience first comes in, they see a dilapidated chandelier broken into pieces to convey the sorry state of the Paris Opera House . As they are taken back in time to opera house’s glory days, the ruined chandelier – made up of four independent rings – reassembles into the beautiful chandelier it once was and ascends into the dome of the theater. As this happens, its dreary blue lights turn into warm reds.
Besides a few shakes and rattles, the chandelier stays put until the climax of the show when it free falls for 43 ft in 3.5 sec to just over the audience. However, before it comes to a stop, the theater goes black, leaving the audience to wonder if they are going to be struck by the plummeting chandelier. Of course it stops and within the six seconds of darkness, ascends back into the dome.
“From a complexity standpoint, the chandelier was a whole new ballgame and has been called the most complex piece of scenery anywhere in the world. As far as overall computing and number of parts working together simultaneously, it’s pretty hard core,” according to Scott Fisher, CEO and founder of Fisher Technical Services Inc . (FSTI), the project’s primary contractor. “When you get right down to it, the whole rig is like a 32-axis robot hanging from the ceiling.”
The Venetian usually prohibits photography of the chandelier, but let Design News in for a sneak peak via a photograph. The show’s owners believe releasing photos and video to the public would detract from its mystique and discourage some from attending the show altogether.
While Fisher, a 39-year-old electrical engineer who’s been building automated scenery for stage productions and motion pictures his entire career, focused on the structure, mechanics, software and control, the design of the chandelier itself was left to Rob Bissinger , a contractor working for planning, design and architecture firm The Rockwell Group .He characterizes the project in more theatrical terms.
“The chandelier is like a character in the show and has to evoke treachery, romance, beauty and opulence. It allows the audience to suspend their disbelief completely,” he says. “It is a stunning moment and one of the most satisfying moments in my career and in any theater.”
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