Radio City Installs Christie Projectors for Projection Mapping

Radio City Music Hall (RCMH) is big, and the US venue seats about 6,000 people for stage shows, concerts, and, perhaps its best known event, the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes. Projection mapping is normally associated with projecting on the outdoor facades of buildings, but this indoor venue is so big, projection mapping is used to illuminate the inside ceiling of the auditorium.

Projection mapping on the inside of Radio City Music Hall (RCMH) with 22 Christie Boxer 4K projectors (Photo credit: DWP Live)

DWP Live, recently installed 22 Christie Boxer 4K30 projectors in Radio City Music Hall. Initially, these projectors will be used for the RCMH New York Spectacular, going on now. This is the RCMH’s first projection upgrade in more than four years, and DWP Live’s first permanent installation in New York City.

“Working on this project let DWP Live establish a presence in New York City and grow our relationship with this city. It has been incredible to be called on to create an installation for the Radio City Rockettes and Radio City Music Hall — two American institutions,” said Danny Whetstone, founder and president of DWP Live.

“The installation was a major undertaking that had to be completed within a short timeline. Between rehearsals and the Memorial Day holiday weekend, Christie, The Madison Square Garden Company [owner of RCMH] and our team all pulled together to get this project completed,” said Rick Boot, DWP Live’s general partner and owner. “In addition to thanking The Madison Square Garden Company, we also need to thank Christie for supporting us throughout the installation.”

According to Whetstone, “This install is semi-permanent. It will move in and out, primarily for The Rockettes, but could also be used for other special events.” He added that it will definitely be used for the Christmas Spectacular later this year and may also be used for other events, but the plans behind these other events are not yet fully realized.

RCMH 2012 resizeProjection mapping on the inside of RCMH in 2012 with the previous projector array, showing the strong gold color of the auditorium’s interior. (Photo credit: M. Brennesholtz)

The interior of RCMH is a strong gold color and the projected images must be color corrected so that the viewers see the colors intended by the content creators. According to Whetstone, all color correction for the color of the interior of RCMH was done upstream of the projectors. He said it could be handled in two places: either the content itself or in the media server. He added that it is far faster and more efficient to be able to adjust the color universally rather than color correct one projector at a time. DWP Live did the projector installation, not the other multimedia equipment required for the show, so not doing color correction at the projectors simplified the company’s task. Of course, like any multi-projector installation, all projectors had to be set up to the same white point and color gamut.

The Christie Boxer 4K30 was launched in January, 2015 and featured in the Christie InfoComm booth that year. The projector is a three chip DLP projector using 1.38” DLP imagers with native 4K resolution. It is powered by six NSH 450W mercury lamps in two pre-aligned three-lamp cartridges. These lamps provide 30,000 center lumens or 29,000 ANSI lumens. The projector is designed to run normally with all six lamps. A lamp power control is available to reduce the brightness by up to 20%. Additionally, if a lamp fails, the projector will keep on operating, losing only 5K lumens per failed lamp, all the way down to one lamp. The projector also has a one-lamp test and setup mode that allows operation from an ordinary electrical outlet while the electricians arrange for the 19A, 200 – 240V power required for normal operation.

Christie Boxer 4K30 Infocomm 2015 resizeChristie Boxer 4K30 projectors powered a projection mapping demonstration at InfoComm 2015. (Photo credit: M. Brennesholtz)

The primary reason for the six lamp arrangement is the longer life and higher efficiency of mercury lamps, compared to the xenon lamps more commonly used in a projector with this output. The mercury lamps are specified at 1500 hours to 70% brightness while Christie says a xenon lamp would typically have half this lifetime. The six 450W lamps consume a total of 2700 watts while a xenon projector with this output would typically use a single 6500W or 7000W lamp. For a show like the RCMH Summer or Christmas Spectacular, where the projectors are run for many hours over a period of a couple months, the lamp life and redundancy is an important property for a projector. For example, the Christmas Spectacular is scheduled for 212 shows over its 2016 run, with each show lasting about 90 minutes.

While the colorimetry of mercury lamps is not as good as the colorimetry of xenon lamps, the projectors still achieve Rec. 709 colorimetry. Generally, this is good enough for most rental and staging applications, including projection mapping.

The New York Spectacular Starring The Radio City Rockettes runs from June 15 – August 7, 2016 at Radio City Music Hall. During it’s 2015 run, the New York Spectacular sold about 300,000 tickets. The 2016 Christmas Spectacular, which will run from November 11 through January 2, 2017 and is now in it’s 85th year, sold almost 1 million tickets during it’s 2015 run.

DWP Live is headquartered in Smyrna, Tennessee (Nashville) and also has an office in Arcadia, CA (Los Angeles). The live event company was founded in 2007 by Danny Whetstone, a 20 year veteran of the live events branch of the Pro AV industry. Its companion company DWP Rents provides rental services for the Pro AV community. –Matthew Brennesholtz