Casinos are incorporating lighting and sound in new ways to capture guests’ imaginations

Whether gaming, entertainment, nightclubs, restaurants or outdoor attractions, every facet of a casino’s operations is affected by the quality of its lighting and sound systems. And operators have gone to great lengths to create displays intended to dazzle the senses and make an indelible impression on visitors.

Take the Fountains at Bellagio. Designed by WET, which specializes in inventive fountains and architectural water features, the Fountains display creates an iconic Las Vegas attraction of water, music and light interwoven to mesmerize viewers. Each dynamic performance is unique in expression and interpretation.

Lighting and sound are integral to the show’s success. “The combination of light, water and sound is what makes the Fountains such a big hit,” said Gene Bowling, front feature manager at Bellagio. “Without them, the show would be incomplete.”

The Fountains is choreographed to music and songs from performers such as Chicago, Frank Sinatra, Celine Dion and Elton John. It incorporates a network of underwater pipes with more than 1,200 nozzles that makes it possible to stage fountain displays coordinated with more than 4,500 lights.

The attraction uses the NION computerized audio system and Crest amplifiers, both products of Peavey Electronics. It uses the Wholehog lighting control system from Flying Pig Systems to handle the architectural lighting. The Wholehog software acts as a layer between the user and the lighting hardware, converting abstract ideas of intensity, color, and beam more into specific instructions that the fixtures need. Human operators are relieved of the need to think in terms of DMX addresses and values, frequency of strobe, and beats per minute. Because real world values are mapped to each fixture’s unique DMX value, the software can seamlessly copy, covert, or clone fixture data among all fixture types.

At the Fountains, as in all such attractions, professional architectural lighting designers possess creativity as well as a keen scientific understanding of the properties of light, such as the functioning of a light fitting. The designer needs to take into account the overall attractiveness of the design, measure whether it should be subtly blended into the background or stand out, and assess what kind of emotions the lighting should evoke. The functional aspects of the project can encompass the need for the project to be visible by night mostly, but also by day, the impact of daylight on the project, and safety issues, such as glare or color confusion.

 The combination of light, water and sound has made the Fountains at Bellagio hotel-casino a must-see attraction for visitors to Las Vegas.

Gadgetry aplenty

A case in point is the Venue, a 2,500-seat, state-of-the-art entertainment center that opened recently at the Horseshoe Casino near Chicago. Designed by Montreal-based Scéno Plus, the Venue features fully flexible configurations with technologically superior in-house production systems designed exclusively with cutting-edge equipment.

A three-level lobby, featuring walls composed of LED pixels and immersive lighting, has been designed to greet guests with a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Additionally, a 3,500-square-foot area hosts six VIP suites, with three rows of seats and a full-service salon featuring couches and plasma televisions offering guests a uniquely intimate and comfortable entertainment experience.

Audio-visual equipment includes three giant HD screens that combine lighting with multilayered video projections to create a wide range of interactive special effects. To ensure the highest quality in sound, acoustics are supported by a highly efficient and versatile audio system able to substitute or complete the most demanding touring technical requirements.

Equipped with high comfort telescopic seating, the 90,000-square-foot facility can undergo complete transformation in less than two hours to accommodate anything from intimate performances to large-scale entertainment productions. The Venue’s general admission floor can fit up to 2,400 people, for a total room capacity of more than 3,300.

The Fremont Street Experience’s VivaVision is a singular example of high-tech audiovisual wizardry. Designed by LG CNS Ltd., the attraction provides larger-than-life animations, integrated live video feeds, and synchronized music, all delivered to an overhead canopy more than five football fields in length. Visitors peer upward to experience more than 12.5 million   synchronized LED modules offering crisp, high-resolution images and special effects, all synched to a lively soundtrack through a 550,000 watt concert quality sound system. All shows are digital reproduced and distributed to 220 remote amplifiers spread throughout the mall.

Each LED cluster-equivalent to a single pixel on a television screen-contains red, blue and green lamps. By decreasing the space between each pixel from 6.2 to 2.0 inches and increasing the number of pixels by 3.5 million, the system can display high-resolution  images at 60 frames per second and 16.7 million color combinations. What once required 32 computers now uses 10 high-tech controllers operating from a temperature-regulated control room.

Ceiling light pipes create a dramatic effect on the gaming floor at MotorCity Casino in Detroit.

One-touch controls

Lighting and sound systems come into play when there’s a major change in theme, as was the case with the Sirens of TI. Now entering its sixth year, Sirens of TI replaced the pirate show outside the old Treasure Island hotel-casino. The lighting is fully programmable, making it easy to incorporate aesthetic changes as needs dictate. “The software sends signals to devices that manage sound and lighting; every aspect of show is automatic,” said Chip Croop, TI’s executive director of entertainment.

The programmable system make it easy to “make modifications throughout show when the choreography changes or when a new character is added or deleted,” Croop said.

Birket Engineering, which created and commissioned the special-effects controls for the original Buccaneer Bay show, was brought in to refresh the technology for the Sirens show. It replaced an aging PC-based master control system that was no longer being supported with an industrial-quality control system. The new master control system combines an Allen-Bradley safety controller (for pyrotechnics) with an Anitech Systems show controller to seamlessly handle both safety-intensive control and conventional theatrical control.

The new combined master controller interfaces with the updated Birket special effects subsystem controller to cue flames and pyrotechnics with the updated hydraulic controller to cue ship motions, and to the updated audio and lighting subsystems.

The original button- and light0studded control console has been replaced with a simplified console featuring a touch-screen terminal with collected status from all the subsystems and effects. The critical cue-control, effect-enable, and emergency-stop buttons were relocated to a mini-console above the lagoon where the show director sits.

The system has been tweaked over the years as technology changes. “Some of the stagnant features have been replaced by LED, which is a cost savings,” Croop said. As for safety, “the pyrotechnics adhere to rigid federal, state and local regulations.”

A recurring theme in lighting and sound is the need to periodically refresh technology. The artificial volcano at the Mirage has been a fixture for years, erupting periodically during the evening. After sister property Bellagio opened, the design firm WET, the company that created the Fountains of Bellagio, improved the technology behind the volcano effect to make it more spectacular. To avoid the smell of uncombusted natural gas odorant, the mercaptan is stripped from the natural gas and a pina colada smell is added to the natural gas stream.

Also at the Mirage is the Love theater, which replaced the Siegfried & Roy theater at a cost of more than $100 million. Created by French designer Jean Rabasse, the Love theater, home of Cirque du Soleil’s show featuring the music of The Beatles, houses 6,341 speakers and 2,013 seats set around a central stage. Each seat is fitted with three speakers, including a pair in the headrest. The sound system was designed by Jonathan Deans. The stage includes nine lifts and eight automated tracks and trolleys.

Video images on two walls above the audience on two sides of the auditorium emphasize elements of the show and provide transitions. High-definition projectors also create enormous images (designed by Francis Laporte) on four translucent screens that can be unfurled to divide the auditorium.


Energizing the gaming floor

Setting a path that other gaming companies are sure to follow, MotorCity Casino has converted its gaming floor into a glittering extravaganza combining light, sound, and video.

The sound systems throughout the property are controlled through a Peavey Electronics’ MediaMatrix that “allows us to monitor sound levels and dynamically adjust them as needed,” said MotorCity CEO Gregg Solomon, who also is chief executive officer of Detroit Entertainment LLC, owners and operators of MotorCity Casino.

It has implemented WhiteCap and G-Force real-time music visualizers from Sound Spectrum, which generate stunning graphic effects along with dynamic backgrounds and colors to form thousands of visual combinations that can be displayed on any of more than 600 monitors. “We convert audio input into graphic images that change dynamically,” Solomon said.

Casino employees equipped with wireless microphones can turn a bonus event into an impromptu celebration, with the audio piped into speakers throughout the casino. DMX controls for slot lighting are linked to the bonusing system, “so we can control color and programming of LED color lighting both in slot and in the ceilings of certain areas of the casino,” Solomon said.

The technology injects much-needed pizzazz into the gaming environment, where ticket in-ticket out and bonusing systems have replaced the cha-ching sound of coins hitting trays.

 “As casinos become quieter and less exciting, there’s a need to compensate that with replace with lighting, sound and video,” Solomon said. “Merely turning up the sound on a slot machine isn’t enough; we’re trying to create a much higher energy level.”