INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana - December 2016 -- The Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the heart of downtown Indianapolis’ Memorial Circle has been the centerpiece of an outdoor holiday spectacle since 1962. Thousands gather around the monument to kick off the holiday season with a festive, high-energy gala event, which is now televised locally.
The opening ceremony of the event—officially known as Downtown Indy, Inc.’s Circle of Lights presented by IBEW #481—is the big draw: a one-night, plaza-packing party held this year on November 25. The “tree” is actually the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which is festooned with 52 garland strands and 4,784 colored lights strung vertically from top to bottom creating a tree shape. To construct the tree, approximately 200 electricians from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ (IBEW) local union #481 string the lights, using heavy airline grade cable to hold the lighting strands in place.
The display is also enhanced with 26 larger-than-life toy soldiers, sailors and peppermint sticks. A stage is set up for the performers, which included Josh Kaufman, winner of the sixth season of NBC’s The Voice. The arrival of Santa in a vintage 1932 Phaeton convertible draws the crowds as well. The winner of a children’s coloring contest appears on stage to flip the switch on the tree, and a fireworks finale caps off the evening.
Bob Williams of Mid-America Sound (MAS) has been providing production equipment for the broadcast event for 25 of those 54 years. “When I started doing the show, it was speakers on a stick and a couple of par cans, and that was it,” he reflects. “It has morphed into a much bigger production, especially since it started being televised. Now it’s a huge show with lots of moving lights, fireworks, snow and national talent.”
Mid-America Sound provided the roof, lights and stages for the entertainment; Dodd Technologies provided the video walls and support, and interfaced with the broadcast.
Though Williams again designed the lighting himself, this is the first year that he didn’t personally program and run the lights, handing over the event’s usual Avolites Sapphire Touch console to MAS tech John “Robo” Robison.
“Robo likes the Sapphire Touch. He’s using the new Titan v10 software and did a lot of the programming and previz on the console at our shop,” Williams says.
Robison’s console controlled a rig of Martin Professional by Harman lighting fixtures, along with some Arri 2k fresnels and conventionals, for the broadcast event.“We’ve seen all kinds of weather over the years—rain, snow, ice, subzero temperatures—we’ve been through it all,” Williams says. But with the crew at a console under a tent, Williams says weather has affected neither the show nor the equipment. He’s confident of the capability and reliability of the Avolites desk, he says.
Robison agrees. As an Avolites console user for 20 years, he describes the visualizer system with the Titan v10 remote as “awesome! It saved us as it was so cold and nasty outside, but it allowed us to keep the console out of the terrible elements and do the remote focus over Wi-Fi. We didn’t have a front of house position at the Circle of Lights, so with the remote, we walked out on the deck, focused, and were done. It knocked two hours off my day.”
Also worth noting, he adds, is the reliability of the Avolites console’s touch screens in the winter weather. “Usually, touch screens on other consoles at times don’t respond well in cold weather, but the screens here didn’t fail me once the entire day,” he marvels. “They were getting rained on with a light mist and snow flakes, and yet they were still responsive.”
For as long as Williams can recall, Avolites consoles were at the helm of this holiday event, as they are with so many other projects the company is involved in.
“I’ve been using Avolites on the show for years, including the Pearl and Diamond 4,” he reflects. “I’ve been using Avo since way back to the QM500.”
When asked about specific favorite features, Williams can’t single out just one. He’s aware of the new Titan v10 enhancements, such as pixel mapper with the motion blur effect, undo functionality, channel intensity grid, full 3D visualizer and more.
“I love what Avo has done with Titan software and where it’s heading,” he says. “I just think the way that Avo thinks—and it’s easy for me to use.”
In fact, Mid-America Sound just added the Avolites Arena console to its inventory and sent Robison out with it programming another holiday show, WZPL 99.5FM’s Jingle Jam featuring Panic! at the Disco, X Ambassadors, Gavin DeGraw, Daya and other acts.
Robison says, “The Arena was great. I had a lot of fun on that console; it is so easy to use. I like having the mini touch screen on it as a secondary screen. Also, I took it out of the box the day before the show and had no problems. It’s my new favorite console.”
Williams adds, “Both the Sapphire Touch and Arena are great consoles for multiple applications, from one-offs and being able to busk to the more structured tours. I can do anything on them that I could do on any of the other major consoles and more.”
The Circle of Lights display remains lit until January 6, 2017 in downtown Indianapolis. For additional details and to view the lighting, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3IiHQD9jmg. Mid-America Sound can likewise be found online at www.midamericasound.com.
Images: Downtown Indy, Inc./Chris Bucher