Ice Palace Gives HES Glowing Reviews

Equipment survives sleet, snow, severe freezes
February 20, 2004


It's a fitting send-off. Today, as the St. Paul Winter Carnival Ice Palace is being demolished, temperatures soared to a high 38 degrees. For 16 days, High End Systems lighting and control products survived Minnesota's big chill of sleet and snow, with temperatures dipping as low as 30 below.

While the human crew struggled with the cold, the lights survived nicely.

"That's why I designed my show from the beginning around High End Systems lighting," says the Ice Palace LD Steve Frattalone of Frattalone & Associates Inc.

From Jan. 22-Feb. 8, a slew of almost 500 High End Systems luminaires from Theatrical Lighting Systems (TLS) in Huntsville, AL and from High End Systems in Austin, TX illuminated the temporary ice palace, constructed from 27,000 blocks of ice.

"When the temperature hits zero," Frattalone explains, "everything molecular thing changes. Metal, plastic, steel -- you name it -- becomes brittle or stiff. I designed the Ice Palace lighting in 1992 and also used nothing but High End fixtures so I wouldn't have to worry. It was High End all the way. It wasn't even a second guess. In 1992 the Ice Palace lasted only 8 days because the weather got too warm. This time the temperature went from 20 degrees above zero to 30 degrees below zero, and with a wind chill it made it 40 degrees below zero. That's a 50 degree difference not only for humans working the show to endure but also for the fixtures. And still the fixtures worked."

Says TLS' Chris Lighthall, head electrician/system integrator, "The weather didn't really faze the lights. We had over one foot of snow in two days and a little bit of sleet at the end of the run, and nothing bothered them."

This year's Ice Palace featured a showcase of High End Systems products including:
227 ColorCommand
24 ColorMerge
24 ColorPower
27 x.Spot Xtreme
94 C-16
6 Studio Spot 575
27 Trackspot 2
15 Technobeam
8 Studio Beam
4 EC-2
20 Dataflash AF1000
two Wholehog III consoles

So how did the ColorCommands perform?

"The ColorCommands were little workhorses," says Frattalone. "They were aiming straight up, facing the sky, so when it snowed, the snow would melt and make little quarter-inch puddles of water on the lenses. But the lenses were sealed and continued working."

Adds TLS' David Milly, "We had 227 ColorCommands -- 213 on the Palace and an extra 14 for the stage area. The ColorCommands did the majority of the color washes on the Palace, and they performed beautifully. The color didn't miss. One of the units broke a glass cover when a chunk of ice inside the tower fell off and smashed it, but it still continued to work even with a cracked front."

TLS' Chris Lighthall agrees. "The ColorCommands were the workhorse of the rig. They looked good, too."

What about ColorMerge?

"We had 24 ColorMerge units outside, uncovered, totally exposed to the elements," Milly explains. "Only one of them had a hiccup -- we think water got into the connector and it wasn't passing data. The other 23 worked perfectly for 12 shows a day for two weeks. And it snowed 18 inches while it was set up! The ColorMerges were incredible."

Says Lighthall, "The ColorMerge were hung on a big truss grid in the backstage area by the entertainment stage. They offered good eye candy on the ground with big pools of color. They were fully exposed in the open air and performed well."

Frattalone agrees. "The ColorMerge units have good, rich color. Tim Grivas (show co-producer/High End Systems) programmed color chases with them and they looked wonderful."

Trackspot 2 also had its first outdoor "outing" in this gig.

"The Trackspot 2s are tanks!" Frattalone exclaims. "They filled up with snow and the mirrors pushed the snow out of the way, like windshield wipers."

Lighthall agrees. "The Trackspot 2s were surprisingly buried under snow at times and you wouldn't be able to see the fixture but you would see its mirror moving and lighting shining. It was really robust."

Lighthall adds, "Everything worked well and the minor tweaks were easy to fix. It's not just the way the lights work, but how easy they are to work on. For techs like me, it doesn't seem like a chore at all."

Running the whole show, which totalled 700 automated and conventional fixtures, was the Wholehog III console. Although a spare was brought in, it was never needed.

"The Wholehog III ran perfectly, 24 hours a day for the three-week duration of the show," says Frattalone. "The console was on constantly and worked flawlessly. There were no hiccups. Even when Tim Grivas was doing some reprogramming on the console while the show was running, there were no issues. It was rock solid and we didn't even need the backup console."

He adds, "Not only should we talk about the equipment, but the men behind it. Tim Grivas and his vast knowledge left me with no worries on my part. And Chris Lighthall was a whiz, too."

Media Contact:
Debi Moen, HES marketing communications specialist, phone 512-836-2242 x 1204


Photos by Skip Nelson, Steve Frattalone, Tim Grivas

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