The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Flipping the Switch
Jun 2, 2009 12:00 PM, Staff Report
Switch, Las Vegas
Exhibiting bravado in the face of an economic downturn as only casino mogul Steve Wynn can, the new Encore Las Vegas hotel and casino opened its doors in December 2008 next to the famed Wynn Las Vegas Resort and Country Club. The Encore features 74,000 square feet of casino space, 27,000 square feet of retail space, a spa and salon, five restaurants, seven bars, and a nightclub. The building has 53 floors, and its interior design draws from its sister casino in China, the Wynn Macau.
Perhaps no space is more representative of the Encore's extravagance and elegance than Switch, a French-inspired steak and seafood restaurant in the complex that provides a theatrical twist to the dining experience. "Mr. Wynn wanted to combine a fine-dining experience with a large-scale, automated theatrical show experience," says Joel Gread of Joel J. Gread Associates (JJGA), whom the Wynn organization selected as the AV and show-control engineering design consultant for Switch. Systems integration firm Ford Audio-Video supported the project out of its Las Vegas and Oklahoma City offices. To best ensure the complete success of the Switch show, JJGA and Ford Audio-Video worked together closely throughout the production, installation, programming, and close-out phases of the project.
When entering Switch, diners are seated in a high-end restaurant setting. Theatrical lighting constantly changes the colors and moods of the restaurant, and every half-hour, moving wall and ceiling parts reveal several different scenarios. Show-control cues and audio-track playback were programmed using laptops positioned within the Switch dining room. There are three different show sequences that reconfigure the architecture by moving walls, ceiling panels, and chandeliers. The transitions are accompanied by elaborate theatrical lighting effects and enveloping music and sound effects. All show elements are cued in by the master show control system.
More than providing mere accompaniment, the audio portion of the program is crucial to the Switch experience. Because the environment is designed to be an enjoyable backdrop to the main course, as it were, the audio component needs to cut through the ambient chatter in the restaurant without overwhelming the patrons. In addition, all loudspeaker elements had to be made as inconspicuous as possible given the upscale aesthetics of the resort in general and the restaurant interior in particular. JJGA worked closely with Wynn's architects and interior designers to find solutions that would meet the demands of the aesthetic design and achieve the audio performance goals.
"Understandably, the Wynn organization is extremely sensitive when it comes to aesthetics," Gread says. "I'm pretty well-trained in not exposing hardware and taking the visual element into account, which came into play on this project. Obviously you want big, theater-quality sound, but you have to be aware of the aesthetic element as well."
Early in the design stage, JJGA met with Rick Kamlet, senior director of installed sound at JBL Professional, and Jay Fullmer, an applications engineer at JBL Professional, to discuss the most appropriate loudspeaker configuration for Switch.
"This was a challenging task since there was simply no precedent for the unique guest experience Switch would offer, as envisioned by Mr. Wynn," says Gread, who has more than 30 years of experience designing major technical systems for themed entertainment projects. His clients include Disney, Universal Studios, Sea World, expositions, museums, casinos, and other attractions worldwide.
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