HES Makes Magic with Criss Angel’s Mindfreak 

Photos credit: APWI

Criss Angel’s Mindfreak at Planet Hollywood Resort Casino is a spectacle of sight and sound, featuring mind-blowing illusions in the first immersive Las Vegas show. As the creator, director and executive producer of the show, Angel spent years working on building a most technologically advanced show. For a production that’s running for at least five years, there can be no surprises when it comes to lighting – it has to be consistent.

That’s why Lighting Designer Josh Selander wanted to incorporate High-End Systems’ line of LED automated luminaires and special effects into the more than 2,000 lights in the show. The rig contains 100 SolaHyBeam 1000s, 37 SolaHyBeam 2000s, and for special effects, 22 QUADs and 9 HEX, all supplied through Blue Planet Lighting in Las Vegas.

“Having an LED luminaire is important to help keep the show consistent and have the nightly production team worry less about the colour temperature, output or quality of light of a standard discharge lamp,” Selander said.

Said Angel, “Mindfreak undisputedly boasts the largest and most sophisticated lighting plot in theatre history and HES played an integral and competitive role – alongside the very best that lighting technology has to offer.”

Having worked with Criss before, the LD understands how to light this all-new spectacle of 75 iconic illusions and many special effects. To enhance that, Angel made it his goal for this production to be “the most immersive experience in Las Vegas – or the world, for that matter – with a lighting rig that would give us endless options.”

To supplement Angel’s massive personally-owned lighting inventory, Selander sought a fixture with a big beam and aperture, that was also quick and had shutters.

He found that with the SolaHyBeams – a hybrid wash, spot and animation fixture. He positioned the 37 SolaHyBeam 2000s mostly onstage, on over-stage trusses, ladders, towers and on the deck.

“The fat beams are ideal for visuals and accents throughout the show, especially considering the over half a billion pixels of video and projection content they shoot through,” Selander noted.

As the SolaHyBeams are the only shuttered light in the entire rig, they get heavy use during specific moments. “The shutters are quick, consistent and accurate through power-ups day in and out. Having over-stage electrics, ladders and towers with various trim heights – from kissing the deck to grid height – we needed a wide zoom range that could reliably keep gobos and shutters in focus.”

Its brightness is a benefit, he added. “Since much of the show has quick fades and transitions, the SolaHyBeam 2000s deliver smooth fades even at the low end.”

The additional 100 SolaHyBeam 1000 fixtures are on 300-foot “fingers” of LED video tile over the seats to make the audience a part of the show – not just spectators. “In some cases, these fixtures became key for front light; as Criss continued to add elements we had to alter positions I had originally intended to use for face lighting. Whether it was the 1000 or 2000, the SolaHyBeam proved to not only be a great beam but could also diffuse out to make a nice, even front wash.”

Two special effects fixtures, the HEX and the QUAD, “punch through the air in such a different way than any other fixture in the rig,” Selander said. The six-light LED bar fixture HEX – clustered toward centre stage – is “by far one of the stars of the lighting rig with its powerful presence.” The QUAD – a four LED light fixture offering ACL searchlight effects – creates a whirling searchlight or collimated beam to stir up crowd response.

“The QUADs are small, bright and fast,” he noted. “These fixtures can whip around faster than your eye can chase, which allowed us to make some club-style cues for a few moments. The show actually starts with two QUADs facing the audience panning as if they are alive—still one of my favourite moments in the entire production. For this music-driven show – switching between subtle to hard rock and EDM – they definitely help define the emotions Criss wants the audience to feel, the faster and louder the show gets.”

The show’s grand opening was in January, and it runs through 2023. Selander designed and programmed the show on an EOS TI console, operated by Brian Rush. Head electrician is Mike Pizzi. ETC lighting and automated rigging are found throughout the theatre and interactive lobby.

Of the more than 2,000 lights in the production, 633 are moving lights. Selander said, “Never once did Criss question why we needed so many moving lights, only asking ‘is this going to be enough?’ Criss created this show to be bigger, brighter and better. This show has more lights than any other show. It’s an LD’s dream.”