Throwback: Radio City Christmas Spectacular Gets 3D Makeover

Taking you back in time to 2011, when 3D elements were added to this holiday classic.

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We’re turning back the clock to the 2011 Radio City Christmas Spectacular show, which for the first time ever added elements of 3D to the performance. Go inside the installation and this timeless, classic event as you kick back and enjoy the holidays.

It’s one of the most world-renowned holiday traditions, and this year the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Musical Hall in New York got an upgrade, one that includes 3D.

As visually impressive as the show is this holiday season, what’s perhaps more incredible is that it came together so quickly.

Visual Acuity, a Brighton, England-based consulting firm, also provided design and testing of the new architectural scale projection for the holiday production. These projections were unveiled in new scenes featured in the Madison Square Garden Entertainment production of the Christmas Spectacular opening on Nov. 11.

If you can’t make the show yourself, here’s a couple of minutes from the updated performance to get you into the holiday spirit, including talk about how the 3D number gives the show an extra kick:

The show uses architectural scale projection mapped onto Radio City Music Hall’s proscenium arch and art deco interior giving the audience the feeling that they are being immersed in an array of sound, lighting, theatrical and pyrotechnic effects as each scene transforms to the next.

Photos: Go Inside Radio City Christmas Spectacular 3D Show

Visual Acuity advised on the development of a number of technological innovations, which included large-scale projection from Digital Projection and media serving, edge blending and warping from 7thSense Design. Large LED screens fly on and off the stage as needed.

“We had to be very sure a lot of our theory would work,” says Blair Parkin, CEO at Visual Acuity, noting the company had a week-long technical rehearsal in April after a three-day equipment test in July 2010 after first discussing the job with officials from Madison Square Garden, which owns Radio City Music Hall. Radio City Music Hall is rarely closed for that long, he says.

“This was some very pressured work. Everything we learned (during testing) went into the show design. This is a massive production and you have to be very confident what you’ve designed will work,” Parkin says.

Among the biggest technical challenges, Parkin says, was getting uncompressed high-definition video projected from the fifth floor of the theater to the massive LED screens on the stage. It involved thousands of feet of fiber, because “you can’t just drill holes in a historic structure,” Parkin says.

One way Visual Acuity was able to keep everyone on the same page was by working with a single 3D master model, which he says “needed to be very precise.” Whenever changes or improvements were made, everyone saw them on the same model, Parkin says.

Parkin says he’ll fly to New York this weekend to see the show with his wife – his annual birthday trip he says typically involves “traveling to see one of my projects” – but the early reviews from those who’ve reviewed the new show have been overwhelmingly positive.

“This was definitely one of those everyone talked about by the coffee machine,” Parkin says. “It’s a very high-profile job and this was a client who really wanted to push some boundaries.”

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