When Tommy Crews does his job well, he has a tendency to disappear. Clubgoers at Light, the Mandalay Bay mega-venue, see a panorama of images splayed over 720 screens, a story unfolding across 150 horizontal feet of digital landscape. The visuals mirror the crescendos of the DJ’s soundtrack so well, guests assume the person in the booth is controlling both.
But behind the scenes in a booth of his own, video director Crews is the one running the on-screen show. With a Clear-Com headset and a chat thread running throughout the night, Crews, marketing director Natalia Harris and their team transform a big, dark room into an immersive party environment that can include rising flames, splashing water or a trip to Australia.
Part of the magic is in the system itself, which includes those hundreds of screens arrayed across the walls and ceiling, $1 million worth of custom content and four Barco projectors that allow performers to interact with the video displays. “The system is aware that there are artists there and adjusts in real time,” Crews explains. “There’s a camera that captures the heat signature of the artist and relays that to the system.”
So when a dancer drops from the ceiling, a digital fire can swirl around her. There’s nothing else like it in Vegas, Crews says. To use the setup for maximum impact, Crews and Harris start working with artists months out. For the Stafford Brothers’ Las Stralia residency, returning March 18, they’ve created a multi-faceted party that will combine all the elements of the club to transport visitors to Oz with flying kangaroos and twerking koalas.
But the visuals themselves? They happen live. “You just try to listen as closely as you can and really try to tell the story with visuals,” Crews says. “When it comes time for them to hit the gas and really shake the room up, you want to be right there with them.”