PCE Completes Professor Brian Cox Horizons Tour
Renowned physicist Professor Brian Cox recently concluded the North American leg of his Horizons world tour, a coast-to-coast series of lectures on the universe and our place within it. Producer/Promoter Arnold Engelman of WestBeth Entertainment partnered with PCE to produce the tour. PCE helped plan and tech the tour, contributing the LED video wall, lighting, and audio critical to providing guests a truly immersive experience.
WestBeth Entertainment owner Arnold Engelman and PCE CEO Ryan Steidinger recently shared their thoughts on the tour. We compiled the highlights into this three minute video:
Arnold had a lot more to say than what appears in the video though, so we decided to share the full transcript of our conversation (edited lightly for clarity). Enjoy!
PCE: Tell us about the Brian Cox Horizons tour.
Arnold Engelman: The tour consisted of 30 cities across North America. That's 34 performances spanning over eight weeks, beginning at the end of April 2022, and going to the end of June 2022. Horizons is the story of the universe: black holes, our place in the universe, the beginnings of time, and the end of time as we know it. Brian has been able to procure visuals from NASA that show all the different planets, the solar system, and the universe in ways that we have never seen it before.
Because what Brian is talking about is so intense and heavy, we are breaking it up with some comedy by the ultimate comedian Robin Ince, who also hosts the podcast Infinite Monkey Cage with Brian Cox, which has been going on for the last 12 or 13 years too.
"The LED screen is incredibly important to the show."
What technology does this tour utilize?
Brian Cox tells the story of the universe by using incredible visual effects on a large LED screen, which takes up the entire stage in every theater that we play in. The LED screen is incredibly important to the show, as it is able to show every little aspect of these incredible visuals.
We see black holes, we see exploding stars, we see Mercury, we see Venus, we see Mars, we see our sun in ways that it has never been seen before. If the technology is not there and we're not seeing these things in a very clear, crisp, and precise way, the whole show doesn't really work. So it was really important that these LED screens work in conjunction with the software that we pump through it.
Where does PCE enter the equation?
PCE has been integral in being able to put this project together for us. In the past, LED screens were cumbersome and big, and if any part of the LED screen broke down, you basically had to tear the whole screen down to repair that one section of it.
This LED screen has blown us away. We can put up these 16"x16" panels relatively quickly and also take them down relatively quickly. If any part of the LED screen breaks down, the parts are interchangeable. So, basically all you have to do is go up to that one section of the LED screen and and fix it by pulling out one section of the one section. This makes maintenance rather remarkable.
PCE has really helped us in the development of this project. We could not have done it without their knowledge of how this screen works and the ability of their technicians to come in, travel with the show, put it up, know how it works, and also understand the coordination of the software that we use to show these incredible visuals.
How far back does you relationship with PCE go?
[PCE CEO] Ryan Steidinger and I have had a relationship for quite a long period of time. It's quite important for a promoter and a producer who does these large scale tours to have a relationship with a production company that understands what's necessary, and that can provide a couple of technicians along the way to operate their equipment. So, if anything goes wrong, we know the technicians traveling with the show are trained in this equipment and can make it work for us.
You know, I'm trying to remember the first show that we worked on [with PCE]. It could have been our show Puppet Up! Uncensored, a show that we do with the Jim Henson Company. We've applied the Brian Cox tour LED screen technology to Puppet Up! Uncensored, which has allowed us to take it out on the road without the need for clumsy projectors, which created a lot of problems for us in the past.
How did PCE help you put Horizons together?
Before the tour, we had two or three technical days where we went into an empty theater just to put the show up. Because we were just practicing and weren't under any time constraints, we put the show up and started to work on it to see exactly what was necessary.
With these tours, things are added, things are subtracted, and you don't want to take equipment on the road that you don't need. On the other hand, you also find things that you need but didn't account for at the beginning. Thanks to PCE, within 24 hours, all the equipment we figured out we needed was shipped in and was right at our door the next day. This let us quickly continue on with the rather extensive technical rehearsal that this show needed. It was really rather incredible how that happened.
How do you feel about working with PCE versus working with other production companies?
I look at working with PCE not necessarily as a supplier, but as a production partner. And I think that that's a really important thing for a producer like myself who does these large scale national tours and is the promoter of each one of those events. I like to know that my production company is on my side and that I can pick up a phone if there's a problem.
"I look at working with PCE not necessarily as a supplier, but as a production partner."
Even in the planning stages, PCE has acted as production partners. They have not acted as suppliers and they've not acted as a vendor. I feel they have a vested interest in the project themselves and it is a reflection on them for the project to look good and to go smoothly. The show goes up in an incredibly short period of time—in less than three hours—and the show breaks down in less than an hour and a half. So, as a promoter, the cost savings are incredible because our production partner has taken into account the needs of the production.
What is your favorite thing about this tour?
WestBeth Entertainment focuses on content. We like to tell stories and we like to give our give our audience entertainment and give them a show. All of our artists do that. Our artists are very creative and very special.
This show tells a story. It tells the story of how we came to be, how our planet came to be, and how incredibly unique the circumstances are that what happened on Earth 50 million years ago happened at all; that we started somewhere in the sea and became intelligent life forms that have not been duplicated anywhere else in the universe. Watching our story as intelligent life unfold from the beginning to where we are today makes an incredible impact on who we are and what we're doing.
"The message of this tour is that we are very unique and we are we are on this earth for a very short period of time. Our individual lives are very fragile. And quite frankly, this planet might be very fragile. And so while we are here, it is important we do things and we create things and we make things happen."
The ability of of Brian Cox to tell this story shows how important we are as a species—as intelligent life—in this vast universe of emptiness. As we keep exploring the universe, we keep finding there's no places that other intelligent life exists. And we're able to also look back in time as we look at some of the other planets and some of the other solar systems out there in the universe that are hundreds of millions of light years away. And we get to learn about how the universe began and also answer some of the questions as to how we came to be.
The message of this tour is that we are very unique and we are we are on this earth for a very short period of time. Our individual lives are very fragile. And quite frankly, this planet might be very fragile. And so while we are here, it is important we do things and we create things and we make things happen. I hope that WestBeth Entertainment embodies this with the entertainment we provide—whether it be something like this show or something from one of our other artists. Like Brian Cox, all of our artists tell stories. PCE is doing things to enhance our ability to tell those stories.