While the three days of Colonial Inauguration may be remembered as a blur of activities, there is one part of orientation that students never seem to forget: the laser light show.
CI Director Renee Clement said the laser light show has been a CI tradition since 1997 and was originally created as a part of GW’s 175th anniversary celebration, which took place in 1996, before CI adopted it as its own.
The show is produced by Audio Visual Imagineering, a creative production group based in Florida.
David Lawter, AVI creative director who is in charge of working with GW to amend the show every year, said for the last couple of years changes mostly included adding more animation – like making the hippo do something else in the show like bowling or playing tennis with George Washington.
He said on average it usually takes a six- to eight-person staff a couple hundred hours each year to revise the laser light show for GW’s CIs.
Joanne Young, AVI managing director, said developing a laser light show is pretty time consuming, especially since AVI uses the classic style to animate images, meaning that each image is produced by a specialized animator and then each drawing is digitized, put in the computer and set to music.
While Young said she wasn’t sure how much GW’s laser show costs, she said typically laser shows can go for $1,500 to $6,000 per finished minute, depending on the amount of animation in the show, but the average shows costs about $2,500 per minute. Lawter said this year’s laser light show clocks in at 6 minutes, 18 seconds.
AVI staff travels from Orlando to D.C. for each CI to help set up and rehearse the laser light performance, and they also send a professional “laserist” to help with troubleshooting.
And Lawter said that GW isn’t the only school that AVI produces laser light shows for – other clients of his include the University of Maryland and local universities in Florida.
Clement, CI director, said each year she interviews about 300 students seeking various CI positions and asks what their favorite part of the orientation is. About 80 percent respond with the laser light show, she said.
Clement thinks the show is so popular among students because “it’s just cool, it’s flashy,” and the energy of the Colonial Cabinet members during the performance – they cheer pretty loudly – is contagious.
She said, “It seems that, even if some of the other ‘community building’ parts of CI are not for you, you still enjoy the lasers and the hippo singing along with ‘Video Killed the Radio Star.'”
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