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Coldplay on a Stage Full of Specialz Stars

Coldplay on a Stage Full of Specialz Stars

UK - Entwining the set and lighting design for one of the biggest bands on the planet with the concept of origami might seem to some a conceit too far, but not for those imaginative individuals charged with creating something unique and special for Coldplay’s recent jaunt around the globe.

Set designer Misty Buckley elaborates on the premise: "The concept of the origami stars was very much an idea from the band. Steeped in Japanese tradition, origami is synonymous with transformation - taking something seemingly ordinary and transforming it in to something sculptural and beautiful. The star seemed an obvious choice because of A Sky Full of Stars."

With the idea of stars as a feature of the design, the next step was to create a working reality. Buckley continues: "Initially the production considered a kind of thin plastic sheeting to make them more resilient to the rigours of touring but it felt too controlled and gimmicky – like we were faking it – so we opted for the traditional material of paper for its delicacy and magical qualities. Paper is symbolic in so many cultures as a representation of love, luck, birth and death."

Five hundred paper stars were duly created and individually folded by the art department; each one had hand written lyrics on them from A Sky Full of Stars. Next came the slightly tricky part of lighting and rigging them. The production team went to Specialz. Managing director Dave Smith explains Specialz’s brief: "We had about five days before the first show to make this work. Clearly, the major issue was having such fragile objects in an environment where robust durability is usually a prerequisite for any piece of touring equipment. Each star was lit by LED and powered by a distro box (power and DMX data) that ran three cable strings with each string containing nine stars. In a single installation environment, this would have been a perfect rigging solution but as the tour progressed it became clear that the units were becoming damaged during load out and that we needed an added layer of protection to prevent broken LEDs shorting out and damaging the PSUs."

Lighting crew chief, Mick Stowe was responsible for rigging and maintaining the stars. "This was a tour of promotional appearances and shows so the size, shape and type of venue varied enormously. This made each set up for the stars a totally individual task with different heights and depths on each stage. As an example, in the Albert Hall we rigged approximately 324 stars while for a TV appearance it might less than 50 but in more awkward rigging settings. Specialz did a brilliant job creating a practical system that we could work with day to day and when the unavoidable damages began to impact on the stars, they came up with a simply ingenious set of little boxes that sorted that problem as well."

Smith elucidates further: "It was clear that, to survive the tour, these delicate stars needed more protection. We built around 36 inline polyfuse boxes which fitted onto the control box and protected the system if there was a fault. When the fault was corrected, by replacing or repairing the star, the polyfuse reset automatically and that particular line would be then working again. Of course, this was all part of the service to the production. One of the benefits of producing bespoke pieces for clients is our ability to adapt, alter and improve a design as circumstances dictate."

Despite the clearly challenging nature of the project, the stars have attracted nothing but praise from all concerned. Said set designer, Misty Buckley: "The stars are integral to the design creating a warmly lit and intimate space – it has been a really lovely campaign to work on."

Lighting designer Paul Normandale said: "The stars offered a wonderful organic nature to the look -somewhat random and whimsical."

A final word from the man at the coalface, Mick Stowe: "The stars looked simply fabulous on camera – they were just a lovely idea – and the ingenuity of Specialz is what made it happen."

photo: Stars at The Royal Albert Hall

photo: Mick Stowe

17th November 2014

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