Production News Headlines
Industry trailblazer Spectre Studios uses Brompton Technology for Unreal Build: Virtual Production event
Events United Sets Tone for Granite State Baseball Dinner with Chauvet Professional
USA – Like all minor league baseball teams, The New Hampshire Fisher Cats had no 2020 baseball season, because of the COVID-19 lockdown. Although the crack of the bat and thump of a fastball hitting the catcher’s glove could not be heard at Delta Dental Stadium this summer, the connection that the club, an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, has to fans remains as strong as ever.
This was very evident at the team’s annual Granite State Baseball Dinner. Held virtually this year, with Events United producing the event at Studio Lab, the fundraiser ran over its scheduled time because of the high level of interest from fans throughout New Hampshire. “The Fisher Cats are an institution in this area,” said Tim Messina, owner of Events United. “Since they could not hold their dinner live, we helped them create a new atmosphere of their traditional event in a livestream.”
The key to creating a welcoming mood in the broadcast was a massive 53’ wide by 14‘ tall curved video wall backdrop that was used to display engaging backgrounds, images, and live video conferencing feeds featuring baseball stars like Danny Jansen, starting catcher for the Blue Jays, as well as legends like Boston Red Sox Hall of Famers, Bernie Carbo and Luis Tiant.
“The live video conferencing calls were big part of the show,” said producer Chase Clark. “During the calls, the centre third of our video wall displayed the baseball stars interacting live with each other and Tyler Murray, the host for the event. Tyler did a great job balancing all the different feeds and calling audibles when needed. Our Maverick MK2 Spot fixtures, turned down to low intensity, provided us with excellent key lighting on him, while not washing out the video wall images.”
A wide variety of baseball related images, sponsorship call outs, and other graphics were displayed on the two-thirds of the video wall that were not devoted to playing live call-ins. These colourful images did more than create visually pleasing backdrops for livestream viewers, they also were critical in setting the tone for different segments of the broadcast.
“There were many different parts of this show,” said Clark. “We had segments ranging from a silent auction, to 50/50 raffles, to informational segments on the upcoming season, to entertaining conversations between the stars. Having different looks on the big video background helped us set different tones for each of these segments, while also making it easier to show viewers what each one was about.”
To illustrate his point, Clark cites the programme’s “Pack the Park” segment as an example. “This programme donated ten dollars to a children’s hospital for every virtual seat purchased,” he said. “So we had tiny pins fill the seats on a giant video graphic of the stadium as donations came in. It was an effective and unique graphic metaphor that generated a lot of excitement.”
While the curved video wall and host were often the key focal point of the livestream, colourising from Rogue R1 Wash and COLORado Solo Batten fixtures also contributed to setting an engaging atmosphere for the livestream, which utilized four broadcast cameras.
“We spend a good amount of time setting lighting, audio, and camera shots for each event. It’s important to us that each event looks and sounds the best it can and that means that we spend a decent amount of time setting proper camera exposure, colour balancing, adding texture, dialling in audio, and working with talent so they are comfortable on camera,” said Clark. “Credit for balancing all these elements goes to our team, which includes our LD Ryan Lane, audio engineer Kevin Smith, LED wall operator Trifon Athnos, graphics operator Joel Pelletier, and teleprompter operator Martin Lyons, as well as our camera operators Lauren Thomason, Jeff Garcia, and Peyton Geisler.”
For Clark, working with his team to use video graphics as a story-telling tool in a live broadcast was a highlight of Granite State Baseball Dinner project. “Personally, I enjoyed the raw emotion between our host Tyler and the remote guests,” he said. “This was all done live and could not have been reproduced any other way. It was a rewarding experience all around.”
22nd January 2021
Astera is Live in Denmark
Denmark – Live Company is a full technical production and rental specialist based in Skovlunde, a suburb of Copenhagen, owned by Peter Clausen, Mikkel Bedsted and two other business partners, all of whom are dedicated to providing excellent service and high production values to clients across multiple performance genres.
Since 2018, the company has invested steadily in Astera products, the first ones being AX1 PixelTubes which were purchased to illuminate the domed roof of Cirkusrevyen’s big top venue in Dyrehavsbakken (the north of Copenhagen).
Started in 1935, Cirkusrevyen is the biggest revue show in Denmark and has been performed every year except 2020, when the season was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The AX1s were modified with special magnetic fastenings for this specific project. They were utilised during a spectacular dance number, where the dancers plucked them from the stage floor and mounted them vertically and horizontally on the set thanks to the magnets. They also charged off power from the set, and ran flawlessly for over 150 performances, for which the lighting was designed by Malthe Haugaard who has been working in this role since 2015.
Since then, Live Company has increased its stock of the RGBW AX1s, and now has over 70 fixtures in the house, as well as investing in 24 Astera AX3 LightDrops.
“These Astera products are great for so many things,” commented Peter, adding that they have been used on multiple types of project from music videos to set dressing and illumination.
Recently, 54 AX1s were dry hired to the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen for two different shows, La Voix Humaine and Simon Boccanegra, the latter of which was lit by Fabrice Kebour.
In Stockholm, Sweden, Folkoperan utilised 40 of Live Company’s AX1s for their recent production of “Tristan & Isolde” with lighting designed by Clement Irbil. The AX1s made up part of a large pixel mapped installation.
“We’re delighted all-round with the Astera fixtures, they just work in whatever scenario,” starts Peter. “The light output to power and weight ratio is excellent, and the AX1 is a totally unique product, we could not find anything else like it.” They have also upgraded their control systems to work with the AX1’s in-built Lumen Radio wireless DMX receiver.
They believe that Astera has spent its time wisely during the pandemic in coming up with many new ideas and producing numerous helpful videos and tutorials.
Peter thinks the Astera build quality is robust and is impressed with the colour continuity between consignments as they have built their stock up in batches of eight or 16 AX1s at a time, so this is another important consideration.
In fact, the AX1s and AX3s have been their busiest products on average so far during the pandemic period, when there has been a flurry of projects mostly at very short notice, particularly towards the end of 2020, and having the Asteras sitting prepped and ready on the selves has been an ideal solution.
photos: Sören Vilkas & Henrik Petit
22nd January 2021
DiGiCo SD12 delivers familiarity and flexibility for Music Bank live streams
UK – Over the past 25 years Music Bank has established itself as one of the premier rehearsal and backline hire facilities in Europe. Top touring artists and productions have long-standing relationships with Music Bank’s team, and know they are always going to get a great facility and great service when they come to rehearse or hire equipment. In recent months, Music Bank’s director Jimmy Mac has been busy modifying the studios to create a state-of-the-art live streaming space, allocating its DiGiCo SD12 to mix duties to ensure familiarity and total flexibility for visiting engineers.
“We knew people would want to use Music Bank as a streaming location for the same reasons they use it for a rehearsal space,” says Charlie Bryson, monitor engineer for Rod Stewart’s band and long-time DiGiCo user who started his career at Music Bank and has returned during the pandemic to look after all things audio for the live streams. “The new studios offer huge, great sounding, well-serviced rehearsal rooms with a plethora of backline and instruments available to hire right across the hallway.”
This, combined with a recently upgraded 1Gb symmetrical internet connection and its collaboration with neighbour, Colour Sound Experiment, to bring in modular/scalable LED walls and a lighting package for each room, makes Music Bank a logical choice for a streaming performance space.
“After that, all that was left was to get a great camera and broadcast set-up together and we had an awesome streaming operation that artists could come in and design however they liked,” Bryson continues. “Initially, I think a lot of artists saw an opportunity to do something different or something they hadn’t done before with these live streamed / lockdown performances. Something new and exciting for the fans to make up for the lack of energy experienced at a live show. With that in mind, I needed a console that was very versatile and flexible and able to handle any new idea that might arise halfway through a rehearsal.”
Having worked almost entirely on DiGiCo consoles for the last five years, they are always Bryson’s go-to choice of console and as the SD12 was already part of Music Banks studio stock, it made perfect sense to use it for these performances, knowing that it would cope, whatever was needed.
“You develop a way of working fast an efficiently with whatever console you spend most time with,” he says. “But in my opinion, the DiGiCo operating system really is the most logical, intuitive and user-friendly option out there.”
“DiGiCo’s Mark Saunders has been an integral part of the relationship between Music Bank and DiGiCo,” adds Mac. “Before the pandemic we had so many artists in with DiGiCo packages, Mark basically had a second home here! It’s been extremely productive to have developed such a close relationship between the two companies and I’m sure it will continue for long into the future.”
As soon as the initial period of lockdown ended, Music Bank was set up and ready to go and has been doing streams on a regular basis. All genres and scales have been catered for, from intimate Punk Rock shows with The Professionals [Steve Cook from The Sex Pistols], immersive DJ performances with the likes of Jonas Blue, to Melanie C’s global album launch performance. More recently, Trevor Horn and his all-star session band recorded a Live Session Special with artists including Seal and Stewart Copeland dialling in via Live Link to perform with the musicians in the studio in London from their own studios in the US.
Artists have the option to bring in their own audio package or use Music Bank’s in-house systems. So far, it has been a mix of both: The Professionals was a full Music Bank package, whilst the Trevor Horn performance was a mix with the SD12 for the FOH / broadcast mix, with audio partners SSE supplying an SD5 at monitors. If the house system is chosen, Bryson acts as a tech for all things audio and mixes both broadcast and in-house monitors if required.
“Having been a freelance engineer and audio tech for the last 10 years, it has been nice to see some familiar faces coming in and out,” he concludes. “From an audio point of view everything has gone extremely smoothly so far! I think this is testament to the DiGiCo being so versatile. You can put it in the room with any kind of band, artist, performance or production and know that no matter how complicated the outputs get, or how many inputs you end up with, you’ll be able to work through it quickly and efficiently. We also benefit from our SD-Rack being fully kitted out with the 32-bit cards in and out, so not only is it easy, it sounds exceptional too!”
22nd January 2021
Painting With Light Calls on Chauvet Professional for Belgium’s Wheel of Fortune
Belgium – In the world of television, where success can vanish in the blink of any eye, Wheel of Fortune stands out as a paradigm of longevity. Debuting in Hollywood 46 years ago, the word puzzle quiz show, is the longest running syndicated series in US history. The Belgian edition Het Rad van Fortuin, has been around almost as long, first appearing in 1976, only a year after its American counterpart.
Like all long-running success stories, the Wheel of Fortune franchise has survived (and thrived), thanks to its ability to adapt and change, a quality that has enabled it to appeal to new generations of fans without losing their parents. This renewal process was very much in evidence in the 2020 edition of the Belgian show, which featured a sleek new set designed by Deusjevoo.
Accentuating this set and endowing with extra vibrancy and depth was a lighting and video design by Painting With Light that featured an extensive collection of Chauvet Professional fixtures supplied by Splendit, including the EPIX Strip IP, Maverick MK3 Profile, Maverick MK2 Profile, Rogue R2X Wash, Ovation E-910FC ellipsoidal, COLORado Panel Q40 and COLORdash Batten-Quad 12.
This is the first season of Wheel of Fortune that has been produced in Belgium by SBS, and the broadcaster wanted to distinguish its rendition of the legendary show by giving it stand out looks that combined modern elegance and style with a relaxed, welcoming feel. Painting With Light took “a theatrical approach” to this project by creating a series of pleasing visual ‘big pictures’ that stood out on their own while also encompassing the overall cosiness. Luc Peumans, CEO of Painting With Light, and his team worked closely with C-Mine neighbour Dries Hermans and art director Lieven van Overbeke over an intense six-week period to create the kind of beautifully balanced design SBS was after.
Toward this end, Painting With Light created a series of captivating pictures for the set that endowed it with style. Adding to the sleek looks of the set are the 150-pixel mapped EPIX Strip IP linear strips that border key scenic elements on the set, such as the stairs that lead up to the famous puzzle board and the banquet seating behind the contestants.
In addition to the EPIX units, a full LED lighting rig was used, with Ovation and Maverick fixtures serving as the workhorses for key and backlighting. The Maverick MK3 fixtures, COLORado Panel Q40s and COLORdash Batten-Quad 12s were used to colourise the cycloramas and scenic curtains. Rogue fixtures are in the design to light the walls, floor, and the displays of prizes, such as new cars. Vertically oriented EPIX units were also used as backdrops in the prize area.
The atmosphere goes from funky to cosy by applying warmer or brighter light and specific colours, up to very special effects. Both installers and customers are impressed by the result, a colourful and lively look which is unmatched for a seasonal quiz game show.
Adding even more excitement to the show was a laser proximity sensor devised by Painting With Light that connected the handles that contestants use to spin the wheel to MIDI notes. This triggered cues that set off dynamic lighting and audio effects with each spin of the wheel, that is packed with several custom RGB and white LED light sources
Technology like the laser proximity sensor and pixel-controlled lighting effects would have been virtually impossible to imagine, when Het Rad van Fortuin debuted over four decades ago but change and new ideas are nothing new to this program. In actuality, they are why it has remained so young for all these years.
20th January 2021
FUSION FS20 Sticks highlight Budapest pool for International Swimming League
Hungary – Production designer Frédéric ‘Aldo’ Fayard (of Concept K) deployed FUSION by GLP FS20 Sticks for the first time, and to great effect, when lighting the recent ISL (International Swimming League) event in Budapest.
Born from the initiative of Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Grigorishin, the event features ten teams of 28 swimmers, who take part in a knockout competition, culminating in two semi-finals and a final. Held inside a sanitary bubble, the audience-free occasion was one of the biggest sporting events in the world this year and was broadcast on CBS in the US and BeIN Sport among others.
From a lighting perspective, Fayard had to ensure this high-profile international competition, where several world records were broken, still retained its entertainment value in the absence of an audience.
The LD founded Concept K 23 years ago, mainly for touring and classical events. With up to 15 designers and programmers working for it over the years it has become a forerunner in its field in France.
He joined forces with Antoine D'Halluin, projects director at PRG, on the set and scenographic design, as the event’s production team sought their expertise. The two men have been frequent collaborators over the years and Fayard remarked that: “For this type of project there is no precedent, so everything had to be invented. The fact that there was zero audience added difficulty to the equation, as did meeting the strict requirements of broadcast, an omnipresent Augmented Reality, and of course all the requirements linked to the obligations of a world-class competition.”
The set design thus included lighting, photo direction, video, and the LED screen integration design, as well as the studio for the English-speaking commentators and the entire complement of technical and sports equipment. ”It was a complex challenge,” he admitted.
One product that quickly came to his aid was GLP’s IP65-rated FUSION FS20. Aside from its all-weather deployment, addition of beam angle filters and various diffuser plates presents the designer with many creative options, while for broadcast, a fanless design enables silent operation, perfect for television.
Fayard had been introduced to this by Antoine D’Halluin. “He suggested this solution and I must say that I was immediately seduced. For some time now GLP has been producing interesting tools – the JDC1, of course – but now the KNV, which is a very innovative and atypical product.”
The designer could immediately see why the FS20 would present such an attractive option. “I was looking for a powerful, discreet, aesthetically pleasing and IP65-rated source; I suppose hoping for the impossible!
“But the FS20 ticked all the boxes and stood out from all the other solutions considered for several reasons. In addition to its IP65 rating, the FS20, with its 20 lamps per metre, offers a unique concentration of light. This sensation is reinforced by the possibility to attach the bars together, which allowed us to create a real continuous horizontal lighting thread at the edge of the pool while outputting considerable power.
“We opted for the widest optic (60°), which was not yet available from any other service provider. It is in this kind of situation that I, as a lighting designer, enjoy working with PRG. They did not hesitate and immediately invested in the 60° optics required.
“Furthermore, the FS20 is very discreet, and physically attractive as it disappears behind the light it provides. It was the ideal tool for emphasising the image and meeting the constraints of very tight planning.”
Implementation had been simple and efficient, he confirmed. In terms of the design the 25m long pool had to be lit on both sides and so they installed 24 FS20 horizontally around 20cm from the pool overflow (leaving one gap each side for the swimmers’ access). “The fact that they could all be physically linked created the desired effect,” he explained. “The whole thing was oriented at about 20° upwards and gave the result that I was expecting from the camera, whether it was a tight shot or a wide shot.”
This approach enabled the FUSION FS20 to fulfil multiple roles: a rhythmic marking on the intro of the show via the time code, the finishes of each race, and finally as a background and decoration in all the camera shots.
In terms of programming, Fayard opted for full 92-channel pixel mode. “When you're working on a project that's going to stay in place for a month and a half, you want to push it to its limits. We absolutely needed to use the LEDs individually, i.e. to create effects as if we had a single bar of 240 LEDs. But I also wanted to have access to the strobe function for all the bars, and to be able to create bar-by-bar effects for some more dynamic moments, such as the celebration of world records; which is why we needed the 92-channel mode.
“In this mode, and with 48 sources, you need to be fully organised. But it honestly went very well, and the product data sheet is well thought out.”
In addition, he used GLP’s impression X4 L in a dual role: to provide general counterpart for the main entrance for all swimmers and also to generate effects on race arrivals and after advertising breaks. Needing efficient and affordable sources in quantities, Fayard placed two lines of X4 L; the first with 20 fixtures and the second with 16. A further three X4 L were also used backstage.
The designer also specified nine X4 Bar 20, explaining: “I was looking for a decorative product that would also be an effective counterpart to the studio dedicated to English-speaking commentators; the tilt and moving focus allowed me to fine-tune the complex settings to the best of my ability.”
Summing up, Fayard was generous in his praise for the FS20. “It is without equivalent in the market,” he said. “To have 20 LEDs in just one metre is a real asset. But not content with this advantage, GLP has been clever enough to make a connection between the bars. This was key in enabling me to create a perfect 'horizontality' in the image. I had two 24 metre long LED bars, with 240 LEDs at my fingertips, and this gave me lots of ideas for other designs.
“The mechanical and inherent flexibility of a product such as this creates a real plus for a designer, as it multiplies his design capabilities tenfold.”
photos: Set & Lighting Design PRG and Concept K for ISL 2020
20th January 2021
Streaming Home for Christmas in Belgium
Belgium – The Belgians definitely didn’t let the pandemic dampen enthusiasm for the festive season and while it was 'different' in every sense with a lockdown in place and none of the usual round of parties and celebratory shows, theatrical musical producers Deep Bridge created a special streamed ‘Home Edition’ version of their 2020 Christmas Show, with appearances and special Christmas collaborations from a host of celebrities and music stars, all presenting unique festive musical moments.
The event was recorded over three days at Deep Bridge’s HQ in Antwerp with lighting designed by David Smeets of event design and production company The Creative Factory, (TCF) based in Meerhout.
David specified Robe moving lights including T1 Profiles, Spiiders, LEDBeam 150s, Tertra2 LED bars and BMFL WashBeams, all of which were supplied by rental company L&L Stage Services.
The action-packed artist line up included a star-studded cast of Belgian singing and dancing talent.
The challenges of the project included an incredibly tight turnaround time: just ten days from when the idea germinated to the stream being recorded across ten different locations at the Deep Bridge HQ including offices, dressing rooms, corridors, and foyers as well as their dance studio and rehearsal room and outside the building.
That meant that any lighting kit must be portable, versatile, low power and, for the exterior scenes, able to deal with a bit of wind and rain.
David and his team frequently use Robe products in their work which includes theatre, music, and touring shows and in the more recent months since the pandemic, there’s been a steady flow of livestream / broadcast recording production work.
Deep Bridge’s fabulous 15-piece house band was used for backing all the vocalists. For logistical reasons and for Covid-compliance which restricted the amount of people allowed in the building and in the filming areas at any one time, these tracks were pre-recorded in the studio, with the singers then going live-to-track playback.
The 24 T1 Profiles were deployed on the floor of the various spaces or rigged on wheeled stands which could easily be moved around. T1 Profiles were picked for their output and colour mixing; they easily and authentically reproduce the vivid colours needed for TV work and are also ideal for front and keylighting due to their excellent range of CT whites, explained David. In addition to many other refined advanced features, they also consume very little power.
The 24 LEDBeam 150s were perfect for their small size, zoom, colour mixing and ideal to light the smaller spaces like dressing rooms and corridors. “They are compact, light and portable enough to be used literally anywhere,” enthused David who also ran them as a set of linked up-lighters daisy-chained through one unit’s power supply, as well as for back light, camera candy and even wall washers. “They are a must-have on a project like this!” he stated.
David included 18 of his current favourite Robe products, the Spiider LED wash beam. “I use Spiiders on every show I do,” he pronounces, reckoning they are the most versatile fixture with their central flower effect, individual LED ring control and excellent zoom which means they can work equally well as a beam or a wash luminaire.
The eight BMFL WashBeams were used for the outside shots, primarily for illuminating the building and gobo projections, while the Tetra2s were utilised on the floor in the walkways and corridors as an effect. It was the second time that David had used these on a show.
All the lighting was run via a grandMA3 console programmed by Stijn Vanholzaets and operated by David assisted by Christophe Hellinckx making up a talented and fast-working FOH lighting team.
Enforcing the social distancing rules and ensuring that the site was fully Covid compliant meant that everyone needed four square metres of space around them, something that presented both logistical and psychological conundrums for artists and crew!
“For example, to stage a 15-piece band with this in mind you need a large space,” explained David, “and they have to very quickly get comfortable with playing together whilst being much further apart than normal.”
All the lighting was operated ‘blind’ by observing the action via screens as the control position was in a sectioned off room behind walls and with no direct line of sight.
“We needed some time to ensure that everything looked just right for the three camera shoot, but we also all had to work fast and ensure it was a safe working environment for all. As always with our industry, the technicians, crew, and the artists all learnt and reacted very quickly to make it happen.”
The “Christmas Show Home Edition” was available as a pay-per-view for two weeks over the festive period and has proved extremely popular.
David and the TCF team have been lucky enough to have a steady trickle of work for the latter half of this year, mainly streaming and TV shows, but it’s enabled them to stay afloat and working at least some of the time, getting other companies and freelance crew involved as much as possible.
Like everyone, David is glad to see the back of 2020 and is looking forward to the industry getting a chance to recover and start re-building as vaccine programmes roll out across Europe and further afield. TCF already have some theatre tours on the calendar for the second half of 2021 and everyone has their fingers crossed that this will go according to plan.
photos: Steven Hendrix
19th January 2021
FIX8Group’s ‘The Hub’ used as studio for Ruroc ad shoot
UK – FIX8Group’s virtual events, broadcast and connectivity centre The Hub was recently transformed into an advertising shoot film studio for extreme sports outfitter, Ruroc.
Music video production company Swords and Eagles, and legendary music video director KC Locke, worked closed with FIX8Group to develop The Hub to reflect the narrative of the promo film.
Within The Hub, the Studio space's 12m x 4m, 2.6mm pixel pitch LED screen was used as the main visuals backdrop for the shoot, offering more than 4K resolution. FIX8group’s technical team showcased the screen’s agility and flexibility as scenes were changed instantly to promote Ruroc’s range of motor sport and snow sports headgear.
Special effects including pyrotechnics and innovative lighting techniques were used to create an optimum environment for the story to unfold. As part of the shoot, ‘intruders’ dressed in black combat fatigues and equipped with laser-guided imitation firearms added to the excitement of the filming.
“We were thrilled to see The Hub being used in a completely new way,” says FIX8Group’s MD, Mark Porter. “The shoot drew on many of The Hub’s strengths: super hi-res screens which are able to create immersive 3D environments, a well-equipped lighting rig, and a customisable space which can be adapted to fully suit the client’s needs. The attitude to COVID-safe working practices was demonstrated at all times in a very professional manner.
“We created The Hub to be a robust, secure and dynamic technical environment where filming solutions are ‘practically endless’, so seeing it used in this way so soon after launch was very exciting.”
Director KC Locke comments: “A number of locations had been scouted before choosing the FIX8 facility. The Hub’s entire environment, technology already in-situ, layout of the building and outside spaces fitted in so well with the concept we were trying to capture. It’s fun utilising new spaces and creating a story, in line with a client's brand ideas. It’s one thing coming up with an idea, but it’s the team around me who bring the spark to life. FIX8 were helpful throughout the filming and did everything in their power to accommodate our requirements.”
In addition to the Studio space, The Hub offers The Gallery, where live feeds from the Studio or off-site converge and can be mixed and manipulated and combined with pre-recorded materials. And at the epicentre of The Hub is the Master Control Room, which processes data traffic and provides live streaming options.
18th January 2021
Over 700 Elation lights for 2020 Illumination – Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum
USA – For The Morton Arboretum, the idea of not running Illumination this past holiday season was not an option, says Lightswitch principal John Featherstone about the popular wintertime lighting display in Lisle, Illinois. Illumination continues to shine through after being redesigned for a drive-through experience using additional Elation luminaires, the eighth year for the project.
“It’s about a partnership between a remarkable institution, and an industry full of incredibly creative, hard working and motivated people who are still passionate about delivering remarkable experiences to an entertainment-starved public and bringing relief to people,” says Featherstone. “The motivating force behind why the Arboretum decided to pivot Illumination to a driving experience was not only to ensure guest safety in the middle of a pandemic, but also because we all felt there was something we owed the local community. For seven years, we've asked the guests of the Chicago area to come to the Arboretum and we felt a responsibility to honour that. This has been a year of ‘no’s’ and it would have been easy for the Arboretum to have skipped this year, but we wanted to deliver something to the people of Chicagoland that was a ‘yes’.”
The design group and the Morton Arboretum found innovative ways to find yeses, effectively making the pivot to a driving experience by utilising some of the site’s 1,700 acres of beautiful gardens. The new driving experience includes favourite lighting displays re-envisioned along with six newly designed sights displayed along a two-mile road among the Arboretum's magnificent trees. Guests immerse themselves in magical woodlands and landscapes filled with dramatic lighting and colour-changing illumination, and, of course, they do it from the comfort and safety of their own car.
With guests sitting in their cars instead of walking a path closer to nature, Featherstone says they had to let go of what they’ve done in the past and focus on what they could do. “We didn’t want to try and make it feel simply like the walking experience from inside a car. In order to make it feel like something new we had to rethink it through the lens, or in this case the window, of what it's like to be in a vehicle which is very different than viewing it when walking the trail.” The designer says the team would usually spend a lot of time talking about things like the shape of a tree or how colour plays on different textures of bark. “But that goes out the window when you look at it from a car window. You're just not close enough to the arbour, and you're in constant motion so you don't get those moments to stop and linger.”
Besides having to make displays shorter in duration due to the increased tempo, the tint of the vast majority of car windows reduce a surprising amount of the light. “It was a dramatic difference. The whole display needed to be brighter due to the difference in colour and saturation when viewed through the automobile glass.” Projection mapping onto trees was dropped this year for the same reason. Another important difference was the more horizontal “cinema display” aspect ratio one gets from looking out a car window. “We couldn’t guide the eye from the base of the tree to its crown to reveal the majesty of the tree for example.” Another change this year was the opportunity for driving guests to listen to specially curated music on a dedicated radio station.
The result of the changes, Featherstone says, is a show that was more visually dynamic than past years with more Elation Professional luminaires used than ever before. Over 700 Elation fixtures form the foundation of the lighting including IP65 Proteus Beam and Proteus Hybrid moving heads, Arena Q7 Zoom PAR wash lights, Level Q7 IP RGBW PAR lights, and for the first time, Elation’s 50,000-lumen Proteus Maximus. The two-month, cold weather project proves an ideal environment for the multi-environmental Proteus series.
“Frankly, the Maximus is going to change the way we think about a lot of elements at the Arboretum,” Featherstone says. “It takes any kind of video projection technology that we can use out back behind the shed and steals its lunch money! It's brighter, it's crisper and we don't have to build an enclosure to protect it. We can tuck fixtures in places where we otherwise couldn't get video projectors so it's brilliant.” Outfitted with custom gobos and using the fixture’s animation system along with pan and tilt to create effects, the designer admits they only scratched the surface with it this year. “That fixture and the rest of the Proteus line are going to be a big part of our thinking, not only for Illumination but for all of the other institutions we work with, moving forward.”
Lightswitch works closely with Intelligent Lighting Creations (ILC) on the Illumination project and again this year the Illinois-based design and rental house supplied the lighting fixtures. Illumination was once again extremely well attended with the initial closing date of 3rd January extended until 10th January.
In closing, Feathertone added: “We are so proud of the experience we were able to create with the staff at The Morton Arboretum in the middle of a global pandemic, and were able to keep both staff and guests safe. We can’t wait to return Illumination to the beloved walking experience in 2021, as we all look forward to a return to normal.”
photos: Matthew Taylor – The Morton Arboretum
18th January 2021
Red Alert Israel
Israel – Over 150 theatrical venues, concert halls, music clubs and sport arenas across the whole of Israel were lit up in red on 26th December 2020 in a ‘Red Alert evening of action’ designed to highlight culture and the arts and the immense amount of enjoyment, entertainment and value that it brings to all.
The spontaneous event that began like so many of these organic movements as an animated conversation, was organised by multi-disciplinary artist, musician and lighting designer Nadav Barnea, together with lighting designer Baruch Shpigelman, and it energised and united engineers, technicians, designers and directors working in every discipline in the sector: lighting, sound, video, staging, rigging, visual, scenic, cameras and broadcast, etc.
Delighted to participate was another leading Israeli lighting designer, Eran Klein of Cochavi&Klein who worked closely with his business partner Eli Cochavi to light up one of the two main sites in central Tel Aviv with an all-Robe lighting rig featuring Spiiders, BMFL Spots and LEDWash 1200 fixtures.
The lights were supplied by Danor Theatre and Studio Systems whose Erez Hadar also enthusiastically participated in the event.
These Robe fixtures were used to illuminate The Cameri Theatre, and the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Centre, all standing adjacent to one another in Sderot Sha'ul HaMelech square.
“Robe was my first choice,” explained Eran, “I picked the Spiiders and LEDWashes for their power, coverage and fantastic colours as it was important to get a really rich and luminescent red.” The BMFL Spots were used for crisp gobo projections together with cool animation effects and other textural overlays.
The fixtures were all positioned on flight cases and other objects in the square, where they had an unhindered beam-path to illuminate the buildings, all of which glowed in resplendent red.
The other major Red Alert site in central Tel Aviv was the Habima Theatre, lit with 12 Robe MegaPointes, and the Culture Palace which were also turned red for the evening.
Other notables included the Jerusalem Theatre, Teddy Stadium and the Israeli Museum of Artalso in Jerusalem.
The goal of the action was to fire up all media outlets, try and get the voice of the industry in front of more people, and most notably, to influence politicians to help with re-starting the industry and getting venues open and events being staged and operating in a Covid safe environment.
The political situation in Israel is complicated! Earlier in December, its fragile coalition government collapsed after seven months, and the country will have its fourth general election in less than two years, most probably towards the end of March 2021.
The usually lively music, arts and culture scene in Israel is richly diverse, incredibly proactive and through the years has produced an abundance of talented individuals who are acclaimed worldwide. The country is also a popular touring circuit destination for major international artists and performers, and there is a large associated ‘culture tourism’ sector that boosts the GDP each year.
The locally-based creative and technical production infrastructure that supports this dynamic segment is also hailed as for its ingenuity and excellence.
During the pandemic, the lighting of buildings, monuments and landmarks in red has become synonymous with support for live events and the performing arts which have been particularly hard hit since shutting down in March 2020.
In many parts of the world, including Israel, companies and professionals in the sector have had no roadmap or timescale for restarting and have received no financial assistance to stay afloat.
"Our expectations grew higher each time the list of places lit in red expanded,” commented Nadav. “We saw places we didn’t even know were joining in posting red pictures and tagging the event on social media, and it was incredible!
“We knew that the media has the power to really spread the word and apart from a few interviews to radio shows we did not expect it to explode as it did!”
Almost every national newspaper, news channel and web portal commented and talked about the action with several front-page features and lead stories.
“I can happily say that a moment of ‘let's do something’ became a show of force presented by the whole Israeli entertainment industry,” commented a delighted Nadav.
Approximately 150 different buildings were lit red, with 1,500-2,000 people involved which is a remarkable achievement.
Lighting designer Baruch Shpigelman, who is currently working with Nadav, stated: “It united an entire industry which said, loud and clear, that entertainment and performance is part of every element of Israel, north to south, east to west. Its existence is at the essence of people’s spirit and well-being, as without culture, there's no community! The entertainment industry is proud to say: 'We are still here and we are here to stay!'."
photos: Yossi Zwecker & Uri Rubenstein
18th January 2021
Jean Michel Jarre Virtual Show Opens New Worlds with Help from Jvan Morandi and ChamSys
France – There is an unmistakable sense of boldness, perhaps even bravado, betrayed by a name like “Welcome To The Other Side.” In choosing this title, the author of a work is promising a transformative experience, one that will liberate the imagination of all who partake of it. In the case of electronic music pioneer Jean Michel Jarre, this confidence is well-founded, a promise kept!
Released on New Year’s Eve, Jarre’s Virtual Reality show is a mind-expanding experience that garnered 900,000 views on YouTube within a week of its release and, according to Sony Music International, over 75 million views on all outlets (Facebook, VRC, Weibo, Tik Tok). Defying all expectations, his creation swirls high-tech sights and sounds around a reimagined (and virtual) nine-centuries-old Notre Dame cathedral.
During its 55-minute run time, conceived to celebrate the arrival of 2021 in the French capital, animated geometric forms rise and fall within the historic church’s nave, keyboard instruments melt with colour, brilliant light patterns run up stone columns to play off stained glass windows, all turning common perceptions on their head, so the viewer can come out “on the other side.”
Moving seamlessly with Jarre’s music in Welcome To The Other Side is a multifarious light show created by Jvan Morandi of Placing Shadows using his ChamSys MagicQ MQ80 console as the starting point to merge show business with game engine workflows. Run along triggered timelines within the Unity game engine, the light show is divided into two parts: interior stage element and architecture: sequences created via the ChamSys but then run directly by the Unity engine a series of exterior architectural sequences, involving lights and lasers as well as camera moves played back via the lighting desk thought ArtNet and software.
“We programmed the cues with a ChamSys MQ80 in my studio,” notes Morandi. “All the cue lists come from ChamSys and were translated into a set of Unity animation triggers on a timeline. When I say ‘translated,’ I mean that Victor Pukhov used the visualised lighting cues to create shadier animation that then got triggered by Unity custom scripts by Antony Vitillo.
Morandi credits his MQ80 with helping this process go smoothly. “The copy linked features in the ChamSys console were very useful, as was the off-set patch,” he said. “With so many camera shots on the outside I needed to dress the shot and fill it differently depending on the situation. Also, the ability to link my desk directly to my software and transfer data between the two, (they patch automatically in ChamSys) was a big help in creating the shots quickly.”
During the show, Jarre played live from TV Studio Gabriel in Paris. He was lit only by a video projector and portrayed in vivid colours and shapes coming directly from the same video content that was UV mapped on the inside of the virtual cathedral. Lending another evocative touch to the show was the virtual rendition of Notre Dame’s interior. The 3D model and the game engine programming were optimized by Lapo Germasi and Victor Pukhov of Manifattura Italiana Design. “Once we received the interior of the cathedral, we worked with our studio software and the game engine to find the right looks,” explained Morandi.
When designing the stage set in the middle of the church, Morandi envisioned a “modern version of Stonehenge.” He viewed the circular stage as a reflection of the shape of the big stained- glass window at the front of the cathedral. The stage columns that animated the scene were video mapped and received streamed content from a cue list on Vimeo.
“The stage lights are actually not real light but volumetric shaders that were animated by Victor Pukhov to mimic my ChamSys programmed lighting cues,” said Morandi. “Most importantly, Vincent Masson created the 3D animations that made the show look stunning. He used our 2D content as starting point, and with a lot of passion and talent created the 3D versions of it.”
Collaboration was critical to making this VR creation come to fruition. “This project involved a great many very creative people coming together from diverse backgrounds, starting with Jean Michel Jarre whose vision and hard work made it all possible,” said Morandi. “Credit should also go to Louis Caracciolo from VRroom, our French VR Producer; and Antony Vitillo of NTW (Italian developers that looked after all the scripting and game engine functionalities). Jonathan Klahr did an amazing job on the 2D video content mapped onto the interior walls. Stephan and Jeroen from LaserImage of Amsterdam programmed the initial laser sequences. Georgy Molotsdov, Maud Clavier, David Montagne (global TV broadcast) did a great job filming the show all in VR.”
Exemplifying the scope of the project, one camera director was in Moscow (Georgy Molotsdov), while another was in Paris (Maud Clavier). Each of them controlled up to eight remote VR cameras and drones. Filming of this live VR gig was completely in VR within the VRchat platform, an accomplishment that would have been unimaginable not that long ago, but one that will become commonplace not that far into the future, according to Morandi.
“Once we have tested and solved various technological issues, I see tours in the future travelling with a VR/AR component in the crew,” he said. “Each show will be attended by real audience as well as VR/AR audiences. It will be just another way to enjoy entertainment.”
18th January 2021
iPointes for GlasGLOW3 Event
UK – GlasGLOW3 was a truly magical illuminated trail event, full of fun and fantasy, conceived and produced by event specialist itison and staged at Glasgow Botanic Gardens. It ran for two and a half weeks in October and November featuring a fully Covid-compliant 1.5 kilometre socially distanced walking trail featuring numerous highly imaginative lighting works, installations and adventures.
Lighting designer Grant Anderson was one of a core creative team comprising itison’s Oli Norman, set designer Kenneth Macleod and composer Kevin Murray who wrote and compiled a unique soundscape for this unique and invigorating project that captured the hearts and minds of the city during very challenging times.
With a superhero central narrative to the trail, Grant chose 60 Robe iPointes to be key ‘hero’ luminaires within his dynamic site-wide lighting design for GlasGLOW3. iPointes were chosen for their brightness and ability to create super-strength beams of light that would be visible from across Glasgow in the right weather conditions.
2020 was the third year of the event. Grant also lit last year’s GlasGLOW and this year it took on new significance and resonance for local communities as so many public events have been cancelled due to the pandemic.
The current Glasgow Botanic Gardens is in the vibrant West End area and has occupied this site since 1842. It features several impressive glasshouses, most notably the Kibble Palace which was moved there by barge in 1873 from Coulport on Loch Long, and now houses a forest of tree ferns.
GlasGLOW 2020 was the most advanced yet in terms of integrated guest experience. Every illuminated piece around the trail, which took about 60 to 90 minutes to complete via a one-way system, was related to “The Power Within”, a world of darkness from which heroes could rise up and discover the light. It offered the chance for every participant to rally against the gloom, become their own superhero and discover their ‘power within’, including meeting and defeating their nemesis.
The trail site was divided into five zones, with a central music theme running throughout, with stems from this used to create individual soundtracks for the different display and installation areas.
Grant designed lighting for the entire trail, which was slightly shorter in the previous year because it was not possible for guests to go inside the glasshouses due to Covid restrictions.
The principal area for iPointes was the ‘UFO crash site’, a staged area and key part of the story – even alluded to during the 2019 event – and the location where the audience could use their powers and inner strength to defeat their nemesis.
The light show here was designed around a complete two-and-a-half-minute looped audio sequence played out with full illumination lighting including a ‘call & response’ segment during which people realise the UFO is evil, engage in a fight, defeat the invader and assume ‘The Power’. It was the place where everything happened!
The iPointes were arranged in two concentric trussing circles to mimic the shape of the elaborate UFO set piece; the inner circle measuring ten metres diameter and rigged with 15 iPointes and the outer at 15 metres in diameter, loaded with 30 iPointes.
This 360-degree configuration of equally spaced iPointes gave Grant the chance to programme a myriad of beautiful, fluid geometric shapes and transitions that impacted across the whole site, becoming an effective visual epicentre.
In fact, people across the city could see the beams reaching across the sky, like a beacon of positive energy and playfulness with iPointes dancing across the clouds! It was particularly effective on damp foggy nights proliferated with low cloud – characteristic late autumn meteorology in the city – generating lots of Twitter chatter and interest!
The lighting had a real resonance with citizens of this normally vibrant, friendly and lively community. “It was a great morale boost to so many people to see an event like this happening,” stated Grant.
His overall decision to utilise iPointes was an easy one, having used them before on the 2019 GlasGLOW event in smaller quantities.
“Initially I chose them having used Robe’s MegaPointe on many occasions indoors,” he explained, “I wanted the razor sharpness of the beam and the quality and brightness, but in an IP rated housing.” He very specifically didn’t want to use lights that needed to be in domes for that section of the event for aesthetic reasons.
“There’s no other light like it; iPointe is in a class of its own for creating those massive searchlight effects.” As one of the five types of ‘hero’ fixtures, they were non-substitutable confirmed Grant.
The iPointes and all the other lighting futures involved in the event were supplied by Hawthorn, project managed for the rental company by Stephen Reid.
The UFO was further lit with LED PARs and a field of custom LED pixel tubes surrounding it, all controlled via a grandMA2 light console in a central control cabin which was hooked into a fibre network running site-wide incorporating general lighting, CCTV, point-of-sale areas, etc.
In addition, the UFO, four iPointes were positioned around the entranceway and used for sky-tracker searchlight effects, and five sat on the roof of the Kibble Palace with another five around the front of the structure.
Twelve Robe BMFL Spots were positioned inside the Kibble Palace which was closed to the public this year to ensure that people kept moving along the trail.
The famous wrought iron-framed 19th-century structure covers over 2,000 square metres and was much enlarged after its move to Glasgow with the addition of a 150ft diameter circular dome and the extension of its transepts to form an impressive front elevation. When it opened in 1873, the interior was lit by 600 gas lamps which could be coloured for effect.
Fast-forward 147 years, and it took only the 12 Robe BMFL Spots (also on the ‘hero light’ list) to achieve a spectacular effect!
The final four iPointes were rigged on a run of truss at the ‘back’ of the gardens, and they were positioned so Grant could complete an animated network of beam effects emanating from all areas of the park shooting out across and above the city.
Grant combined his skills and experience gained from working in multiple lighting disciplines: theatre, concert and club, to create this exciting and invigorating environment which was a huge success generating lots of positive feedback.
Staging GlasGLOW3 involved a massive planning and logistics operation by the itison team, who were challenged further to ensure it was fully Covid-compliant, in the process offering much-appreciated work to a large team of industry freelancers.
Grant was extremely proud to be part of the event “walking around, watching people’s faces, and hearing their comments as they interacted and responded to the lighting, the story and the whole experience was incredible,” he stated. “It was joyous to watch people engaging in a shared experience once again.”
Hawthorn’s Stephen Reid added: “We were delighted to be involved in this project which offered so many people an outlet and something to look forward to in the current environment. It also showed just what can be accomplished in the most challenging circumstances.”
photos: Carlo Paloni
15th January 2021
Heights Baptist Video Becomes More Immersive with Light From Rogue R2 Wash
USA – This year, when The Heights Baptist added a 12-minute video to its socially distant Christmas Eve service, the church’s creative team had a critical goal in mind. “We didn’t want people to feel like they were watching a video,” said technical director Zach Carnefix. “Our intent was to make them feel immersed, as if they were in the midst of the events the video was portraying.”
To create this sense of engagement, the church accompanied its video with live music, pre-recorded voice-overs and a dramatic lighting display that featured Chauvet Professional Rogue R2 Wash fixtures supplied by B&L Sound and Lighting.
“Our video was divided into two sections,” said Carnefix. “The first, called ‘400 Years of Silence,’ covered the time before the birth of Christ, while the second, ‘The Arrival’ is centred on the nativity. Lighting played a key role in setting the scene for the video segment of our service. This was especially true at the start of The Arrival, when we flooded the room with light from 12 R2 Washes positioned around the front row of the balcony aimed at the backs of the seats on the house level.”
Immersing the room with light during The Arrival without blinding people in the audience or distracting from the video itself was a challenge. However, Carnefix and his team were able to accomplish this feat by positioning the Rogue R2 Wash units along with some strobe lights in the back of the house and maintaining low light angles.
“We were very happy with our decision to dump light in the room from behind the house,” said Carnefix. “The R2’s put out a great amount of light even at their widest beam angle, so we could avoid narrow beams. When we weren’t supporting the video, we were able to use these lights to create a captivating environment at different points throughout the service.”
The Rogue R2 Washes joined an extensive collection of other Chauvet Professional fixtures in The Heights Baptist’s lighting rig. These included four Rogue RH1 Hybrid units positioned above the house that were used to cast shafts of light during scenes that called for a “starry night” feel, as well as a collection of COLORado fixtures that were relied on to colourise the stage and adjacent areas.
Even with these and other house fixtures, however, the design team felt it was important to add something extra to their rig for the Christmas Eve service. “I had a picture in my head,” said Carnefix. “It involved flooding the room with light during the largest moment of the service.”
With the rental of the extra Rogue R2 Washes, this “picture” moved from Carnefix’s imagination to the actual church itself and the Christmas Eve service at The Heights Baptist was enriched as a result.
15th January 2021
Claypaky lights at the inauguration of the new façade of the Bergamo Provincial Police Headquarters
Italy – The inauguration of the new façade of the Bergamo Provincial Police Headquarters took place on 10 December 2020. The façade was based on drawings done by students at the Giacomo e Pio Manzù Art School and the work was made possible thanks to the generosity of local businessmen and foundations.
Owing to the ongoing pandemic, the inauguration took place in the presence only of the highest public officials in Bergamo. The Chief of Police and Director General of Public Security Franco Gabrielli attended the whole ceremony, which could be followed live on the DTTV channel BergamoTV and was streamed on the Bergamo Provincial Police Headquarters Facebook page.
Claypaky, which is based in Seriate near Bergamo, contributed to the event by providing the lighting effects that illuminated the façade and projected the new graphic motif in the colours of the Italian flag. Four B-Eye K20s and a total of 53 Claypaky GlowUps were used. Thirty-six of the Claypaky GlowUps were arranged on three semicircular trusses and synchronised in such a way as to simulate a flag in the wind using coloured light.
The colours of the flag were also reproduced on white sheets of canvass using six more GlowUps at the entrance. Lastly, other units were used to light some areas inside the building, all with the approval of the Chief of Police of the Province of Bergamo Maurizio Auriemma. This temporary installation was commissioned by FasolMusic and rigged by the Bergamo-based company Milleluci Light Designer, who said: “Claypaky's GlowUps are remarkable. We have been using them for many years now on an ongoing basis and they have allowed us to come up quickly with countless lighting installations with a very small investment in terms of time and money.”
GlowUps are portable, battery-operated LED lights, which do away with the need for electrical connections and unsightly cabling. The light comes from heavy duty RGBW power LEDs which last for thousands of hours, in keeping with energy saving and environmental sustainability requirements. They are intelligent moving lights. Users may choose a sequence of colour and shade changes from the several pre-programmed inside the light, which the unit then performs totally automatically in a synchronisable way.
15th January 2021
Lea‘s Picnic Concerts with GLP
Germany – In a summer that saw hardly any live shows, Landstreicher Konzert GmbH set an example with their corona-compliant series of Picnic Concerts in several German cities. Singer-songwriter Lea was one of the artists who performed during the concert series, with lighting designer Maximilian Gräf from PE Lichtdesign using 20 KNV Line from GLP to bring a breath of fresh air to the existing tour design.
Gräf, who has been working as a lighting and stage designer for Lea since February 2017, had to fall back on an older design for the Picnic Concerts due to the pandemic. “The design for the new album Treppenhaus only exists on the drawing board, because all festivals were cancelled due to Covid,” he said. “When it came to the Picnic Concerts, I looked at both the old recording of the Zwischen Meinen Zeilen design and the drafts for the planned Treppenhaus set and tried to create something new from both. So, I took dollies and lamp positions from the old set and modified them."
The GLP KNV Line formed part of the future Treppenhaus design, and hence Gräf's first contact with GLP's powerful combination strobe, blinder and pixel block at the Picnic Concerts. “I had already heard extremely good things about the fixture from my colleague Raphael Grebenstein and I trusted his expertise, even though I had never seen it on stage myself. And what can I say; it really worked!”
The designer placed the flexible, ultra-bright LED modules on the four track dollies, the four back dollies, and on the riser edge in front of the musicians, giving depth to the stage. “The KNV’s RGB rings have a pretty cool way of reproducing colour,” Gräf said. “They are good for eye-candy effects due to the ability to control every pixel. Due to the impressive brightness of the strobe pixels, the KNV can also be used creatively to break through the looks. I like the way they handle, the colour rendering, and of course the output of the white pixels. For me it's a pretty perfect symbiosis of creative LED and assertive stroboscope."
The Picnic Concerts meant a tight programme for Lea and Gräf. “We played a total of 13 shows over seven days, which usually meant two shows a day: one in the afternoon and one in the evening. It was quite challenging, especially since we were travelling without a lighting system technician due to the pandemic. It was important to prepare the wiring harnesses as quickly as possible.” The lighting technology was provided by Groh-P.A. Event Technology.
As far as GLP is concerned, Gräf is full of praise: “The cooperation with GLP and especially with Andreas Brandt is incredible. I have never experienced such a close personal and professional relationship, and that makes life really easy for me as a designer. I have already visited the GLP headquarters in Karlsbad and noticed how cool everyone is. So … thank you, thank you!”
photos: Calvin Müller
14th January 2021
Industry trailblazer Spectre Studios uses Brompton Technology for Unreal Build: Virtual Production event
Looking back at 2020, this has been a year of many ups and downs, with companies undergoing radical transformations from facilitating physical events to adopting pioneering technologies used for remote productions, virtual set-ups and generally tapping into the world of virtual production. For Spectre Studios, however, virtual production (VP) is not a new field. The company was already using real-time engines and virtual production technologies for its work on Hollywood blockbusters and, last year, set up ICVFX full-service LED VP studio in conjunction with Big Picture, part of the NEP Worldwide Network, using top-quality equipment at the facility which includes Brompton Tessera LED processing power to drive ROE LED panels.
The climactic moment for Spectre, however, was in November, when the company participated in Epic Games’ coveted Unreal Build: Virtual Production event, where a small number of creative studios across the world were invited to showcase their next-generation tools and techniques which are set to transform film making industry. Brompton Tessera SX40 4K LED processing was used for the video piece that Spectre showed at the event.
“Unreal Build: Virtual Production was a free half-day virtual event that showcased projects and innovations from film and television industry trailblazers,” says Spectre Studios’ technical director, Rick Pearce. “We were invited to submit some of our early work to be included into a sizzle reel they were putting together to highlight some of the great work being done globally.”
Offering a glimpse of what the future might hold for creative content production, Pearce and his team at Spectre used a 14m by 4.8m LED wall made up of Black Onyx 2.8mm panels, as well as 4m by 4m ceiling using 5mm screens and two LED side screens 3m by 3m each. “Like with majority of our projects, we used Brompton’s cutting-edge 4K Tessera SX40 LED processing system to drive our set up, which gives us a headache-free production workflow every time,” adds Pearce.
The showcase was an opportunity to share all the advantages of virtual production across the whole product life cycle, giving studio executives a chance to share the benefits of using VP and what they see as key strengths for the technology in the future.
“Working with NEP and Big Picture has allowed us to understand the benefits of using tier one equipment for the ideas we want to execute. They are the experts when it comes to what works best to achieve the quality and speed we need and the decision is easy when Brompton Tessera processing is an option,” explains Pearce.
Tessera processor’s colour control and image manipulation features are particularly useful when it comes to virtual production, according to Pearce. “We find the Tessera SX40 to be the industry leader when it comes to reliable LED processing solution, with functions like the OSCA seam correction and ChromaTune colour correction tools being invaluable to us. The same goes for the advanced remote software control option which adds fluidity to our workflow, which is especially useful in the current climate,” he adds.
Pearce further describes how much it meant for them as a company to be part of the showcase. “We believe in what we are doing, and we know these tools will allow film makers to collaborate better and hopefully usher in a new way of creating projects, both from a practical standpoint with efficiencies in production, but also in terms of how different heads of departments interact with each other, and the additional thought that needs to be put into how post-production is considered during production,” he says.
Pearce notes that virtual production technology is not an entirely new tool to their industry, as they have been using variations of computer-aided production for decades.
“What excites us about this space is the merging of game engine technology, film production, and cutting-edge hardware improvements which have removed a lot of barriers. Real-time Virtual Production used to be something only large, well-funded studios had access to,” he concludes. “Now, UE4 has democratised that and the speed in which development gets done means, as a creator, you are always finding new and cool ways to do things you didn’t believe were possible.
“We feel confident that with our knowledge and expertise, as well as working with leading industry partners such as Big Picture that supply future-proof products that we can rely on and trust, like Brompton’s Tessera processing, we are able to facilitate whatever challenge our clients throw at us and whatever new technological innovations come our way in the new year. Bring on 2021!”
In picture: Jake Speer as the actor in the production titled "Shifted".
14th January 2021
Spectacular Christmas light show at Florida shopping mall under Obsidian control
USA – The Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota, Florida, is a shopping paradise with over 100 stores and 20 dining options that attracts multitudes of patrons year round. This past holiday season, the mall retired its smaller Christmas experience from years past and debuted a spectacular new holiday light show as incentive for customers to forego stay-at-home shopping and visit the mall instead.
Justin Stancil of Stancil Entertainment was contacted to design the lighting spectacular and turned to the ONYX platform from Obsidian Control Systems to control the massive system. “The client called saying they had a vision to do a big light show but had no idea how to achieve it,” Stancil shares. “I got the call in August and we designed a complete system: advanced pixels, intelligent lighting, control, hard-lined and wireless networking and automation.”
The lighting canvass, spread across a huge area a quarter of a mile square, included 200 palm trees covered in 1000 pixels each, a 50ft Christmas tree with 800 pixels, and a 34ft tree also covered in pixels. Four Elation Proteus Hybrid luminaires washed the main Christmas tree in colour, along with other wash fixtures, and fireworks were added on some finale shows for an extra burst of excitement. Stancil put together four unique shows, all about ten minutes long, which ran every half hour between 6:30 - 9:30pm, seven shows a night. The official launch of the new son et lumiere took place on 19th November and shows ran nightly through 3rd January.
Lighting was controlled via a setup that included an ONYX PC and NX4 lighting console embedded with Obsidian’s DyLOS pixel composer. Twelve NETRON EN4 and two NETRON EN12 nodes, also from Obsidian, were used for data distribution. Stancil worked with Russ Brown at Freed Sales out of Orlando to secure the Obsidian equipment for Benderson Development, the development company behind the mall.
Stancil ran a custom version of ONYX with 255 unlocked Universes. The show, which used a total of 215 Universes, included a combination of effects from the ONYX console’s built-in DyLOS pixel composer, as well as its regular effects engine. “Because we patched every pixel in the show individually, this gave us the freedom to use DyLOS with its factory content to map video to the pixels, but also allowed us to use the standard effects engine to do precise, mathematical per pixel effects as well.”
The designer says he did not want to treat the pixels as a giant video screen using a traditional media server because of the limitations in working with video files. “If you want to do very precise, per pixel effects it is difficult,” he says. “It is much more time consuming to render video files for all effects in your show, especially when it is a less precise method to creating effects with pixel lights like these.”
Integrated into the Onyx platform, DyLOS is an intuitive toolset of media composition, effects, animations, and text generators that isn’t overly technical and eases the creative process. “As far as a pixel composer in a lighting console, there is nothing like it. Right within ONYX and DyLOS I can treat a fixture as a standard light that color mixes but I can also treat it as a pixel in a video wall. I don't see any other consoles like ONYX that can have this type of power in an all-in-one solution.”
It also saves space in what for Stancil was an already full control rack. “If you're only mapping pixel lights, and don't have any video screens, then I don't see the need for a video server to run this type of show when you have a powerful engine like DyLOS.”
The Mall purchased about 250,000 pixels in total for the installation, all in 50 or 100 node configurations. Using a star network configuration, IDF boxes on every major rooftop contained a Ubiquiti* UniFi Layer 3 switch for the pixels and pixel controllers, a mini battery backup and a NETRON EN4 node, meaning they had four universes to add more lighting from each box location. All IDF's on rooftops adjacent to show control were wired with TAC fibre, but all other locations that were too far and did not have underground conduit were fed via wireless network antennas. Audio and sACN data was sent to the pixel controllers and sACN data to the NETRON EN4 and EN12 nodes with no latency whatsoever. “The mall is about 1000ft away from one of the network antennas and everything was timed perfectly,” Stancil comments. “The versatility of the wireless antennas is so great that it allows us to expand the show to other areas no matter how far they are. We could easily send sACN, AoIP, and other VLAN data over a mile away from show control.”
Stancil, 23, says he has been an ONYX user since high school (then called the M-Series) and has seen it develop enough that he doubts he'll use anything other than Onyx in the future. “With other consoles you need additional hardware and licensing to get more Universes but with ONYX you have 128 Universes in a single key/console/PC and can plug in as many NETRON nodes as you like to output as many Universes as you need. This project really shows that ONYX can handle a show of this size and I hope it opens the door for us to do larger shows.”
Support on a project of this magnitude is key and Stancil expresses his appreciation. “In all of the technology I've worked with over the years,” he says, “I have never experienced the type of support I've gotten with ONYX. A lot of this would not have been possible without that level of support we received from the Obsidian team and Product Manager Matthias Hinrichs. That is a testament to the level of passion they have about their work. I am a perfectionist when it comes to my projects and designs, and it is a breath of fresh air to be able to work with others at ONYX that share the same passion.”
The lighting installation was so massive it could only be seen in its entirety from above so Stancil took drone footage and had fifteen cameras set up around the installation, also to make sure that everything ran correctly. Viewable both from a car or on foot, the light shows proved extremely popular and store fronts and restaurants, many with outside seating, were pleased with the heavy draw. “People who drove by would stop to see the show and the line of cars on nearby streets was tremendous. At times, there were so many people on foot it was hard to get from one area to another.”
photos: Stancil Entertainment
13th January 2021
Pittsburgh Takes on Holiday Glow with VLS and Chauvet Professional
USA – Every night in December, America’s famous 'Steel City' is being transformed, taking on the air of a holiday village, courtesy of a Vincent Lighting Systems (VLS) design that features Chauvet Professional COLORado Solo 1 fixtures.
An alternative to Pittsburgh’s traditional “Light Up The Night” public gathering, which was cancelled for the first time in 60 years in 2020 due to the pandemic, the reimagined event created an organic drive-by experience on the city’s streets by adorning the downtown district in brilliant seasonal colours. Vincent Lighting was brought on board by Flyspace Productions, which produced the event in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.
“Instead of running our annual big event for one day we adapted and pivoted to light up many buildings for the holiday season (27th November - 4th January),” said Noland Jenkins, production manager and lead designer for the project. “Although nothing can replace an in-person event, we wanted to make this city-wide display as colourful and immersive as possible to provide some much-needed holiday cheer for the people of our community.”
Key to helping the VLS team achieve this goal were the 70 COLORado Solo 1 fixtures specified for the seven-week project. The IP65 rated RGBW fixtures were hung on lamp posts throughout the downtown district and were used to colourise buildings, as well as to add background and depth for the event’s numerous gobo projections.
“Gobos were critical when we designed this project,” said Jenkins. “When we actually got to implementing the design, our biggest challenge was finding good projection surfaces for our gobos and getting good readable images from the limited hang positions available. We also had to utilise the existing ‘house power’ that was pulled from lamp posts in this city. But we got creative and made it work.”
The vivid colours created with the COLORado Solo 1 fixtures helped to make the gobo images more visible and intense, according to Jenkins. “Our gobo patterns on the buildings, even those with less-than-ideal surfaces, popped when complemented by the colours from the COLORados,” he said. “I was especially pleased with the way the motorised zoom of these fixtures helped us create tightly focused light.”
Jenkins also appreciated the onboard scene settings of the COLORado fixtures, using them to control colour fading and zoom movement. “We control colours locally from the COLORados static scene settings,” he said. “Everything came off perfectly, thanks to our quality gear and the planning by the talented team that put this all together, including Cory Cope and Jennifer Owen from Flyspace Productions, as well as Jack Dougherty, Russell Howard, and Jeremy Waldrup from the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.”
The way all involved in the lighting project reflected the best of the holiday spirit, notes Jenkins. And in a year as challenging as 2020 has been that’s something to celebrate!
13th January 2021
DiGiCo S21 delivers flexible, cost-effective solution for remote broadcast mixing
UK – Sound BAFTA Winner Robert Edwards is the UK’s leading television sound supervisor / director and an elected Fellow of the Institute of Professional Sound. This accolade is the result of 45 years of exceptional work and a credit list of productions that includes opening and closing ceremonies for the Summer and Winter Olympics, and TV shows such as X Factor, Harry Hill’s TV Burp, The Masked Singer, Britain’s Got Talent, The Wheel, Michael McIntyre’s Big Show and Celebrity Juice. It was the latter's production during lockdown that saw him head into what was previously his home cinema and, with a few tweaks, turn it into a home studio / office, relying on a DiGiCo S21 mixing console to deliver his broadcast mix.
“Timeline Television, who are based at Ealing Studios, found that the producers of the show wanted to do a few episodes remotely. They wanted me to drive to mix in the truck at Ealing, but when Covid hit, it seemed logical to try to do it properly remotely,” he recalls. “I happen to have all the right kit at home, literally down to the last wire, including the S21 with a Dante card, as I have a Dante network in the office.”
Edwards had originally purchased the S21 for a large Gospel choir that appeared on Britain’s Got Talent two years ago, as the broadcast desk he was working on didn’t have sufficient inputs or outputs to accommodate everything required.
“The S21 proved a good solution as an add on. It’s got a reasonably small footprint, it’s versatile and it’s light enough to carry, so I decided it was useful for all sorts of reasons and it migrated back to my home office.”
Within three days, everything required was assembled, including a Spot On system for playbacks, etc, which included all the right music for the show. Using Unity Connect software, which connected to Ealing Studios over his domestic internet connection via firewalled modems and a VPN, Edwards was able to take up to 64 channels of audio from Timeline, sending it back to them in real time with a latency of just two or three frames.
“Overall, there are 31 broadcast feeds in, with 35 out into the Dante network to the S21,” Edwards continues. “The desk has multiple screens and multiple layers, allowing me to do whatever was needed for the production. I routed to group busses and then to the transmission master, which is how the broadcast feed leaves me.”
For Edwards, the S21 represents a flexible and economic prospect.
“It has a lot of I/O on the back of the desk itself and if you add the Dante card you get 64 channels in and out,” he concludes. “Also, you can pay several thousand pounds just to do a conversion between Dante and MADI, but I’ve got that in the S21 for a fraction of the cost. For a very reasonable price you’ve got a lot of moving faders and two screens, which really helps the workflow.
“The S21 is the 'Swiss army knife' of consoles and it’s been a godsend recently, not least because if I hadn’t had it, I would have had to drive backwards and forwards to the broadcast truck in Ealing every day. As well as being convenient, cutting out the travel during lockdown (around 80 miles each way), it was a very green way of doing things.”
13th January 2021
Maximus helps ring in New Year in Hengelo
The Netherlands – With fireworks forbidden and Covid-19 keeping people isolated for New Year’s Eve, Ton Nieuwenhuis and Martin Ciesluk of design firm Outside the Circle decided to bring a bit of lighting inspiration to the people of the Dutch town of Hengelo.
“We wanted to bring some light to people at the end of a tough year,” he said, “so we put together a project that included 21 mobile trailers with lighting to drive around the streets of the city on New Year’s Eve. It represented how, because of Covid, we are all in small groups but when seen together symbolised something greater, us all coming together.”
The project, called Het Hengelicht, involved eight fixed lighting locations (sponsors) plus 21 vehicles pulling trailers on which a Proteus Maximus was encircled by four RGB laser-source beam lights. The effect from a distance of each grouping was one of a giant single beam of light. The fixed locations used one Maximus with eight laser-source lights.
Ciesluk says that initially he wasn't sure what fixtures he wanted to go with but knew he needed something with power. “I knew I wanted LED and something bright that could take a bit of shaking around from being driven around in a trailer. As the other fixtures we used required domes, I wanted an IP65 fixture in order to have one less dome in the trailer. I was happy to discover the Maximus and Niclen was able to provide 38 of them for the project. It has a hotspot LED engine that is good for long-throw aerial beams and at only 1400 Watts, it was easy on our small power generator as we didn't want to have to refill the generators too often.”
Ciesluk’s initial idea was to choose 30 locations throughout the city to place lighting fixtures but with concerns over too many people gathering, the decision was made to make the majority of the lighting mobile by placing a power generator with lights in trailers to be driven around the city.
“We wanted to make sure that everyone in the city could enjoy the lighting,” says Ciesluk, who calls the project more of an art installation. “Some people would come outside to see what was going on while others would look out their window as the lighting passed by. The response was amazing. People were clapping and waving at us from behind windows.” Ciesluk says they tracked the movement of every trailer and ended up covering about 80% of all the streets in Hengelo.
The Outside the Circle crew drove around the city beginning at 8pm when the town mayor initiated the project. Lights shone skyward in full-on white light for four hours with 30 minutes of more dynamic colour and movement ringing in the New Year at midnight. Design was by Ton Nieuwenhuis and Martin Ciesluk with Ciesluk also handling the programming.
Besides garnering sponsors to finance the project, resources came from crowd funding, as well as the Hengelo city council, who, after initially denying funding, had a change of mind after seeing how much enthusiasm the project had generated on social media.
13th January 2021
Robe Lights ADAM Tower for PS5 Launch Event
The Netherlands – The buzz around the new Sony PlayStation 5 launch was unmissable in November as SonyHQ buildings worldwide exploded in a spectacular series of co-ordinated lighting and visual shows to herald the new flagship PS5 console.
In the Netherlands, Hilversum-based technical production company Smits Light & Sound (SLS) invested in 100 new Robe LEDBeam 150s to make up the 200 plus Robe fixtures including 172 LEDBeam 150s that were needed to complete an ambitious lighting scheme created by brand agency BAAS Amsterdam and SLS for the ADAM Tower in Amsterdam Nord.
The ADAM Tower (Amsterdam Dance & Music) on the banks of the IJ River in the redeveloped docklands area close to Amsterdam’s famous central station is a vibrant creative hub and a well-known local landmark.
It was the first time that Jeroen Smits and his SLS team had lit the 100 metre tall building which has stunning panoramic views, and he specified the LEDBeam 150s together with 30 Robe Pointes, 12 Robe BMFL WashBeams and other fixtures together with over 100 square metres of 5mm LED screen.
The building’s 110 permanent architectural LED luminaires were also hooked into the grandMA3 console controlling lighting and video for the timecoded PS5 launch show.
The 172 LEDBeam 150s were placed in the individual window spaces of the building’s top seven floors.
Each fixture was enclosed in a white box created utilising approximately 400 metres of pipe-and-drape system covered in white poly-satin curtain fabric, chosen for its reflective properties when combined with light.
The challenge here involved accessing all the windows which are in space occupied by several different companies, a process that took several days with much of it having to be completed over the weekend to minimise disruption. In the daytime, the offices that were open had to be able to continue being functional.
Each of these 172 LEDBeam 150s was pixel mapped via an ArKaos media server running into the grandMA console.
“LEDBeam 150 was a perfect light source for this application,” commented Jeroen, explaining that he also made the purchase to boost SLS’s stock generally as it is such a “convenient and useful small fixture” to have on hand.
Very fortunately, due to the diversity of their client base, several of their projects have gone ahead and SLS has been busy throughout the pandemic period.
The 30 Robe Pointes were positioned on top of the building. “We needed really bright beacon-like beams – obviously – and the Pointe was again ideal for the job,” he stated.
The 12 BMFL WashBeams were deployed on the ground, six per side, to shoot up and illuminate the building. With their massive power and punch, it was another easy choice.
The LED panels filled the six large windows right at the top of the building. The custom video content supplied by Sony PlayStation offered an element of choice, so each international PS5 launch event could opt for the sequence and graphics that best fitted the shape and geometry of their building and visual design.
The video graphics and content were run via another two ArKaos media servers and were the epicentre of the show, with all the lighting in the PS5 signature colours blue and white acting as visual support, so this informed all the lighting programming.
The rigging process for this Netherlands event started on the Friday before the Wednesday evening show reveal, and while that was happening on site, the lighting cues had been programmed in advance on a WYSIWYG visualiser, as there was no rehearsal time, and everything had to be spot on for the first show! For the show, the control position was inside the building, so programmer Thim Ijzerman was effectively ‘blind’ using the WYG system as his reference. Thim and Jeroen produced the design together along with the technical planning for lighting and video.
The Wednesday night show went without a hitch and was the official PS5 launch in the Netherlands. For the next two nights, the window lighting and video stayed in position and the show ran for two more evenings without the exterior lights.
The new LEDBeam 150s were delivered by Robe’s Benelux distributor Controllux. SLS started investing in Robe in 2015, a process that has continued steadily ever since. “It’s a great brand for a rental company, the products are premium quality, stable, reliable and very popular generally in the market.”
SLS is a full production service and rental company founded by Jeroen in 2006.
Photos: JD Photography
12th January 2021
Bandit Illuminates 2020 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo
USA – The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association held the 2020 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at Globe Life Field on 3-12 December. The culmination of the rodeo season features the top 15 contestants in bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing and bull riding competing to take home top honours and their share of a multi-million dollar purse.
"Bandit is very appreciative of having the opportunity to be a part of this very prestigious event," said Bandit Lites business development officer Brent Barrett. Bandit Lites designed and supplied the lighting for the spectacle, sending Elation Proteus Maximus IP 65s, Elation ACL 360 Bars, Lycian M2 spots as well as two grandMA 2 lite consoles.
“The Elation Proteus Maximus was the workhorse of the rodeo this year, providing everything from crowd ballys to fill and backlight for broadcast,” explained Chris Noll. “They were also loaded with custom PRCA gobos, utilized primarily during doors to help fill the space on the dirt.”
While the event was held indoors, the IP rating on the Proteus Maximus provided much needed protection from dust, especially since accessing the fixtures would have been a challenge once the rest of the production had loaded in.
“The Elation ACL360 Bars were the 'eye candy' of the rig with their tight beam angles and infinite movement,” Noll said. “They were used primarily during hype videos to add to the Proteus in ballys or provide movement while the spots were called on for other tasks.”
In addition to choosing hardy fixtures, Bandit’s team had to ensure the lighting could fill out the massive arena space while accounting for sky cameras. Trim height had to be over 90 feet and trusses towards the centre so as to not impede the wires supporting the cameras as they moved about the arena, meaning all the front light was to come from the followspots on the concourse.
Prior to each opening, the team would frame out a rough sequence of events and a final look, allowing the producers and opening show caller opportunities for input. Then the team would go back through and build out each of the individual looks and clean up transitions to get it show ready.
“The lighting was an ever-evolving thing as we were adding new elements every night, each of which had different requirements lighting wise,” Noll said.
And while Noll joked this “wasn’t his first rodeo” (while noting it technically was his first rodeo), he manoeuvred his way through all the unusual challenges a rodeo can bring with aplomb and confidence.
“The main difference on this show compared to every other show was the need to work around the horses and animals in the production,” he said. “Tasks like tracking four riders carrying flags get more complicated when their horses don't like being lit in certain ways or seeing movement off to the sides. We adjusted looks several times to make sure the riders and their horses felt comfortable.”
12th January 2021
Lee Rose Gets Dynamic for Megan Thee Stallion at NYE Hollywood Party with Chauvet Professional
USA – Lee Rose and the creative team behind the “Hollywood Party” segment of Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve show begin looking for a suitable soundstage for their production in mid-September. Most years the process is fairly routine, but not in 2020.
“We scouted the Los Angeles Convention Center as a possible location,” said Rose, who began lighting Dick Clark New Year’s Eve segments back in the “parcan days” of December 1984. “Normally we’re on a soundstage for the Hollywood Party, but as it turned out, most of the TV shows that went down for the pandemic left their sets on their stages. Between that and production starting up for some new shows, there were no stages to be had. A venue was finally confirmed in October with production ‘tweaking’ the layout to make it more COVID compliant.”
The prolonged quest for a stage was only of many unique issues Rose and his associates faced this year. Still, it wound up being “entertainment-as-usual” for the ten million plus TV viewers who tuned in to watch the Hollywood Party on New Year’s Eve, as it delivered all the fiery punch that fans have come to expect from the programme.
This was readily apparent when Megan Thee Stallion dominated the stage with her red-hot sound and dance moves. Supporting her sparkling performance note-for-note with every gyration was Rose’s bold and dynamic light show, which featured 12 Chauvet Professional Maverick MK Pyxis fixtures, supplied by PRG.
“As soon I saw the art director’s layout for Megan Thee Stallion, with its series of six foot by six foot dancer risers, I envisioned using the Maverick Pyxis with them,” said Rose. “I knew the risers would offer a perfect place to use these fixtures, both from a layout and musical perspective. Their outer LED ring and the intense pencil thin beam from their centre pixel, gave us great movement and animation that really complemented the dance moves and music.”
Rose positioned three Pyxis units on the camera-facing side of the deck on each of the four dancer risers, which were located to either side and behind Megan Thee Stallion. From these positions the fixtures animated the area around the superstar with chases from their outer rim of pixels, 360 degrees pan and tilt movements, and sharp beams directed across the stage from their 60W RGBW centre pixel.
Since the dance risers were different heights, the Pyxis units on them directed light across the stage at varying levels. This added a camera-friendly element of depth to the setting.
In addition to Megan Thee Stallion, the Hollywood Party featured 34 other musical performances. Providing each act with a design that reflected its music and personality was a challenge that Rose and his team met by balancing all the fixtures in their rig, including six Rouge Outcast Hybrid 1 units, along with their video displays.
“The versatility of our rig allowed us to generate supportive looks for different artists,” said Rose. “My programmers Andy O’Reilly and Patrick Brazil also did a great job, contributing to and expanding on the multitude of lighting looks based on basic direction from me.
“I am very fortunate to work with such a great group of people on this programme,” continued Rose. “Aside from Andy and Patrick, there was also content producer Nick Militello, media programmer Martin Phillips, our line producer Kathy Erickson, chief lighting tech Tony Ward, my lead tech Steve Oleniczak, my assistant lighting designer Cameron Pieratt and video shader Mark Sanford. I am also really grateful to Hollywood Party director Barry Glazer and for the support I received for last 36 years from our producer Larry Klein.”
Looking back over those three-plus decades, Rose recalls he first NYE show at the Coconut Grove in the Ambassador Hotel. Over the years, he took on different roles in the production of the iconic programme and encountered all sorts of challenges. “We’ve seen just about everything, or at least I thought so until 2020 came along,” he quipped.
The challenges presented this year were unprecedented, but as Rose and the rest of the team involved in Hollywood Party demonstrated, when entertainment professionals are resourceful, the show does indeed go on.
photos: Lee Rose Designs
12th January 2021
Robe is a Hit on TV in Denmark
Denmark – Danish lighting designer Johnny Thinggaard Lydiksen counts himself lucky to have had a busy autumn, engaged in working on several different television productions, all of them using Robe moving lights.
This has included music show “Here’s Your Hit” for DR2, a flagship channel of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, and two major TV Awards shows, one for radio station P3 Guld (Gold) at the Aalborg Musikkens Hus and the high-profile Crown Prince Couples Awards staged at the Værket Randers.
The format of this show directed by Dean Strange and staged in the charismatic Tunnel Fabrikkerne in Copenhagen's north harbour.
This facility was originally built to fabricate and engineer elements utilised in the construction of the Oresund Bridge that connects the Danish capital with the Swedish city of Malmo. It is now in the process of being redeveloped as a multi-functional space for business culture and youth projects, as well as being a testament to Copenhagen’s recent industrial history.
For the series, various visiting bands and artists get in-depth with the full process of recording and producing a hit song, accompanied by advice and commentary from industry experts.
The band then played their song live in the studio to wrap up each show.
Series creator and scenographer Betina Leth imagined the industrial style pop-up studio setting of the venue, complete with shipping containers and lots of bare metal structural elements, a fantastic backdrop for which lighting took centre stage to build the drama and atmosphere to Johnny’s delight!
He chose 16 Robe T1 Profiles for the key lighting, all rigged on large trussing towers with an 11 metre throw to the central studio space where everyone sat and gave their comments and opinions on the music being produced.
He chose the T1 Profiles because he wanted a silent luminaire. It was the first time he’d used T1s without haze and in this specific situation and such a distance, and he was “extremely pleased” with their performance.
The T1 Profile’s framing shutters were critical to getting the shots looking good. A major challenge with this show was ensuring the light didn’t spill onto the set. Precision focusing was also needed to keep stray light away from projections onto the floor and one of the containers.
The general light levels also had to be subdued, to add both atmosphere and help keep the depth of field correct in relation to the different camera positions.
To light the huge industrial hall in the background and around the sides, he used 30 Robe Spiider LED wash beams.
All the lighting equipment for the eight show series was supplied by Nordic Rentals.
Working for production company Monday Media and broadcaster DR, it was the second time that Johnny has designed the stage and lighting for this prestigious Awards show, which ran like a standard broadcast TV show, but with limited guests this year instead of a full live audience, due to the pandemic.
The show’s styling followed a classic Awards show aesthetic with several large video screens, some on an automation system, flown over the stage forming the core scenography which enabled lightning quick scene changes and a proliferation of different looks.
Johnny’s moving lights were 26 Robe BMFL WashBeams, 38 MegaPointes and eight T1 profiles, with the BMFLs utilised as the main key, front, and back lights while the MegaPointes provided the effects and razzmatazz, all chosen for their power and coolness on camera.
The T1 profiles were part of the venue’s house rig, and they worked nicely for side lighting on stage, especially for the live entertainment segments where balancing the levels and reducing light bounce for cameras in a completely white and highly reflective room was a challenge.
Johnny also had another 400 or so lights on this show, all supplied by Creative Technology and controlled from a grandMA3 console.
Jonas Vangsø was the technical light project manager, Erik Blomdahl looked after the automation and the producer was Ask Greiffenberg.
Crown Prince Couple's Awards (Kronprinspaarets Priser) is a high profile set of culture and social prizes awarded annually by Crown Prince Fredrik and Princess Mary, first established in 2004 as a gift from the Bikuben Foundation upon their marriage.
The 2020 version was also staged with limited audience and broadcast on DR, with Johnny returning to design set and lighting for the fourth year.
On his rig were 36 Robe MegaPointes and two BMFL followspots running on two remote control RoboSpot BaseStations.
Johnny is a big fan of Robe’s RoboSpot system and has been using it for some time as a solution for when space is tight, or the show needs follow spots in difficult to access places.
“I love the fact the lights can be controlled from anywhere in the venue,” he states, plus “No more need for large trusses and rope ladders for operators to clamber up in front of the audience or for rescue plans in case they get stuck up there!”
He also appreciates being able to control followspot parameters like colour and colour temperature easily on the console, which is great for matching up skin tones, especially in a TV scenario like this.
One of the hardest tasks on this show was lighting Denmark’s First Couple from the back without getting shadows on their cue cards.
All the lighting kit was supplied by Nordic Rentals, project managed for them by Tue Knudsen. The lighting project manager on site was Jonas Vangsø.
Johnny concluded: “I feel incredibly grateful to have been busy with various projects as this pandemic has ripped through our industry. Thankfully, it looks like there is real light at the end of the tunnel and that soon all our colleagues, friends, business partners, associates, etc. worldwide, will be back be working and enjoying the industry they are passionate about.”
photos: Jonas Vangsøe
11th January 2021
Life is Art Studios Adds Edge to BIG Something’s NYE Shows with Chauvet Professional
USA – “New Year’s Eve at Lincoln Theatre has become one of our favourite traditions,” alt rockers BIG Something declared when announcing plans for a two-night NYE stand early in December. But during a pandemic, even traditions continued are traditions changed.
This was true for BIG Something as well as the design team that lit their 90 minute livestream shows. Rather than playing to a full house, the energetic six-piece band, which typically feeds voraciously off crowds, had to perform their NYE concerts in a virtually empty venue.
Their lighting designer for the evenings, Daniel Thibault of Life Is Art Studios, also had to alter his normal way of doing things. Instead of running with the big beams and sweeping aerial effects that they normally favour, he and his team opted to work with more tightly focused wrap around looks that translated better to video.
“Everybody has to make adjustments,” said Thibault. “The stuff we typically do is designed to be seen from just one side, as if you’re looking at a picture. But when doing a stream, the shots have to look good from lots of angles, especially when there are as many cameras as we had for these shows.”
Helping Thibault achieve multi-faceted wrap around looks were the 18 Rogue R2 Wash and eight Rogue R2 Spot fixtures in his NYE rig. “The Rogues were our only movers, and we relied on them to envelop the band,” he said. “Because we stayed away from our normal symmetrical beam fixture looks, we wanted to wrap the band in colour and energy. This gave the livestream’s audience the feeling they had a great view of the stage even when the camera shot wasn’t from dead centre. It also helped psyche up the band, which was important, since they had no crowed to connect to inside the theatre.”
The Rogue R2 Wash were arranged in three groups of six, positioned symmetrically around the band on the 21-foot deep by 25-foot-wide stage. Drawing on the colour-rendering qualities of the RGBW movers, Thibault created a broad palette of looks for the three NYE shows. At times, he bathed the stage in monochromatic yellows and blues, then moved to overlapping fans of multiple colours.
Thibault used his bold washes to endow the stage with an architectural structure, directing light from different positions to create a matrix-like effect. He also accentuated the looks of individual band members by hitting them with light from varying angles.
“Silhouetting the band from multiple angles was a big part of our look,” said Thibault. “It played well with the different camera angles. We also used the Rogue R2 Spots to highlight the members of the band and put edges on our looks. One of our goals was to enhance the three-dimensional effect so the band stood out.”
In “normal times,” considerations such as these, would have played a smaller role in Thibault’s design equation, as he instead focused on aerial effects, audience lighting and big sweeping movements. But as he notes, in a tough year like no other, “knowing how to adapt is key.” He demonstrated the importance of this ability very, very well as 2020 mercifully drew to a close.
11th January 2021
SpotTrack and Those Few Shows of 2020
UK - With SpotTrack, the specialist entertainment software tool for making, modifying and maintaining followspot cue sheets sold on a per-show basis, it provided an immediate measure of the shut down of the entertainment industry across the world last March: all sales stopped.
But equally, it proved a barometer of an industry flickering back to life later in the year, with SpotTrack put to use on a number of the high-profile productions which re-opened for limited runs from the summer on.
At the Troubadour Theatre in Wembley, lighting designer Ken Billington and associate LD Dale Driscoll put SpotTrack to use on Sleepless In Seattle, which had actually loaded in pre-lockdown and was then one of the first shows to get going again once London’s lockdown was lifted. Based on the movie of the same name, the show played a limited but well-received season, helping to prove that audiences were not just willing to come to the theatre, but longing to do so. SpotTrack helped Driscoll run three Juliat Cyrano front spots, carefully spaced apart on the venue’s rear catwalk to conform to the UK’s social distancing rules.
Then as Christmas approached, SpotTrack was put to use on two high profile productions in London: Pantoland at the Palladium, and A Christmas Carol at the Dominion.
Pantoland was lit by Ben Cracknell as all of the recent Palladium pantos have been. Cracknell’s assistant, Andrew Exeter, used SpotTrack to document the show’s three front followspots, which worked alongside a Zactrack automated tracking system. This continues Exeter’s use of SpotTrack on these Palladium pantomimes, now a regular feature of the London theatre scene.
A Christmas Carol was lit by Mike Robertson, with associate LD Adam Archer using SpotTrack to manage the show’s followspots. The show managed to play nine previews, a press night and then a second show.
Sadly the runs of both Pantoland and A Christmas Carol were cut short as London was moved into a ‘tier 4’ partial lockdown. However, audiences lucky enough to attend one of the few performances demonstrated again how much they’d missed live performance, and both shows use of SpotTrack provided a little support to the UK’s backstage charity, Backup Tech, with SpotTrack users able to select their copy to support Backup in the UK or Behind The Scenes in the US.
photos: Ben Cracknell, Andrew Exeter and Mike Robertson