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Preset Productions’ Mark Butts Discusses ‘Production Branding’ for OneRepublic Honda Civic 2017 Tour

Preset Productions’ Mark Butts Discusses ‘Production Branding’ for OneRepublic Honda Civic 2017 Tour

USA – OneRepublic’s headlining 2017 Honda Civic Tour production design had a goal in mind: “create a brand for the band.”

VER is carrying out the design by providing a turnkey production to the tour with lighting, video, audio, automated rigging and crew.

Joining OneRepublic are special guests Fitz and the Tantrums and James Arthur. The tour runs from 7th July to 12th September throughout North America, followed by Asia from 17th to 25th September.

Mark Butts, Los Angeles-based production and lighting designer at Preset Productions, collaborated with Raj Kapoor, co-production designer and show director, on the overall aesthetic. Helping Butts achieve the lighting look were programmers Brian Jenkins and lighting director AJ Pen.

Discussing the design inspiration, Butts notes that since this was his and Kapoor’s first time working with OneRepublic, that their concept for the band began with a band branding in mind.

“When you think of other bands, like U2 and Nine Inch Nails, a major element that you think of is their production design. They have a visual vocabulary and a style unique to them. So we wanted to think of what a OneRepublic show looked like, tailored to their style and personality,” Butts explains.

“We started thinking about having an architectural element to it – clean, like you never see trusses, just light sources. We wanted something modern, edgy, different from the past. That led us to this design.”

While the show has a big look, it’s not a big production, packing into six or seven trucks. OneRepublic’s production manager Zito gave them the space and budget limitations. “Zito told us, ‘We’re doing sheds, we’re not spending tons of money. We want something that looks impressive'.”

To stay on budget, but still offer a 'wow-factor', Butts says their first decision was to turn ten straight trusses on their sides, creating a triangle rather than the normal square shape of most rigs. The triangular shapes extend to the LED walls on either side of the stage, on which the I-Mag is displayed.

The clean, sleek aesthetic extends to the band risers, which are a custom fascia made of high gloss metal with backlit LED tape. Even the custom piano is outlined with pixel control LED tape and internal uplighting.

Cutting back on video content creation also helped to kept the budget in line. A software product called VideoDust offers real time effects for video, so the team can make the I-Mag coloured or altered rather than just using straight I-Mag.

The core of the rig consists of 103 Ayrton Magic Panels 602, with 62 Claypaky Mythos as the hard edge fixture. The 28 floor lights are all Sharpy washes. A row of GLP 18 X4 Bar 20s line the downstage edge. In the upstage wall and embedded in the overhead trusses are 54 Showline Nitro 510C strobes. Then the architectural piece: the six trusses are covered with a custom fascia, on which are mounted a line of 100 of VER’s Revolution Blades with a flat smoke diffusion on them. The effect gives the appearance of one continuous neon look.

“Having good ideas mixed with good programmer(s) are a key element to a successful result; that’s where programmers Brian Jenkins, who programmed a majority of the songs and AJ Pen came in.”

Butts chose the Mythos because they are small and lightweight, while the Sharpy washes, Robe BMFLs, VL 3500 spots and and other fixture specifications were driven by economics, he says. And by using the older version of Ayrton Magic Panels, the team was able to get the fixture count they needed.

When it came down to finalising and setting the overall look and style, the designers shared their ideas in concept meetings with the band and just try to imagine what they thought when they were told only five colours would be used in the show!

Except for one song in repertoire, the entire show only makes use of 'no colour,' warm dirty white, 'cool, no colour', like a CTB, plus red and blue.

“It’s so simple, and it was a creative choice to have a limited colour palette,” Butts explains. “Because of the dynamics, we decided rather than do big colour changes, we would swap half the rig, turn off half the rig, or the dynamic would come from the strobes or the Magic Panels. So colour becomes almost secondary to what the show is. We wanted it simple and clean. The ‘no colour’ and warm or cool light became its own dynamic. We wanted to make a statement.”

Butt says that he approached colour in a different and non-traditional way on this show. “It’s exclusively mono-chromatic and purposely very limited. Because of this, the challenge was to create dynamics in different ways. So now it’s all about the programming.

“I have two rules with Magic Panels. 1) they never look like Magic Panels, and 2) you never use the same selection twice in the show. So now the dynamics of the show are pixel selection, creative groupings and strobe hits, rather than colour. I almost exclusively use high side BMFL followspots to light the band, frequently in a colour to reinforce this look. My goal was, it’s OK to have an entire segment of the show be in a single colour, because we are leveraging all these other dynamics is different ways, it’s a constantly changing look, so the colour is secondary. We felt this was a key part of a OneRepublic show: edgy, modern and different.”

Mark Butts has worked with VER on many large-scale tour designs, such as Tim McGraw & Faith Hill’s “Soul 2 Soul” World Tour 2017, and Shania Twain’s “Rock This Country” tour in 2015.

“They’ve always been a go-to for large scale projects,” he notes. “VER is great at putting together and turn-keying those projects.”

Butts frequently works in VER’s previsualisation offices around the country as well, pointing out their Light Lab in Pocoima, CA and in Nashville. “Dave Perkins in Los Angeles is an incredible resource. They handle drawings, files, and make our lives easier. We walk in and stick a thumb drive into the visualisers and we’re ready to work, so that’s a huge plus that they offer designer services for us.”

With 20 years in the lighting industry, Butts reflects to his days growing up and his interest in music and lighting. “I was always interested in lighting even as a kid. My dad and I made a four-channel floodlight controller in the basement and I accompanied it by playing ‘Van Halen’s ‘Running with the Devil.’ I didn’t know I could make it a career!”

After time spent at a music conservatory, Butts realised he wasn’t going to a make a living as a musician. So in 1993, after graduating Capital University in Columbus, OH, he ran a vintage clothing store, whose regular clientele included drag queens. Which led to his first lighting gig – beyond his basement – of running followspots for a cabaret in Ohio.

“We did illegal rave parties, and it grew from there,” he recalls. “I’m not sure how it went from that to this! I started reading industry trade magazines, and thought, wow you could make a living from this.

“And it kind of clicked!” he adds. “My love of lighting and technology and music background all came together in a cool way that turned into a great career.”

photo: Brian Jenkins

24th July 2017

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