For Beyonce’s Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, production and lighting designer Roy Bennett noted that, in the initial meeting with the artist, “we came up with the concept that the show would be lighting-based vs. being video-heavy, as in the past. I came up with the idea of making a wall of light that consisted mostly of mirrors on moving yokes (based on the old Vari-Lite VLM) and SGM strobes. The mirrors have two different surfaces. One side is flat, and the other is a faceted convex mirror-ball-type surface. Her show has two different stages. There’s the main stage, and then Beyoncé is flown over the audience and lands at the B-stage, the idea based on allowing her to have a place to perform out in the audience as so many performers like these days. The stage is behind the FOH position [and] has ramps and walkways with VIP audience members enclosed. It’s almost as big as most artists’ main stage. Most of the lighting for the B-stage was floor-based and bounced off of the moving mirrors overhead.”
— From “Designer Insights” by Steve Jennings, PLSN, March 2014
WATCHPAX units are solid-state media players designed to work in conjunction with Dataton’s WATCHOUT networked multi-display software. I am impressed with the power and scalability of the product, and I would imagine that these types of standalone media players have a huge advantage over using dedicated display computers in the digital signage and trade show markets. They promise to eliminate the need for computers to be located at display devices along with long runs of video cables between display devices. Operated either in standalone mode or via external control, they can work in tandem with the WATCHOUT system’s unlimited scalability. If you need to add more display devices to your booth or show, simply add another WATCHPAX for each unit.
— From “Video Road Test” by Vickie Claiborne, PLSN, Feb. 2014, page 54
Intensity adjustment is seen as so very important that many console manufactures include a dedicated intensity wheel on their desks. This wheel is always active for dynamically adjusting intensity anytime a fixture or group of fixtures is selected. Typically, this will be an absolute adjustment, but most consoles also come with a key that can be held when adjusting the intensity wheel. This key will change its behavior to a relative adjustment. With relative adjustment enabled, turning the wheel 10 percent of its range will increase all selected fixtures intensities by 10 percent of their current value. So a fixture with no intensity will not increase, while a fixture with an intensity of 50 percent will increase to 55 percent. Conversely, if you had instead used a traditional absolute adjustment, you would have seen the fixture with no intensity rise to 10 percent and the 50 percent fixture rise to 60 percent.
—Brad Schiller, from “Feeding the Machines," PLSN, Feb. 2014
In terms of video, I like to have panels that can move around and stagger heights for different songs. But renting a motion control system to move LED panels constantly was out of my budget, as were hi-def LED walls themselves. I thought about moving shoji panels, and projecting on them. Shojis are basically panels of rice paper with artistic drawn scenery on them. They’ve been used for years in Asia to separate larger rooms into smaller ones. Now if I combined them into some sort of airwall hanger apparatus, I may be onto something. What I came up with was eight custom Shoji panels measuring 14 by 6 feet (HxW) that hung on a series of traveler tracks. I needed simple travelers with no ropes or motors. A quick call over to Joe at Gallagher Staging solves everything. He quickly manufactures a simple metal piece that consists of five traveler tracks welded together into a single piece, which attaches to a stick of 20-inch truss. Then he rented it to me at an affordable price. Three 20K projectors on the front truss, some media servers and a video tech from PRG Nocturne finished it off. No automation necessary. The touring carp and a light guy would move the panels to various configurations during the show. With minimum practice, I had myself a giant 48-by-14-foot (WxH) video wall, all for $11,000 per week.
—Nook Schoenfeld, from LD-at-Large, PLSN, Feb. 2014
“We were all perplexed by the script because it goes so many places so quickly,” noted John Lee Beatty, set designer for The Snow Geese on Broadway. “Dan Sullivan, the director, said we couldn’t do the big outdoor scene where they’re shooting geese in the marsh as a drop or anything like that. He felt that just wasn’t going to work for him, so I started that way. The backstage is very small, so I had to be very quick on my toes to figure out a scenic scheme that could get enough scenery on and off. That’s how I came up with the double jackknife instead of a revolve, because I wanted to have the illusion of an open stage for the shooting scene. I worked backwards in design. It was quite a challenge in that small space.”
—Bryan Reesman, from “Inside Theatre,” PLSN, Jan. 2014
What I like about using a media server to create the blend instead of using another piece of gear is just that: outputting a signal to another device that processes and divides it means the potential for data loss and/or artifacts that could get introduced along the way. Using a media server in this way won’t always be possible, due to the size and overall scale of the project, but it is something to consider when designing a show. On the other hand, the downside of using a media server for edge blending is that as the media server itself takes on more responsibility for tasks typically reserved for the video production crew, the less likely it may be that the lighting programmer will have enough time to handle all the necessary tasks associated with both roles. For this reason, it’s probably best to have a dedicated media server programmer on these types of shows. That way, both lighting and video will look equally as impressive instead of both looking half as good as they could.
—From “Video Digerati” by Vickie Claiborne, PLSN, Jan. 2014
Glitch happens, and it is important to realize that some unexpected results might just be your own fault. Maybe you tracked a timing value that is now causing the lights to move slower than expected. (The most common programmer based mistakes are due to a lack of understanding of tracking.) You might have even recorded a cue in the wrong list or left out a palette/preset reference. Often the glitch is of your own making. These are the easiest to fix, but often the hardest to find. And although you might be reluctant to explain your fault, you will find that most LDs respect your honesty when you explain that you corrected a mistake that you made.
—From “Feeding the Machines” by Brad Schiller, PLSN, Jan. 2014
I find myself in a theater in Florida that I have played on a few occasions. It’s a good load-in and the gig is actually a decent venue to play. But as we are driving up to the gig, I hear the production manager bellow, “Let’s just get this one over with.” I ask him why he doesn’t like this particular place. “The gig is just fine, but wait until the stagehands start in with their attitude.” I never recalled this being a problem when I walk in, but as the day goes by I get what the PM said. I’m getting back talk and snappy answers to many of my simple questions. I ask if they have a hole on the side of the stage — I have to run the snake through. I’m met with a snazzy reply. “Of course we have that,” the guy says, adding, “and we will get to it in our own time. We’re not like those crap theaters you guys have been playing, we are pros here. We’ll let you know when the time is right.” I just asked a simple question. I didn’t ask for any lip.
—From “LD-at-Large” by Nook Schoenfeld, PLSN, Jan. 2014
Weight load monitoring might still seem to be a novel concept to some, but not to Dart Rigging, which purchased its first Ron StageMaster (RSM) system from Eilon Engineering in 2005 — the same year the rigging company starting working with tours for Rammstein. Because Rammstein shows have grown in complexity over the years, their most recent shows would typically involve close to 20 truckloads of gear weighing close to 50 tons — and much of it ends up in the air. “We’ve used the RSM product for a long time,” says Dart co-owner Martin Gehring. “It’s a type of insurance and, at the end of the day, it gives peace of mind.
—From “A Rigging Assist for Rammstein” by Larry Beck, PLSN, Dec. 2013
David Leveaux’s new production of Romeo and Juliet starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad exemplifies the trend of Broadway productions becoming genuinely live action versions of Hollywood — in this case, flames onstage are creating the visceral impact. The production features two horizontal battens, each more than 40 feet long, and flame appears along 33 feet. A vertical batten is about 25 feet in height, with flames along 16 feet. The system is fueled by propane…When it comes to dealing with fire, special effects design consultant Jeremy Chernick cites early planning as a crucial element. “The earlier that flame is brought into the design, the more likely that it will work, and in a lot of ways the more savings will be available to the production. If the scenery is already built, then it’s harder to integrate into the set.”
—From “Inside Theatre” by Bryan Reesman, PLSN, Dec. 2013