It was the second time that Ashton has designed visuals for the show which was last staged in 2009, returning by popular public demand. Ashton also has a previous history of displaying his unique brand of visual art to large-scale productions in Malta.
Says Ashton, "It was an honour to be asked back to work in Malta on this event."
An enthusiastic 10,500 capacity audience packed into the Malta Fairs & Convention Centre (MFCC) to experience the two hour Rockestra show, with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra under the musical direction of Sigmund Mifsud performing a selection of classics made famous by a variety of popular artists like U2, Guns N' Roses, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Kansas, Metallica, Kings of Leon and many more. The 65-piece orchestra played several instrumental pieces and was joined on stage by leading local artists including Mike Spiteri, Gianni, Ivan Filletti, Aerol of Airport Impressions, Paul Borg Boanci of Fakawi, Glenn Vella, Kenneth Calleja, Mikaela of Xirka Rock, and others.
Ashton created all the video artwork for a 20 x 16 metre wide upstage projection screen, with bespoke content tailored to each individual number. This process took about 3 weeks of intense work in Ashton's London studio, assisted by Steve Larkins and Sang Gun Kim.
Ashton was given an open brief in respect of the artwork, and the creative process proved to be a lot of fun despite its short timescale and the challenge of having to produce material for such a diverse array of songs.
He then spent two days in a studio in Malta filming green-screen footage to edit and cut into various sections of the show, and another morning in a helicopter filming aerial material, which was also integrated into the visuals.
President Abela allowed his Palace in central Valetta - including the Throne Room with its priceless cycle of wall paintings of the 1565 Great Siege of Malta by Matteo Perez d'Aleccio - to be used to film sequences for "November Rain" by Guns 'n' Roses.
Ashton also specified the equipment, which consisted of a double stacked pair of Digital Projection "Lightening" projectors, flown in the apex of the MFCC roof, giving a WUXGA output of 1920 x 1200 HD resolution. He specifically wanted to work with local equipment suppliers, and these were supplied by Studio 7, engineered by Franco Kurmi. The Watchout control system came from Nexos, and was programmed and run for the show by Karen Monid.
On site, Ashton and Monid worked closely with lighting designer Ismael Portelli to ensure that both mediums blended harmoniously to make a high-impact epic overall visual picture.
Ashton was really pleased with all the visuals produced, with those for "Heard It Through The Grapevine" being among his favorites, for which he subverted stylized images taken from schmaltzy 1950s romance novels and creating a series of speech bubbles relevant to MD Sigmund Mifsud and his role in the event - to everyone's great amusement.
Another memorable set of images was the "Live & Let Die" pastiche, which featured lots of burning skulls, guns, explosions, action and voluptuous dancing girls!
Concludes Ashton, "Rockestra is a fabulous and highly accessible concept which offers entertainment on so many levels. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience all round and really great to see local bands included on a huge stage in front of a massive local audience - all adding colour energy and emotion to the occasion! I look forward to the next one!"
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