Cohen finds lighting an orchestra easier than a rock 'n' roll act. "I really laid out the architecture, the Star Destroyers, and functional instrumentation, and [associate lighting designer and programmer] Bryan Barancik picked the instrumentation for specific needs and power in certain areas," says Cohen. "Color-wise, I'm a really stickler for simple coloration. I don't use a lot of tones or competing hues—not mono-chromatic but clearly defined. I established a palette, and Seth and Bryan took it from there."
Jackson notes that the lighting ebbs and flows along musical lines, but also along the lines of the images on the screen. "The timecode is a tremendous reference for everyone, but nothing in this show is sequenced or triggered," he says. "The organic nature of an 86-piece orchestra gives way to variances every night. The conductor has no click track, the lighting isn't triggered, and the orchestra and choir aren't tracked. We are all doing this completely live."
Barancik describes the project as "a lifelong dream come true," noting that the intent of the lighting was always to integrate with the film and music and especially not to upstage either one. "Modeling on the orchestra, complementary color and textures with the films, and fluid, precise musical cueing were always paramount throughout the process," Barancik says. "It was crucial the show be mature, sophisticated, and classical; there would never be any dancing storm troopers. It is an elaborate orchestral multimedia performance, technically and musically."
The lighting rig, provided by Upstaging, relies heavily on Martin Professional MAC 2000 Performance units, MAC III Profiles, Coemar Infinity Wash XLs, and Vari-Lite VL3500 FX Wash units. "The MAC III Profiles are the true workhorses of this show," says Jackson. "The quality of beam and the size of the output are fantastic. Most of the main layer of the show is created from MAC IIIs, and another strong layer is with the Coemar Infinity units. We got tremendous mileage out of the effects wheel in those lights. The other main component is the VL3500 FX units, which are amazing, both in terms of color and what you can do with the effects and animations." Rounding out the rig are chrome Elation Impressions that are rigged on stands to light the orchestra members, Robe ColorSpot 1200 ATs and 2500 ATs, Vari-Lite VL3500 Profiles, and Zap Technology Little BigLites. Dimming is via two ETC Sensor+ racks, one each 48-channel and 24-channel, and atmospheric effects come from Hasebase hazers, Le Maitre G150 foggers, and Martin Jem AF-1 DMX Fans.
The iPix BB7s are housed in custom frames to appear like exhaust pods coming from the back of one of the overhead SoftLED Star Destroyers. "In the destroyer trusses, Steve wanted different sized fixtures to help make it seem like the destroyers were more of a scenic element, rather than just lighting/video trusses," says Barancik. "That in mind, we were able to do an asymmetrical layout that works really well within the symmetry of the overall production design."
The Martin Maxxyz Plus Console (with an additional Maxxyz for backup) runs a single cue list, supplemented by a few manual cues for bumps, chases, and subs. "It is important to have manually executable chases for some looks because we are following the orchestra," says Barancik. "An orchestra isn't mechanical, so it's crucial to follow its measures and beats rather than the track to which we originally programmed." The whole system is controlled by Art-Net, including the media servers.
Jackson adds that he and Barancik rely heavily on the conductor's camera during the shows. "We look like timing geniuses when we run the show, but it is all because we spend half the night watching a split feed screen that has the conductor's playback—timecode and meter bars— and the conductor."
Barancik adds that, because there is no track and the show can vary nightly depending on the orchestra and narration, the house followspots are crucial. "There are only a few bumps and blackouts, so clean pickups, fades, and balanced fields become much more important," he says. "All of the narration is shot for I-Mag. We work closely with Mark Haney to ensure there is a good, clean image. For any venues with spots located up in the rafters who might be reading this, please invest in Telrads or some kind of scope. They are worth their weight in gold."
Ensuring the orchestra members are comfortable with the light levels is an ongoing consideration. "Frankly, we have been extremely happy with their tolerance to color change, haze, fog, and pyro," says Barancik. "We learned valuable information about what they need, or don't, to help them through some of the more intense theatrical moments. For instance, if the entire stage is red, even though it is very bright, it is still difficult for them to see the music. Adjusting certain angles to amber makes it work, but still keeps the stage picture completely intact."
Jackson's biggest challenge is the sheer scope. "We have a limited width in arenas to allow for fire lanes and access, and we have to fit into a 68'x48' stage," he says. "On the first couple of passes, it didn't work. After several days over the laptop, Robert Achlimbari from All Access and I had manipulated decks, chairs, music stands, and instruments until our eyes were crossed, but we got it." Jackson adds that rigging issues also arose, including the fact that the ceiling was crowded with a lot of scenery, trusses, video elements, and cable bridges. "Stage Rigging does all of the motors and rigging, and very often we do pre-rigs," says Jackson.
The creative team programmed and rehearsed at the George Lucas stage in Elstree Studios in London where the films were made, spending approximately three weeks building the show. "There was something fantastic about being in Elstree and creating another piece of the Star Wars universe, the same way Lucas started it all in 1975, when he was first there," adds Jackson.