A Catalyst V 4 digital media server is at the core of Paul Normandale’s visual design for the 2008 James Blunt world tour. It’s the first time Catalyst has been used on James Blunt. It replaces a previous digital media server and is being operated on tour by lighting director Glen Johnson, who is also running lights and overseeing all the design aspects of the show.
Normandale and Johnson have created a meticulously thought-out set of visual content, produced from a variety of sources including the Catalyst library, websites, and selected and re-cut James Blunt videos, some of which have never been shown in public. “Using Catalyst allows daily onsite editing and scaling, and also the development of images for color palette and the various media surfaces,” says Normandale.
The tour was conceived for American arenas and has been scaled accordingly for the European section. The design had a regal theme using Blunt’s family coat of arms, along with the monkey symbolism of the album, and the desire to progress the show in a series of scenes. These involve cyc projection, red stripes, and the 354-sq-ft of 250 mm ColorWeb LED—all of which play a part in a series of reveals, adding depth and dimension to the stage.
In addition to the Catalyst, there is a PixelMAD system, also supplied by UK Catalyst dealer Projected Image Digital, running as a standalone machine. The PixelMAD is supplying content—via 13 DMX universes—to the ColorWeb, which flies in and out during the show. Being transparent, this is also utilized for some leftfield 3D effects with video running on the surface and lighting punching through from behind.
Also feeding into the Catalyst at FOH—via two LFG Input cards with 4 composite inputs on each card—are 8 lipstick cameras positioned around the stage focused on the band members plus one robotic camera, operated by Richard Jewell. All of these are split out into widescreen format and scaled, treated, and affected in the Catalyst.
The set changes every 3 or 4 songs, with drapes, screens, and LED dropping in or being flown out, revealing different sized projection surfaces. The first projections in the show are run at 16x9 feet and by the end, the area has expanded to 56x30 feet.
The scaling and compression facilities of both Catalyst and PixelMAD have been instrumental to making it possible to run the show in the manner, and images have to be sized and re-sized constantly and consistently through the set. The first song has all 8 cameras projected across the screen for a very clean camera mix via 2 Barco FLM projectors supplied by XL Video. On the 9th layer Johnson uses one feed to overlay Blunt’s head across the whole area. For the song “Carry Me Home,” he runs one layer of water effect with the second layer a camera source shooting into a dark spot of the stage with Blunt in the middle. This is then set to transparent black, letting the water effect flow all around Blunt.
For the final section and the anthemic disco song “1973,” the footage is a mix of unseen off-cuts from the promo video with fluorescent retro colors applied. On the practical side, Johnson comments, “Both Catalyst and PixelMAD are excellent and reliable and have obviously been built for touring.”
Johnson us using a WholeHog 3 console for control, and all lighting hardware for the tour is supplied by Lite Alternative. The James Blunt tour is scheduled to continue into early 2009.