How do you convince the management of a rockin' virtuoso pianist to incorporate video into a tour? Lighting designer Daniel K. Boland (the K stands for Kamiano — a tribute to Father Damien, Dan's father's hero and advocate for the leper colonies in Hawaii) had just that challenge before Tori Amos' Original Sinsuality Tour to support her latest album, The Beekeeper.
But video for a tour that doesn't even include an accompanying band, as her previous tours have (her last tour included a bassist and drummer)? Has the whole “media server thing” gotten a little overkill?
Well, if you're Boland, it's just the beginning for this artist. His mission was to incorporate video while staying within his original moving light budget. And being economical for this tour meant swapping out almost half the moving lights he normally uses for Amos — around 24 — for an Mbox™ media server, eight High End Systems x.Spots® and six Studio Beams® for effects, and five ETC Source Four® 19° ellipsoidals for back and key lighting. Everything is run from an MA Lighting grandMA via Ethernet through the ARTnet box with a PC as a backup console.
Boland has been Amos' longtime one-stop lighting shop since 1998: design, programming, and direction — all three-in-one, required by this accomplished singer/ songwriter who changes her set list drastically every night to accurately represent her 300-plus repertoire of songs, and that doesn't include the covers she decides to do a couple of hours before show time.
And when we say “right before the show,” there's no messing around. “Does anyone have ‘Killer Queen’ on an iPod?” Amos politely asks into the mic at around 6:05pm (venue doors are set to open at 6:30pm). That's the talent trying to add a last minute cover to the set list. Tight scheduling — very tight.
It's so tight that Boland does more than tweak the show night after night. In fact, he programs more than half of each evening's performance during sound check, while Amos is practicing and finalizing a set list. Using a media server actually made the normal process much easer for this tour.
“When you have an arsenal of images right there in a box, and you can just fill the screen immediately, it makes programming that close to the show a much smoother process,” he says. “I tweak even the songs that I've had programmed since the beginning of the tour every single day, at least for timing. It just depends on how she plays it, because it gets different as the tour evolves. I can hear that her timing is changing, so if it's slowed, I just go in through the timing window and add a couple seconds to it, so it blends nicely.”
Boland is no stranger to the use of video. “I had used the NEV system before,” he adds, “and the way it came about for this tour, to be honest, was because Tori has so many songs she can possibly do. Since this is a solo tour, and the budget was restricted, it occurred to me that if I had a media server and a bunch of video in addition to gobos, that would just increase my ability 100-fold to make different looks for every song. Since they were being tight on budget, we didn't create any new media, so we used all the stock media. It was a matter of convincing management that it wasn't going to cost anymore for a video guy, setting up the projector, etc. They loved the idea of video, but they wanted to make sure it was cost-effective.”
Once Boland proved he was within budget, and management saw the results, the original skepticism faded. “They were all saying in the beginning, ‘We can't use video for Tori,’” says Boland. “Somehow, I convinced them, and they love it now. They want to add another complete truss to the other side of the stage. I keep it very simple, especially since it's just Tori and her piano.”
But “just Tori and her piano” command quite a presence on stage, both during a show and rehearsals, regardless of simplicity. The artist is more than a little involved with the planning of her production. “Tori is so brilliant that she likes to be concerned with all aspects of her show, including this kind of stuff,” says Boland. “I give her ideas, and she picks one, but she's still very involved. She does such amazingly long sound checks that sometimes, eventually you put something up, and she'll stop to say, ‘Hey, that's cool. What's that?’ So, okay, that will be the song.”
For Original Sinsuality, images of gardens, nature, and femininity were called upon to reflect the themes in the album. “Most of the concept for the design is based on the concept from her album, because all of her albums are always very conceptual. That's what drove the idea of the hexagonal screen. The use of video was just another element to translate that. The use of video did save money on moving lights, but I could also have something behind her I could paint a picture with.
“Aside from the video, I approach this design by keying and filling her properly, and the rest is really icing,” he adds. “Particularly on this tour, I wanted to do a little more asymmetrical lighting. In the past, we've always been very symmetrical. This time, because it's just Tori and the piano and a single hexagonal screen, I wanted to put everything in different places and space, so it's more visually interesting than just a backdrop.”
And Boland's design, like Amos' music, creates a beauty in its simplicity. “Discovering the desire to use video more, but at the same time less — using it because we've never used it before, but not overpowering the show with it — was a big deal. I wanted to incorporate it in, but I didn't want people to go, ‘Wow, this tour is great because now they have video.’ It's all about being subtle, not going over the top, and not overdoing it.”
Original Sinsuality Tour Gear
12" box truss and corner blocks for hexagon manufactured by Accurate Staging Supplied by PSL/Bluewater:
|1||5K Toshiba Projector|
|1||Sony scan converter|
|8||HES x.Spots® Xtreme with custom gobos and colors|
|6||HES Studio Beams®|
|5||ETC Source Four® 19° 750W|
|2||Lowell DP Tota lights with barndoors and nail plate|
|2||Lee 722 — Bray Blue|
|2||Lee 052 — Light Lavender|
|2||Lee 778 — Millennium Gold|
|2||Lee 247 — Minus Green|
|4||Lee 181 — Congo Blue|
For ETC Source Four:
|5||Lee 247 — Minus Green|
|3||Lee 176 — Loving Amber|
CONTROL AND FRONT OF HOUSE:
|1||MA Lighting grandMA|
|2||ArtNet Ethernet interface boxes|
|2||17" Dell LCD monitors|
|5||110V power sources|
|1||100m snake w/ power, data, video, Ethernet, and headset with spare lines|
TRUSS AND HARDWARE
98' of A-type (20.5" box) truss, broken down as follows:
2 × 40' Truss
8' Truss standing
10' Truss standing
RIGGING AND SAFETY
|1||12-way ETC dimmer rack|
|1||18-way Power Distro|
|1||ReelFX DF-50 smoke machine|
|1||Variable speed fan|