Country Star Miranda Lambert hits the road for a CMT Revolution with production designer Chris Lisle
Rising country music star Miranda Lambert has taken to the road on her CMT Revolution Tour that extends into 2011, grabbing nine CMA Award nominations along the way and winning three of them on November 10.Production designer Chris Lisle designed the tour, with a set fabricated by Christian Scenic and 615 Scenic, and equipment from Bandit Lites and CT Touring.
Lisle started in the spring working on designing the total visual production, including lighting, video, and scenic elements with two major considerations informing his choices: budget and truck space. “The main goal of the design was to give Miranda’s show a look that complemented her musical style, but also conformed to those two major criteria,” he says. “It definitely made me slow down and take a hard look at what elements I actuallyneeded versus those that I just wanted. In the case of this project, I chose fixtures that I knew would give me the looks that I was going for and were also affordable.”
Among those choices were Chauvet Legend™ Beam 300E fixtures. “I became a huge fan of Legend 300E Beam fixtures on this tour,” says Lisle. “We use them on the floor to create aerial looks that punch through the color washes coming from the fixtures in the air. We found these lights to have great optics that allow a good concentrated beam of light. The effects wheel is great as well.” Lisle also uses Martin Professional MAC 600 Wash units and Philips Vari-Lite VL2500 Spots in his rig for general stage lighting and spread out over the downstage, mid-stage, and upstage trusses.
The designer admits he wasn’t trying to “reinvent the wheel on this one,” in terms of overall structure and truss composition, but that he gets the looks he’s going for, and that’s what counts. “It is a basic four straight truss system,” he says. “The fixtures that hang on those straight trusses make the looks that I am going for—strong solid color washes with punches through them from the VL2500 Spot fixtures. Overall, the stage setup is very straightforward.”
The biggest visual elements of this show, the designer notes, are the moving video screens. “The overall goal was to have a good-looking video product flown to give some color and texture, but also to take these panels and move them periodically for different looks.” These looks are all stock and created content—no I-Mag for this tour—so the goal of all the video is to add color and texture. This is done via a Barco High End Systems Axon media server controlled on a Barco High End Road Hog Console out to CT Touring custom Spider video tiles that can fly in and out via a custom motor controller setup from Bandit Lites, which also supplied all rigging. “I really like being in control of this element, as it allows us to make intensity and color decisions right on the spot,” says Lisle. “There is no waiting until rehearsals to see what video has planned versus what lighting has planned. It is one cohesive piece.” For additional scenic punch, the “Revolution” backdrop is a lightweight white fabric that Lisle says “holds light very well. We use Chauvet COLORado™ Batten 72 Tours to light this drop from the floor up. One of my favorite parts of this design is how the drops fall behind the video in a way to give more dimension to the stage. It all doesn’t just end at a black backdrop.”
Lisle says the biggest challenge for the tour thus far was getting 28 songs programmed in less than a week, noting that tour lighting director/programmer Aaron Luke got the console about a week before official programming started to get some palettes into it. “One of the most critical things that I have learned over the years is to take the time to get good palettes in before programming, and it will make the rest of the process that much easier,” the designer says, adding that he likes that all the equipment he chose is balanced in terms of what pieces are used when. “We approached the programming very carefully in that we wanted the show to build, production-wise, throughout the night, without showing all of the elements right from the start,” he says. “The hope is that, on the last song, you see some production elements or looks that you have not seen in the past hour and a half. I emphasized to Aaron that I wanted good, solid, tasteful looks.” Lisle did his plots and rendering in Cast Software’s wysiwyg, which he calls “my favorite designer’s tool.”
Another balancing act for the tour is the fact that Luke has to direct the motor moves and up to four followspots in each venue. “We do not have a programmable motor control system on this show, so all moves have to be done with the human eye and some common sense,” Lisle says.
Lisle jokes that his workhorse for the show was his programmer. “I personally think that a show is only going to be as good as the person programming it,” he says. “I hate referring to Aaron as a piece of equipment, but he was the one spending 18-20 hour days behind a console getting the looks in!”