The Ultimate Music Experience (UME) is about as far south in Texas as south goes in Texas. Held on South Padre Island and hosted at Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark since its start in 2011, it holds the distinction of being the largest North American EDM spring break event.
Dan Wyatt of Austin, Texas-based Creative Production & Design has been the production’s lighting/video production team manager and designer for the last three years, with CPD also supplying the lighting, video, and CO2 effects for the three-day festival. Wyatt’s goal is to change the look of the stages as much as possible each night, since between 60-70% of the tickets are sold as three-day passes so repeat visits from audience members must be taken into consideration.
In many ways, UME has helped the spring break economy boost on the island. “In years past, there were other large corporate-type events like Coca-Cola Beach, which was a day event at the Isla Grand Hotel,” says Wyatt. “This year, those shows did not happen or were severely scaled back. Restaurant owners, hotel management, and other small businesses on the island stated that UME was the event that saved spring break on the island.”
Wyatt rarely works directly with the artists for UME, since most have their own production teams, so he bases the stage design around those performers that have tour/festival riders. “Some we scale to fit the stage at UME, and for some, we have added more video and lighting. Basically, each night of UME 2014, the fans got to see Tiesto, Bassnectar, and Zedd’s festival setups all in one place.”
Each artist provided a visual content package for Wyatt’s team. More than 100 Chauvet Professional MVP18 video wall panels created a backdrop for the performers, with content run through a Chauvet VIP Media System via a ChamSys MagicQ MQ100 Pro console, with one additional for backup.
“Like on all EDM shows, video was run from FOH,” says Wyatt. “We provided our Chauvet media server for use with all support artists, and the headliners all had their own video techs with media servers. We also provided a Barco Folsom Image Pro II to help manage the different servers. At any given time, we could have three different setups hooked up and ready to go.”
The lighting rig comprised fixtures from Martin Professional—MAC Viper Profiles, MAC Viper Performance units, and MAC 101 RGB—as well as Chauvet Professional Legend 230SR Beams, Ayrton MagicPanel 602s, GLP impression 120 RZs, and 18 TMB Solaris Flare LED Strobes, which Wyatt calls “an amazing fixture.”
Wyatt was also impressed with the Ayrton MagicPanel 602. “Being able to pixel-map the fixture added a major new element to the show,” the designer says. “We only intended to use the fixture for day one of the event, but used the fixtures on each night.” Lighting was run via ArtNet, using an MA Lighting grandMA 2 console.
The stage deck is preexisting at Schlitterbahn Waterpark. “Basically the waterpark is closed for the season when UME takes place,” says Wyatt. “All the water has been drained for yearly maintenance. We build the stage above the water pump station in the wave pool. The drained wave pool then becomes a sloping amphitheatre for the thousands of fans.” Rigging was done by the crew from Upstage Center of Houston, who also built the stage roof and provided stagehands for the festival.
Wyatt says the biggest challenge for this production is to impress the audience each night while taking into account the limited time to flip the rig. “Also the stage,” he adds. “It can only be 44' wide by 32' deep—the only way it will fit in the space we have to work with. Also, don’t forget to bring anything. We are on South Padre island, and good luck finding a Socapex cable or an ArtNet node if you forget to pack one.”
Lighting, video, and CO₂ effects were provided by Creative Production & Design, with audio from Onstage Systems from Dallas. Pyro was provided by Pyrotecnico from Dallas, and lasers were done by Laser Spectacles from San Marcos, Texas.
“Some production people think we are nuts for doing this, but the fan experience is our goal,” says Wyatt of flipping the rig to keep the stage looking new each night for headlining performers like Tiësto, Bassnectar, and Zedd.
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