The 15th anniversary of the legendary Ultra Music Festival saw the main stage light up like never before. A unique design saw over 1,100 intelligent fixtures seamlessly integrated into one of the largest ever festival stage designs, resulting in a spectacular visual design that left the crowd blown away.
From the beginning, the design brief for the Ultra Music Festival's 2013 main stage was to 'create something bigger and bolder than ever before.' The Miami festival's 15th anniversary event in March 2013 was made up of an unprecedented lineup of the biggest international EDM acts in the world, a record-breaking six day long festival spanning two weekends and a main stage design and build like no other year.
Mandylights designers Richard Neville and Alex Grierson were engaged by the joint production designers - Tribe Inc., and James Klein events to design a lighting rig that would compliment and more importantly - work with - the massive iconic stage design that saw a giant pyramid built in Miami's Bayfront Park. A three month-long design process followed, where the whole team worked together to create a seamless design where the lines between scenic, lighting and video became blurred.
The resulting lighting design saw hundreds of lighting fixtures built into individual scenic pieces, rigged to surround the entire 180' wide structure and also illuminate the giant "U" logo centrepiece - an effect that has since been replicated at Ultra events around the world. In the end, over 1,100 intelligent fixtures were spread across the giant stage, creating an amazingly bright, versatile and spectacular rig that was exploited by artists included Avicii, Deadmau5, Calvin Harris, Tiesto, Hardwell and Swedish House Mafia.
Richard and Alex designed the stage, created all paperwork and visualised the entire setup in their visualisation suite at home in Sydney, Australia. On site at Miami, they created a pre-vis studio with equipment supplier VER and then operated the festival, while also supporting the number of great visiting LDs who accompanied their artists. After spending countless hours programming, the stage was operated on two GrandMA2 Fullsize consoles.
In addition to the challenges of creating such an expansive stage design, the lighting department faced numerous challenges. Visualisation of the stage was a mammoth process, with the team pushing LightConverse close to its limits to control all fixtures in realtime. With most of the equipment built into and around scenic pieces, maintenance was a major concern. The collaborative design resulted in all 160 pyramids - each featuring a Robe 100 luminaire in the centre - having special rigging brackets built in so that fixtures could be swapped from behind - during shows if required - and not have to wait until the next day to be replaced. The team worked with the production designers and video team - lead by Vello Virkhaus - to create a unique ArtNet merge to allow video to control colour parameters of many fixtures across the rig - this feature could be enabled and disabled by operators as required. During the first night of programming, the stage was shut down due to the local Miami Police receiving 'light complaints' - a first ever, thanks largely to the huge number of Solaris Flare strobes used in the rig. Finally, the complications arising from the stage's rigging incident meant that lighting lost their last, and most important night of programming before the festival opened. During the festival, Richard and Alex worked extensively with visiting designers to adapt their touring designs to the massive rig. In many cases, operation of DJ sets was shared between operators to take advantage of the full setup.
Long after the last fixture's left the stage, the 2013 Ultra Main stage design has featured in numerous video clips and television specials.
124x Vari*Lite VL3000 Spot
32x Vari*Lite VL3500 WashFX
76x GLP Impression X4 Wash
121x Clay Paky Sharpy (including 20x Chrome finish) 176x Robe 100 Beam
89x Robe 600 LED Wash
25x Robe 1200 LED Wash
87x Solaris Flare LED Strobe
67x Martin Atomic Strobe
380x Color Kinetics ColorBlast 12 RGB
63x Color Kinetics iWhite LED
40x Elements KR25 Panel (similar to a Jarag Panel) 27x 4way Molefay
3x Gladiator Follow Spot
4x MDG Hazers - The One 8x Jem ZR44 Fog Machines
6x GrandMA2 Full Size Consoles (2 primary, 2 backup, 2 in visualisation studio) 2x HighEnd Systems Road Hog Full Boar (Deadmau5 only)
12x GrandMA2 NPU (6 active, 6 backup)
Equipment Supplier: VER
VER Manager: Susan Tesh
Head Systems: Geoff Huey
FOH Technician: Alex Ares
Lighting Design / Programmer: Richard Neville
Associate Design / Programmer: Alex Grierson
Producers: James Klein Events (James Klein) and Tribe Design (Bruce Rodgers)