In today's flavor-of-the-month world, artists don't have long careers by chance. It takes talent — not just the obvious, “they must have talent,” but other talents, such as the ability to evolve, stay relevant, and break out of the pigeonhole in which others put them. Justin Timberlake's well-received current tour is proof that this artist has all of those talents. It also shows he has one of the key talents needed for success: surround yourself with other talented people who share your vision.

Timberlake knew what he wanted the look and feel of his tour to be. Late last year, he and his management began discussing concepts with designers and companies that they felt would be able to help realize his ideas. Timberlake planned to perform in the round — a bold choice for an arena tour, both artistically and technically. Production manager Ian Donald points out that the concept was actually even more complex. “Justin's concept was to work in the round, plus he wanted to go from an arena-type stage to an intimate club setting easily during the course of the show,” he says. “So a big part of the logistics of it was how to get the band on the outside of the stage down low and then be able to bring them up and have them come in to form this club setting.” Timberlake turned to Tait Towers to help facilitate and fabricate this complicated staging.

Build In The Round

Adam Davis, vice president at Tait Towers, worked with Donald to boil down the concept of a circular stage to a working design. “This is a double-decker structure that is fairly wide,” explains Davis. “It is 100'×120' going into the seats, and the entire structure has to be able to roll over an uneven arena floor. When you are working in 360° like this, it is a finely choreographed machine at a load-in or a load-out to get everything to fit in the floor space and do it in the time allotted. To work, the stage needs to roll into place, because that gives them time to put the grid up. While the crew is building the grid and hanging the lights, the stage is built in five or six different sections in different parts of the arena. Once the grid flies, they can roll the stages — in different sections — together making the whole.”

Davis explains that the entire structure is designed to undulate as it rolls over the floor, so nothing gets broken and nothing stresses the system. “On the lower level of this stage, we have the dressing rooms, the backline equipment, all the necessary technical equipment so that it can be pre-wired and pre-tested before the stage rolls together,” he adds. Two large 35'×11' hydraulic elevators operate independently but communicate to each other via Ethernet so they can sync perfectly, repeating positions within a thousandth of an inch. The hydraulic elevators help to achieve Timberlake's plan for a reconfigurable environment with the band. “When the elevators arrive at a particular position, band risers can track into a certain position and then are lifted up to another level, and the band risers can track off,” says Davis. “Every working system has multiple stages of redundancy built into it,” Davis says. “No matter what, they can do the show. There are four or five ways to make the system run.” James “Winky” Fairorth, president of Tait Towers, adds, “It is as complicated as it sounds, but Tait made sure that it worked efficiently as possible. There are a lot of people and things moving around underneath the stage, and at the same time, it is moving up and down. There was a huge amount of coordination. It is one of the most sophisticated stage sets we've ever built in terms of how many axes of motion, how many cues, and the need to make all that work and still be able to put it up and tear it down in under two hours.”

Timberlake had a unique idea for his two B-stages: he wanted full service bars. Donald worked on this aspect of the production with ShowFX, the company that built these elements. “We have four bars built into the B-stages — two per stage — so when Justin and the dancers come down, they are very close to the bars,” Donald says. “In fact, at a point in the show, they walk on the bar. These are actual bars with bartenders pouring drinks for the audience. For the best capacity in the bar sections, we ended up designing them by sending a barricade section to ShowFX, who created the structure of the bar as a fold up piece that can go into a cart easily with a built bar section that will fit on top. At the same time, we took the rented barricades from Mojo Barriers and designed a stool that essentially clamps onto the barricades.”

Screens And Scrims

Projection was something Timberlake knew he wanted to use, and after his manager saw Cirque du Soleil's Delirium, Timberlake and his team discussed integrating the live performance, projection, and transparent scrims to create something more theatrical. The transparent scrims are circular and raised and lowered throughout the show. ShowRig, a division of SGPS, supplied all the grid components as well as the projection surfaces and screen winches.

Eric Pearce, ShowRig's CFO, worked on the project. “The whole concept was to have projection onto a scrim so the audience can see through the scrim, seeing Timberlake perform while at the same time seeing an enlarged image on the surface,” Pearce says. “It was quite a challenge.” The initial concept was to use a conventional Austrian drop, where there would have been a number of lines through the projection surface with D-rings to control the concertina as they went up. “The concept was to minimize those lines and to eliminate the D-rings — rather, a tray system at the bottom to capture the curtains as it goes up,” says Pearce. “The tray has been fairly successful, but it is sometimes difficult to maintain the scrims in the trays when they are in buildings with air conditioning and 20,000 people creating a lot of movement of air. It is one of those issues where the best mechanical solution is unacceptable aesthetically, and so there has been some compromising to achieve the cleanness of the look that they want.” Donald agrees that the scrims are still the biggest challenge of the show. “The air handling is challenging every night; every move,” he says. However, the visual effect of the scrims is worth the trouble.

The grid itself is almost entirely curved, so ShowRig also fabricated all the truss. “We built about 150 sticks of truss for this show within three weeks — all custom-curved pieces,” says Pearce. The company also supplies all cable management components to deal with getting the feeder cable from the side of the building to the center placement of the stage. Lighting crew chief Jerry “Hodgie” Vierna notes the extensive amount of cable used. “You have to go hundreds of feet because of being in the round,” he says. “For the size of the rig, it is handled in a very efficient manner. It takes about six hours in a pre-rig situation. There are only two pieces of straight truss — two lonely 10' sections of straight truss. The rest is all custom-curved.”

Timberlake brought in the Geodezik team that worked on Cirque du Soleil's Delirium to design and create his video content and deal with the live video integration for the show. Geodezik's Mathieu St-Arnaud discusses the approach to the video content. “We were tired of doing designs with a lot of content — a lot of information that would drag the audience's attention to the screen,” he says. “We wanted to keep the focus on Justin; the video would be background that would evolve with him through his songs and through the show. We wanted this great video that would always evolve, not still pictures — more subtle but still not too demanding of the audiences' attention. Justin and his management really liked the idea of doing something different in that way.”

St-Arnaud explains that Geodezik's design also did away with traditional I-Mag. “Another way we keep the audience's attention on Justin is to not use an I-Mag screen but put him in our actual content design and integrate the live shots of Justin with some special effects. However, this causes you to get a lot of delay.” To minimize this, Geodezik had VYV Corporation design a video server system into which was also integrated realtime video-effects software, minimizing delay to half a frame or a frame. “So depending on the situation and the effect, we could get almost perfect sync,” St-Arnaud adds.

Geodezik was also in perfect sync with the lighting design team of Bryan Leitch and Nick Whitehouse. “Something really sparked among all of us at the first meeting, and it went along for the rest of the production,” says St-Arnaud. “They really listened to the needs for video. Working with scrim is not easy. It is always touchy; it is always dependent on the lighting situation. With all their experience, they are really open-minded.”

Leitch feels the same way. “Right from the word go, we worked well with the Geodezik guys,” he adds. “We all looked at storyboards for every song so that we could all make sure everything would work together. It was one of those things that would either stand or fall on cooperation. There had to be total understanding by both departments to make it stand up, which there was, and it really works.” Whitehouse concurs, noting that the video creators “understand lighting as much as they understand video. Everything we wanted to do they were happy to incorporate into the video, and anything they wanted to do, we incorporated lighting-wise.”

Lighting JT

Leitch and Whitehouse have been working together for around nine years, and in the past, they have incorporated video into their designs. It was after Timberlake saw their work on a Coldplay show in Tokyo that he approached them about working on FutureSex/LoveShow. Leitch, who mainly handles design duties, acknowledges there was no lack of challenge to designing this show. “The biggest challenge was the fact that it was so entirely three-dimensional,” he says. “Not only was it in the round, but it wasn't just 360°; it was multi-layered. We are lighting a circular center and then with four complete legs going off, then bars that leave the circles and rejoin the B-stages. It's quite a complex shape. Plus the stage itself is on multiple levels. The center stage is 8' above the deck, and the B-stages are 4' high. Then there are intermediate levels with staircases. There are two lifts that people go up and down on during the show. The band is on three different levels, plus the risers the band are on move, so there are multiple focus positions. In fact, we ended up with 120 stored focuses just for positions.”

Whitehouse, who programmed the show, points out the challenge of working around the projection element. “The scrim system and the video elements were our biggest challenges — making that work with the lights,” he says. “At times, there are so many people on the stage to light, and half the rig disappears when you drop those scrims in. Keeping everyone lit is quite a challenge.” Leitch explains the solution they found for this problem, specifically pertaining to the followspots. “I have 10 followspots integrated into the trussing,” he notes. “We have no house followspots whatsoever. We use 10 short-throw Lycians so we can always spot Justin but never hit a screen, which you could never do from house positions.”

As well as focus issues, the screens presented a hanging issue that Leitch solved, according to an impressed Whitehouse. “Because of the screens, the whole lower level of truss is a screen, but obviously, we needed to put lights there,” he says. “Bryan came up with this design for a bracket that clipped onto the truss and out-rigs the lights. It is kind of a snap-brace, as we call it in the UK. It's kind of like a quick lock clamp, and then it just rests with a sort of welded-on shape that fits the truss perfectly. Once you put a light on it, it can't go anywhere. It takes less than 10 seconds to put on, so they are better than a bit of pipe and some cheseboroughs. We have to out-rig 99 lights so that saves us a lot of time.”

The lighting teams' use of the PRG Series 400 Power and Data Distribution System has also been a big time saver by speeding up data assignment. “It just makes the whole way of assigning data numbers to everything a lot simpler and a lot easier than it used to be before,” says Whitehouse. “It means you don't have to worry about the integration of the data; it is all contained in the one cable, and you can get any universe to any point. It makes assigning things on the desk a lot easier because there is no, ‘ok, you've got 10 different universes on this truss, so now we've got to run 10 pieces of data up there.’ They just literally assign a port. Also, I have three consoles live — a main desk, a backup desk, and a tablet PC — and in this system, I can always switch to any desk. For teching the rig, I can switch to the tablet PC without unplugging things. There is just a button to switch things.”

Besides the distribution system, PRG supplied the rest of the lighting package. Curry Grant, senior account executive, lighting services at PRG Los Angeles managed the account. The mainly Vari-Lite and Syncrolite rig is controlled with an Avolite Diamond 4 console. “Avo is second nature to me,” says Whitehouse. “You can do anything with it. We are running 12 universes on it, and it is quite stable.” A surprising piece of gear on the show is Leitch's use of VL4s. Leitch explains his retro design. “We brought a lot of them out of retirement in Dallas for this one,” he says. “And we had a fantastic tech — Brian Monahan — who I specifically asked for because he knows the VL4 backward, as these are not young fixtures. ESP Vision even had to write the personality for us. No one had ever asked them for it before. The quality of what comes out of VL4 — well, there is nothing else like it. Years after they stopped making them, it is still the favorite washlight of a lot of designers.” The VL4s are used on the floor, half of them on the edge of the stage, and the remaining fixtures in holes on the stage. “There are a lot of them, and it looks fantastic,” Leitch concludes.

Actually, the whole show looks fantastic thanks to all the talents Timberlake brought together.


Justin Timberlake 2007 FutureSex/LoveShow World Tour

PRODUCTION MANAGEMENT AND DESIGNERS

Production manager, Co-set designer: Ian Donald

Lighting designer: Bryan Leitch

Lighting designer/programmer: Nick Whitehouse

Video content and screen design: Geodezik

LIGHTING CREW

Head video designer: Mathieu St-Arnaud

Lighting crew chief: Jerry “Hodgie” Vierna

LIGHTING EQUIPMENT

Crew: Pete Feher, Drew Johnston, Stanley Kimberlin (Syncrolite Tech), Brian Monahan (VL Tech), Mike Rinehart, Ryan Textor, Pat Thomsen (PRG Series 400 System Tech)

1 Avolites Diamond 4 Vision Control Console

1 ETC 48 × 2.4kW Sensor 400A Dimmer Rack

1 ETC 24 × 2.4kW Sensor Pack

6 PRG Series 400 Power & Data Distribution Rack

34 VL4 Wash Luminaire

8 VL1000 AS/A1 Fixture

76 VL3000 Spot Fixture

32 VL3000 Wash Fixture

20 Syncrolite MX2

30 4-Lite PAR

16 4-Lite PAR36

120 Color Kinetics ColorBlast12

3 Artistic Licence DMX EtherLynx ArtNet

12 Lycian 2.5kW HMI M2 Followspot

4 High End Systems F100 Fog Machine

4 Reel EFX DF-50 Diffusion

50 Martin Atomic 3000 Strobe 208V

12 Tomcat 360° Truss Chair

3 Clear-Com Two Channel Base Station

18 Clear-Com Com One Channel Beltpack

PROJECTION

18 Aearo Peltor High-Noise Headset

Geodezik Personnel

On-line editing and compositing: Mathieu St-Arnaud, Raymond Saint-Jean, Jimmy Lakatos, Olivier Goulet

Animation: Gabriel Coutu-Dumont, Ed Jordan, Stephanie MacKay

Graphic research: Raymond Saint-Jean, Mathieu St-Arnaud

Live video integration: Olivier Goulet

Technical supervision: Jimmy Lakatos, Olivier Goulet

VIDEO/PROJECTION CREW

Technical consultant: Cyril Bême

Video director: Steve Fatone

Video engineer: Jon Huntington

Camera op: Redo Jackson

Camera op: Simon Cadiz

Camera op: Greg Santos

Camera op/projectionist: Bruce Ramos

Projectionist: Rob La Cour

VIDEO/PROJECTION EQUIPMENT CAMERAS

LEDs/projectionist: Madison Wade

7 Sony HDC 1550 Broadcast Digital Camera

2 Canon 86X1 Camera Lens

2 Canon 55X1 Camera Lens

7 Studio Kits w/View Finder

7 Triax Camera Control Unit

4 Sachtler V-80 Heads and Stick

4 Sony 3-Chip POV Cameras with CCUs on Hotheads with Pan/Tilt/Focus and 19x Lens

2 Elmo PVO

AIR PACK CONTROLS

1 Front of House Lock Down Mini DV Camera

1 Pinnacle 9000 Digital Switcher with 9 Full Functions 3D DVE

4 32" LCD Screens

1 Evertz MVP Multi Signal Monitoring System

VIDEO ENGINEERING

2 Monitor Walls (13 - 4", 10 - 8", 4 - 14" Monitors)

1 Grass Valley Video DA Tray

8 EQ DA

12 Video DA

1 Sierra 32X32 Audio Follow Video Computer Router

1 1740 Waveform/Vectorscope

PROJECTORS

2 Sony 14" Multi-Format CRT Monitor

8 Christie Roadster 20K with 0.73 Lenses

5 Christie Roadster 12K with 0.73 Lenses (Back-Up Projectors)

MEDIA SERVERS

10 42" LCD Screens (Live Action Around the Stage and Bars)

CARPENTRY/RIGGING CREW

6 Photon Media Servers Systems with Realtime FX (VYV Corporation)

Head carpenter: Dewey Shepherd

Carpenter: Dewey Evans

Carpenter: Aaron Cass

Carpenter: Brian Bassham

Carpenter: Alan Doyle

Head rigger: Bill Rengstl

Rigger: Lenyn Barahona

Rigger: Dano Browley

ShowRig crew chief: Robert DeCeglio

ShowRig technician: Angel Aguirre

ShowRig technician: Todd Fass

ShowRig technician: Steve Genovese

ShowRig: Greg Jensen

EFFECTS CREW

ShowRig pre-rig technician: Chris Kunkle
Laser Designer: Doug Adams

SPECIAL EFFECTS

Laser Design Productions Inc.—Lasers

EQIPMENT SUPPLIERS

ShowRig pre-rig technician: Chris Kunkle

Lasers: Chris Blair, Steve McCoy, Gordie Hum

Lighting: PRG LA, Curry Grant

Custom truss and winch system: SGPS ShowRig, Eric Pearse, Brian White

Video servers and projection software: VYV Corporation, Emric Epstein, Martin Granger-Piché

Video screens and equipment: BCC Screenworks, Danny O'Bryen

Staging and lifts: Tait Towers, Winky Fairorth, Adam Davis

Bars and VIP seating: ShowFX, David Mendoza

Barricade: Mojo Barriers, JB Dolphin

Audio: Showco/Clair Brothers

Lasers: Laser Design Productions Inc.


Michael S. Eddy writes about design and technology. He can be reached at mseddy2900@hotmail.


· For information on laser design and production on the European leg of the tour please see:

Laser Design Productions Tours Europe With Justin Timberlake


· For further reading on the Timberlake Tour from MIX Online, please see:

On The Road: Justin Timberlake