video staging design/direction: Willie Williams
video producer, content, interactive: Sam Pattinson
original lighting and set design: Vince Foster
lighting director/co-designer: Benoit Richard
video content: Luke Halls, Damian Hale
additional content: Richard Cullen, Alex Rutterford
video director: Andy Bramley
interactive video design: Jason Bruges, Zena Bruges, Jon Hodges, Anna Graves
video archive consultant: Nick Bradbury, Matt Pyke, Luke Halls
animation: Alex Rutterford, Richard Cullen, Damian Hale, Shiv Pandya
screen technical design: Frederick Opsomer, Marc Fichefet, Olivier Clybouw
video interactive programming: Sebastian Oschatz, David Dessens
graphics playback: Quintin Willison, Craig Edwards
video support: Sebastian Davey Rigging: Gavin Weatherall, Andy Bailey
set construction: Chris Cronin, Merv Thomas
soft goods: Colin Hannah
stage engineering: Neil Darrocott
Willie Williams created video and staging design and served as director for George Michael’s 25 Live European tour, for which his design goal was to create a look that was “visually sophisticated, glossy, and very stylish—quite grown up…with video being the major feature.”
The major design elements included one continuous roll of LED material consisting entirely of Barco MiStrips to create a tiered, “Jailhouse Rock”-inspired set that was also reminiscent of a photographer’s studio. The huge screen allowed the designer to accommodate Michael’s varied styles of music and to create entirely immersive environments, such as the ocean under a blood red sky, scrolling film, or autumn leaves falling from the back of the screen to the floor of the screen. To achieve this, the screen had to be a series of seamless curves that the performers could walk on, with large sections able to track left and right to create an upstage center door for Michael’s entrance.
Content was a mix of pre-created material and interactive video elements that responded to the music, as well as elements triggered by Michael’s onstage movement. A live camera setup also incorporated I-Mag content. Williams worked with Sam Pattinson, video producer, and video artists Luke Halls and Damian Hale. Richard Cullen and Alex Rutterford joined the team to provide additional content, and Quintin Willison of Digital Antics designed video playback and control software, while Jason Bruges designed a custom system for the interactive video elements. Video content for the main screen was stored and run from three playback computers, all with identical media files. Each was a dual Xeon PC with 1GB of RAM, Windows XP Professional OS, and a pair of striped SATA drives to cater to the high bandwidth requirements.
Responding to timecode from the sound department, the software developed by Digital Antics provided pixel mapping and layered compositing in real time for multiple sources, including QuickTime movie files from a local hard disk, SDI video input and DVI graphics input, as well as command and control over several external devices, including a Barco Folsom DVI Matrix and a Doremi Labs V1 DDR.
Lighting design was taken on by Vince Foster and eventually supplemented by lighting director and co-designer Benoit Richard, who also programmed the lighting, ran the console, and called spots. The lighting department took the lead from the video design, as the custom video content dictated the color palette of some songs, while special interactive video content gave lighting a little more flexibility to pick color palettes in other songs. The biggest challenge for lighting was to make the stage look like one playing area and not two separate lighting rigs split up by the massive screen.
The networked control system included a Wholehog 3 serving as the playback spare, with five Wholehog DP-2000 DMX processors backstage connected via Cat-6 snake lines from front of house on a D-Link managed switch system.
Barco MiStrips, I12 tiles, D320 Digitizers, Barco/Folsom DVI Matrix, and controllers
Lighthouse R16 Screen
Grass Valley Kayak SD PPU
Martin Professional MAC 2000 Wash and Profiles, and Atomic Strobes
Zap Technology Big Lites 4.5kW
James Thomas Engineering PixelLines
I-Pix Satellite LEDs
Mole Richardson 8-Lights with Wybron Coloram II Scrollers
Robert Juliat Ivanhoe 2kW Followspots
Strong Entertainment Lighting Super Trouper 2.5kW Followspots
Flying Pig Systems Wholehog 3 Consoles
High End Systems Catalyst V.4 Media Server, SAMSC Designs Ltd PixelMad Software
Kinesys Variable Speed Hoists
Doremi V1 SD DDR
JBS/MESA interactive/reactive PCs
Lighting, trusses, and rigging by Neg Earth
Video by XL Video UK Ltd