Sony/BMG recording artist Eros Ramazzotti recently wrapped up a European tour in support of his latest album, Calma Apparente (Apparent Calm), that included a long series of sold-out indoor arena dates in his home country of Italy. Crowds were also treated to the first, exclusive live music outing utilizing Komaden Image Mesh and See-Through Vision LED screens, thanks to a deal between the Japanese manufacturer and Paolo Gualdi of specialist projection firm Le Grandi Immagini (LGI), as well as a lighting rig designed by Barry “Baz” Halpin.
The show was produced by LemonandPepper and designed by the firm's Giorgio Ioan with Halpin and Gualdi. The creative team also included producer Sam Pattinson of Onedotzero for the video content, LGI for the projection gear, STS for the live video coverage and video control system, and Agorà, the contractor that supplied the lighting rig.
Ramazzotti's staff and management decided to change over from the theatrical mood of the previous tour and go for a much more dynamic modern show. “My brief was to create an abstract cubist feel that could be manipulated to create different environments,” Halpin says. “We wanted to start the show with no LEDs in view, so we opted for an upstage kabuki, painted with the same images as the flooring, and the onstage band risers. The idea of this was to get the audience used to the cubist theme that would continue throughout the show. As the show progressed, we introduced the other elements of the production, starting with projection, Image Mesh, motorized tulle, Brash FX and folding See-Through Vision LED screens. All the material was created specifically for these particular screen shapes and movements.”
Rather than the screens dictating his design, Halpin emphasized how the production was designed collaboratively. “Eros was very keen to use the screens, so we had a set of parameters/guidelines to work with, and everything came together with an overall view as each design element affected the others.”
While the Martin Performance 2000 and MAC 2000 Wash are the workhorses of most of his designs, Halpin says he was also keen to try Robe Wash 1200s and Space Cannon fixtures (Ipnosi 3kW Xenon instruments and Zeus LED fixtures installed under the band risers). “I was very impressed with the Ipnosis. They were very reliable, and the option of color mixing is quite effective,” he says. “The big light look is fast becoming a standard in lighting rigs now, and it's always nice to have options.”
Regarding the content, Pattinson and his team at Onedotzero also worked from Ioan's request for an edgy but clean look in a cubist style. Visuals produced in-house and on site included 3D cubes, traveling lines, a 3D city, and a flight of birds. “Apart from the obvious resolution parameters, we needed to provide material that could travel between the front and back screens,” he says. “We also needed to exploit the transparency of the LED, so we centered as much material as we could to hide the edges of the screens. The brightness of the Komaden screens really accentuated the graphic looks that we did. The real beauty of the [See-Through] screens is the fact that they can be pulled in and out during the show covertly, so we concentrated on giving the audience the impression that the screens were suddenly appearing.
“Our animation team found the different resolutions on the two screens challenging,” adds Pattinson. “It meant a lot of rendering. To compensate for the compression through the Grass Valley [Turbo iDDR video servers] and Folsom Encore Controller SC, we had to start big to ensure that, by the time the clips had been through the mill, they still looked good.”
The two largest cameras, supplied by specialist Milan firm STS for live shots, were mounted on a Christie 25,000 ANSI lumen Roadie projector's platform, behind platforms hosting the FOH audio console and two Flying Pig Systems Hog® iPCs, manned by Theo Cox and his assistant. The backstage video control setup, managed by the seven-strong video team, included three Folsom ScreenPro II HD graphic mixers, controlled by a Folsom Encore SC. Alberto Azzola of STS says, “The ScreenPro units enabled us to align the visuals pixel to pixel with the screens to ensure optimum yield.”
The three desks received the SDI video signals and those from the two Grass Valley Turbo iDDR video servers. The visuals loaded in the servers were called up via a Dataton show controller that was, in turn, controlled by the timecode feed from the FOH audio setup, ensuring perfect sync between audio and video. The graphic mixers also received feeds from LGI's two Brash servers used to process some of the live feeds received from STS. This resulted in some particularly effective visuals, including a storm of whirling cubes with live footage superimposed on some of their sides.
Gualdi explains how he came to use the Image Mesh. “I saw the screens for the first time at LDI, where the Japanese firm was inundated with serious contacts. A week after the expo, I was in Tokyo to ink the deal with the firm after having described the product to Giorgio Ioan.”
For the Ramazzotti tour, LGI supplied the main Image-Mesh screen, with a pixel-to-pixel distance of 25mm, flown in front of a black backdrop, as well as the two See-Through Vision screens, with a pixel-to-pixel distance of 50mm, on either side. “These are divided into panels, each of which is mounted on a Komaden Accordion system that raises and lowers them,” says Gualdi.
The Christie projector was also supplied by LGI and used to project animated images on to a kabuki at the start of the show and then, when the kabuki dropped, the same images continued on the Image Mesh. The Roadie was also used on three motorized gauze drapes, completely changing the apparent dimensions of the set.
Gualdi was so quick to act when he spotted the products at LDI that he encountered a few non-technical problems. “We now have a Japanese person on our staff, as the manuals and programs are all in Japanese at present,” he says. “However, the new program, due for release in June, will be in English, so we'll be able to exploit all the screens' facilities!”