Four grandMA consoles comprise the heart of lighting and video control for the new Heart of the City tour co-headlined by Grammy Award winners Jay-Z and Mary J Blige and playing dates across North America through May 8. A.C.T Lighting is the exclusive distributor of grandMA consoles in North America.

“Flexibility and reliability are what make the grandMA control system perfect for us,” reports Artfag, LLC’s Patrick Dierson, the lighting director for both artists. “We have both main and full-tracking backup consoles for both lighting and video. The lighting consoles are networked into a PRG Series 400 system, which provides both power and data distribution for the show. A laptop in the dimmer pit runs ‘grandMA On PC’ software to help facilitate everyday system checks before the FOH consoles are brought online.”

Since the tour has co-headliners, “it was important for each artist’s stage environment to have a distinctive feel,” Dierson notes. Justin Collie, Artfag’s performance environment designer for the tour, gave a softer look to Mary J Blige’s scenic elements by adding three crystal chandeliers for several of her songs as well as beautiful swag curtains which frame an enormous videowall forming the sets’ backdrop. Those elements vanish from Jay-Z’s set automatically giving the stage a more masculine feel.

Dierson’s lighting follows a similar approach with Mary J Blige’s look more pretty and elegant and Jay-Z’s much harsher and in-your-face. Among the fixtures controlled by grandMA are 12 Syncrolite MX3000s, 24 Elation Impressions, 43 Vari-Lite VL-3000s, 35 Vari-Lite VL-3500s, 31 Martin StageBar54s, 15 Martin Atomic Strobes with Color Changers, and 12 NineLight Molefays with Morpheus Color Faders.

Throughout the show grandMA’s macros are used to automatically change fader and button pages. “Both artists’ shows are heavily reliant on individual visual hits, pushes and accents which require a lot of separate faders and buttons,” Dierson explains. “With that in mind, each song—and there are over 40 possible choices for each artist— has its own dedicated page, giving instant access to all the necessary playbacks. In all, there are over 2,000 lighting cues in the show with more added on a daily basis.”

Another grandMA feature used extensively is the cuelist Info window. “This allows us to have notes pertaining to which playbacks are to be utilized during individual cues as well as notes regarding follow spot cues,” says Dierson. “Given the fast pace at which the show runs and the last-minute changes in the setlist, this has proved to be very helpful for us on a nightly basis.”

The main grandMAs have been performing so well that “our backup consoles have been sitting idle since rehearsals,” he reports. “So far they have only had their Backup buttons touched.”

"With Patrick Dierson, Justin Collie and Drew Findley, you get the All-Star team. I know that they will dig deeply into the grandMA’s feature set. This is a show that will be fun to watch and I cannot wait to see it," comments A.C.T Lighting President and CEO Bob Gordon.

For the Heart of the City tour Drew Findley is the video systems programmer handling control of the Control Freak Systems’ Encore DMX Bridge and four PRG M-Box Extreme Media Servers.