A common thread between the arena design and the stadium design of the Bon Jovi Because We Can tour is the video content, however it was used in completely different ways between the two very different legs of the tour—the arena design is dynamically projected during selected songs; the stadium design incorporates LED screens creatively standing in for car parts and the video never goes dark. On both designs, two content creation companies—Moment Factory and Meteor Tower—collaborated closely with Performance Environment Designer Doug “Spike” Brant and his team from the Performance Environment Design Group. Live Design spoke with Ryan Mast, Creative Director for Meteor Tower about working on these two distinctly different designs for the same tour.
Working on their first Bon Jovi tour, the Lancaster, PA-based Meteor Tower was brought in by PEDG early in the design process. “We started working for Bon Jovi with the pitch video for the arena tour’s hex columns,” says Mast. “Spike and Justin [Collie] had us help create a video rendering that showed the possibilities of the set and what could be done with the content, the moving hex columns, the yo-yo lights, and the dynamic projection working together to help everyone visualize the possibilities of the design.” The work that the team did was then useful to translate right into the previz system as the work moved forward. “It helped us workshop the projection content far in advance of actually having a video wall to work with,” explains Mast. “On our side for previz, we built an iPad app to control the 3D model of the hexes; so we could play around with different shapes and configurations before we dove into the animations.”
The Meteor Tower team created and managed content for the arena leg. “For the first leg, we handled a lot of the classic songs and the big rock looks between new content and repurposing looks,” Mast comments. “We created content for a number of songs including “Captain Crash & the Beauty Queen from Mars,” which is one of my favorites. It’s a huge classic explosion of pop art and comic book. That was one of the first songs that we completed, but it became our textbook example of how to create looks for the hex projection—very saturated colors; simple shapes; and sharp textures. That’s the kind of content that works best in a situation like that.”
Mast continues, “Another great number is “When We Were Beautiful”. For that the projection went over the audience. The hex screens went out completely by the end of the song, so we were projecting this 3D swirling line art that engulfed the audience in this time warp effect. It’s a really hopeful, reflective, driving song pulling them into a dream or a memory. It’s very minimal, but it is really effective.”
Along with content creation, Meteor Tower handled content management during the arena leg. Andy Babin, Technical Director from Meteor Tower was in charge of managing the workflow to the programming team. “Andy built separate networks for pulling in content—from Moment Factory and from Meteor Tower’s art team, and for pushing this to Control Freak Systems’ network,” Mast explains. “We were all able to work in separate rooms and push our stuff out over the network and he would keep track of it and push it out to the servers. Oftentimes, we would be pushing several new versions of a song everyday to integrate with the lighting and the hex visual control. Andy kept CFS Programmer Kirk Miller apprised of everything on the server and what versions we were looking at for the content team to be able to take notes. It was a huge amount of data, information, and individual video clips to keep track of throughout the process.”
Working on the arena leg of the tour, Meteor Tower worked from previz through the first several tour dates. Mast is used to creating content on the road; he travels with a backpack complete with two Apple MacBook Pros and a large hard drive. “That’s what I work from; simple, portable, and I can get the job done. I use a combination of programs to create content,” he says. “I use a lot of [Adobe] After Effects and a lot of [Maxon] Cinema 4D. I will also use a little bit of Adobe Premiere for stitching some pieces together and a little bit of Quartz Composer for prototyping things. During programming, I camped out behind Felix [Peralta, Director of Programming] and Eric [Marchwinski, Lighting Programmer] and worked on my laptops. Whenever Felix got an idea for video content, he would turn around and we would talk it out and then I would immediately build, render, and prototype as many ideas as quickly as possible for us to try on the set; to find new things that worked.”
Meteor Tower rejoined the design and programming team in April to work on the stadium design. With the big design shift for the stadium leg of the tour, Meteor Tower made some adjustments as well as they created and re-formatted content for the stadium shows. “There is a difference in style as well as technical differences that we dealt with moving to the stadiums,” says Mast. “For these shows, we were creating really big looks to go across the big LED wall. For “Have a Nice Day” we worked with Felix to build this huge, frenetic, pretty, smiley rock song. On “Wanted Dead or Alive” we worked with Moment Factory and integrated with Felix’s lighting programming to take the car from high noon through sunset; dusk; starry nights; and back to sunrise by lighting the virtual grille, turn signals, and windshield. For the songs “Lay Your Hands on Me” and “Whole Lot of Leavin’” we pulled the car look back and could see the cityscape rolling by in the reflection on the car hood and the grille; and we did the same thing with “Lost Highway””.
Of their experience working on their first Bon Jovi tour Mast states, “It’s been a lot of fun. Getting back together for the stadium tour was a lot like a family reunion. The bonds that all the teams share really catalyzes the creation of good art and more importantly, tight integration. Spike’s been a wonderful mentor to us and Felix was great to work with. Dirk [Sanders from CFS] and Kirk have a great sense of humor and are technical ninjas with a keen eye for the art, which is a combination that is rare to find. It’s a lot of fun to work with them as a content creator, knowing that the person who is running it really cares about making a show that looks excellent. Sooner [Routhier, Lighting Director] really understands the artist and the show really thoroughly; she runs it with an intuitive flow. I loved working alongside Moment Factory and collaborating on the car design. They also genuinely care very deeply about their art and the people that they work with; it shows in their work. Spike’s team is a fascinating blend of artistry and technical wizardry. He brings together from different disciplines and genres to work together to make something bigger than any one of us. As an artist, that’s really exciting to be a part of; it’s an honor to work with them. It’s a really tight show; I’m really happy with what we did.”