Lighting designer Christopher Landy of Vibrant Design LLC lit the Woodie Awards for mtvU (MTV Networks’ 24-hour college network) for the fourth year and collaborated on media design for the annual show that recognizes music voted best by college students nationwide. The show aired on mtvU, MTV, MTV2, and Palladia in December and is currently available online at Woodies.MTV.com.
Once again, New York City’s Roseland Ballroom played host to the awards. “The show is a tribute to the music college students live their lives to,” says Landy. “Keeping that in mind, we chose to take an alternative approach to the show. The challenge we were given was to rethink how we use the room—to invent a unique and dynamic ground-plan. A show like this requires two stages: a performers’ stage and a presenters’ stage.” They chose to turn the room around, using the old architectural stage as the performers’ stage, which Landy says gave a long horizontal shot in 16x9, and they placed the presenters’ stage in a corner, allowing them to show off the seldom-seen architecture of the room. “The Woodies have a different vibe than MTV’s Video Music Awards—VMAs—but all the elements are there for a major two-hour awards show,” Landy adds. “It’s a huge show; we cram a lot in and push Roseland to the limit.”
Eric Conte, vice president of production at MTV and the show’s executive producer, calls The Woodies “indie music’s annual moment of truth. Chris does a great job creating exciting custom looks for all of the show performers. He works closely with each artist, explores their motivations, and brings their songs to life in a very powerful way.”
Landy and production designer Tom Lenz of 513 opted to incorporate more video into this year’s show. “We used the venue’s balcony as a projection surface that wrapped the stage,” Landy explains. “For the balcony, we used nine [Barco High End Systems] DL.3 projectors, blended to create one 90'-wide image. This allowed for some pretty cool imaging. Tom designed this massive truss that looked like it was crashing into the balcony. We wrapped it in video and utilized it for the presenters’ names. Instead of traditional masking, we used the low-res G-LEC LightFrame.”
The performance stage featured three screens upstage for high-resolution video content and six low-res screens on wagons. Each wagon was approximately 8'-tall by 4'-wide, with transparent low-res video panels on top and Vari-Lite VL2500 spots and Philips Color Kinetics ColorBlasts. “The wagons were brilliant,” says Landy. “They allowed us to customize the look for each band beyond the lighting or the media content.” Two I-MAG screens, provided by Nocturne Productions, bookended the stage.
Landy teamed with Lenz and visual media programmer Cameron Yeary to craft original content for the bands. “Some of the bands provided imagery that acted as a catalyst for us to run with,” Landy recalls. “It’s great to work with up-and-coming bands. Often a show like this offers them more production value than any venue they’ve played. Some of the bands have yet to really participate with designers on a collaborative process. It’s pretty gratifying.”
Landy notes that, when he and Lenz partner on projects, they are often called on to do more and more video elements, bringing together designers and artists they know can deliver amazing work. “We created characters that could walk and dance around the length of the balcony,” Landy says. “We created light-writing images to announce the bands, we shot original footage, and we made all of our content unique. We made a lot of work for ourselves, but we had a great time doing it.”
“Chris and Tom work well together to make sure the stage design works with lighting and projection,” adds Conte. “That provides great efficiencies in production and results in a very unique-looking show that we’re very proud of.”
Scharff Weisberg provided lighting and video gear and helped manage the video. Associate LD was Matthew Piercy, with gaffer Ronnie Skopak and lighting programmer Cory FitzGerald. MTV’s Ross Martin was also an executive producer, with Tracy Hellerud as supervising producer.