Regarding the incorporation of video into Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s Wrecking Ball Tour, designer Jeff Ravitz jokes, “This show has more commitment problems than a twice-divorced 40-year-old man. So, integrating video just doesn’t seem to really work.”
Ravitz refers to the fact that the video elements are mostly I-Mag, with a bit of additional content used on an upstage wall of screens for stadium shows. “Some color coordination is about as far as integration [of lighting and video] goes,” he says, adding that the I-Mag is “expertly executed” by video director Chris Hilson. “It’s about Bruce and the band, and to that end, he delivers those subtle and not-so-subtle emotions to the back of the arena,” Ravitz says. “We have screens far right, left, and above the center of the lighting system. Chris can juxtapose any one camera with another on any of those screens so he can show relationships between band members as they perform.”
For the little content that is used, the tour carries 612 DiGiLED MC7 LED panels for left-right screens and 432 DiGiLED MC15 LED panels for the upstage wall, all mounted in custom Tait Towers frames. “We have a completely unique screen configuration on the side screens,” says Ravitz. “It’s an inverted T-shape that allows for either a horizontal or vertical aspect ratio depending on what’s being shot any given moment. It’s important that Bruce doesn’t see the crowd looking up at the screens instead of at the stage. So the screens are positioned so the front ten or 20 rows can’t really see them.” A Green Hippo Hippotizer HD media server and a Ross Video Vision 4 MLE switcher handle content, while the camera setup includes five Sony HD 1500s, four Sony HDC1s, a Panasonic HD Robocam, and a Canon HD Camcorder. Video gear was provided by Pete’s Big TVs.
As for scenic elements, Ravitz says that the design of the stage itself, which he calls “a combination WW2 battleship and Starship Enterprise,” is really all there is. “That’s where Bruce Rodgers came in so importantly,” Ravitz says. “The stage has evolved for over 25 years, with monitors built into the floor and below-level tech quarters, but from an artistic and creatively-functional point of view, the stage is multi-level to allow Bruce and the band to tier and layer themselves, and for them to vary their proximity and relationship to the audience. So, from the main stage level where the mic line is, we drop down to a lower-level cross-stage runway that brings the band close and low to the crowd. We seat behind the stage, too, and there is a high runway across the back to allow them to really play to that rear audience.”
All those levels result in a lot of vertical planes to light, and Ravitz worked closely with Rodgers to create interesting structures to catch light on those surfaces, as well as to allow light to shoot through from behind. “That is my scenery—something to create a background behind the band on many different levels and heights around the stage,” says Ravitz. “Across the back runway is a safety handrail, and I have two powerful lights grazing that handrail. It’s an amazing little accent and eye-catcher, but I laugh at how pathetic it is that I have to light a handrail to create depth and dimension, but it really works.”
Rodgers also designed finished detailing around the set, Ravitz says, “with beautiful edging that also catches light—subtle and maybe not immediately recognized as set design, but believe me, it is, and it’s great.” Tait Towers built the stage.
Stay tuned for one more part of our interview with Jeff Ravitz.