Electric Zoo started in 2009 and is held each summer on New York’s Randall’s Island, just under the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. Jonathan Goldstein and his team at StarLight Visual have taken on the massive production design and visual direction since the festival’s inception, this year for three days of artists playing on several stages dominated by video. That included six headlining acts, two per evening.
Goldstein, who has been creative director/production designer for the festival since it started, says that he worked with festival management to create an all-encompassing experience from the moment the guest enters the grounds, including his goal to "melt brains" with his stage designs. "The concept was to bring a unique design to each of the stages based on the genre of music," he says. "We treat every single stage as if it were a tour, so a lot of time goes into each stage design."
Electric Zoo featured four stages submersed in video—Main Stage, Riverside, Hilltop, and Sunday School—each with its own unique blend of content, including a 3D stereoscopic set for Riverside, complete with 3D glasses distributed to audience members. The Main Stage and Hilltop comprised PRG Nocturne V-28 and V-18 screens with two PRG Mbox Extreme v3.5 media servers, Riverside used WinVision 9mm passive polarized 3D screens with four more Mbox Extremes, and Sunday School featured a school bus set with pixel-mapped PRG Nocturne V-9 screens for windows, two Green Hippo v3 HD media servers, and Barco 20K HD projection.
Goldstein’s lighting design for a show like this is necessarily minimal. "The bottom line is that 70% of this show is in daylight, where lighting has no real visual impact, so there are no aerials, no beams, no real competing with mother nature," he says. "We do love the Clay Paky Sharpys and used 100 of them on this show, as well as Martin Professional MAC 101s and Atomics."
Lighting and video ran separate consoles if an artist’s LD or VJ was involved in a set. Otherwise, console sessions were merged. "Each stage had multiple layers of networking within," says Goldstein. "This included multiple separate IP networks for the actual performing artists to Bonjour Chat with the visual directors live during their show." Control across the four stages included ten MA Lighting grandMA consoles, two each ChamSys MagicQ MQ300s and MQ100s, and two High End Systems Wholehog 3s.
A Tait/FTSI Navigator automation system—"making my life not only easy, but making the production team’s life easier," says Goldstein—handled motion on the Main Stage. "Tait worked with me to design a system that would work for a one-off and carry out all the tasks needed to make this design logistically feasible for all six headliners as well as carry out a dynamic design for the remaining artists, each one with its unique structural arrangement."
The team held a previsualization session with Prelite’s Tom Thompson. "Although we do own our own wysiwyg suite, I still prefer to let the professionals handle this, with a detailed system that incorporates rigging automation, multiple layers of video input, and, of course, lighting," says Goldstein. "It does get time-consuming and require amazing pieces of hardware to operate seamlessly."
For content and set concepts, Goldstein used various applications, but he notes his preference for SketchUp. "We do chalk renders, and set and video designs in there and also fly through animations," he says. "It’s an amazing tool. I have been working with Shaderlight and SketchUp for the last year to help develop the application a little more toward our industry. The SketchUp/Vectorworks combo worked amazingly."
Stay tuned for more about the Electric Zoo Festival.