The grandMA has hit the road with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers as the band celebrates its 30th anniversary with the national Highway Companion Tour. A pair of grandMA consoles, supplied by Ed & Ted, are currently in use on the third leg of the tour, which runs through the end of this month. A.C.T. Lighting is the exclusive North American distributor for grandMA.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers are selling out concerts and breaking house records across the country. The band has sold more than 50 million records since its formation, received 16 Grammy nominations and was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the first year of its eligibility.

The tour’s production designer, Jim Lenahan's approach to lighting and video is “very much a combination of super new, and old school,” reports noted programmer Stan Green. “There’s no video director—everything is programmed into the lighting cues and controlled by the grandMA. The grandMA’s versatility and networking capabilities have just changed our lives. We love the console.”

He adds, "During programming I can write something at one console, and Jim can play it back without us changing seats. During the show, I can edit, update, and monitor anything, and everything, without interrupting Jim's flow.”

Serving as a backdrop for the band are several curved trusses that all move during the show; two large curved video walls just behind the band also move independently. The curved trusses are mounted with Element Laboratories’ VersaTiles. Each square features two Element Labs’ VersaTubes hanging below the group of tiles and four-foot VersaTubes suspended below the truss, icicle-style. These act like masking on the fronts of all the moving trusses. “They produce beautiful textures and interesting movement, which blend in and combine with the content on the video walls,” continues Green.

“We’re controlling the video in a completely modern way: in the lighting cues via the grandMA. The grandMA controls the all camera switching and four robotic cameras. In addition, there are two V4 Catalysts. Through the console we can control which camera goes to which layer of video on which screen, move them around, fade them etc. We can put any camera in front of interesting backgrounds with Catalyst. Many times the same content will be used on the screens, the Versa tubes, and tiles to really bring it all together. We can also apply effects, not only with Catalyst, but through the software supplied by Control Freak. And we can control where the robotic cameras are pointed. It’s all very cool, very flexible.”

Green notes that 90% of the grandMA’s programming was accomplished during rehearsals and without imposing on the band’s time. “When you’re programming the camera and video switching, you need the band there, but Jim Lenahan (of Jim Lenahan Production Design) created actual-size cardboard standups of the band and that worked really well. It looked like they were there from the front of house.”

The tour’s lighting, controlled by the grandMA, took a more conventional turn. “It’s pretty traditional, with lots of hard-edged moving lights and wash lights,” says Green. “The band's key light is accomplished with Source 4 Lekos, and there are 8-light Moles for the audience. Atomic Strobes, Star Strobes, and Color Block are also used in the show.

On the tour Lenahan runs the show on one grandMA console while Green edits and programs the second grandMA; both systems are networked together. “If we need a change during the show, I make the change on my console and Jim picks it up,” Green explains. “I can catch a problem like needing to reset a fixture or redirect a camera, fix it and Jim doesn’t even know there’s been a problem.”

“It is an honor to have the grandMA on tour with Jim and Stan. Stan is a consummate programmer and a designer in his own right. Jim Lenahan is one of the more artistic designers anywhere. I have seen his work for more years than either of us would want to admit. He has been at the forefront of projection in concert lighting. Knowing that the grandMA enables Jim and Stan to do things that no other console will do makes me very proud,” comments Bob Gordon, president and CEO of A.C.T Lighting.

“The grandMA has been great -- it’s so versatile and powerful,” Green concludes.

The lighting equipment is supplied by Ed and Teds Excellent Lighting. The Catalysts, VersaTiles and VersaTubes for the tour were supplied by CWP. XL Video provided the Barco LED walls and video crews.