The final installment our discussion with Jonathan Goldstein regarding his production/lighting design for the North American leg of Alicia Keys’ Set The World On Fire Tour, including lighting provided by Premier Global Production, video by Chaos Visual Productions, scenic and automation by Tait, previz at Volt Lites, and soft goods from Rose Brand. (Photos courtesy of Starlight Visual).
Live Design: Talk a bit out the video elements in the show.
Jonathan Goldstein: Video was the biggest technical element to this design and therefore the reasoning behind the video powerhouse team: Cameron Yeary, John DaCosta , and Florian Mosley. Cameron led the pack with his technical design of all video elements, including the [coolux] Pandoras Box design. We attempted to do some really unique effects with the video using the Pandoras flexibility and the Widget Designer application. We actually cut the cameras through the Pandoras system, via the [MA Lighting] grandMA2 console, which at the start of the tour worked well until the artist requested some additional cameras. We had to go to a more formal approach to the I-Mag feed at that point. Cameron was able to write applications in Widget Designer that were able to control other pieces of hardware in the video system, allowing for low latency integration of I-Mag into the servers. Florian took over for Cameron on the road as Pandoras tech, and John operated the visuals and directed the I-Mag. John actually taught [lighting director/programmer] Jesse Blevins how to dance behind a console, so I have to deal with a shaking riser on most shows.
One really challenging cool element for the visuals of the show was that Alicia, as brand ambassador for Blackberry, teamed up with them to have a really unique moment with the fans in each city. At the end of the show, there was this really beautiful transition video that gets played between the last song and the encore song that features actual photographs of fans in every single city that the tour stopped at. Blackberry headed the video project up, and we actually had to receive and transcode files on a daily basis to achieve this local organic element to the show. John had a dedicated internet connection in every venue and was tasked with downloading a 10GB 2K .mov file from the UK, transcoding, and implementing it into the show’s timecode structure and servers for playback every day! Anyone who has toured can understand certain venues do not have internet service to the standards they should be, resulting in eight- to ten-hour download times. Sometimes the files were loaded while people were entering the building. It was really cool for the fans in the end.
LD: How was video content created?
JG: Skitch TV and Simon Henwood created the show visuals, along with Blackberry’s production team, NEXUS, in the UK.
LD: What about the mix of I-Mag and prerecorded content?
JG: We ultimately ended up with six cameras doing live I-Mag on this show. On top of that, we shot both Jay-Z and Maxwell to appear as our virtual guests for “Empire State Of Mind” and “Fire We Make,” respectively. Jay-Z’s shoot was simple and lit in the same respect as a Caravaggio painting. He wore these amazing chains, like 10 of them. I took it into [Adobe] After Effects and did this pretty crazy bling effect on the light reflections off the chains. They were both SMPTE time-coded for accurate playback.
LD: What are the screens and projectors you’re using?
JG: We used WinVision 9mm LED product for our LED, which was all on Tait Navigator automation control. That allowed us to close down the band and just make Alicia and the audience connect for the intimate moments. We also had two 40K Barco HDQ-2K40 projectors which are mind blowingly amazing. I won’t use any other projector now. The only issue is that they are roughly the size and weight of a Mini Cooper, so that proves challenging in non-arena venues. We rolled with two 26Ks for venues that were not arenas.
LD: Is the control system networked?
JG: Video and lighting control are networked together, yes. The goal was that one operator could run the show, which eventually did take place after the US run of the tour was completed.
LD: What about other elements that use motion control?
JG: The LED walls on the Tait Navigator flew vertically for the show. Our DS scrim set was on a Tait Austrian system, controlled via Navigator as well. There was a center mobilator that Alicia’s piano lived on and traveled upstage to downstage, and there was also the Tait slip lift on the DS apron. This was awesome because we were able to put all different types of instrumentation on this and bring it up for Alicia to play throughout the show. Each one of her songs requires a different piano sound, so instead of having a bunch of stagehands come out and lift and move and plug-in different instruments, this allowed us to seamlessly hide and reveal elements keeping the show flowing and the stage clean.
LD: What about the soft goods you used?
JG: We used a 6 point/3 thread woven gray scrim from Rose Brand. It took two full days of testing with projection to come up with a material that would both receive the projection properly, as well as hide the performers behind and allow us to use it as a sharks tooth scrim. Zoe Paine at Rose Brand was uber helpful in this process. She is like the queen of projected materials.