Unless you were lucky enough to see Stone Temple Pilots live prior to eight years ago when the band split, you've only been able to see the incomparable Scott Weiland perform with his other hugely successful band, Velvet Revolver. That is, until now. His return to the stage with STP for a reunion tour, after a long, big empty period off the concert scene, was something devotees have only hoped might happen for almost a decade. Sure, fans now are probably — hopefully — well beyond the plaid shirts of the grunge movement, during the early stages of which STP made its acclaimed debut. Fashion sense of its fans aside, the band is clearly not forgotten.

Alastair Bramall-Watson is out with STP running the show for the lighting and video, officially as lighting director, but he actually designed the lighting, built the custom video content, and programmed the show. “If it's visual, I'm in on it,” he says, adding that the initial discussions about the tour with director of production Charlie Hernandez involved two requirements: a lot of strobes and video. “The band really doesn't mind smoke or strobes,” Bramall-Watson adds. “They don't mind it being dark, so they are great to light. I have tried to use as many colors as possible, but there is something about this band that screams for dark images on the screen and Congo [blue] lighting in the psychedelic parts. The guys are not worried about being in silhouette, and it's good not to have to worry about frontlight being on all the time.”

Op Art was also a major influence going into the design process. “I had great fun creating optical illusion content for the video screen,” says Bramall-Watson. “Some of it is pretty trippy. The idea was to create as much depth as possible on what is an essentially flat screen. That, coupled with the high contrast of Op Art pieces, really adds that depth.”

Within a week of early discussions, Bramall-Watson and Hernandez settled on one plot for some initial radio shows and smaller gigs, as well as a provisional plot for the second main leg. “Lee Gipson, who is touring with Santana at the moment, used to do STP for years as their lighting guy,” says Bramall-Watson. “He gave me a lot of advice at the start of this, as well.”

Having control of both the lighting and video, Bramall-Watson created his design with a “big picture” sort of mentality. “For some songs, I had a specific piece of video in mind and programmed the lighting to suit it,” he says. “Other songs were definitely lighting-oriented, and video was then picked to complement the lighting.”

With a minimal set, the video is intended to dominate the stage. The first leg employed a 50'×20' Main Light Industries Soft-LED screen, while the second leg took on a 57'×18' LSI Saco V-Lite Screen from Nocturne Productions. Serving it all are two High End Systems Axon media servers — one active and one spare — linked together, “so I can update new content to them both remotely from FOH,” says Bramall-Watson.

Bramall-Watson's lighting rig consists of a combination of Vari-Lite VL3000 Spots atop two upright truss towers, Martin Professional MAC 2000 Washes and Profiles, and Atomic Colors. A 60' white cyc behind the V-Lite screen provides a surface for a color wash via PixelRange PixelLine 1044s. “The backline on this is minimal and low key, so it's great to be able to have lights on the floor and still get functionality out of them,” says Bramall-Watson. “I love backlight, but there have been many occasions where I have come up with a great floor light package, put it out in rehearsals, and then somebody comes along and builds an apartment building in front of it. That has not been the case on this tour. The lines are clean and great for me.”

Designing around a 60' stage rather than a 40' one, the Soft-LED screen grew in size from the original design to 50', and since no one wanted to sacrifice the truss towers, Bramall-Watson pushed them to the side a bit, he says, “to give the screen its full due. I have my work cut out for me dealing with the artistic side of this, so the budget is a production thing for me on this tour. I was aware that this Soft-LED screen was pretty bright, and I knew we would go into the main part of our tour with a brighter screen still, so it was important to get a fixture bright enough that it could wash over it, if necessary, or at least hold its own. That's why I wanted to get the VL3000s at the back to shoot over the band.”

Footage for the center stage screens is mostly custom content. Bramall-Watson, who says he is “an Apple guy, through and through,” uses a combination of Apple Final Cut Studio, Motion, and Shake to build content, followed by Compressor to convert files to MPEG2 format for the media servers. He then uses the High End Content Management Application (CMA) from FOH to load clips into the servers “from the comfort of whichever flight case I happen to be sitting on that day,” he jokes. “It's all seamless. It all talks to each other, plus we film the show every night for archive. I just drop that into Apple DVD Studio Pro, and the band typically gets the previous night's show on DVD from hi-res camera literally 24 hours later.”

Any I-Mag content is typically set up by each venue and controlled by the house, if screens are available, but if Bramall-Watson has the option, he can link the Axon servers to the house system. “I will call content mixes onto the side screens as well, so we get the best of both worlds,” he says. “I love the layout. It is simple but extremely effective.”

Video and lighting are run on two High End Systems Hog iPCs (one for backup) with a PRG Series 400 Power and Data Distribution System. “If anything goes wrong — touch wood, it hasn't yet — I just hit a big red emergency button, and I'm over to the spare,” Bramall-Watson says. “This also allows us to use the spare as the primary desk for the support band. I am using a Super Widget with the iPC, running seven active universes.'' He also has a Wholehog Playback Wing “for those extra flourishes a rock show needs,” he says.

Not a lot of preprogramming was done for the tour, but Bramall-Watson did choose his palettes off site in advance using the Hog iPC's color picker to get a jump on programming. He wasn't always a Hog user, he admits, but he started using the iPC while working on a Nine Inch Nails tour with designer Martin Phillips. “I love the CMA,” he says. “I know it's not new, but just going right into the servers from FOH to update content, or even to tweak a piece of content, and then feed it back into the system has saved me hours. It has made me really hone the video content. At times when I might have left something to deal with later, I just do it straight away now, as I don't really have to stop what I am doing. Having to ask the video tech to come and get my USB stick to feed more video in can be tiresome, so luckily, that does not need to happen.” He also notes that the process of replicating and changing fixtures on the iPC saved time, especially on the first leg of radio shows. “It's also easy to swap fixtures,” he adds. “I can be up and running in 10 minutes, even with a full change of lighting fixtures on a show day.”

Bramall-Watson calls both video and spots on some shows. “If we are using house screens, it comes as second nature now,” he says. “Luckily, the show is well laid out on the desk, so I have the ability to be able to concentrate on all three.”

All rigging for the tour is by PRG, but Bramall-Watson notes that one of his design elements included the elimination of ladders on the trusses, so if something goes wrong, one must be dropped in. “I have really stepped away from generic lighting on this design,” he says. “I think we have two PAR cans, and they are on the floor for [singer] Scott. Apart from audience abuse, everything in the air has a DMX cable going into it.”

Bramall-Watson adds that everything has been running well on the road, and he tries to add at least one new song to the programming each show day, just in case the band decides to surprise him, but this doesn't faze him. He and touring production manager Steve Drymalski are always looking to improve the show. “We are happy with it, but constant tweaking of little bits is a good thing,” he says. “Having Steve around is a great thing. He used to be a lighting guy, so it's good to have somebody who knows a bit about more it, other than what things cost a week.”

What does faze the 13-year touring veteran is sitting still at FOH, he says, “so I don't shake the video camera filming for archive. I can't stand still while I run a show to save my life.” Rock on.

STONE TEMPLE PILOTS

LIGHTING/VIDEO

CREW

Alastair Bramall-Watson, lighting designer

Steve Drymalski, production manager

Colin West, stage manager

Jim Pettrusson, lighting crew chief

Joe Huq, lighting/dimmer tech

Johnathan Fuller, lighting crew

Angelo Bartolome, video tech, V-Lite system

Bobby Cox, video tech, Soft-LED system

Harry Gray, rigger/carpenter

GEAR

LIGHTING

17 Vari-Lite VL3000 Spot

31 Martin Professional MAC 2000 Wash

20 Martin Professional MAC 2000 Profile

29 Martin Professional Atomic Color

30 DWE Strip

17 PixelRange PixelLine 1044

2 Short Nose PAR64

VIDEO

1 50'×20' 2.5“ Main Light Soft-LED (for first leg)

1 57'×18' LSI Saco V-Lite Screen

2 High End Systems Axon Media Server

CONTROL/DISTRIBUTION

2 High End Systems Hog iPC Console

1 High End Systems Wholehog Playback Wing

PRG Series 400 Power and Data Distribution System

VENDORS

PRG (John Lee), lighting and rigging

Nocturne Productions (Bob Brigham), video