R. Kelly’s Double Up US tour kicked off Nov. 14 with a slew of gear including 25 High End Systems Showguns, 18 25 High End Systems DL.2s, and a Control Freak Systems package. The Control Freak Systems package is comprised of their Encore DMX Bridge, MicroServerHD software applications that help distribute video across three Lighthouse LED screens, two Mainlight Industries SoftLED curtains, and 60 G-Lux low-resolution LED frames. All of the products are controlled as a single, combined pixel space where the isolation of each element is controlled by sizing various Encore PIP layers onto each of the video elements.

Production designer Patrick Dierson helped create the show with R. Kelly. “It’s broken into four quarters,” Dierson explains. “Each with a bit of a thematic flow. The first is rather hard hitting with R. Kelly making a big, over-the-top Mohammed Ali-style entrance in a boxing ring to the song, ‘The Champ.’ Then he goes into his top dance hits. The second quarter slows down with traditional smooth and sexy R&B. The third revolves around his collaboration with the other artists including T-pain, Fat Joe, and Ciera.

“The fourth quarter starts with R. Kelly dressed like an orchestra conductor and carrying sheet music,” Dierson continues. “He goes to an enormous music stand and, with an illuminated baton, conducts a SMPTE-timecoded light show to two compositions by Beethoven. An MPC controls SMPTE and houses the samples which play back the Beethoven track while the timecode is fed to a front-of-house lighting position.”

Dierson notes that R. Kelly has always had problems getting the lighting of his shows to be exactly as he envisioned it. “Now, for the first time in his career, he has complete control. He was very involved in the lighting and sat with us throughout the programming sessions.”

The Beethoven segment leads to a big finale, which is “very much based around unifying the audience,” says Dierson. “It leads off with a song called ‘Happy People.’ It’s a big sing-along about peace and love, and R. Kelly invites members of the audience to come onstage and dance with him.”

The Double Up tour’s high production values required an MA Lighting grandMA to control all the lighting, the DL.2 projectors, video control and routing, Control Freak systems integration, and M-box servers. The grandMA also controls the Mainlight Soft Motion system and a DMX-controlled motor cabling system for soft goods like white drape. The cabling system is programmed so the drapes can be scalloped and extended down as surfaces for video projection, for example.

The other video star in the Control Freak Systems arsenal was the MicroServerHD. Simply put, the MicroServerHD serves two layers of high definition video content at up to 1080i resolution from a standard Intel-based Macintosh G5 tower and is also manipulated via DMX.

Dierson adds “For this project we had many pieces of pre-produced content at 720p resolution that would also require audio playback ability. I very much wanted the ability to control as much as possible from the lighting consoles at FOH so the decision was made to serve all of this content from the MicroServerHD and it works like a charm. I’m happy to say that out of all the equipment utilized in this production there were two things that never crashed; the lighting consoles and the MicroServerHD. Not a single crash! It was so refreshing to be able to rely on a software based media server running from an off-the-shelf tower and not find yourself biting your nails about it. The MicroServerHD is a fairly bare bones application in that it doesn’t try to be one of those fancy “media servers” that the lighting companies are producing. This product focuses on one thing and does it extremely well; that’s the rock-solid playback of High-Def video without frame loss or glitchiness. It’s an absolute pleasure to work with and the image quality is fantastic. Of course, there are a few bells-n-whistles that it has such as color tinting, contrast/brightness control, etc. But it puts playback quality first and having that based as a software solution is a great thing to have up your sleeve.”

R. Kelly’s Double Up tour is currently slated to be traveling to venues across the US until mid-January 2008.

Credit List:
Production Designer: Patrick Dierson/Artfag, LLC
Touring Lighting Director: Chris Kuroda
HES Equipment: 25 Showguns, 18 DL.2s
Lighting Contractor: Upstaging
Lighting Programmer: Justin Cheatham
Control Freak Video Programmer: Dirk Sanders
Kinessis Programmer: Troy Smith
Lighting Crew Chief: Jeff Hubbell
Video Vendor: Pete's Big TVs
Scenic Vendor: Atomic Design, Inc.
Staging Vendor: Staging Dimensions