The sky has always been the limit for Roger Waters, founding member and chief sonic architect of Pink Floyd. With his latest Dark Side of the Moon touring run, Waters has pushed the creative limits to the moon and back. Waters' lighting designer, Marc Brickman, has worked closely with the artist since Pink Floyd's historic The Wall tour more than 25 years ago and always takes his performance visuals to new levels with cutting-edge technology. On this tour, Brickman iced the cake with a solid-state laser system.
This latest tool — a mid-tour addition — in Brickman's visual bag of tricks is a high-powered laser system provided by Lightwave International and Excitement Technologies Group. The system operates without any of the power and water limitations of older technology. The lasers are used specifically to reproduce Storm Thorgerson's original Dark Side of the Moon album-cover artwork: Lasers form the prism, as well as the trademark look, of a single bright beam entering the prism and the prismatic fan exiting the other side.
The effect was conceptualized by Brickman, ETG's Kelly Sticksel, and Lightwave International's George Dodworth. Design was executed by Chris Nyfield of Hindsight Studios with Brickman, as well as Sticksel and Dodworth. ShowRig, headed by Eric Pierce, fabricated the base structure. Final assembly was a joint effort between ShowRig, ETG, Lightwave International, Hindsight Studios, Stack Technical Services, and GCN Technologies.
Leading Waters' production team are tour director Andrew Zweck and manager Mark Fenwick; also on the tour are production manager Chris Kansy, tour manager/front-of-house engineer Trip Khalaf, stage manager Mark “Kahuna” Candelario, and lighting board operator Mark “Sparky” Risk. Key vendors involved in production include SGPS, PRG, Clair Bros., and XL Video.
The high-power laser concept sprang to life when Brickman contacted Sticksel, knowing ETG had access to the newest solid-state laser technology; in turn, Sticksel called on production partner George Dodworth of Lightwave International to provide the necessary equipment. The laser effect was implemented during the Mexico show dates.
Dodworth says the prism effect is created by five custom-built, solid-state lasers, producing 100W of total power. The 3D rotating tetrahedron is created by 2“-diameter white beams and sculpted by a precisely aligned mirror array. The massive scanning lasers produce an assortment of effects in addition to the iconic white beam and rainbow fan. These lasers output more than 34W each and are among the most powerful full-color lasers in the world. “These lasers are rated at the projector output, so these power levels are truly monumental,” Dodworth adds.
Asked about the integration of the laser system during the tour, production manager Kansy comments, “I was amazed to learn that this bright and powerful unit wasn't water-cooled; we are using the effect in a very interesting way, flying it over the audience. That certainly would have been a challenge with older technology! It has added greatly to the vibe factor of the show, as we now have that ‘wow’ effect to finish the Dark Side of the Moon set.”
Martin Potoczny of Lightwave International is the laser board programmer/operator and has road-managed the new effect since its insertion in Mexico, through South America, Europe, and into the US and Canada. “The lasers themselves are fully sealed from dust and grit, which is great for me,” says Potoczny. “Through the sprinkler storm we experienced in Mexico to the dust fields in Peru, this system can stand up to the worst of touring conditions.”
Risk details the balance of the lighting package for the tour. “Control is via a Vari-Lite Virtuoso VX console, and we use 30 VL3000 spots arranged across three straight trusses, together with nine Syncrolite MX1000s for top light,” he says. “Eighteen VL3000 washes hang horizontally on six forms for cross-washing the stage, while 16 VL2000 washes are used as floor lights with 12 Thomas PixelLines and 16 Martin Atomic 3000 strobes with color scrollers.” Also highly notable are the 19 smoke generators comprising predominantly MDG Hazers and JEM ZR33 smoke machines, many controlled from the desk.
John Wiseman of XLTV Los Angeles and Chris Mounser of XL Video UK also contributed as video contractors. The LED backdrop comprises a 60'×30' Lighthouse R16 LED screen, supported by a Barco Encore System, two Grass Valley turbo video drivers, and a four-camera digital PPU with Barco R12+'s for I-Mag. Video director is Alastair MacDiarmid with crew including LED techs Clark Anderson, Icarus Wilson-Wright, Rob Maloney, and John Scruggs.
Risk says he particularly enjoys the way the lighting works with the video; the result forms the centerpiece of Waters' show. “It was vital to treat the two elements as one facet,” he says. “Blending the two was integral to Roger's vision of the show.” Sparky continues, “The prism is a magical moment, as are a lot of the smaller, subtle cues. Another favorite moment for me was in Monterey, Mexico, where the sprinkler system went off at FOH at 2am!”
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