Hip Hop artist and entrepreneur Drake set out on his Club Paradise Tour in support of his second studio album, Take Care, with creative director Willo Perron and lighting design by Patrick Dierson. 

Dierson describes the aesthetic of the tour as “a seemingly factory-like structure of equipment. The overall aesthetic here is strong, angular, geometric, almost harsh. As an artist, Drake definitely has a softer, more vulnerable side that comes across in various pieces of his work, but the base of his art is squarely grounded in a strong, masculine stance. 

Early concepts revolved around creating visuals that looked, as Dierson notes, “highly bespoke from as little custom equipment as possible.” From an engineering perspective, the team wanted everything highly self-contained. The end result is a series of 40 6'x6'x2' custom alloy frames, dubbed “ParaCubes,” with various lighting and video elements—Clay Paky Sharpy units, Martin Professional MAC 101s, Elation Professional EVP762MH 7mm Moving Head LED Video Panels, and WinVision 9mm video panels from VER—integrated within each. Each frame is lined with LED tape from the Scenex Division ofGLP. “The use of Clay Paky Sharpys in mass quantity is a very stylized look of the times right now,” says Dierson. “It was exactly the type of look we were going for overall, but what was particularly nice was our ability to utilize the units in very different ways so that they didn’t always ‘look like’ Sharpys. Subtle frosting of the units or positioning them directly into our Elation EPVMHs tilted a certain way makes for some truly unique looks onstage.”  Epic Production Technologies provided the lighting equipment, while All Access Staging & Productions built the set and staging. Upstream Multimedia provided video gear in partnership with VER.

Dierson adds that this is a highly converged production—“a true amalgamation of lighting, video, and scenic pieces…as seamless as it gets”—but he notes that, artistically, video usually upstages the other disciplines, with the content, developed by Perron and Jesse Lee Stout (using Adobe After Effects, Apple Final Cut Pro, and Maxon Cinema 4D), dictating the use of color in the lighting. “The rule was to not let lighting and video fight each other at any time,” the lighting designer says. “Motion and accents of the music must come from one or the other, but rarely both at the same time, so as to keep the looks clearly defined. With a stage environment that’s so strong, it’s easy to allow the presence of the artist to become overwhelmed and, in the end, overshadowed by technology.” Guy Pavelo, whom Dierson calls “tremendously skilled,” wears many hats for this tour, including lighting and video programmer, as well as lighting and video operator. Pavelo, who has a setup of two MA Lighting grandMA2 consoles, along with three MA2 NPUs, all networked via MA-net, preprogrammed using grandMA2 onPC and grandMA 3D.

Fully relying on version 2 software for the grandMA 2 console for the first time, Pavelo says that the software itself has been his workhorse. “I am happy to say that the console did not go down a single time during the first portion of the Drake run. Of course, it has some quirks, but after some of those, and working around them, the console is as solid as I could ever want,” he says, adding that programming didn’t go without its challenges, citing the “compound angles created by the articulated angles of the set. First off, all the MACs and Sharpys are hung at 90° from the floor—not a massive biggie—but two of the three sections of wall started at a 45° angle, and eventually, were adjusted to approximately 15°. Adding in these other angles made focus initially a much larger task.” Video runs via two SAMSC Designs Catalyst V4HD media servers, one main and one backup. “The content was created to use the Catalyst more as a playback machine with small adjustments, than heavy cue-to-cue type triggering,” says Pavelo. “The servers run via Art-Net into the console. Cues were written to drive the Catalysts and are triggered via my main song cue stack.”

“It sounds crazy, but the reality was that we ended up with approximately 72 hours from the first custom weld to the first delivery truck arriving at the rehearsal space,” says Dierson. “We can design things to within an inch of their lives, but in the end, it all has to be engineered to a real-world specification and physically constructed, so a crazy time constraint on that process is never helpful.”

Dierson specifically mentions Erik Eastland from All Access Staging & Productions, Kevin Forster and Matt Talent at Epic Production Technologies, and Derek Burt at Upstream Multimedia, all of whom, “worked in concert to make sure that all of the pieces were in place to make the final build of the ParaCubes as efficient as possible. You go through the inevitable snags and challenges when you’re trying to pull off something big and complicated rapidly, but all of these guys had cool heads about them and powered through smoothly. I can’t thank them enough for their professionalism.”

Equipment List:

  • 60 x Clay Paky 'Sharpy'
  • 128 x Martin 'Mac-101'
  • 8 x Martin 'MacIII'
  • 28 x Martin 'Atomic 3000' Strobe
  • 28 x Vari*Lite "V*L3500 Wash"
  • 48 x Elation 'EVP762MH' Moving Head Video Panels
  • 112 x Winvision 9mm Video Panels
  • 2 x Lycian 'Starklite Mk2'
  • GLP LED tape
  • 2 x Catalyst V4 Media Servers
  • 2 x MA grandMA2 Full-Size Consoles
  • 4 x MA NPUs
  • 1 x MA gMAOnPC System
  • 1 x MA gMA3D Visualization Software System

 

Design Team:

  • Lighting Designer - Patrick Dierson
  • Production Designer - Willo Perron
  • Design Producer - Antony Randall
  • Lighting Director - Guy Pavelo

 

Vendor Representatives:

  • Matt Kirkpatrick - VER
  • Derek Burt - Upstream Media
  • Erik Eastland - All Access
  • Kevin Forster & Matt Talent - Epic Production Technologies

 

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