Fully integrating the lighting into the overall design of Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite – Les Folies tour, Nick Whitehouse incorporated waterproof LED strip tape for the set header and columns, while Philips Color Kinetics ColorBlast units light the columns from below. All the lighting trusses—HUD Truss from Tyler Truss, custom painted gold—emanate from above each column and run into the house on a rake, leading the eye to the back wall.
The overhead rig is a mix of Philips Vari-Lite VL3500 Washesand VL3000 Spots, with Martin Professional Atomic strobes. For followspots, Whitehouse uses a combination of truss-mounted Robert Juliat Ivanhoes and Cyranos from FOH. For the opening “Birth of Aphrodite” section, the stage is bathed in shades of blues and purples, and the Middle Eastern inspired “Illusion” features strong oranges, reds, and purples. The accent lighting on the set pieces makes use of mellow glow to help the columns stand out, other times pulsating to get the entire arena rocking. Whitehouse employs audience lighting at times, including in the “splash zone” between the two runways. “We’re really happy, and I think Kylie’s really happy,” the designer says. “There’s nothing Kylie and William asked for that we couldn’t give them. In fact, we gave them a little bit more.” Lighting is controlled via an MA Lighting grandMA2.
Aiming for visuals that were nothing like he had created before, Colbourne states, “We had to really push the whole team to make sure nothing looked remotely generic.” His team filmed visuals four months in advance of the tour, so content was in postproduction before rehearsals started. Les Folies uses rear-projection to deliver the content. “There was a desire to embrace the projection screens as a more theatrical or cinematic backdrop, rather than using screens as a light source like we did with the KylieX2008 tour,” Colbourne says. “The resolution of the projectors meant we could create quite intricate designs, and details that we’d normally have to hold back from on LED could really be pushed this time.” The seven screens form a canvas nearly 6,000 pixels wide, controlled from three VirtualVTR systems, one for the left three screens, one for the right three, and one single HD on its side driving the center screen. “We had six of the most powerful Macs we could lay our hands on rendering around the clock for about the last three weeks before rehearsals,” he adds.
The content is a mix of colorful, pulsating backdrops, as well as footage of dancers, backup singers, and Minogue. Baker and Colbourne are careful to complement the live action with visuals and never upstage it. “The visuals actually emphasize what’s happening on stage rather than distracting from it,” says Colbourne. “At their best, I think the screens provide a three-dimensional extension of the set, with the columns acting as a portal into an abstract mythological world.”
Shooting the underwater scenes for the opening and closing of the show was the most complicated part of the process and also the most fun, according to Colbourne. Collaborating with director/artist Zena Holloway, the designers worked with a team of 35mm underwater specialists to capture the synchronized swimmers. “We also had the honor of working with acclaimed underwater choreographer Stephan Miermont, who recruited Olympic synchronized swimmers from the UK, Czech Republic, and the US,” says Colbourne. “It took months of planning and was probably just as much work in postproduction afterward, but we were delighted with the results, especially the opener.”
Watching the flow of the video is a show in itself, as it reaches a fever pitch during the closing sections. One segment features visuals of heart-shaped drops of water raining down before dissolving into the synchronized swimmers clapping their legs to the beat of the music, as the fountains shoot off around the stage.
Stay tuned for the final installment about the flying and props on this incredible tour.
Steven Battaglia is a New York-based technical director and lighting designer. He is an integral part of the production/operations staff at Baryshnikov Arts Center.