Lighting up the largest stage in Quebec is no easy feat. Doing it on a restricted budget while dealing with complex technical constraints is a real tour de force.
Lightemotion took on the challenge and succeeded brilliantly, creating the lighting for AO The Fantastic Legend, the new and grandiose show presented in an open-air theatre in Drummondville, Canada.
AO is a show that brings 75 artists, actors, singers, acrobats, dancers, and musicians together on stage for a spectacular production, featuring a feast of pyrotechnical elements, water features, and multimedia projections. AO evolved from the Les Légendes Fantastiques, an annual performance that has been running to great acclaim in Drummondville for over 10 years.
After an immensely successful first decade, the time had come to give new vision to Les Légendes Fantastiques. Its creator, the visual designer Éric Villeneuve, who also designed the magnificent Cavalia show, called upon Lightemotion to provide an inspired contribution to this complex project. Having already collaborated with François Roupinian and his team before, Villeneuve recognized Lightemotion’s ability to take on the many technical and artistic challenges posed by this spectacular multimedia show.
Closely involved in the show’s conception from the beginning, the Lightemotion team found ways to marry architectural and stage lighting techniques for an outdoor show that must go on—rain or shine. The artistic concept of the production resembles a circus show. But, with a conservative budget the lighting designers had to come up with lighting that was innovative as well as affordable.
One of the most difficult challenges the show presented was the lack of control of ambient lighting. Being outdoors meant that Roupinian and his team had to grapple with a variable not usually a factor in the theatre—an environment that changes with the seasons and climate conditions. This concern involved the use of specific lighting equipment, custom-made to withstand inclement conditions. Careful planning was required to strategically place the equipment, ensuring durability and the safety of both actors and spectators.
A second challenge faced by the team was the lack of traditional anchor points. The show was designed to take advantage of the splendid surrounding landscape, incorporating a small forest and the Saint-François river backstage. It was out of the question to block the audience’s field of vision with lighting equipment. So Lightemotion decided on side and ground (frontal) lighting, without "shower" lights or FOH.
Moreover, with special effects on a grand scale (blazing decors, flooding the set, etc.), it was necessary to keep the stage space as open as possible, i.e. without lighting elements that could conflict with water discharge (the set includes a screen and a basin of water), the presence of flammable substances or animals.
Minimal side lighting was used due to budgetary constraints, but when necessary robotized projectors (moving lights), provided a variety of lighting effects and multiple focal points.
On the ground, LED sources were placed in custom-made protective casings, making it possible to create effects with several colors and textures. In addition, many hybrid lighting sources (halogen and MR16) were concealed throughout the set. For example, stroboscopic projectors were installed at the ends of the branches of AO, the gigantic Tree of Life that stands 40 feet high. Finally, to create atmospheres suitable for more intimate scenes, the lighting artists had approach ramps integrated with the set. Robotic light sources were skillfully concealed on the ramps, making it possible to bring the lighting sources closer to the actors and allowing multiple lighting positions.
Beyond the technical aspect, Lightemotion’s contribution is also apparent in the physical and more architectural elements of the show. Involved in the conception process from the beginning, the Lightemotion team attended weekly production meetings and closely followed script and set developments. This resulted in a show in which the writing, the music, the set, and the lighting are integrated in a harmonious whole, making AO La Légende Fantastique a truly fantastic legend.