For the visual impact on the Jay-Z / Eminem Home and Home stadium shows, production designer Bruce Rodgers and his team at Tribe inc., including Sean Dougall, Mai Sakai, and Jake Kavenagh, wanted to reflect both the excitement of the ballpark environment and the spectacle of a unique concert experience. “It’s a very iconic design; it’s a design that people can remember, but it’s not necessarily one that requires you to pay attention to the set design,” comments Rodgers. “I think that this audience really cared about seeing Jay-Z and Eminem, and they wanted to be able to remember that they were at Yankee Stadium and Comerica Park in Detroit. My goal was to come up with some sort of mental, visual icon that would burn into that audience’s head, but also give the two lighting and video designers from Jay-Z and Eminem a really cool tool to do what they do best.”
With a compressed design and construction schedule of only five weeks, Rodgers started with the iconic Stageco concert structure of stage and roof design. “Because I designed it knowing the Stageco structure—dimensions, understanding how to do this kind of design—it gave everybody a comfort level,” says Rodgers. Into that base, Rodgers’ designed his main element a large eye shape that would frame the whole performance space, much like the all-seeing eye that you find on the back of the US one dollar bill only considerably larger. It stretched over 168’ wide and 48’ tall, covering the entire width of the stage and the side wings. The eye structure was created out of PRG’s BAT Truss, a pre-rig truss element that was laid out for quick and easy installation in the two stadiums. Making truss go together with just the right curve to evoke an eye was a challenge for which Scott Gross, general manager of PRG’s Concert Touring division, engineered a solution at the PRG Toronto depot. His team laid out the truss and developed a method to keep the correct degree curve of the eye. The outer chords of the BAT Truss are pinned and a custom-designed screw device was added to the top joint that allowed the crew to set the correct angle of the truss.
Rodgers, working with lighting designer Patrick Dierson, decided upon ringing the face of the eye truss with Chromlech Jarag lights. Rodgers original design called for the Jarags to be mounted to the face of the truss, which would have meant hanging them individually on site. The PRG team in Toronto came up with a more streamlined solution. “The guys at PRG took our design and started pre-thinking and pre-hanging how different ways the Jarags could work,” Rodgers explains. “They ended up mounting them on the top and bottom of the truss’ outer-perimeter. When I got the working drawings, I was worried about exposing that much truss, but they sent me photos, and it was absolutely the right thing to do. It’s one of those things where you take a concept and then you design it, letting the form follow the function. It is 10 times better in the way that PRG came up with, and it allowed them to do what I needed, but they could still do all of their pre-rigging of the lights and cables in the shop. Onsite it really went up fast, and it also looked cool. That was a neat thing; they knew I was the designer and had a concept in mind, but they also knew what they needed to do and they just went for it. Plus it looked really sexy having the exposed, black pre-rigged truss. I like mechanics that are artful.”
On stage and filling the two wings, Rodgers’ placed LED video screens, in essence visually filling the eye truss completely. Working with screens director Drew Findley and video director Dirk Sanders, Rodgers’ team chose technology from Winvision for these screens. “The outer areas, where you would normally have I-Mag are Winvision 9.325mm and the middle mainstage wall is Winvision 8.75mm,” says Rodgers. “All of the video fills the entire eye with a solid wall of video. It amounts to 168’ wide by 48’ tall wall of video. When you see the part just on the mainstage, you go, ‘What!?’ Even the video guys are blown away by the size.” The screens certainly gave Findley and Sanders for Jay-Z and Eminem’s video director Ben Johnson, a large canvas on which to do their work.
Bruce Rodgers is speaking this week at the Projection Master Classes at LDI.