Part 2 of our discussion with Richard Neville, lighting designer for the main stage for Ultra Music Festival 2013.
Live Design: Did you go any previz for the main stage?
Richard Neville: We did hours of pre-programming and are actually operating a full pre-viz suite on site. The entire show was drawn in VectorWorks and then visualized in realtime on our software, which worked incredibly well. The previz suites operated throughout the festival, and we received a lot of great feedback for the effort we put in; the visualizer file had the entire set, all automation elements, and an incredibly realistic fixture set.
LD: What were the challenges in the design process?
RN: Probably the biggest challenge we faced was getting everyone to realize just how big this stage was going to be and managing almost everything associated with this. With over 1,000 moving lights and a festival environment, keeping visiting LDs, equipment vendors, and artist managers up to date with a change is a major exercise. Our VectorWorks files are almost unmanageably large, and with 53 universes of DMX running, even a patch takes hours to complete. We preprogrammed for weeks beforehand and had 2,300 unique effects in the grandMA2 console, which is by far the largest number I've ever worked with.
While an outsider might be tempted to class all EDM as "techno" or as being "the same," it's important to recognize that there are a number of different styles within the genre, and there are subtle differences that carry all the way through to how we light the different acts. There are a number of musical styles on the main stage--dubstep, trance, commercial dance--and one act even brought a live band into its set. Trance is all about massive, expansive looks, and acts like Above and Beyond, and Armin van Buuren use huge gobo looks and almost theatrical color schemes. On the other hand, dubstep and electro house is fast, heavy hitting and very intense. It's important that the design could deliver all these different styles well because. despite what most people think, dance music isn't just about randomly flashing lights; there's a respect for the music and the artists that isn't dissimilar to any other kind of entertainment lighting.