Imagine a structure 164 feet tall, that uses 120 trucks to move and several days to assemble. Now imagine that same structure surrounded by 50,000 to 300,000 people per tour stop; pretty impressive, right?
June 29th U2 landed their space ship like stage in Sun Life Stadium. This monster stage – the largest touring stage ever built – looks like a giant claw or a structure built by NASA. The stage has four legs that support a center column of LCD screens, speaker stacks, and even four aerial lighting platforms that 12 crew strap in to and get hoisted into positions within the legs. A giant spire looks as though it’s been thrust through the whole apparatus, and the stage has two concentric circles of performance platforms. There was a lot of buzz about both the stage and the tour when I went to LDI in 2009, but even with the advanced knowledge I couldn’t grasp the magnitude of this concert.
The idea of the stage, as the “360” tour name suggests, is a concert in the round. Instead of the traditional stage flanked by speaker stacks and fans only concentrated in one direction, the fans literally surround the stage. This stage did everything functionally and SFX wise that I was hoping for. Whenever I’d say “it would be cool if…” all of sudden that very thing would happen – smoke, LCD screens moving, elevator systems for bringing equipment on stage, even the ramps that span from the inner circle to the outer circle moved! With 432 speakers distributed between eight speakers stacks the sound quality was excellent no matter where you sat. This was truly a feast for the eyes and a massage for the ear drums.
U2s songs reverberated through the stadium and the crowd was so in tune to it that you could feel it. Yes in the way you do at a normal concert where you feel the bass and the music, but there was more than that. As people were clapping, stomping, and jumping I could actually feel the vibrations through the steel of the prestressed concrete of the stadium. This was both really cool, and a little disconcerting all at the same time. My mind kept bouncing between enjoying the show and worrying about the stadiums mechanical resonance and how that affected the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Obviously the fans did not cause the stadium to shake itself apart, or you would be reading about somewhere else than my blog.
This was one impressive concert. We left the stadium visually stimulated, physically resonated, and all over tired. If you want to check the tour out, there are only 10 stops left of the 109 scheduled on the tour. So get your tickets or watch it online!
We were finally able to enjoy some culture this weekend with the viewing of Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, 1923-1937 on view at the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale. As someone who did not know much about Steichen’s career beyond recognizing a few photographs it was interesting to find out more about his life and work.
The layout of the exhibit starts in the early 1920’s, where many of the portraits have a sepia and faded palette to the prints, from there it chronologically follows his career through the 1930s. His photographs of the 20s seem (at least to me) to be more straightforward and less dynamic than his later works. As the 20s gave way to the 30s Steichen’s photos have more depth, both in the blacks of the grayscale and the human interest displayed within the frame. His film noir treatment of light and the Art Nuevo, and especially Art Deco styling of his backgrounds, subject mater, and overall aesthetic really began to take shape as his career progressed.
Though probably known best for his female subjects, the way he shot his male figures are both epic and timeless. The photo of Gary Cooper in the late 20s reminds me of the Don Draper character from the AMC show Mad Men (see images above). My favorite photo out of the entire exhibit was probably the smallest on display. It was of a movie director or producer taken in 1930. The man (who I really wish I could remember who it was) is seated in a director’s chair with lighting and grip equipment serving as the background. The camera is positioned lower that the subject and the lighting is of an intense key light with mild fill …exceptionally powerful and stunning.
After viewing the exhibit you see how Steichen was able to influence fashion photography from that point on. The texture and shape he could create through the natural curves of his models coupled with the lines of the fabrics they wore were both dynamic and simplistic. Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, 1923-1937 was on display at the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale from February 28 through April 11th, 2010. From Fort Lauderdale it makes it’s last scheduled stop at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO from May 15 – July 25, 2010.
Live Design International invaded the Orange County Convention Center from November 16th through November 22. The show provides professionals from entertainment industries such as stage performing, theater, concerts, and any other live performance a chance to learn knew techniques, sharpen their skills, and see the latest technologies for live design.
At 10 am on Friday, November 20th the ribbon was cut and the show floor opened. The floor showcases products for any type of live event production. Vendors carry everything from truss and rigging equipment to special effects gear. If you need extension cords, custom fabrics, staging, safety devices, or AV equipment, then the show floor was the place to be. Some exciting new products were on hand this year including VER’s 3D LED screen – this was a surprisingly smooth portable 3D display, flexible LED panels in a variety of resolutions, and battery operated, DMX controllable, LED theatrical lighting elements. One of my favorite new products, though ultimately unnecessary, was the DMX512 controllable blender presented by Doug Fleenor Design (apparently Doug just built a house that is fully DMX controllable). Some of the most notable projects from this year were the lighting for the U2 360 tour and Jimmy Fallon’s stage for eco-friendly design.
Rose Brand hosted a great presentation by Martin Valentine and Herrick Goldman called Creative Influences in Design. The two Lighting Design Directors shared their film inspirations (of course Blade Runner made it onto both lists) and how films have effected the way light used in their respective medium – architectural lighting and theatrical lighting respectively.
Some of the most important and useful information came through the ESTA classes on rigging safety; it’s good to be reminded that the entertainment industry is (probably) the only industry in the world who suspends temporary structures with moving parts into the air, and asks people to work on top and walk underneath these structures while someone operates them in the dark. We viewed structural failures, fires, and other mishaps within our industry from the last 100 years, and discussed how to prevent them.
Social media has even creped it’s way into LDI. 4Wall Entertainment Lighting set up #LDIHunt – in order to win a prize from the company you had to complete a photo scavenger hunt and post the pictures to twitter. There was even a tweetup over the weekend (though I found out about it afterward).
The funniest part of LDI this year happened at the New Technology Breakfast on Friday morning. In a space filled with entertainment techs, lighting designers, and AV gurus one of the four projectors failed to work. By the next day it was fixed, but the humor was apparent.
The weekend was a great learning experience and a good time for all involved. Next year’s LDI show will be held from October 18th through the 24th in Las Vegas. I hope to see you there.