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FILL UP THE DOME

fill-up-the-dome

Local rapper Cassper Nyovest made headlines, and was even mentioned in Parliament, with his recent benchmark Fill up the Dome concert. The full suite of creative, production and technical design was handled by cutting edge Cape Town based company Formative, in collaboration with Gearhouse.

Formative was contracted directly by Cassper Nyovest to provide full creative direction, production design, content design, show and technical production for the show.

“We familiarised ourselves with the music before designing the production so that we could create lighting, video and scenic elements to match the different musical elements, and we then worked very closely with the different companies in the Gearhouse Group to make these seamlessly come together,” explains Thomas Peters, Formative’s technical project manager. 

Gearhouse Group in fact collaborated closely with Formative for some four weeks prior to the event. Formative set up a proposed design and budget which Gearhouse executed on, providing a sizeable amount of MC7 LED, lighting, rigging, power, audio, and set elements. Gearhouse also integrated Formative’s D3 into the system. Cassper’s dream was to ‘Fill up the Dome’ and be the first South African performer to do so. Formative’s design embodied that theme, putting Cassper in the dead centre of the Dome and lifting him high above the audience for his glory moment.

To achieve this, Formative designed a long ‘ego ramp’ out into the centre of the Dome with a 3 x 3m suspended stage which elevated him above the crowd at a climactic moment. This suspended stage was constructed of specially configured MC7 LED panels on a bespoke frame manufactured by Gearhouse In2Structures and on the underneath of this stage piece 16 x Mac 101’s and 4 x Martin Rush strobes provided beam effects.

This was the central moment of the show and was heavily reliant on Gearhouse expertise to make it work well and safely. When the 19m large upstage LED screen displayed the words, “If you are reading this. I made it!”, it made for a truly goosebump moment! All screens were MC7 provided by LEDVision and a first for the LED team was that this was the biggest screen they have flown at a 35 degree angle. The artist was on a safety harness during this performance to ensure complete safety. “Working in The Dome comes with significant weight restrictions, especially when you are hanging about 4 tonnes of almost 65 sqm LED Screen at 35 degrees to the vertical! So the fact that all of these fixtures are very lightweight and still deliver amazing output is extremely useful, and the Gearhouse team really delivered on our vision,” says Peters. 

“We planned out the show in Logic Pro X, with tracks for lights instead of music, creating a ‘visual score’ so that once at the console we only needed to put those elements in and record them. We didn’t want to fall into the trap of ‘programming the lights’ instead of ‘programming the show’, and the approach clearly paid off.”

“Working in Logic Pro X also meant we were able to exchange tracks with the artist, which meant we were able to communicate in the same musical language- my BA Honours in Music is coming in really, really handy these days!” exclaims Peters.

Formative ran two d3 4u v2.5 servers and two MA2 full size consoles, with an additional MA2 full-size at dimmer beach. “We ran Art-Net from d3 into MA2 for pixel mapping the Rush Strobes, Robe CycFX8 and Robe Pointes, and split timecode between all the systems so that any failover was instant and seamless. We also had a directed and engineered HD four-camera system which we captured with d3 and used in the performances. 

“We set up the entire rig in MA3D via Vectorworks on an extremely high-spec rack mount PC, with 64Gb of Ram, a 3.3GHz Intel i7 and a nVidia GeForce Titan X, which with some tweaks to fixture profiles was able to deliver a solid 130fps at 1920x1080 regardless of how many fixtures were running how many effects at the same time. This also meant we could put the entire show into the desk ahead of time, see how different things worked together, move fixtures around as needed very easily and then send a final plot off to be prepped from, making work on site significantly easier for the crew.

Peters and his team ran the first half of the famously sold out show from FOH, running 4 channels of audio to play out tracks, click and timecode. The second half of the show was with a live band, during which cues were programmed according to the album tracks and played in live, which made for a much more “organic” and flowing show, with even some room for improvisation, in contrast to the strictly regimented on-the-beat first half. 

On the video content front, Formative created customised graphics for each track, sometimes making new cuts and rotoscoping existing music videos (as with Travel The World and Fuseg), creating new animations (as in their version of the hit Gusheshe), and sometimes driving lights as video screens to achieve a level of sync between lighting and video that would have been impossible via the creation of individual cues. “Creatively”, continues Peters, “we relied heavily on the LED screens as light sources, mounting these above, behind, inside and either side of the stage and driving them at full intensity. At times we applied solid block colours and ran them on the beat – the first track of the show, for example, Mmagwane, was lit entirely by the LED floor and the SL and SR Strobes. In particular with Mama I Made It we played the toplight of the grid of Patt 2013s off against the uplight of the LED floor Cassper was standing on.”

The team was attempting to create darkness within the light. Visually, they avoided colours and gobos to get a strictly stark, direct, solid look, using only white, red and blue, with fixtures focused almost always as narrowly as possible, and where a softer look was needed using a prism instead of a gobo.

“We were very particular about the effects we wanted to create, and selected specific lights (or even parts of lights) for tracks,” says Peters. “Some fixtures on the rig were there specifically for one particular moment- the Vipers on their boxes as the end of the runway for Alive, placed at exactly the right height to have the lens peek over the stage level so at to provide the light where it was needed without the whole fixture being in the picture, or the Mac 101’s rigged underneath the flying platform, which coupled with the ZR-44 under the stage made it look like a Jet Engine taking off.

“We had complete creative freedom on this project, which allowed us to really push the boundaries. Considering we only had one month to produce this show from conception to completion, it could not have turned out better, we are all very, very happy with the result and from what we heard, the audience was too” concludes Grant Orchard, Creative Director of Formative.

Story reprinted courtesy ProSystems

Feb 19, 2016

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