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Case study: Robe for Rolling Stones No Filter

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Rolling Stones No Filter tour. Photo by MH Vogel

The recent Rolling Stones No Filter, the European tour, featured 36 Robe BML Spots as part of a spectacular and epic lighting design created by Patrick Woodroffe.

Woodroffe and associate designer Terry Cook of Woodroffe Bassett design (WBD) worked closely with stage architects Stufish on developing the show’s overall aesthetic.

With many moving lights on the rig, they sought a high-powered fixture to occupy four ‘slots’ just below the tops of four 23-metre high by 11-metre wide monolithic video towers which define the performance space.

Cook explained: “Patrick and I needed a multi-functional fixture and knew the positions would be hard to access and given the complexity of CDM rules and regulations and the requirement that crew be able to access the fixtures safely … a lot of thought went into the process.”

He said the team decided on BMFLs because they are high powered, intense multi-functional moving lights with nice sized front lenses (giving rise to the much-loved quality fat beam) that are also reliable.

The lights were used to shoot into and illuminate the audience, to create a classic aerial looks and to beam down onto the stage and band as they worked that area and the thrust!

Visual experience

Woodroffe has worked with the Rolling Stones for 35 years. He has developed a rewarding and fulfilling relationship with this extraordinary band in the process, so he enjoys a great rapport with them and a fluid understanding of the exact scale and style required for their touring shows to be a complete visual experience.

While video was always going to be a major part of No Filter, it was decided at the outset not to have one large surface. Instead, they went with four towers – giving a more interesting look and add depth to the performance space, as well as being ideal as classy portrait IMAG scenes featuring the four Rolling Stone band members.

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Rolling Stones No Filter tour. Photo by MH Vogel

Some of Woodroffe’s inspiration for the monolithic style of the video towers came from original artwork from Stanley Kubrick’s were locked into the concept of the clean stand-alone look, it was vital that there were no compromises.

‘All the usually visible stage machinery, steelwork, motors, winches, rigging and mechanics associated with a large-scale stadium rock ‘n’ roll show disappeared, a process requiring a massive effort, though, attention to detail and ingenuity,’ the team explained.

Woodroffe wanted that very crisp, distinctive ‘hard-edged’ look for the lighting … and that was the major consideration that Cook took away from the first design meetings.

With audience lighting also being vital to the show, they knew early on that they wanted a line of lights in high positions.

“We decided to cut the primary audience lighting positions into the rectangular form of the screens, so they become an integral part of the architectural composition,” commented Woodroffe.

Cook and Jeremy Lloyd of Wonder Works, who project managed the tour’s pre-production technical elements worked intensively on how to achieve the desired overall look of the stage and the slots in the video screens.

Special effects

Belgian entertainment engineering specialist WIcreations was also involved in calculating, producing and fabricating some special elements and imaginative rigging to make this aspect of the design work as elegantly as Woodroffe had envisioned.

As the video crew build the screens out of LED frames filled with 12 mm Saco S12 LED – supplied by Solotech – on site, they created the slots about two-metre below the top.

Once the space was complete, lighting contractor Neg Earth’s crew slid a lighting frame into the gaps which locked to the existing screen supports. Then the BMFL Spots were installed.

The fixtures were located via a locking bracket and sat at 90 degrees to the stage.

Front panels with 1-cell DWE Moles were then fitted to cover the base of the BMFLs, followed by the rain shields, then the rear rain hat. The process of rigging each row of 9 x BMFL Spots neatly and securely took only around 15 / 20 minutes thanks to some nifty and well-engineered solutions.

The positioning of these BMFLs was crucial. Woodroffe wanted to use them extensively throughout the show and to be able to hit multiple positions onstage as well as out in the audience and produce an array of spectacular aerial looks.

While getting the air look was relatively straightforward in any position, with the units hung in the standard position, it would not have been possible to hit the stage. They would have ended up hitting the screens instead!

It also would have left a large gap beneath the lights, which was not congruous with the clean look. The only option was to rig them at 90 degrees and slide the units forward to be able to hit the drum riser at 22 ft. from the front of the stage.

This off-beat positioning also resulted in more dynamic air looks.

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Rolling Stones No Filter tour. Photo by MH Vogel

WBD also looked after the video integration on the tour. A d3 media server system (now called ‘disguise’) was specified for the playback content and to format IMAG feeds coming from camera director Nick Keiser to give them a bit of extra love with effects and tints.

Roland Greil from WBD, in the role of screens director and d3 programmer, looked after keeping the balance between all visual elements, which was key on a show like this.

Terry Cook ran the overall project for WBD, Ethan Weber was lighting director/operator, with Roland Greil and Nick Keiser looking after the video elements.

The jaw-droppingly visual, dramatic and entertaining No Filter tour was managed and coordinated on the road in Europe by production manager Dale “Opie” Skjerseth.

In pictures: Robe at Glastonbury

Robe deployed more than 600 lights on various Glastonbury stages, including Arcadia’s giant spider spectacular show and underground dance destination Block 9.

Lighting equipment for both these areas were delivered by Colour Sound Experiment, who joined several different rental companies involved in supplying Robe products, including the South West Group, which lit the trendy Park Stage and BBC Introducing showcasing rising talent, and DPL who took care of lighting at the West Holts stage.

Locally-based Enlightened Lighting from Bath, took care of lighting a number of areas, all using a backbone of Robe kit, including the moving and grooving Sonic Stage in the Silver Hayes dance area; the multi-dimensional Mavericks venue with poetry and the spoken word during the day and cabaret through the night; the vibey Glasto Latino hub and the eclectic Summer House.

Arcadia’s incredible new “Metamorphoses” Spectacular featured a primarily Robe moving light rig, including six BMFLs on the perimeter towers and Pointes rigged on the legs and belly of the spider. The 30 minute show’s lighting has been evolved by the Arcadia creative crew and the supply is co-ordinated by Arcadia’s technical production manager, Tim Smith.

Lighting design for Block 9 is created and co-ordinated by Alan King and the imposing 50ft high post-industrial power facility of Genosys this year was lit with 17 Robe Pointes and 16 LEDWash 600s among other lighting.

The animated club dancefloor in NYC Downlow was illuminated by some club classics including Robe 575 Scans – chosen for their speed and reliability, while two BMFLs highlighted a container that looked like it had been dropped from a great height and embedded in the ground, signalling the start of the Block 9 adventure.

Colour Sound also supplied lighting to The Glade stage – an area co-ordinated and designed for them by Jasper Johns of Fruit Salad Lights – complete with 24 Pointes, central to the lighting rig.

The Park stage lighting was co-ordinated and run by Ben Perrin and Mark Bott of the South West Group, and also featured BMFL Spots and Robe’s new LEDBeam 1000s plus Pointes and LEDWash 600s.

West Holts LD Adam Power’s production design included 24 Pointes, 24 LEDBeam 100s and 12 LEDWash 1200s. The crew chief was Darren Parker.

The Sonic stage buzzed with the energy and sounds of some superlative acts including Leftfield, Roni Size’s Reprazent and the iconic Grandmaster Flash who played a set on Sunday.

The lighting rig included 24 LEDBeam 100s, 24 Pointes and LEDWash 600 looked after for Enlightened by Paul de Villiers.

On Mavericks: Anthony van Sertima ran lights utilising 600E Spots, LEDWash 600s and LEDBeam 100s, Sam Walder lit the Summerhouse with Robe LEDWash 600s and ColorSpot 575E ATs and Mark Aitken looked after the Glasto Latino with ColorSpot 575E ATs. Last, one of the Silent Discos was lit by Jenny Howes using ColorSpot 250E ATs, LEDBeam 100s and 250 CT Club scanners.

Three of Robe’s ‘Plasa Students’ were also working on site, all proving that the student scheme, an initiative of Robe UK, is a potential stepping stone into the industry.

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