Imagine Dragons are on tour with their electrifying Smoke + Mirrors show that is as bright and flashy as their hometown of Las Vegas. The show at Sydney’s Qantas Credit Union Arena ignited the venue with a performance featuring showy visuals and drumming thunder.
Lighting design is by Sooner Routhier with creative direction by Jesse Lee Stout of Moment Factory. The show is a clever blend of lighting, lasers and video with the lighting team able to cue lighting to interact with the video resulting in a total collaboration of all elements of production.
Occasionally playing up the Smoke + Mirrors title of the tour in its presentation, the band opened the show behind a curtain with the band members seen in silhouette assembling themselves on stage as smoke swirled. The show is visually broken up into different ‘acts’ with the first three to four songs performed with no colour and gradually the visuals build throughout the night.
Lighting director for the tour is Mitchell Shellenger whose career with the band started in January when their production manager Matt Miley hired him to light a one-off show for the band. They stayed in touch and Matt recommended him for the position of Lighting Director.
“I was really excited to hear that Sooner was the lighting designer as she’s such a great person,” remarked Mitch. “Due to other work commitments, I came in towards the end of the programming process although there were still quite a few tasks I could assist with.”
The original Smoke + Mirrors lighting includes Martin MAC Viper Air FX, MAC Aura, Clay Paky Mythos, Color Kinetics Colorblaze 72 and Colorblast, VER Blade HD, TMB Solaris Flare, High End SolaSpot, Elation Cuepix Panels and a MA Lighting MA2. However the Australian tour was picked up locally and fixtures changed but fortunately the fixtures were the same in each city although Mitch treated the tour as a one-off from a programming stand point.
Mitch travelled to Australia with a pair of MA2’s as they had just been to South East Asia where they didn’t want to risk not being able to get them. Mitch insists that if he hasn’t got an MA2, then he’s not going to have a good day!
In Australia the rig was broken into three elements; the floor which had MAC Viper Profiles, Colorblasts and Colorblazes, the back wall which has video columns with Sharpys and Stormy CC strobes on ladders in between them, and finally the roof where there are three trusses holding MAC Viper Profiles and MAC Auras. Normally there would be seven trusses but with a tight schedule, cutting down a few points was necessary.
“Initially we designed the show with TMB Solaris Flares which are great but the Stormys are amazing too,” added Mitch.
In the US there had been eight convex columns which acted as screens for video projection. Visual tricks were written into the design. For example, from various positions the columns appear concave. Reflective surfaces allowed groundbreaking subtle effects to be created by blending colours in the air. Sooner commented that the ability to bounce lighting off the mirrored surfaces lining the video wall made the show very reflective. Most of the time you didn’t know where the lights were coming from which would have made focusing a challenge for Mitch!
Other innovations in the US included the use of the Phenom system, programmable eye-safe audience- scanning lasers developed by Lightwave International. 150 refracting mini mirrors created a huge laser sculpture, a sweeping curtain of light.
FOH engineer Scott Eisenberg comments that fortunately for him, Imagine Dragons are a great sounding band and he feels that his job is not to mess that up.
“There’s a lot going on and it can be difficult to find the space for everything to fit in,” he said. “Even though there are a few less drums on this tour than the previous one, there are still quite a few. In fact there are a lot of instruments and a lot of sound so it’s sometimes hard to find a space to fit everything in. There’s a lot of synth bass, and low end going on that takes up a lot of space. I have to figure out when thing are supposed to happen, carving out an EQ space for things to sit in plus trying to figure out how to get the vocals to work together.”
Scott describes mixing for the band as busy and he has to keep a strict eye on what’s going on because he never knows what the band members may do unexpectedly. He was using an Avid Venue Profile console complete with a full set of Waves plugins, a handful of which he used on the show.
“It makes it a lot easier to carry all your effects around on a USB than a full rack of gear,” he said. “In the US I was using some outboard gear just to add a different colour to the mix but it’s difficult to ship all of that stuff. I use the Waves C6 Multiband Compressor Plugin a lot on vocals and also either a C6 or C4 on a bunch of other things such as keyboards and some percussion. I also use some of the SSL plugins on the drums.”
For the Australian tour, JPJ Audio supplied a d&b audiotechnik J-Series PA with the main L+R hang comprised of twenty d&b J-8 enclosures and eight d&b J-12 enclosures. The PA LL + RR was sixteen d&b J-8 enclosures and four d&b J-12 enclosures. Added to that were sixteen d&b B2 sublow enclosures and six d&b Q1 line array modules for infills. However in the US the band had used an Adamson Energia PA system provided by Sound Image.
“The d&b rig has been great and I have no complaints about it,” said Scott. “The Adamson PA was kind of different and seems to have a lot more girth to throw to a large auditorium. We had a lot of L’Acoustics K1 in Asia and each rig has its’ own qualities. It’s hard to say which one is better as the improvements in PA systems over the past ten years has been tremendous and they all sound pretty darned good!”
All of the band use JH Audio JH16 Pro Custom In-Ear Monitors run by Jared Swetnam also on an Avid Venue Profile.
When it comes to microphones, the band and crew have been working closely with Shure, a company that Scott describes as very helpful.
“We use a ton of their wireless stuff and they’ve been a good company to work with,” he said.
Looking after the video components, including the content on the LED onstage columns and the IMAG, was James Valpy of TheHippoTech.com. For every show that uses the IMAG, he takes the local directors cut and superimposes effects that were programmed at the start of the tour to coincide with the overall creative look of each song.
In Australia video gear was supplied by Big Picture including eight 1m x 5.5m LED screens, four per side of the stage, comprised of Viper 7B black faced 7.8mm SMD LED in Tait touring frames. Some clever content editing has enabled the use of KiPro and ImagePro2 playback that chases show timecode.
“As we’re not touring our own screen for this leg of the tour we had to take our own content and fit it into one raster canvas,” explained James. “We then reference the correct number of pixels for the locally provided screen. Here the screen resolution is 128 pixels wide by 700 pixels tall, per column so we cut out each section of the master canvas that is going to go to each column.”
The control set up in Australia was simplified compared to the US where Moment Factory used their own X-Agora proprietary media servers which were excellent. The change was due to the fact that touring Asia has a different set of challenges.
“In the US Mitch could control certain elements of the show via ArtNet but we’ve pretty much done away with that for the sake of simplicity,” added James. “To make it tour where every show is a different configuration we needed to make it rock solid and very, very flexible with as few moving parts as possible. We are able to do all of the stuff Mitch would have done from the lighting console in content and as long as the band don’t change the length of the songs, everything stays the same but is scalable to whatever LED package the local company provides. If a change is required a simple edit in content is all that is needed to bring the video up to speed with the band.”
For IMAG, Big Picture supplied a three Camera HD Portable Production Unit complete with three Sony HXC100 HD Camera chains with CCU’s and RCP’s, Fujinon Lenses, and a Panasonic AW 120B remote PTZ camera controlled by two ME Kayak HD Mixing Desks.
First published in CX Magazine (October, 2015)