Over the top theatrics, insane production, and breathtaking aerial stunts – yep, must be at a Pink show!
by Cat Strom.
Photo Credits: Todd Kaplan
Making an entrance, Pink got the party started on her Beautiful Trauma Tour by swinging in on a massive chandelier high above the crowd, dressed in a sparkling black jumpsuit, with fireworks shooting from the stage. The tone was set. The next two hours were a non-stop, high-octane spectacle featuring the mega-star’s biggest hits, death-defying aerial stunts, dazzling lights, blinding pyrotechnics and of course, an inflatable Eminem.
With no compromise when it comes to getting this show into various arenas, Production Manager Malcolm Weldon says ‘making it fit’ is his biggest challenge. “It wasn’t designed to fit in every building so we just move stuff around and squeeze it in with the help of the great rigger Gabe Wood,” he admitted. “That’s what it all starts with. I don’t care what anyone else says, it’s all about the rigging.
“Depending on the building and how difficult the load in is, if we start marking the floor at 6am we should be show ready by 4.30pm.” Baz Halpin of Silent House Productions was the creative mastermind behind the visual spectacle serving as lighting designer, set designer, and director. Associate lighting designer and programmer was Eric Marchwinski.
In designing the show, Baz commented that the treatment of every song had to have a beauty and a trauma to it with emphasis on the juxtaposition between the two. It was not surprising to learn that a show of this magnitude required a month of production rehearsals whilst the band and dancers rehearsed elsewhere before they all met up in Phoenix, Arizona for a further four weeks of rehearsal.
“We then hit the ground running and have been at it ever since!” said Steve ‘Six’ Schwind, lighting operator on the tour. “In four months we’ve done about sixty shows in the US, and in Australia and New Zealand we’re doing 42 shows. The US dates were mainly one-nighters and the crew are really enjoying being parked in one city for several days at a time.”
Solotech supplied lighting and video including a giant 9m by 21m video screen built with 900 6mm LED panels. The rectangular stage is surrounded by an illuminated heart-shaped runway with two catwalks jutting into the audience, connecting at a point to create an intimate fan pit. Constructed by TAIT, the 23m wide main stage is surrounded by a fluorescent pink, heart-shaped runway thrust made of LED lit ramps, walkways and staircases.
The multi-dimensional stage is also furnished with two performer lifts, two prop lifts, two treadmills, and band risers. All of the stage automation elements are controlled by TAIT Navigator.
The truss layout for the lighting design is a result of allowing for the aerial and scenic requirements and, with limited real estate, Baz designed a lighting system that could change its position for different songs. The overhead rigging grid has two massive, mechanical arm-like lighting pods and several articulating lighting trusses which are suspended by 34 Nav Hoists.
Additionally, 108 Kabuki Solenoid units are installed in the rigging grid to drop Kabuki drapes at various times during the show to create dynamic, stunning looks. TAIT Navigator cues the lighting trusses and lighting pods to move up and down and also cues the Kabuki Solenoid units to deploy.
“There’s a lot of gear up there and all departments are interlaced when it comes to the build,” added Six. “It all builds together or it doesn’t build at all. During rehearsals everyone is in their own individual world for a while and then all hell broke out in Phoenix trying to put it all together!
“We’d all seen drawings of it but no one was quite sure how the heck it was going to work. Everything up there moves except for the two downstage trusses.”
As Baz Halpin commented, this is a hybrid between a very theatrically-lit show and a punchy rock and roll show, so the fixtures chosen needed to be able to live between those two worlds.
“From the second the kabuki drops, it’s a punch in the face,” said Six on the show lighting. “It comes out full throttle, but then you can drop it down to very intimate moments on the thrust where you forget you have all that gear. It’s like a rollercoaster ride; it has some turns that will take your breath away, moments you can sit there and cruise, and then bang, drops you right in it again!”
The workhorse units of the lighting rig were the 88 Claypaky Scenius Unico, described by Six as an amazing light, whilst 118 Claypaky Mythos 2 provided beam eye-candy. “The Unicos have such a nice, flat field of light,” commented Six. “The optics and output are fantastic – in fact there’s nothing I dislike about them. We use them mainly for key lighting, the way they light people and objects is really nice.”
Four of the Claypaky Scenius Unicos are used to chase Pink around the stage and building, taking positional data from the TAIT system. Also on a downstage truss were TMB Solaris Flare LRs used primarily as an audience light.
GLP impression X4s were used to light the dancers, Robe Spikies lined the floor, staircase, and automation arms. Chroma-q ColorForce 72s lined the thrust with GLP impression X4 Bar 20s on the risers.Philips VL6000 Beam fixtures were grouped together on two giant, actuated arms that hung over the stage. They were tightly clustered in groups of three to give them a unique personality in the context of the rest of the lighting rig.
“When I first saw them, I thought what the hell are these!” said Six. “But of course Baz works his magic and they turned out pretty damn nice.”
Control was all MA Lighting MA2 with Six saying ‘is there anything else out there?’
Despite an action packed production, Six was still questioned by someone as to why there were no lasers in the show! “It’s getting to the point nowadays where too many shows are having too much crap thrown at them,” he added. “What are they thinking? Just hang crap in the roof until something bends, then take a few away?
With Pink you could set her up there with normal left and right iMAG plus some 270° torm iMAG screens for the expanded audience,” said Tim. “The media servers are controlled by both timecode and lighting, plus we have a little bit of control in terms of what goes to the iMAG screen.
“We do a lot of the screen effects in the video switcher rather than in the media server.” The pressure is on Tim before the show rather than during. He has to make sure everything is 100% tested and checked because if there are any problems during the show, it’s too late.
“Once the show has started, there are too many things going on to be able to problem solve,” he added. “We have a daily check list like in theatre, making sure all the feeds and timecode work.
“Timecode is an extremely important aspect of the show. Because lighting and video systems are becoming more intertwined these days, we rely on each other to send signals and timecode is distributed everywhere on stage including automation.”
FOH engineer David Bracey, another Aussie, was mixing to the left of the more usual centre mix position, saying it’s a better place to mix from. “It’s more honest and representative of what 95% of the room hears rather than just the 5% down the centre,” he said. “I was forced into this position with Adele and in the process of mixing there, I realised just how much smarter it was. It’s not as nice a place to mix but it is more honest.”
Dave mixed on a DiGiCo SD7, the only console that does what he personally requires a console to do, with four Bricasti M7 reverb processors as the only additions. “The Bricasti M7 reverbs are just so good, and I’ve always gone outboard for main reverbs,” he said. “The string and acoustic guitar reverbs on the SD7 are fantastic and irreplaceable. It’s all onboard dynamic processing as well, I don’t use any plug-ins. The SD7 is an easy board to mix on with everything within easy reach.”
Dave admitted that the intricate design of the stage with so many flown elements made it difficult for him, but his biggest challenge was having so much of the show performed out in front of the PA.
The main hang consisted of 12 L-Acoustics K1 with four K2 underneath, alongside eight flown K1 SB. Side hang is usually eight K1 with eight K2 underneath, although in Adelaide Entertainment Centre it was eight K1 with five K2 underneath. For the rear hang there were nine K1, but usually it’s up to 12.
As well as dealing with the flown elements, a suitable sub array for under the stage had to be designed that could fit in with all the stage pieces. As a result, there are 27 KS28s under the stage in nine cardioid clusters of three subs, with six Karas for front fill.
“As a standard we do delays everywhere, which are eight K2 per side. That works really well for this show,” added Dave. “It doesn’t matter what size the venue is, we put them in everywhere … apart from here in Adelaide! The venue has extraordinary low catwalks and if we put delays in, Pink’s flying would be affected so we couldn’t have them.”
All systems were powered by L-Acoustic LA12X amplifiers with optimisations in LA Network Manager. The digital signal distribution was taken care of by a Lake system.
The tour was Sennheiser dominated with Pink singing through a Sennheiser 9235 capsule on handheld, and a Sennheiser HSP 4 headset mic. On the drums, Sennheisers did most of the work, with Audio-Technica ATM450s on the cymbals, hats and one tom.
Pink isn’t really an IEM artist, tending to wear just the one IEM and preferring to listen to the large amount of speakers on stage. The wedges, a mix of Clair CM22s and L-Acoustic X15s, were hidden under grills in the floor allowing for a clean stage. On the heart-shaped runway were 20 L-Acoustics X15 HiQ stage monitors.
Pink has two monitor engineers: Jon Lewis just for herself and Horst Hartmann for the band. Jon also mixed on a DiGiCo SD7 using a Drawmer 1973 multiband compressor for his IEM outputs. All IEMs are Sennheiser SR 2000, with all RF mics running on the Sennheiser Digital 6000 wireless system. Sennheiser MD 9235 heads are on the SKM 6000 handhelds.
Horst mixed the band on a Yamaha PM10 using solely what’s in the console, saying that the EQs, compressors, gates, FX and plug-ins in the console are great, so nothing more is needed. Band members were all on JH Audio Roxanne IEMs, and they all used Sennheiser IEM 2000 wireless systems.
Production was provided by Clair Global out of Britannia Row Productions in the UK. This leg of the tour was scheduled to wrap up in Auckland, New Zealand on 11 September resuming in the US next year. The lighting rig was due to stay in Auckland for a few weeks where it was to be rejigged for the upcoming Cher tour, again designed by Silent House.
Unfortunately, as Pink had to cancel a couple of Sydney shows due to illness, the rescheduled shows are causing all sorts of production nightmares!
Flying Pink with TAIT
For the Beautiful Trauma Tour, Pink utilized two performer flying systems, a 3D Flight Rig and a 9-Axis Acrobatic Rig, which allowed her to take flight at various onstage and offstage locations and interact with several scenic props while flying mid-air.
Her traditional performer flying system, the 3D Flight Rig, is suspended by four Big Tow Winches and flies Pink at a maximum of 6m per second around the perimeter of the arena.
For the majority of Pinks flight paths above the main stage and fan pit area, she uses the 9-axis Acrobatic Rig. The Acrobatic Rig was added to the Beautiful Trauma Tour to handle the demands of complex flight patterns while interacting with heavy scenic props.
Though the 9-Axis Acrobatic Rig doesn’t fly as fast as her traditional 3D Flight Rig, it is a more advanced flying solution for flying a maximum load of 453 kilos.
The Acrobatic Rig consists of a trolley system equipped with a custom rotator and a pair of T-Winches that track the length of the stage. An additional trolley system, also outfitted with a pair of T-Winches, tracks perpendicular to the Acrobatic Rig’s trolley system and is followed by a single T-Winch downstage.
The Acrobatic Rig can lift Pink and her scenic props up/down at 3m per second and track upstage/downstage or stage right/left at 1.5m per second. This robust Acrobatic Rig entertains numerous flight patterns simultaneously including flying Pink, her dancers and scenic pieces like the chandelier apparatus that she opens the show with or the 9m tall inflatable puppet of Eminem who “raps” along to their new duet “Revenge.”
Both the 9-axis Acrobatic Rig, as well as her 3D Flight Rig, sync to TAIT Navigator providing operators with exact positioning of where the singer-songwriter is in 3D space. This technology ensures safety for the artist as well as the entire production.
This article first appeared in the September 2018 edition of CX Magazine – in print and online. CX Magazine is Australia and New Zealand’s only publication dedicated to entertainment technology news and issues. Read all editions for free or search our archive www.cxnetwork.com.au
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Read more: JPJ Audio’s Facebook post further detailing the audio for show https://bit.ly/2xeWXLd