les membres du groupe et leur univers

Andi Watson / Designer du lightshow

site web officiel : http://andiwatsondesign.com/

© Andi Watson, par Francois – août 2002

On a facilement remarqué à quel point la contribution d’Andy a rendu les shows de Radiohead spectaculaires. Il fait corps avec sa tâche, y apportant vraiment tout ce qu’il peut. L’ingénieur lumière est d’ailleurs considéré comme un véritable designer créateur d’univers, ce qui lui vaut d’être demandé par Oasis, Vanessa Paradis, Lenny Kravitz, et Radiohead bien évidemment, avec qui il collabore de très près depuis bien longtemps (1995 !).

Au détour d’une interview il décrit d’ailleurs ainsi son travail :

My job, is to give life to what I have designed, and I don’t mean in a Frankenstein way—I just mean in terms of the fact that it is alive, and I allow it to react to the music, and all I am is just this thing standing in the middle of the music and the light.

A l’occasion de la sortie de « Bullet Proof…I Wish I Was » en 2011, un livre de photos et textes entièrement consacrés à l’art de l’éclairage de scène, avec une partie historique, une partie théorique et une partie critique, de Christopher Scoates avec une préface de Thom Yorke, Andi Watson est sous les projecteur, et ce fut l’occasion d’en apprendre plus sur lui et son parcours. Il s’est d’ailleurs prêté à une interview pour le Magazine du New York Times : http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/…

Le début de carrière d’Andi Watson

Dans l’interview donnée à Printmag en avril 2011, on en apprend beaucoup sur la formation d’Andi :

I was originally offered a job as a Vari*Lite technician, partly because of my previous lighting experience and partly because of my familiarity with the processor chips used in the system. In those days things were much less modular than they are today, and a lot of the time now and we had to diagnose faults and repair circuitry down to component and chip level on a daily basis.

As a designer I have found my engineering training incredibly helpful not only to understand the materials, technology, physical properties, etc, but simply to design systems that are going to actually work on a practical and real basis. Understanding the principles behind how light itself “works” as well as how physics affects objects, structures and systems has allowed me to see a design from multiple perspectives and make changes that are critical even though they may not be perceived by the audience.

Printmag, avril 2011

On y lit également que la première tournée d’Andi était pour une banque, la « Nationwide Building Society » :

I was operator/tech for a system of VL2s. I had only worked on one offs or festivals prior to that and it was also my first corporate job. It was a bizarre and slightly surreal experience and I’m not sure it really prepared me for my next job which was as Vari*Lite crew chief on Prince’s Sign O’ the Times tour. That was my first “band” tour, and at the time Prince was a huge artist. It was incredibly hard work, but the rewards were massive and I learned so much about how small details can make a huge difference to the end result.
Printmag, avril 2011
Andy Watson et Radiohead, une longue histoire

Comme nous l’indiquions en préambule, Andi Watson collabore avec Radiohead depuis les débuts du groupe.Il les a rencontré sur la tournée d’un autre artiste dont Radiohead assurait la première partie et lui le lightshow. A l’époque, le groupe travaillait avec quelqu’un d’autre qui avait décidé de les quitter pour se lancer dans la musique, et Radiohead l’a donc sollicité lui…

I FIRST MET THEM WHEN THEY WERE THE SUPPORT ACT FOR A BAND I WAS WORKING WITH. WE WERE PLAYING TINY PLACES & AT THAT TIME THEY HAD ANOTHER DESIGNER WORKING FOR THEM. I THOUGHT THEY WERE AMAZING & WAS DELIGHTED WHEN THEY ASKED ME TO DO THEIR LIGHTING AFTER THE ORIGINAL DESIGNER HAD LEFT TO PURSUE HIS MUSICAL ASPIRATIONS.

 

La raison est simple, Radiohead lui a laissé une liberté totale de s’exprimer !

You’ve been working with Radiohead since their club days. The band and you have an affinity for one another. Have they been your most challenging clients?
From very early on Radiohead gave me the freedom to be creative and to develop my own ideas and style. I had spent several years working on a number of big world tours before I took over as their designer and to go back to doing tiny shows with the experience I had gained. It was a really good way of putting techniques I had learnt into use and trying out new ones. I have always tried to push my own boundaries when it comes to designing for Radiohead, and these days there is a general expectation that the visual element of their shows will be something special. That in itself is very challenging but in a really exciting and rewarding way. It is always a pleasure to collaborate with them and they are an amazing group of people who make it easy to feel inspired. I think we found each other somehow as we do seem to have an almost telepathic understanding on occasions.
Printmag, avril 2011

 

Le lightshow de Radiohead 1995-1997les premiers concerts
MB / WHICH OF THE RADIOHEAD TOURS WERE HARDEST & WHY? WHICH TOURS SEEM MOST MEMORABLE FOR YOU? CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE LIGHTS YOU’VE BEEN USING FOR THEM?

AW / MOST OF THE TOURS HAVE BEEN PRETTY TOUGH AT THE BEGINNING, ALTHOUGH IN THE PAST I HAD ALMOST NO TIME TO PROGRAM THE HUGE NUMBER OF SONGS THE BAND WANTED TO PLAY. ON THE LAST FEW TOURS I HAVE HAD MUCH MORE PRODUCTION REHEARSAL TIME BUT WHAT WE HAVE BEEN TRYING TO ACHIEVE HAS BEEN WAY, WAY MORE. THE LAST TOUR WAS PROBABLY THE MOST COMFORTABLE BECAUSE IT WAS JUST SO INSTANTLY BEAUTIFUL & FLEXIBLE.
IN TERMS OF THE ACTUAL EQUIPMENT, WE PROBABLY FOLLOWED A PRETTY HISTORICALLY ACCURATE PATH. FOR THE FIRST FEW TOURS I DIDN’T WANT TO USE MOVING LIGHTS, JUST USING FIXED INCANDESCENT LAMPS, MOVING ON TO COLOUR CHANGING FIXED LAMPS. THE FEEL WAS PERHAPS MORE TRADITIONALLY THEATRICAL ON THOSE TOURS. THEN WE DID SEVERAL TOURS WITH MOVING LIGHT RIGS, EVEN ADDING THE LASER IN THE TENT, BEFORE THE ‘HAIL TO THE THIEF’ TOUR WITH THE PIXELLINE LED WALL CONTROLLED FROM THE CUSTOM CATALYST SOFTWARE. THE TOUR AFTER THAT INVOLVED A COMPLEX CAMERA SYSTEM FOR THE FIRST TIME & AN EVEN MORE COMPLEX MULTIPLE PROJECTION SYSTEM. FINALLY, OF COURSE, THE ALL-LED ‘IN RAINBOWS’ DESIGN WITH ITS 3D VIDEO SCREEN OF VERTICAL PIXEL ELEMENTS MADE UP OF ELEMENT LABS VERSATUBE HD UNITS & THE MULTI REMOTE CAMERA SYSTEM USED TO CREATE MUCH OF THE VIDEO SCREEN OUTPUT.

1997

Un de ses regrets ? Glastonbury 1997

If you could go back in time to witness one live show, which one would it be? And why?
Probably Radiohead at Glastonbury in 1997. My recollection of the Radiohead show is somewhat different to most people. It is often mentioned as one of the greatest gigs of all time but I had an utter nightmare on my hands. The desk dumped chunks of its memory as the band walked on stage; a lot of the lights were not working properly and it was an incredibly stressful experience. However, everyone I spoke to thought it looked amazing. I thought it was awful. I’d quite like to go back and watch that gig from the audience, although I’m not sure I would want to ever relive that original evening.
Printmag, avril 2011
La scène de Radiohead en 2001

Le système Turbo Floodlight, placé de chaque côté de la scène en 2001 en deux tours, à 12 pieds au dessus du sol, permet les réglages les plus fins :

« For sidefills, two Turbo Floodlight cabinets were placed on towers at either the side of the stage, approximately 12 feet off the ground and angled downward. To make these particular speakers fit in with the rest of the stage, which reflects the bleak, neo-futurist themes of the band’s music, the cabinets were stripped of their blue, composite-wood housing, exposing the internal components. To the untrained eye, the unfinished metal drivers more closely resembled a work of contemporary sculpture than a speaker. “At these open air shows, it is sometimes hard to fly things, and this was an easy way to get them in the air,” notes Tordoff. »

En 2008, il a décidé de jouer sur le côté écologique du groupe en privilégiant un éclairage de type néon qui pixellisent.

Voici la description complète de l’installation (en anglais) et de ses composants, manufacturée par i-Pix, :

 » Watson introduced two major architectural elements to his stage definition this time around – five elegant ’fingers’ low at the back, high at the front, and running upstage/downstage, and an imposing upstage ’wall’ of Pixelline fixtures. Each finger is constructed from Mini-beam truss – an eight and a four foot section plus two custom curved sections per finger. They are masked with silver-grey crushed velvet covers, a dress fabric sourced by Jenny Clarke at drapes specialist Blackout, who made all the onstage drapes. The velvet takes light extremely well, adding another layer of texture to the stage.

The fingers evolved because Watson wanted to have lights everywhere but without conventional lighting trusses in sight. The upstage/downstage trajectory of each finger is a straight line, their come to a vanishing point far upstage, and are designed to make geometric sense wherever you are in the room, encouraging the energy flow from stage into the audience. Watson very much considers the audience a vital component of performance.

Attached to each finger – with gently asymmetry across the five fingers – are three Martin MAC 2000 washes and three 2K Performers, plus six egg-strobes fitted through the velvet. At the front of each finger are three high-powered fuzz lights, fitted with Par 36 lamps in special housings. The front truss – a half ellipse – is shaped from straight and angled corner blocks to give it a subtle curvature. Fixtures on this are six 2K Performers and eight MAC 2000 Washes, five Moles plus colour-changers and 12 egg strobes.

For follow spots, Watson used four operated Strand 1kW Beam Lights with scrollers and colour and intensity controlled via from the lighting desk, plus one static Beam Light for the kit.

Upstage on the floor are eight MAC 2000 washes, six ripple tanks and four half mirror balls, plus a set of triple Atomic strobes, specially adapted by Bandit and mounted in 8-lite housings on a customised frame, with colour scrollers on the front. Twenty VL2402 Washes are used for side lighting, and there are six pipe-and-base stands with ACL 8-lites and scrollers on the top, plus a B&Q halogen worklight on each.

The awesome Pixelline wall features 72 units – 24 wide and three high, behind a scrim – and is used to create a variety of effects from sine waves and oscillations to undulating fluidity as the solid Pixellines are literally transformed into a rippling water feature. It’s one of those that has to be seen to be completely appreciated !

The Pixellines are controlled via a PowerBook running Richard Bleasdale’s PixelMAD software – the production version of the pixel-mapping software Watson toured in the summer. It maps the RGB levels of the pixels on the computer to the RGB pixels in the lighting fixtures enabling the creation of complex patterns and chases that would otherwise take hours of programming time. The PowerBook runs Ethernet to eight DMX universes to a WholeHog II console.« Une autre description là : »For its current world tour, rock band Radiohead has chosen to use only LED fixtures for stage lighting.

Rock band Radiohead is using an all-LED lighting rig for its world tour, which kicked off in the US at the start of May. UK-based LED innovators i-Pix have created the BB7, a brand new fixture, for the tour, and this is being utilized by Radiohead’s lighting & visuals designer Andi Watson.

Watson’s unique energy-saving design three different types of fixture from i-Pix, plus other LED products, all of which work seamlessly together to produce a stunning, headline-grabbing design.

Chris Ewington of i-Pix said he was surprised how soon it has become possible to use LED lighting throughout, for a major tour. “We all appreciated Andi taking a massive leap of faith in having the courage to dispense completely with conventional lighting in his show,” said Ewington. “Not having a single discharge or incandescent lamp in the design, sets a new benchmark at least a couple of years from what we had anticipated.”

The new BB7 is a seven-cell high power homogenized 10 degree RGB source, which consumes 210 watts at 240 volts. Forty-eight of the BB7s are in various positions around the rig, including 25 in five custom 5-way frames produced by Specialz.

Watson, is also using 48 of i-Pix new production-model BB4s on his front truss. The BB4 is a four-cell, high-power homogenized 20 degree RGB lightsource, and consumes 120 W at full power.

Additionally, 14 i-Pix Satellites with holographic film are mounted on the floor in and around the backline to light the band at close quarters.

The BB4 and BB7 fixtures both contain custom LED light engines produced exclusively for i-Pix by Lamina Ceramics in New York.

This project started when i-Pix’ Chris Ewington visited the US last October to see a new prototype narrow optic. He then showed Watson the BB4, which was already in production in January this year, along with a test rig of the embryonic idea he had for the BB7 – without optics.

Once the new optic became available, Ewington sourced the first 12 and again met Watson in March, along with Radiohead production manager Richard Young and lighting crew chief Andy Beller, and showed the first prototype BB7 with the new narrow optic.

Watson liked it and thought the fixture was exactly what he wanted, after which i-Pix priced up the project for Richard Young. From this came an order to produce 206 fixtures (enough for 2 rigs) from scratch in just over 5 weeks !

Having just undergone the “birthing process” with the BB4, the i-Pix team were well geared up for this challenge. “From our experience, most shows spend months in discussion and a maximum of 6 weeks in prep, so this timescale did not come as a surprise,” said Ewington. “Our first fixture, the Satellite, was developed under similar circumstances to coincide with Radiohead’s last tour.”

To meet the schedule, the design period was condensed from six months to 4 days, the components were produced in two weeks and the units built over two weeks. i-Pix completed the production task with 4 days to spare.

« Andi put his trust in us before when he integrated PixelLines into his groundbreaking show for Radiohead back in 2003. He relied on us again in 2005, and in 2008 he really upped the anti !, » said Ewington.

« I always enjoy working with Andi, » says Ewington. « His professionalism, attention to detail and progressive approach to pushing the industry forward never ceases to impress. I often design fixtures with Andi in mind and consider him and his team as exceptional and very important to our industry. » »

Pour ce qui est de la vidéo, Andi a également pensé à un système ingénieux :

UNCONVENTIONAL VIDEO
Video was an interesting conundrum. As one would expect, anything conventional – particularly I-Mag – was out the question. However, they all recognised the need for those in the far reaches of large arenas to get closer and more involved with the stage action.

Watson thought long and hard before he came up with a creatively acceptable format that was congruous with his own and the band’s sensibilities.

He worked with Seattle-based Jon Dix and Scott Johnson in the summer, and decided they would be good video partners in terms of getting their heads around a bit of imaginative video subversion. Watson decided on three LED side screens in 3:1 aspect ratio per side – the approximate space for the image of a human body – which could be run with different configurations of images. The three-per-side Saco Chromatec 15mm screens are in vertical aspect ratio, so a person’s body fits really neatly, and are run at their minimum intensity. The screens have all been supplied by XL Video.

There are 12 low res security cameras – very much the IT video look of 2003 – onstage. Four are on remote pan and tilt heads, and eight are fixed. The camera feeds are treated live with a variety of different elements throughout the show including a Xandar 16 channel MultiViewer unit, used for splitting then picture and creating ’picture-in-picture’ effects. The feeds are also sent through a Kramer matrix switcher.

The live interaction between video images and lighting is crucial. Watson’s instructions to Dix and Johnson – who mix via a Panasonic MX50 – are precise, although the live result is an organic collage of the two mediums. Images are often treated with saturated colour washes to match the lighting of the moment, and everything appearing onscreen is cued by Watson at the lighting desk, a process that varies slightly in look each night, but has a similar emotional overtone. While the video choreography sometimes takes the viewer on a completely contrasting tangent, a sense of the images being related to the band and their movement is never lost.

The video mixer output is also fed to a PowerBook running the video manipulation program Jitter – a subset of Max, the data file manipulation program. Max is used by guitar/keyboardist Jonny Greenwood to write his own pedal-activated guitar effects units. Jitter is great for effects like saturation, waveform analysis and oscillation. The guitar pedals are fed into a Metric Halo 2882 A/D converter, that takes audio signal in and squirts Firewire data out to Greenwood’s Max patch effects. These pass through the amps and mics and out via the PA.

Watson’s lighting team and Greenwood – who has always taken a keen interest in lighting to the extent of sometimes lighting support bands on past tours – collaborated to make the Max patches work with Jitter, via MIDI into the Jitter computer, where it can control and effect the video.

 

 

2003 : l’arrivée des LED
The first time we used LEDs on Radiohead was in 2003 on the Hail to the Thief tour. For a while I had been following how a few companies were introducing lights with large numbers of 5mm LEDs in them and I was researching new technologies and fixtures and I came across the Thomas Pixelline. This was a 4-foot-long batten with 18 individually controllable R/G/B cells. I immediately fell in love with the colors, the way the LEDs felt and the possibilities for internal modulation. I had been toying with using large LED video panels on stage but had run on to big problems due to weights, power, etc. I talked myself into believing that I could effectively create a large 48′ wide by 8′ (and subsequently 12′) video screen by only using 24 vertical strips of the Pixelline units spaced 2′ apart. By programming hundreds of patterns across the individual elements I could fool the audience into filling in the gaps that weren’t there.

Along the way I was saved from an eternity of programming thousands of groups by Richard Bleasdale, the software developer behind the Catalyst media server software. He proposed that we could use his video server to map individual R/G/B levels of on screen pixels to R/G/B DMX values at the Pixellines. Fortunately for me, Radiohead creatively and financially backed this utterly untried approach and I got the go ahead. When we finally assembled the system it was more beautiful that anything I had imagined. By using the software Richard developed for the tour we were able to create the most beautiful images across the screens, even though only a tiny fraction of that 48′ width was really there. It was one of those amazing moments when you look at something and wonder quite how you got there.

Printmag, avril 2011

 

2007 : la tournée in rainbows
MB / CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE LATEST TOUR & THE LED LIGHT SYSTEM YOU HAVE DEVELOPED FOR IT? WHAT WERE YOUR TECHNICAL & ARTISTIC INTERESTS IN DEVELOPING THIS LIGHTNING SYSTEM & WHAT WAS THE ECOLOGICAL ENGAGEMENT BEHIND IT?

AW / THE DESIGN FOR THIS TOUR IS THE CULMINATION OF AN IDEA FROM SEVERAL YEARS AGO TO CREATE A VISUAL FIELD WITHIN THE STAGE/PERFORMANCE AREA SO THAT THE SPACE COULD BE FILLED WITH COLOUR AS OPPOSED TO SIMPLY USING BEAMS TO LIGHT OBJECTS OR SMOKE. OF COURSE THE ULTIMATE AIM WOULD BE TO BE ABLE TO CHANGE THE OPACITY & COLOUR OF THE AIR ITSELF BUT WE AREN’T QUITE AT THAT STAGE. WE DID GET AS CLOSE AS TECHNOLOGY WOULD ALLOW THOUGH BY USING 72 VERTICAL COLUMNS OF LIGHT, ARRANGED IN AN EQUISPACED GRID PATTERN & MAPPED IN 3D INSIDE A VERY CUSTOM VERSION OF THE CATALYST MEDIA SERVER. IN ADDITION TO THE VERSATUBE ARRAY WE HAD A NUMBER OF LED FIXTURES TO DO MORE ‘CONVENTIONAL’ LIGHTING, AS WELL AS A LARGE NOCTURNE V9 VIDEO WALL IN ULTRA WIDESCREEN BEHIND THE BAND & TUBES. THAT INTENTIONALLY MADE IT HARDER TO SEE THE CONTENT PERFECTLY & ENSURED THAT I COULD LOSE THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE VISUAL ELEMENTS ONSTAGE TO CREATE A COHERENT VISUAL SPACE. IN TERMS OF THE PHYSICAL CREATION OF THE DESIGN, THERE WERE MANY CLEVER IDEAS SUCH AS HANGING THE STRIPS FROM CUSTOM THEATER TRACK SO THEY COULD BE MADE TO DISAPPEAR UNTIL JUST BEFORE THE SHOW (ESSENTIAL FOR FESTIVALS) & HOW EVERYTHING TRAVELED. IN TERMS OF THE SOFTWARE, THERE WERE A LOT OF VERY CLEVER IDEAS USED TO CREATE VARYING MAPPING TECHNIQUES & THEN A LOT OF RESEARCH INTO HOW WE COULD MAKE THE HUMAN BRAIN FILL IN ALL THE MISSING INFORMATION FOR THE VISUAL SPACE SO THAT THE STAGE BECAME AN ENTIRE AREA AS OPPOSED TO JUST A NUMBER OF STRIPS.
AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TOUR THE ONLY REQUEST I HAD HAD FROM THE BAND WAS TO CUT DOWN ON SOME OF THE INCANDESCENT LIGHTING TO SAVE ELECTRICITY. IN THE END, AFTER MUCH RESEARCH I DECIDED THAT THE ONLY WAY I COULD MORALLY APPROACH THE DESIGN WAS TO HAVE AN EXCLUSIVELY LED SYSTEM. I WAS DELIGHTED TO WORK ON CREATING SOMETHING ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE AS WELL AS STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL. INCIDENTALLY THIS TOURING SYSTEM USED ABOUT 20% OF THE ENERGY OF THE LAST ONE.

/../

MB / WHAT I FOUND VERY BEAUTIFUL IN THE ‘IN RAINBOWS’ TOUR SIDE SCREEN VISUALS WHERE THE VISUAL EFFECTS YOU WERE PUTTING UPON THE FILMED MATERIAL OF RADIOHEAD ON THE STAGE. CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT IT? THE ANALOGUE SOUNDS TRANSFOMED INTO LIGHT & VISUALS?

AW / EVEN BEFORE WE USED THE LASER ON THE TENT TOUR I WAS COMMITTED TO ALWAYS GENERATING EFFECTS LIVE. IN THE CASE OF THE LASER, THE DEFLECTING MIRRORS WERE ACTUALLY GLUED STRAIGHT ONTO SPEAKER CONES SO THAT THE WAVEFORMS WERE CREATED BY FEEDING THE BANDS ACTUAL INSTRUMENTS OR VOICES THROUGH THE SPEAKERS. THAT WAS A REVELATION IN PURE SYNAESTHESIA.
FOR THE ‘IN RAINBOWS’ TOUR, RICHARD CREATED SEVERAL NEW SOUNDS ANALYSIS OPTIONS FOR CATALYST. BY HAVING THE MONITOR ENGINEER SEND US SPECIFIC AUDIO CHANNELS, WE WERE ABLE TO ANALYSE THE BANDS MUSIC & REPRESENT IT VISUALLY IN MANY DIFFERENT WAYS. FOR EXAMPLE ON ‘HOW TO DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY’ WE USE JONNY’S ONDES MARTINOT TO GENERATE LIVE FREQUENCY MAPPED INTENSITY LEVELS WITHIN THE BOTTOM VERSATUBES. IT IS ALSO BEING USED TO CREATE A FREQUENCY WATERFALL THAT MOVES WITH TIME OVER THE REAR SCREEN, OVER THE LIVE CAMERA IMAGES OF THE BAND. AT THE SAME TIME THOM’S GUITAR IS CREATING A FLICKERING DISJOINTED WAVEFORM REPRESENTATION ON THE VERY TOP TUBES WAY ABOVE THE BAND. THE WAVEFORM FROM THOM’S GUITAR IS DELIBERATELY VERY THIN & ALMOST UNRECOGNIZABLY LINKED BUT IN A SYNAESTHETIC WAY MAKES PERFECTLY SUBLIMINAL SENSE WITHIN THE SOUND YOU ARE HEARING. JONNY’S MARTINOT ON THE OTHER HAND IS A VERY EASY LINK TO APPRECIATE SINCE IT IS A LARGE NUMBER OF 3M HIGH LINEAR SPECTRUM ANALYSERS.

 

On trouve de nombreuses informations également sur le site de Philips, qui  fabriqué les lumières :

For 2008’s « In Rainbows » tour, Radiohead sought to continue this tradition of excellence while drastically reducing the environmental impact of their lighting equipment.The band has a history of vocal environmental advocacy, and has expressed discomfort over the massive amount of energy consumed by grandiose rock shows. Seeking to cut carbon emissions without compromising visual spectacle, Radiohead’s longtime lighting and stage director Andi Watson turned to LED lighting technology from Philips Color Kinetics.Watson and tour production manager Richard Young were shown pre-production units of the ColorReach Powercore (now specified using ColorReach Powercore gen2) fixture, which can produce over 5,000 lumens of color-changing light over a distance of 500 ft (152 m) or more. The industry veterans were impressed by the light projection and low power consumption of ColorReach Powercore. Five fixtures were supplied for the South American leg of the tour by Bristol-based Utopium Lighting, one of the first rental companies at the time to invest in this groundbreaking LED lighting technology.Radiohead’s production team hired fabrication experts Specialz Ltd to build custom aluminum « yokes » for the fixtures, which allowed the lights to hang securely from the stage’s front truss.

iColor Flex SLX LED strands (now specified using iColor Flex LMX) were used to edge light equipment pods. The flexible strands of individually addressable LED nodes are designed for extraordinary effects without the constraints of fixture size or shape, and can be positioned in virtually any two- or three-dimensional array.

Watson also used iW Blast Powercore fixtures to ensure that each band member was properly illuminated. The versatile fixtures produce intense illumination sufficient for spotlighting on a stage without the heat that can make a performer uncomfortable.

« Doing away with conventional lighting on set was a massive leap of faith for us. Of course our concerts are all about delivering the music but the fans expect a visual spectacle as well. At the same time, we can’t just pollute the atmosphere merely for effect, » said Watson. « Having put the LED equipment through its paces we were convinced it was the right way to go. To be honest, not having a single discharge or incandescent lamp in the design has set a new benchmark for us. »

 

2012 : le mur de bouteilles & de videos

En 2012, Andu Watson a une nouvelle idée : fabriquer un mur de bouteilles… bien évidemment, il fautdrait qu’elles soient 100% recyclables :

Radiohead and visual designer/director Andi Watson have long been known for their commitment to the environment, so when Watson had the idea of expanding upon a “bottle wall” idea he had previously tried for Jason Mraz, he and production manager Richard Young made sure the bottles they used were 100 percent recyclable.

“I spent a long time in supermarkets looking at water bottles, and I’m sure I got some strange looks because of it,” Watson says.

His scrutiny wasn’t just limited to the recyclable symbol on the packaging, but to the ability of the many thousands of containers to work together to produce a multi-dimensional mass of refracted light from adjacent LED fixtures.

“Because they are transparent and they have a lens-like front with the edges, you get very three-dimensional effects, so [the more] you move off-axis, the more it starts to blur, and whatever content you add, it can merge into itself.”

The massive bottle wall, set aglow by the LED fixtures (the gear list includes 880 Versa Tubes along with iPix BB4s, BB7s and PixelSmart LEDs) is the latest tweak in the evolving design concept Watson has created, moving Radiohead’s stage show further away from traditional rock ‘n’ roll beam effects and more toward an immersive, video-enhanced performance environment.

“Having worked with the band for so many years, when I go into a new design for a new tour, I don’t really try to top myself; it’s more about creating an environment for them than a spectacle,” Watson says.

“The last tour was very well-received,” Watson adds. “It was about energy, efficiency and using low power sources, and I was incredibly happy with it. LED hasn’t progressed massively really in the past few years; there wasn’t an enormous difference I could make.

“So what I decided to do was rather than go with a whole new system, I would concentrate on being able to recycle and reuse and reinvent what we already had,” Watson continues. “Since the band purchased the equipment we had on the last tour, I thought, why not reuse it in a different way, which is how the bottle wall came about.”

Another factor shaping the set and lighting design, Watson notes, is the band’s return to indoor arenas along with outdoor festivals.

Although the band trusts his judgment — “I have a strong visual language the band understands, and it helps that they like what I do, so they do sort of leave me to get on with it” — Watson takes the time to make sure the band has a good look at his visual ideas in the early stages of gestation.

For the bottle wall idea, he went so far as to build a 7-by-7-foot mock-up of the wall so they could get a first-hand look at “how the light works with it.” More typically, he’ll simply show them a pre-viz version of how the stage will appear — but even there, he’s prepared to show them how it looks from multiple points of view.

“I model all my designs in a 3D modeling package, so every design I do is actually built as a 3D model and all my diagrams and drawings are done from that model, so I basically put 15 to 20 different combinations and positions for the screens and rendered them from different views.

“Also, so the band could see the curves of the Versa Tubes upstage and the curves of the different screens and front truss. I like to show them the different audience perspectives.

“It’s important to me that everyone, no matter where they view it gets s good show out of it, a good experience of a live show. I try to avoid things that only look good from the front view. Which is why the upstage Versa wall and bottles are curved, so everyone gets the same kind of effects, at whatever angle.”

As might be expected, the Radiohead lighting rig still veers sharply away from traditional energy-gobbling pods of PAR cans and cyc lights.

“For fixtures, I’ve got, on the upstage wall, 880 Versa Tubes, BB7 LEDs, some new custom Thomas LED followspots, which [have] a warm/cold feeling, along with some Thomas PixelSmart LEDs with the beam shaping effects — the light doesn’t move, but the beam does, and so on,” Watson says.

Along with the bottle wall, moving video elements are an eye-catching feature of the current Radiohead tour. There are a dozen “puppet” video screens, each comprised of a 3-by-3-foot square of CT Touring’s Flyer 12 LED panels.

“We use the video as more of a light source,” Watson says. “I originally wanted to have no lights at all and just have video. I was going to use small video sections as lights and have them scattered about. But the problem is the video processing — all the video panels we could find that were really usable, you had like a minimum of 1.5 meters between panels, between sections. Which, for our shows, would have been fine, we could have run cables and processors under the stage. But when you do festivals like Coachella and the like, it would have been impossible, so we have some lights, but next time…. it’s something we’ve been working towards for a long time.”

With a large and evolving set list — “we have 94 songs so far, and more will be added to the set list as the tour goes on, as no two shows are the same,” Watson has made the move from a grandMA console to the grandMA2. “I started on the MA1 but moved to the MA2 with so many songs. It was a bit of a steep learning curve, but it all worked out.

“I do want to give a cheer to my fantastic team, the production crew and everyone else on this tour,” Watson adds.

PLSN, juin 2012
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