Twenty One Pilots

Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • Designer InsightsJanuary 2019 • January 14, 2019

TWENTY ONE PILOTS © Steve Jennings

Daniel Slezinger and Tyler Shapard Shape the Looks for “The Bandito Tour”

Twenty One Pilots is the alternative rock, pop, electro rap duo Tyler Joseph (lead vocals, keyboards, guitar, bass, ukulele) and Josh Dun (drums, percussion, trumpet). The act’s current “Bandito” tour is supporting their fifth studio album, Trench, released Oct. 5, 2018.

PLSN spoke with designer and programmer Daniel Slezinger and designer, programmer and director Tyler “Shap” Shapard about the production for the tour, which launched in mid-October and runs through late August, 2019, with legs in the U.S., Australia, Europe and South America before it returns to North America this summer.

TWENTY ONE PILOTS © Steve Jennings

Daniel Slezinger says the first ideas for the current “Bandito” tour emerged during the act’s “Tour de Columbus,” which capped their 2016-2017 “Emotional Roadshow” world tour in support of their fourth studio album, Blurryface, released in May 2015.

For “Tour de Columbus,” the band played five sold-out shows in venues all over their hometown in late June 2017. “It was an epic close to the era of the Blurryface album,” Slezinger recalls. “After the last show, Tyler [Joseph] pulled us aside and said, “That was amazing; now let’s step it up on the next tour, let’s go big.” Instantly Tyler Shapard and I started dreaming up ideas for the current ‘Bandito’ tour.”

That summer (2017), Slezinger and Shapard started creating “puzzle pieces” that they could each bring to the table and try to merge them together into one cohesive show. Then, to take things up a notch, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun had about 10 people on the act’s management and creative teams come together on the 21st of every month to the studio, starting in January 2018, “so we could stay on the same page,” Slezinger continues. “The first meeting, we just listened to the vision for the album and the tour and soaked it in. It was really exciting and inspiring and gave us a sense of what the next few years’ vibe should feel like, from every aspect of Twenty One Pilots.

“We worked closely with Mark C. Eshleman (Reel Bear Media) and Brandon Rike (TNSN DVSN), since they helped create assets for the overall storyline of the Trench album, including album art, music video treatment direction, etc., with the band. This really helped keep everything on-brand and made sure it was apparent that this was a new era for Twenty One Pilots. Chris Schoenman and Molly Gray at Tantrum Content played a huge role in the graphic content design once we dove into visuals. Daniel Gibson, the band’s production manager, was with us every step of the way making sure the crew was ready to tour this thing around the world.”

TWENTY ONE PILOTS © Steve Jennings

‡‡         Going Big (and Deep), from Concept to Reality

“We knew we had to go big on this one,” agrees Tyler “Shap” Shapard, noting that it was about a year-long process from the start of the first conceptual drawing to what the show is today. “We had many creative meetings where Tyler [Joseph] introduced us to the world of Trench, and we slowly began to hide branding throughout the show as we learned about it. They pretty much let us do whatever we wanted, as long as it was exciting and sustained a sense of development throughout the show. What I mean by that is, the show is constantly growing. We strategically start the show very conservative, as each song reveals a new aspect of the show.”

Slezinger and Shapard traded ideas in both SketchUp and Vectorworks. Bruce Rodgers, who seemingly has become Slezinger’s “Yoda” after working together on several Super Bowl Halftime shows, among other projects, helped create visual renderings of some of the concepts they had. (Rodgers has also served as a mentor for Justin Roddick, one of Slezinger’s partners on the Concert Investor team — see sidebar, page 36). After many weeks of creating drawings and getting accurate with the details, they presented the puzzle pieces and they were — to Slezinger and Shapard’s surprise — all accepted by the band. “We had intended for maybe half or even a third to make it into the show as a starting place, but the conversation just got deeper, and more about the logistics of how we transitioned from moment to moment in the show,” says Slezinger.

Once they had the overall design locked in, they dove into creating the 3D world in LightConverse (a previz program recently rebranded as L8 — see “Product Spotlight,” this issue, page 58) with the help of David Perkins at Imaginary Lights. “We went deep,” notes Slezinger. “All of the automation was built into the previz system, all of the motor points and axes were accounted for, all of the automated lifts, the set pieces, and even the burning cars flames could be controlled. Then, to top it off, we integrated the HTC Vive Virtual reality headset into the mix so we could stand anywhere in the arena and look around at what we were creating in the virtual world.”

Shapard says they started drawing truss formations in Vectorworks just at the end of their last tour before they took the break to write. From there, it slowly adapted to what it was today. “There are a few elements left from the original drawing, but as Daniel and I talked more frequently on ideas and concepts to add to the show, it was never full scrapped — it just evolved over the months of inception.”

TWENTY ONE PILOTS © Steve Jennings

‡‡         Sixty Long, but Inspiring, Days

Both Slezinger and Shapard spent 60 long but very inspiring days in the previz room at VER Nashville where they had two grandMA2 consoles, two 98-inch monitors and four NPU’s. Every light in the show was hung in the air, and they had a dedicated VR area taped off with infrared sensors and five computers including two state-of-the-art custom built single-threaded previz machines that have overclocked processors and water cooling, loaded with RAM and graphics cards.

“I developed a custom process to previz that allowed us to control video content playback as well as audio track and timecode from the console utilizing an application developed by Thomas Krautscheid, whom I met while working together on BMW’s 100 year anniversary show,” Slezinger explains, about a memorable corporate gig that took place in 2016. “The app allowed us to create cues offline and perfectly align them with the audio waveforms in the track, as well as label, color-code and functionally assign executors before pushing over the network to the console and loading everything into the timecode pools, sequences, executors on specific pages, etc. We programmed about 24 songs in the previz room; some with over a thousand cues each. It’s a very tight set list, for the most part, because of the automation and lift movements, but it does change from time to time,” he adds.

When it does, it helps to have some versatile lighting fixtures in the rig. And the MVF (most valuable fixture) for this trek appears to be the Robe MegaPointe. “It rocks,” Slezinger says. “Once they added the color wheel, it just had everything we needed in a spot/beam fixture. The reach is incredible, even with layered attributes. But we really feel like every light on the show has a specific purpose and married with a specific placement. There aren’t really any fixtures in the show that we feel like are just ‘there’ — everything has its moment or completes the greater vision.”

“On the previous tour cycle [2016-2017], the Robe Pointe was the work horse,” says Shapard. “The biggest issue with the light was it was on color wheel. When the MegaPointe came out, it was just a no brainer. We also have a little bit of a ‘square’ theme in the show, and I became really impressed with the [Ayrton] MagicPanel-FX. The zoom on the fixture in just incredible.”

TWENTY ONE PILOTS © Steve Jennings

‡‡         Giving Thanks

“We’ve got to credit our brilliant crew for pulling this together night after night,” says Slezinger. “Working tireless hours and not just achieving excellence in all the details, but refining and polishing the intense logistical spectacle we aim to deliver to the fans on this album cycle. And of course, none of us can do what we love to do without the artists. They have a message with a purpose which makes our life more fulfilling, and their fan base’s connection, enthusiasm and loyalty is unlike anything we’ve experienced before.”

Shapard notes that their schedule is very aggressive. “We are probably one of the toughest tours out this year, and we have an amazing crew that manages to get it up every show with amazing accuracy and no production cuts. I honestly owe them so much, because if it wasn’t for their hard work, short nights and determination, there is no way this would work.”


TWENTY ONE PILOTS © Steve Jennings

Putting it All Together: Concert Investor’s Role

Daniel Slezinger, Justin Roddick and Michael Gibson own Concert Investor, which is a production agency that produces the live elements of the tour as well as TV moments. They manage the tour’s production budget, production design, programming, vendor selection and coordination as well as hiring the touring personnel for the band. So, once they’ve completed the design and programming process the company manages the gear assets such as audio, lighting, LED, projection, cameras, automation, rigging, custom set pieces, special effects; lasers, cryo, pyro, confetti, as well as motion graphics, crewing, and shipping occasionally like air freighting the production between continents. They have strong global vendor relationships and a vast worldwide network of professional industry employees and freelancers. Shapard says, “When you approach Concert Investor with a problem or an issue, they provide you with a solution, no matter the difficulty,” says Twenty One Pilots’ designer, programmer and director Tyler “Shap” Shapard.


TWENTY ONE PILOTS © Steve Jennings


Twenty One Pilots “The Bandito” Tour



Show Designer, Programmer: Daniel Slezinger

Show Designer, Programmer & Director: Tyler “Shap” Shapard

Creative Director: Mark C. Eshleman/Reel Bear Media

Lighting Co: VER

Lighting Crew Chief: Mark Chancellor

Lighting Techs: Mike Tengdin, Mike Mehmert, Josh Cravey, Zach Svoboda, Logan Stofer, David Rowan, Sean Hendrick, Jensey Lund

Tour Electrician: Lawrence Adams

Video Co: VER

Video Director: Adam Peck

Video Crew Chief: Sean Green

Video Engineer: Adam Mills

LED Techs: Alex Gobson, Austin Hammond, Courtney McDaniel

Projection: Karl Hansen, Nate Fountain, Travis Miller

Pyro, Cryo, Confetti, Lasers: Strictly FX

SFX Shooter: Bryan Ratay

Pyro Techs: Reid Nofsinger, Allen Domanksi

Laser Tech: Jackson Frazier

Custom Kinetik LED Lighting: Glow Motion Technologies

Glow Motion Tech: Bryce Crutcher

Stage Kinetik Tech: Daniel Schmerge

Symmetry Labs Programmer & Tech: Nathan Argetsinger

Tour Manager: Andrew Weiss

Production Manager: Daniel Gibson

Road Manager: Jake “JJ” Johnson

Assistant Tour Manager: Aaron Holmes

Production Coordinator: Colin Heasley

Production Assistant: Nick Vanderheyden

Stage Manager: Sam Wilson

Automation & Rigging Co: VER

Automation & Rigging Crew: Jim Diekhoff (Head), Amber Stanley, Tom Nikitas, Dab Higginbotham

Staging: Tait

Carpenter/Riggers: Jason Slade Allen, Alex Yoder

Carpenters: Steven Carlson (Head), Rob Saldate, Drew Purciful

Riggers: Daryll John, Mark Whittaker, Rai Rathor

Cameras & Engineering: Highend TV

Motion Graphics: Tantrum

Trucking: Stage Call

TWENTY ONE PILOTS © Steve Jennings


Lighting & FX:

3       grandMA2 Full consoles

1       grandMA2 Light console

8       NPU’s

24     8-Port Nodes

80     Robe MegaPointes

20     Robe BMFL WashBeams

8       Robe BMFL FollowSpots

4       Robe FollowSpot ground controllers (active)

276  Robe Spikies

40     Robe Pointes

6       Robe BMFL Blades

24     GLP impression X4 S fixtures

40     GLP impression X4 Bar 20’s

65     GLP JDC1 Hybrid Strobes

50     Ayrton MagicPanel-FX

36     Elation CuePix Blinder WW2 fixtures

41     Elation CuePix Blinder WW4 fixtures

3       MDG theOne fogger/hazers

2       Martin Jem ZR44 foggers

2       DF50 Hazers

13     Cryo Jets

4       LSG Dry Ice Units

12     Confetti Cannons

12     15W Lasers

TWENTY ONE PILOTS © Steve Jennings


1       grandMA2 Light console

8       Barco UDX-4K32 projectors

2       d3 (disguise) 4x4pro media servers

1       d3 (disguise) 4x2pro media server

218  Winvision 9 Air video tiles

1       Blackmagic Design switcher

Sony 2500 cameras


More Twenty One Pilots “Bandito” Photos by Steve Jennings





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