by Mike Wharton • in
  • Festival Spotlight
  • June 2018
• Created: June 4, 2018

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Blizzard Lighting Layers Moogfest 2018’s Sonic Frontiers

Moogfest is the synthesis of music, art and technology. It’s disruptive. It’s different. Their mission is to grow a global community of futurists who explore emerging sound technologies and design radical instruments for change. This year was that on overdrive: up-and-coming artists on the verge of breaking out, with cult legends primed for reemergence

Moogfest is an annual, multi-day music, art and technology festival. The event was previously held in Asheville, NC, where the late Robert, “Bob” Moog, the inventor of the Moog Synthesizer and founding father of electronic music, spent the last 30 years of his life.

Since 2004, Moogfest has been a forum for the exchange of ideas by artists, futurists, inventors, entrepreneurs, and scientists, and has been staged in New York City, Asheville NC, and has now completed its third successful year in Durham, NC.

By day, Moogfest is a platform for conversation and experimentation, attracting creative and tech enthusiasts for four days of participatory programming in Durham.

By night, Moogfest presents cutting-edge performances by early pioneers in electronic music, contemporary pop innovators, and avant-garde experimentalists in venues throughout the city.

The festival’s past headliners have included, Moby, Brian Eno, Animal Collective, Giorgio Moroder, Laurie Anderson, and Pet Shop Boys, to name just a few of the musical explorers and innovators. 2018’s headliners included KRS-One, Kelela, Jon Hopkins, and Mouse on Mars, a collective that features music-playing robots.

Jon Hopkins works the stage

The illuminati of off kilter visionaries and their new frontier products at Blizzard Lighting were probably the perfect fit for the broad scope of this tech-first festival.

Founded in 2010, Blizzard has grown to be a leader in entertainment lighting products. In 2016, while shooting a promotional video in-house and trying to replicate a musical stage, Will Komassa, “Chairman of the Bored” and CEO of Blizzard, reached out to the Moog company for a piece of gear he wanted to use in the shoot. Komassa was a keyboard player in a prior lifetime and owned several Moog instruments. “These guys are the granddaddy of synthesizers, and their culture is really cool. Moog Fest is a public embodiment of that culture,” he says.

In conversations regarding partnering on the festival, each found mutual benefits. “The festival is a great opportunity to showcase some of our newest products and support an organization that shares our odd artistic proclivities,” continues Komassa. We sat down with our lighting designer in residence and looked at the list of products they have used in previous years, and then created out of that a pretty cool package for them that serves the largest three venues at the festival.”

A bowl of light


Fletcher Hall

Will Goodyear is the production manager at Moogfest. He has worked with the festival ever since it relocated to Durham in 2016. His other annual gigs include production management duties at another festival and stage manager at a Raleigh amphitheater, so he has seen a wide variety of productions and gear. Upon entering Fletcher Hall, he remarks, “This is where the real gem of the whole production sets. Blizzard’s equipment has always performed flawlessly, but their new video screen? Wow. It is intensely bright! And my guys tell me it is extremely easy to work with.”

Jon Hopkins gave a stand out performance in his headlining set at Fletcher Hall in the Carolina Theater, not only for its musical quality but for the incredible visual display on IRiS-R3 LED wall. Each track featured a completely unique visual display including vibrant 3D animations, evocative real-life film, distinctive 2-dimensional cartoon illustrations and more.

“It was a 27-foot wall,” says Komassa. “When you give an artist something that big, you hope they know what to do with it. Jon certainly knows how to handle himself with something this size.”

Although their hands and minds are in a variety of endeavors, one thing Blizzard is NOT is a production company. Enter Music Matters Productions (MMP), a full service production house based in Atlanta, GA.

Aaron Soriero, owner of MMP, tells PLSN, “We have been involved with Moogfest for the past three years, since they moved it to Durham. We have provided a majority of the sound, lighting and video for the stages since then, and have been the primary production vendor. Being spread out in different venues across the city causes some logistical obstacles that we don’t encounter with the more standard “festivals in a field” type arrangement. But we have overcome those issues now that we are in the third year and have some of that learning curve under our belt.”

“We’ve had good experiences with Blizzard, as we own some of their outdoor IP par can line, but until Moog, we had not had any experience with their moving lights,” Soriero continues. “I know they are trying to gain some traction in that market, so we were curious as to what our experience would be with them. We were pleasantly surprised with the functionality and output of the fixtures.”

The Kryo.MIX CMY delievers punchy beams.

The Amphitheater

Aaron Lenchek, who works with Life is Art, programmed the lighting for the stage that was originally slated for outdoors in The American Tobacco Theater; a small amphitheater nestled in downtown Durham. The area is surrounded by nouveau brick warehouse space which played host to the various workshops and conferences held during the day.

The rig contained Blizzard’s Stiletto 17, GLO19 and the Kryo.Mix CMY. “The Blizzard product line incredibly intuitive to work with,” Lenchek says.

Fitted with seven ultra-bright Osram 4-in-1 RGBW LEDs, the Stiletto I7 moving head is features, a 4° to 60° beam angle with the ability to produce a narrow-to wide zoomable wash and a sharp parallel beam. Aerial effects are created via an infinite bidirectional lens rotation plus 540/270° pan/tilt.

Of the Stiletto, Lenchek says, “the wash fixture is easy to set up and program that delivers all you expect from a wash.”

The Kryo.Mix CMY is powerful 3-in-1 beam/spot/wash moving head that is loaded with advanced optics, mechanics, and electronic technology, all built around a bright 350W discharge lamp. It features a 1.5- 35° zoom that can provide sharp narrow or wide beam aerial effects with highly saturated colors via its CMY color mixing system.

“The moving wash has several modes that can be used to make it an excellent fixture for outdoor daytime shows,” adds Lenchek.

The outdoor LED wall originally planned for use in the Amphitheater was an IRiS IP3, an IP65 rated video panel with bright SMD 1921 LEDs, 3840Hz refresh rate, and a 3.9mm pixel pitch. It also has high 4,500 nit brightness that can create perfect video images, even in direct sunlight. However, it’s outdoor-worthiness did not get a chance to be proven, as the festival producers moved the event indoors to “The Cage” due to torrential rains Friday night and Saturday. VDMX software was used to handle content, with a grandMA2 controlling the lights.

An all synthesizer band takes the stage.

The Armory

The city fathers are as proud and conscientious as the managers of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) building in Washington, DC. The stage sits on wooden main floor surrounded by an upper balcony similar to the courthouse in To Kill a Mockingbird. The historic facility was transformed into a performance space by cutting-edge technology in both audio and lighting. Meyer Sound provided gear to create a three dimensional spatial sound environment. Though not a new concept, this may be the largest scale ever attempted.

A3 (Audio Cubed) hosted this 360-degree sound experience that literally washes over the audience. Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology was also heavily involved in the project.

The one item that seems out of place is the 40-by-20-foot beige muslin cyc on the upstage wall. Taryn Antrobus, a projectionist for MMP says “the contrast between all this 21st century technology and the historic film begs the use of that old cyc. The brightness and clarity of the Blizzard video tiles wouldn’t quite work with this motif.” Four Barco’s handle projection in the room.

Suzanne Ciani, the artist known as “The Diva of the Diode,” brought her newly scored soundtrack to the German expressionist film The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. The classic was transformed by Ciani, who performed her signature Buchla synthesizer alongside field-recording artist Layne and student electronic musicians from the Berklee College of Music. Caligari is an already dreamlike work, but Ciani and her band powerfully amplified the dreaminess and darkness of the film.

Blizzard’s LOOP multi-beam moving head with LED ring effects played a workhorse role in the Armory environment. Nested on the balcony rails around the room, the Loop delivers angular aerial effects. Each of the seven LEDs is surrounded by an RGB colored LED ring, adding even more alluring effects to the mix with the ability to fade, strobe, and chase with built-in patterns. Interspersed between the Loops were Blizzard Cyc Out, a dual purpose LED light capable of tradition cyc light duties while also taking on the ability to produce RGBW colored strobe and blinder effects without the need of gels

The main stage side lighting all came from the Blizzard TOURnado IP EXA, delivering the brightness and controlled ambience with advanced 25° optics on Ciani’s quartet without washing out the film on the cyc. Each individual LED incorporates a red, green, blue, amber, white, and UV chip behind a single lens.

“This festival is a very tech-first approach,” says Goodyear, “where Blizzard’s product fit the bill perfectly.” With 25 different venues spread out across the city, Goodyear has a lot to oversee. “I have my stage managers that I delegate to, and they’ve got their techs and operators at each site, but I do come into this room at least once a day to chill for a minute. It is a very relaxing environment. I can stand in for a minute, look around and say ‘Yeah, everything is going to be all right.’”

Kelela at Moogfest

Moogfest 2018


  • Production Manager: Will Goodyear
  • Lighting Programmer: Aaron Lenchek/Life is Art

Music Matters Staff:

  • Project Manager: Aaron Soriero
  • Crew Chief: Jessie Launder
  • Lead Lighting: Tom Nguyen
  • Lead Video: Amanda Facemire
  • Video Tech: Taryn Antrobus

Blizzard Lighting:

  • Will Komassa


  • Meyer Sound, A3 (AudioCubed)



  • 12     Blizzard Kryo.MIX CMY
  • 12     Blizzard Stiletto I7
  • 12     Blizzard Loop
  • 28     Blizzard TOURnado IP EXA
  • 8       Blizzard Cyc Out
  • 6       Blizzard Stiletto GLO19
  • 2       AtmosFEAR Tour HZ

Indoor Video Wall:

  • 105  Blizzard IRiS-R3 (1 wall: 15 x 7 panels, WxH)
  • 18     Blizzard CASE-IRiS-R3-6
  • 7       Blizzard IRiS-R3-FLY2
  • 1       Blizzard IRiS-R3-FLY1

Outdoor Video Wall:

  • 56     Blizzard IRiS-IP3 (2 walls: 7 x 4 panels each, WxH)
  • 10     Blizzard CASE-IRiS-IP3-6
  • 6       Blizzard IRiS-R2 & IP3-Fly2
  • 2       Blizzard IRiS-R2 & IP3-Fly1

Video Processor:

  • 2       NovaStar VX4S

Related Links:

More Moogfest photos by Jeremy Zuleger:

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