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Imagine Dragons 2018 ‘Evolve’ World Tour

by Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • in
  • Production Profile
  • September 2018
• Created: September 14, 2018

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Strictly FX provided all the effects. IMAGINE DRAGONS © Steve Jennings

By the time it concludes with its final show in Mexico City on Nov. 18, Imagine Dragons’ Evolve world tour, which began a year ago, will have chalked up just under 130 shows — 74 in North America, 36 in Europe and close to 20 in other corners of the planet, surpassing the 109 shows performed during their 2015-2016 Smoke + Mirrors global trek. The band’s energy on stage is impressive, wowing fans across the globe. We spoke with creative director and production/lighting designer Mitchell Schellenger (Awolnation, Rob Thomas, Bleachers, J Balvin), lighting director Sarah “Sparks” Parker and video director Randall Garriott.

VER Revolution Blades line the drum riser. IMAGINE DRAGONS © Steve Jennings

Mitchell Schellenger
Creative Director/Production Designer/LD

Mitchell Schellenger was brought on board for Imagine Dragons by his friend, production manager Matt Miley. Schellenger notes that the two go way back, to Schellenger’s days as a tech for Christie Lites. He had been working as a moving light tech touring with the band, fun., and Matt was the PM. They kept in touch, and a few years later he was hired to be the LD for the band. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Matt Miley,” he says.

This year, the band asked Schellenger to take on production design and creative direction duties along with his role a lighting designer for their Evolve tour. “It was an honor. It was great working through the story of the show with the band and ensuring that their performance space was a place that emphasized their stage presence and was on point with their style.”

VER provided the video gear for the U.S. leg. IMAGINE DRAGONS © Steve Jennings

Miley and Schellenger have always had a good relationship with Christie Lites, and note their friend Martin Kelly, who serves as account rep, has been a big help in making sure things go smoothly. “Now that Christie Lites also has a U.K. location, it was an easy choice, as this band spends a lot of time outside of the United States,” Schellenger says. “They also purchased the new RoboSpot systems for us, which was a very important factor. These, to me, were a critical part of the design. Christies standards are high when it comes to gear prep, maintenance, personnel, branding, etc… So having them involved made for a solid summer run.”

Having built a relationship with the band over the past few years, Schellenger was already savvy to their creative tastes. He spoke with them as they started putting this show together to get specifics from them, some were broad requests like big LED screens behind them, no automation, a punchy lighting rig, etc., to the less noticeable but still important specifics like a wider drum riser so Ben the Bass player could easily jump up on it.

This was Mitch Schellenger’s first design with the band. IMAGINE DRAGONS © Steve Jennings

“The Evolve tour, from our early promo work to the summer tour, has been visually inspired a lot by the work of Mike ‘Beeple’ Winkelmann and his futuristic aesthetic,” Schellenger says. “I took the band’s input and built that into a futuresque stage that had the ability to achieve different looks throughout the night. We had a custom gloss black Marley floor with a UV-reactant grid painted into it, a lift hidden within a blow-through video, ramps lined with Revolution LED Blades, etc. For me, the modern touches were in the little details, which allowed us to still present a big rock show that was still in line with the look of the album cycle.

“From a creative standpoint, building the set list was also an advantage, because I could structure the show in a way that paralleled the visuals and SFX moments,” Schellenger adds. “Wayne [‘Wing’ Sermon], the guitarist, and I would call each other, have ideas about a moment in the show, then he would work out a musical arrangement and I would put together a rendering or treatment and we’d send them back and forth. By working through the show in that way, I think we were able to achieve some unique junctures in the show.”

The video walls are panned off stage for better viewing. IMAGINE DRAGONS © Steve Jennings

Schellenger has never been a big fan of a 16-by-9-foot rectangle of high resolution LED behind the band. Some shows pull it off really well, he says, with unique content, but ultimately he thinks it’s all about negative space. “When the band said they wanted video behind them, I had to come up with a way to give them that look without too much in the way of LED surfaces. I broke the walls up and turned them subtly as they moved off stage. It’s almost a convex video element. Directly behind the band is a lower resolution video wall with lighting elements hidden behind it. The two wall resolutions are broken up by the set, which features a lift and ramps on either side for the band to run up and down.

“With the LED blades — think LED tape that is rigid — which run up the ramps, around the drum riser and on the sides of the stage, we drive them both as RGB pixels from the console as well as switch them to let them receive content,” Schellenger adds. “Running simple effects through the video products from the grandMA gives us a nice clean look.”

The acoustic set. IMAGINE DRAGONS © Steve Jennings

Lightborne and Blink put together new content for this show, and Schellenger says that it really played off of the screens layout. “Having content that features the architecture of the walls makes the intentions of the design so much more apparent.”

Because Schellenger had budget numbers right from the start, he really didn’t have to make many cuts. He designed the show from the ground up knowing those numbers, so there weren’t any surprises. “When I proposed pyro in the show treatment, it got shot down, but then in the second or third show, we discussed it again and the idea was back on the table. Strictly FX got us sorted out, and a few shows later, pyro was in. So it was cut, but came back. I can’t complain!”

GLP X4 Bar 20 fixtures line the side stage. IMAGINE DRAGONS © Steve Jennings

Schellenger was also happy about the RoboSpot setup. “I literally cannot say enough good things about them,” he says. “The [Robe] BMFLs have amazing color capabilities, and the remote system was so easy to integrate. My friend Craig Burros at Robe helped us get the units quickly, as they were just released when we started this. I started the lighting design with key lighting. There are so many cool fixtures that do amazing things on the market, but most importantly, I want to make sure my band is lit properly. Having precise control of color changes, blackouts, even strobing in the spots, made all the difference in the look of the show.

“Sarah “Sparks” Parker is a phenomenal lighting director,” Schellenger adds. “She took my vision on the road and made sure it looked the way it was supposed to night after night while dealing with the inevitable changes that amphitheaters present. I was so glad she was available to do this run.”

Split beams fire out of the Elation Platinum Beams. IMAGINE DRAGONS © Steve Jennings

Sarah “Sparks” Parker
Lighting Director

Sarah “Sparks” Parker was brought in starting with the North America dates this summer. This is her first time working with Mitchell, but it didn’t take long to see that the way they work is very complementary. “Because this design of the tour, with some differences, had already been out internationally, it was a pretty easy transition for me to come in and learn it,” Parker notes. “I left rehearsals with not just the knowledge to operate this show but also a good understanding of Mitchell’s style, which allowed me to comfortably adapt things when necessary.”

For the most part, the set list remained the same, with a few additional songs programmed in rehearsal that floated in and out. “The consistency was great for my daily workflow,” Parker says. “One of the most fun parts of the tour was adding in a new single which came out halfway through the run. Mitchell did the previz programming for it, and I modified it on the rig, which allowed me to add some of my own touch to the show.”

In terms of fixtures, Martin’s MAC Viper has always been a personal favorite, Parker says. “I love its reliability, and that it’s a familiar standard,” she adds. “They definitely have a large presence in this show. This was my first time working with the RoboSpot system (or even BMFLs for that matter) and quickly loved them. The output is fantastic, and the integration in the programming allowed me to focus on the bigger picture during the show.”

Parker credited Schellenger for his ability to keep up with the dynamism of the band’s music with his visual design. “The band’s music is so dynamic, and I think that Mitchell’s design followed it perfectly, from the bold opening song, “Radioactive,” to some of the more subtle moments,” she says. “I had a lot of fun operating it every night. Even at the end of a long tour, it’s an exciting show to be a part of!”

Mitch Schellenger is a big fan of Martin MAC Vipers. IMAGINE DRAGONS © Steve Jennings

Randall Garriott
Video Director

Video director Randall Garriott has a great relationship with the project managers and coordinators at VER. When they were approached by production, Garriott was offered the opportunity. “I’ve been with the Dragons since February, toured three continents, and it’s been a great experience,” he says.

“For the majority of the tour’s legs, we have had Big Bear 15 and 25 blow-through video panels, Everbrighten 15mm LED tiles, and Blades for LED elements,” Garriott continues. “We have been using Barco and Panasonic projectors based on regional availability.

Gallagher Staging provides the set and risers. IMAGINE DRAGONS © Steve Jennings

“Different parts of the world have vastly different gear options available,” Garriott adds. “Mitchell [Schellenger] and Sarah [Parker] are responsible for working with and manipulating the video content; however, working with camera ops from several different countries has been a lot of fun. The show is frenetic. Dan [Reynolds’] stage presence, and the fluidity with which the band plays to the cameras, makes it a great show to cut.”

Venues, of course, also vary in size, so it was the crew’s responsibility to expand and contract the show elements accordingly. “Based on venue size, we may shrink elements here and there to get it all to fit, but we never sacrificed an element,” Garriott says. “The goal is always to provide the fans with the absolute best show available. With a performance the likes of which the Dragons provide, the crowd has little choice but to go for the same explosive ride they take us on as well.”

IMAGINE DRAGONS © Steve Jennings

‡‡         The View from SFX

Head SFX tech Steve Lewis is employed by Strictly FX and is responsible for the cryo and confetti effects along with the pyro. He notes that working with Imagine Dragons has been a great tour with a great production crew and is looking forward to the chance to help design the effects for their next tour.

Elation ZW19 LED Wash RGBW fixtures fill the overhead trusses. IMAGINE DRAGONS © Steve Jennings

Imagine Dragons 2018 Evolve Tour

Crew

Creative Director/Production Designer/LD: Mitchell Schellenger (Station Six)

Lighting Director: Sarah “Sparks” Parker

Lighting Co: Christie Lites

Lighting Crew Chief: Darryl Magura

Lighting Techs: Dan Maynard, JJ Contini, Jonathan Graf

Dimmer Tech: Robert Behounek

Christie Lites Account Rep: Martin Kelley

Tour Manager: Drew Magid

Production Manager: Matt Miley

Production Coordinator: Nichole Jensen

Stage Manager: J. Dennis

Video Director: Randall Garriott

Video Co: VER

Video Crew Chief: Karl Hansen

Video/LED Techs: Michael Boggs, Christina Cohan

Servers/Shader: Shea Hack

VER Account Rep: Kevin Forster

Special Effects: Strictly FX

SFX Head Tech: Steve Lewis

SFX Tech: Brianna Osorio

Strictly FX Account Reps: Ted Maccabee, Heidi Degrande

Set/Risers: Gallagher Staging

Gallagher Staging Account Rep: Jimmy Russo

Riggers: Joel Gburek, Robert Brackensick

Carpenters: Ryan Cruz, Alex Ketterer

Trucking: Egotrips

Confetti rains from above. IMAGINE DRAGONS © Steve Jennings

Gear

2       grandMA2 Full consoles (8192 Ch)

1       grandMA2 Light tech console

7       Robe RoboSpot Remote control systems

7       Robe RoboSpot BMLF fixtures

4       Martin MAC III Performance

80     Elation Platinum Beam 5R Extremes

88     Elation ZW19 LED Wash RGBW fixtures

45     Martin MAC Viper Profiles

72     GLP impression X4 Bar 20 fixtures

36     Elation Protron 3K LED color strobe

12     Blinder 4-Lite Linear PAR 362 fixtures

2       MBox Mac Pro media servers (from Station Six)

5       ZR44 JEM CE Foggers

176  Everbrighten 15mm LED Panels

42     Big Bear 15mm 25mm “Blow Through” LED Panels

48     Revolution Blade HD “Mini” .3m

90     Revolution Blade HD .9m

4       Barco HDX-W20 projectors

1       Barco HDX-W20 projectors (spare)

1       Complete lens kit

2       Stumpfl 20’x11’ projection screens

An oversized drum riser was incorporated into the design. IMAGINE DRAGONS © Steve Jennings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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