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Shawn Mendes, The Tour

Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • Production ProfileSeptember 2019 • September 10, 2019

SHAWN MENDES © Steve Jennings

Canadian singer-songwriter Shawn Mendes, who has attained three #1 albums, numerous #1 singles, and many honors including Juno Awards, American Music Awards, MTV Europe Music Awards and iHeartRadio MMVA’s, is out on a world trek simply titled “Shawn Mendes: The Tour,” now packing arenas around the world. We talked with some of the creative production team about the tour, including production director Andrew Thornton, lighting designer Louis Oliver and lighting director and programmer Ryan Nixon.

SHAWN MENDES © Steve Jennings

Andrew Thornton,
Production Director

Production director Andrew Thornton of 24-7 Productions has been with Mendes since the end of 2015. He notes the design process always starts and ends with management — they have a strong direction on what the show needs to be, and that’s where 24-7 begins. “Creative director Paul Caslin pulled together initial references and sketches and, once we were heading in the right direction, we added Louis Oliver and (production designer) Nathan Taylor into the mix to turn it into a working concept. After much back-and-forth, we had a final design, and I went ahead with making it happen from a practical point of view. Shawn views the design from afar, but we took several meetings with him directly to get feedback. As time moves on, Shawn gets more and more involved.”

Brilliant Stages built a spaceframe to move the video surface. SHAWN MENDES © Steve Jennings

Thornton is also the tour’s production manager. He notes 24-7 acts as the central portal between artist/management and all elements of their touring and promotion performances, providing everything from initial budgeting to full delivery of the show. “Depending on the project, we can source all required crew, contract all vendors and manage cashflow and payments providing just one check from the artist. We have long-standing relationships with the largest vendors and a pool of committed crew who work across many of our projects, keeping them busy all year round.”

Christie Lites providing lighting, including the MoleQuartz Space lights that split the trusses. SHAWN MENDES © Steve Jennings

The tour’s circular LED screen was a challenging element in the design process, says Thornton. “Being able to move the screen in multiple directions, including completely flat, meant the framework had to be substantial. Brilliant Stages’ designers came up with a unique space frame design which was compact enough to travel but strong enough to withstand the pressure put on it. The finishing detail of the LED rim works well as an additional lighting element to the high-def 5mm LED screen. Initially we discussed an edge-to-edge round LED screen, but this proved extremely expensive, so we had to add a mask to a square LED product. Brilliant managed to keep this very small so it doesn’t feel like a feature and disappears into the background when required.”

Solaris Flare Q+ fixtures light the rose. SHAWN MENDES © Steve Jennings

The “rose” concept was drawn directly from Shawn Mendes’ album artwork. A reference image was sent to Brilliant, and they took it from there. It has a central aluminum core with individual petals that attach once it’s hung in the air. Rigged inside are Solaris Flares to provide internal lighting. The stems are a handmade foam and elastic tubes with TMB FloppyFlex running through to provide light. It moves up and down on three Kinesys Hoists and lowers during Mendes’ time at the B-Stage. “After initial delivery, the ‘sepal’ [the set of green leaves below the rose petals] was replaced for a lighter color, and some other adjustments were made to the way the petals fall. Otherwise it was great success the first time out.”

Thornton says that both trucking companies, Fly by Nite in Europe and Upstaging in North America, have been amazing. “Both tours have had some challenging back-to-back drives, and they’ve dealt with it calmly and logically. The other keystone to the logistics is Rock-It Cargo, with Chris Palmer in the London office making this a smooth process, and as we head into an extremely challenging Asian fly tour, I’m sure they’ll continue to do so. Ten pallets around Asia on commercial freight with one day between a show will push them to the limit!”

It’s been great to support a new vendor — Video Screen Services, notes Thornton. “Adrian Offord has looked after accounts for me with two other large vendors, and we wanted to support him in his new venture. His investment in ROE LED product has provided a good move, and we’re very happy with the results. Quantum Special Effects are a long-term partner with 24-7 and provide amazing support and crew. Shaun Barnett always brings fresh ideas and new technology to the table, and we hope to expand SFX on upcoming Shawn Mendes tours.”

Video Screen Services served as the video vendor. ROE MC5 LED tiles were used for the circular screen. SHAWN MENDES © Steve Jennings

Louis Oliver,
Lighting Designer

For Shawn Mendes’ latest campaign, lighting designer Louis Oliver worked with Paul Caslin and Nathan Paul Taylor (set and stage designer) in the creative process for several months with management, settling on a final design at the end of last year. Oliver notes, “There were a lot of ideas from the initial discussions which have and haven’t made it into the show the audience views today. I think I can speak for us all when I say that we are all happy with where the show evolved over the design period. We wanted to make the 40-foot LED screen the hero piece in the space without cluttering it with rows of additional trusses above the stage.

Ayrton fixtures provide the beams. SHAWN MENDES © Steve Jennings

“Our aim for any other additional technology surrounding the Halo LED screen and performance stage was to keep the lighting design clean and structural, with the overall look and feel being able to be panoramic at times.” Oliver and the team started off playing with shapes upstage and downstage of it; they ended up with five upstage curved trusses that add a real depth to the show. It was designed using various pieces of CAD software, and all technical drawings and design work were done in Vectorworks before moving to WYSIWYG for previz.

A song appears to be done with smoke and mirrors. SHAWN MENDES © Steve Jennings

“As a production, we wanted to pursue the use of LED lighting fixtures where possible,” says Oliver. “After comparing different fixtures from different manufacturers, we settled on the Ayrton Khamsin-S LED and Bora-S LED Wash Beams being the main moving light workhorses for the show. I couldn’t be happier with this choice, as both fixtures are fantastic. The Khamsins form the shape of most of the show, being predominantly rigged on three automated lighting trusses upstage of the performance space. The Khamsins also act as the front (key) and backlight for Shawn and his band. The Boras work as our ‘floor’ lighting on eight sticks of rolling F-Type truss (Christie Lites’ version of automated truss) upstage of the main stage.”

Automation Systems moves the screen at angles. SHAWN MENDES © Steve Jennings

Oliver complemented the Khamsins and Boras with Ayrton Mistrals placed around the B-Stage. The main strobe effect light comes from GLP’s JDC1. For the final song, ‘In My Blood,’ they reveal 26 Molequartz Spacelights equally distributed over two automated trusses, which make a statement. “A nice addition to the show are four Ayrton Khamsins on Wahlberg Winches, which are placed symmetrically around the B-Stage and are used as key light for Shawn as well as audience effects.”

In the center of the B-Stage sits the Rose. This has 18 TMB Solaris Flare Q+’s housed within its central core. “As well as being a beautiful scenic piece, it acts as a source for audience lighting and has a presence throughout the show.”

An upright piano comes into play. SHAWN MENDES © Steve Jennings

Oliver notes the lack of followspots, which was a decision made collectively by the team. “I personally don’t agree with forcing an artist to be lit 100 percent of the time. If Shawn wishes to step out of the light, which he can and will from time to time, that being said we have enough front light from the Khamsins to cover the stage wherever Shawn wishes to go.”

Oliver says that, with the addition of automation, you can get carried away quite quickly with different truss positions and movements, so they decided from the start they would use automation in a way to change the scene/surroundings which Shawn and his band perform from within and to avoid over cluttering each track with unnecessary truss moves. “There is a lot of technology used within the show. This predominantly sits within the background with only one or two moments where you physically see elements intentionally moving during a song.”

A custom LED surround attaches to the video screen. SHAWN MENDES © Steve Jennings

Ryan Nixon, Nikita Jakovlev and Oliver spent roughly two and a half weeks before rehearsals building the main bulk of the show in previz (using Cast’s WYSIWYG software). “The show was programmed by the three of us, with Ryan taking the lead on the programming of the PixMob wristbands and roses with assistance from Rafael Linares. When in previz, we utilized moving cameras and small LED sources within the audience to convey to management and Shawn how the show would look including the basic form of the PixMob elements. Ryan and Rafael then took this basic template and elaborated on the previz, programming the PixMob elements to create something quite magical.”

Quantum Special Effects smoke out the stage. SHAWN MENDES © Steve Jennings

Ryan Nixon,
Lighting Director

Lighting director Ryan Nixon began programming the show in January, at a studio just outside London in the U.K. Once Nixon was given the setlist put together by Mendes, management and the musical director Zubin, he worked with WYSIWYG and disguise media servers getting the bulk of the programming done ahead of rehearsals.

The lights don’t interfere with the LED. SHAWN MENDES © Steve Jennings

“Rehearsals started in February at the Fly By Nite rehearsal studio in Redditch, U.K. We were there for just over three weeks,” Nixon tells PLSN. “Although Shawn does walk around the stage during the show, he’s pretty consistent in where he moves, enabling us to be pretty precise with the way we light him. We have two main fixtures that key light Shawn and then a selection of extra fixtures following the wings of the stage for when he moves out to the sides. When Shawn is at the B-Stage, we sometimes throw some of the Ayrton Khamsin’s from the main stage back at the B-Stage to fill in any tricky spots he might move to when he’s back there. The bulk of the show is run on timecode, although there are a couple of manual tracks. The MA3 runs all the creative aspects of the show — lighting, video (disguise) and PixMob.”

GLP JDC1 strobes line the set. SHAWN MENDES © Steve Jennings

Nixon has worked with Shawn Mendes since his first major headline tour in 2016 with Andrew Thornton. “We have a great creative team working with Shawn, and I travel with him to all his performances to make sure he looks great everywhere we go. It’s a team effort, with all departments working together on a lot of the aspects of the show. It’s great working with Louis Oliver as well, and he lets me have creative input on his lighting design. As I’ve been working with Shawn for a while now, I know what everyone likes to see.”

Notch Filters manipulate the Imagery. SHAWN MENDES © Steve Jennings

“Shawn Mendes: The Tour” began in Amsterdam March 7, 2019, and toured through Europe and the U.K. until April 19. It then crossed the Atlantic for a long run of shows through North America from June 12 to Sept. 6. More shows are scheduled this fall in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, with a string of South American concerts following in November and December.

SHAWN MENDES © Steve Jennings

Shawn Mendes, The Tour

Crew

  • Production Director: Andrew Thornton/24/7 Productions
  • Creative Director: Paul Caslin
  • Production Designer: Nathan Taylor
  • Lighting Designer: Louis Oliver
  • Lighting Director & Programmer: Ryan Nixon
  • Assistant Lighting Programmer: Rafael Linares
  • Lighting/Automation Co: Christie Lites/Roy Hunt
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Craig Hancock
  • Lighting Techs: Matt Morris, Tom Hill, Alex Huggins, Joseph Picano, Dennis Brown
  • Automation Tech: Mark Desloges
  • Video Director: Wannes Vandendriessche
  • Video Co: Video Screen Services/Adrian Offord
  • Video Crew Chief: Josh Key
  • Video Techs: Steve Clarisse, Henry Commerman, Brendan McCool, Piotr Klimczyk, Joe Makein
  • Video Content: Treatment, NorthHouse, Sturdy, Lightborne, Ke Jyun Wu, Paul Caslin
  • Tour Manager: Cez Darke
  • Production Manager: Andrew Thornton
  • Production Coordinator: Julie Galetar
  • Stage Managers: Duncan Ladkin, James Nelson, Anthony ‘Tek’ Levato
  • Staging Co: Brilliant Stages/Ben Brooks
  • SFX: Quantum Special Effects
  • SFX / CO2 Tech: Michael ‘Biscuit’ Morey
  • PixMob: Jacques Vanier, Samantha Torres
  • Riggers: Colin Raby, Max Stewart
  • Carpenters: Jem Nicholson (Head), Darren Davidson, Pete English, Bob Madison
  • Trucking Cos: Upstaging (USA), Fly by Nite (Europe)

Gear

  • 2       grandMA3 Full lighting consoles
  • 1       grandMA Light tech console
  • 75     Ayrton Khamsin-S LED fixtures
  • 16     Ayrton Bora-S LED Wash Beams
  • 8       Ayrton Mistral-S LED Luminaires
  • 39     Chroma-Q Color Force 12’s
  • 4       Chroma-Q Color Force 72’s
  • 18     TMB SolarisFlare Q+ fixtures
  • 26     Mole-Richardson 6K Molequartz Spacelight 7291’s
  • 20     Martin MAC Viper Wash DX
  • 90     GLP JDC1 Strobes
  • 11     4-Lite Molefays
  • 12     PixMob Washes
  • 1       Custom Rose w/TMB FloppyFlex
  • 1       PixMob LED Audience Wristband system
  • 3       TheONE Dual Foggers & Hazers
  • 2       ATMe Hazers

Video:

  • 1       Circular LED Wall w/ROE Visual CB 5mm panels
  • 1       Guz 2 Media server w/After Effects, Cinema 4D, Notch
  • 3       Sony HSC-300 cameras
  • 2       Sony HDVF-200 cameras
  • 2       I-Mag Side Screens
  • 2       Panasonic DZ21K2 Projectors

 

More Shawn Mendes: The Tour photos by Steve Jennings:

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