Oli Metcalfe, LD for MUSE

in Designer Insights

LD Oli Metcalfe on tour with MUSE, photo by Steve JenningsThe British trio, Muse — including Matthew Bellamy (lead vocals, lead guitar, keyboards), Christopher Wolstenholme (bass, vocals, keyboards, rhythm guitar) and drummer/percussionist/synthesist Dominic Howard, with the addition of keyboardist/percussionist Morgan Nicholls on their live performances — offer an engaging blend of electronica, metal, classical and space rock.

The 2nd Law world tour (which supports Muse’s current album of the same title) kicked off last summer with a performance at the closing ceremony at the Summer Olympic Games in London and then continued through Europe up until December. On Jan. 21, 2013, Muse embarked on the North American leg of the tour, starting in San Diego and ending April 26 at Colisée Pepsi in Quebec. From there, the band heads to Europe, Japan and Brazil.

The title of the album and tour refers to the second law of thermodynamics, outlining how energy in a closed system dissipates and trends toward entropy.

MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve JenningsThe Concept:

“The Muse design directive was driven by the need to deliver a show capable of presenting in a 360-degree format. The band presented a narrative based on shifts in global power and political change, and also the scientific aspects of thermodynamics and energy, which relate strongly to global consumption and human sustainability.

“The Pyramid is a dynamic scenic element that, initially in the show, forms a symbol of ‘the system’ and the fact that I could quite easily be turned upside down.

MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve Jennings“I wanted to make certain with this design that we could use low level video around the performance to encapsulate the space and offer interesting I-Mag potential, whilst keeping a clean look to the whole scenic picture.”


“It’s quite basic really. Kinesys K2 drives five layers of slightly angled LED, and all move through one another as well, with complete independence. The show begins with the Pyramid hidden and masked.  It’s revealed in its full form, before demonstrating several exploded and random scenes during the show. The finale exhibits a full invert of the structure when it comes down to encompass the stage and band.

MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve Jennings“K2 made it possible to connect the virtual programming of moving scenery. I used my visualizations to preset my looks with the physical placements as well as the video maps. Integration was the main drive from the beginning, which helped, in turn, to keep everything so neat and tidy. I wanted all main show infrastructure embedded within the main performance deck and upstage runway. All racks and set travel in carts. The set comes out the carts and the carts form the base for inner service roads and runways. It was so nice to see this come together so cleanly from sketch after sketch to CAD model and then reality.

“Everything boils down to the Catalyst [media server] and the fact that it’s controlled together with the lighting from one place. Tom [Kirk, video director] is great at the dynamic content and I helped to deliver a simple way of mapping this to the surfaces and to deliver a way of seeing this prior to rehearsals. It’s easier to create the harmony needed between lighting and video presentation if everything has a structure and purpose.

MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve Jennings“Muse has a very long-standing crew. I have many of the same techs in both the video and lighting departments who have served me on many tours for the past 10 years or so. I also worked with [laser company] ER Productions again. They have such a great range of smaller compact lasers. I knew exactly how I wanted to use the lasers on this production, with mirrors playing a big look in this show. ER were all over the programming in LH2 (rehearsals) and worked with me to program the three songs they are in use during the show. Ross Marshall from ER Productions is operating the Pangolin system.

“I am so lucky to have [K2 operator] Gareth Williams (located under the stage) and [Kinesys rigger] Barry Branford taking care of the Kinesys boards. We needed to make sure that Gareth had an optimal vantage point for his operation of such a large scenic element right over the middle of the stage. Neg purchased a full K2 console and tracking backup (as well as a load of other new kit) for this tour. They love to stay current with new advances, and I think it made sense for this, given the already-large inventory of Kinesys and Liftket motors. We used the K2 data, in preprogramming and also live, to control the LED panel positions in Catalyst.”

MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve JenningsLighting Gear Choices

“I’m using a whole host of kit on this tour. Martin MAC Vipers, Vari*Lite VL3500 Wash, High End Systems TechnoARC, Martin MAC Aura, MAC 101, Atomic 3000 and four Robert Juliat Flo followspots, which have DMX dimmers and color changers.

“I chose the Vipers because of their amazing responsiveness. When I tried them for the first time last spring I was blown away by how poised this thing is.

“The 3500 Wash is a staple workhorse, and the TechnoArc offers something else — for a 575, it really has the output to match up with 3500s; moreover, though, are the effects this light delivers as well as being a very nice wash light with a perfectly smooth soft beam.

MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve Jennings“I love the Aura for many reasons, it’s doing all the big looks as well as being able to provide all the fill lighting I’ll ever need. The 101s are mounted in the pyramid for layering and detailing; and the Atomics are for the blat and the Flos for the key.”

Production Partners

“We are using Neg Earth [for lighting], XL Video, Brilliant Stages and Rigorous Technology [for load monitoring]. Neg have serviced me and my works for the last 10 years nearly. XL are the same, with a good 10 years of service. Brilliant have built the Muse stages for several tours now. They embraced the project and kept it complete on spec from the original design.

MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve Jennings“All the suppliers on this have worked exceptionally hard on this. From the outset, in early meetings, I made it clear that I wanted integration never seen before — a 360 show with no giblets around the back; no crew scrabbling around behind the scenes. The design evolved with all suppliers and their crews embracing the fact that everything could be hidden completely within the stage itself and the upstage runway. Brilliant deserve much credit for seeing this vision and ensuring that packaging was given the resources needed to make it so clean and so neat.”

“It’s been really nice working with [production manager] Steve Iredale on this. He has helped keep a creative focus on putting this show together from the outset, and we have had some good times on the way. I would also like to mention Richard Bleasdale and his amazing Catalyst software. What he’s done for me to help all my little wants and needs means so much and helps put so much possibility into the hands of the creator.”

MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve JenningsCrew

Lighting Designer/Director: Oli Metcalfe

Lighting Crew Chief: Jon Sellers

Lighting Techs: Peter Horne (Electrician) Dave Cox (ArtNet/Catalyst Tech), Davide Palumbi (ML Tech), Mike Maslen (ML Tech), Gareth Williams (K2 Operator), Barry Branford (Kinesys Rigger)

MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve JenningsVideo Content/Creator: Oli Metcalfe (Animated), Banoffee Sky (Animated/Filmic), Screenlight Design (Compositor)

Video Director: Tom Kirk

Video Techs: Gary Beirne (Crew Chief), Matt Vassalo (Engineer), Icarus Wilson-Wright, Dillon Wilson Wright, Al Wright (LED Techs), Rob Wich (Pole Cam), Mark Hughes (Camera)

MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve JenningsProduction Manager: Steve Iredale

Tour Manager: Dom Anderson

Stage Manager: Paul English

Riggers: Jez Craddick, Reuben Pinkney, Jim Allison

MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve JenningsLasers: Ross Marshall/ER Productions

Lighting Co: Neg Earth

Account Rep: Chris Risner

Trucking Co: Upstaging Inc.

MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve JenningsMUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve JenningsStaging Co: Brillant Stages

Rigging Co: Neg Earth ?(motors and truss)

Video Co: XL Video

Load Cell Co: Rigorous Technology

MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve JenningsLasers: ER Productions

Pyro: Co2 System (Muse owned)


MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve Jennings1 High End Systems Hog 4

28 Vari*Lite 3500 Wash

36 Martin MAC Viper Profile

84 Martin MAC Aura

MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve Jennings60 Martin MAC 101

25 Martin Atomic 3000

4 Robert Juliat FLO Follow Spots

1 MDG TheONE- Hazers

MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve JenningsVideo

425 Linx-12 tiles (Radiant)

2 Catalyst media servers

4 CamBall cameras (Bradley Engineering)

MUSE 2nd Law 2013 tour photo by Steve Jennings2 Long Lens cameras

2 Short Lens cameras

1 PoleCam

For more Muse tour photos by Steve Jennings, go to plsn.me/MUSEextras.