Teach Your Children Well, EWF Anniversary Tour, Who are the SubClones? and More...

in Designer Watch

Giving back to the industry in the form of training seems to be on the upswing. Phil Gilbert, Lee Rose and Jonathan Smeeton are just a few who are sharing experience and expertise with students of all levels.

Teach Your Children Well

LD Jonathan Smeeton is involved with the Kids On Stage program in Franklin, TN. For two weeks in June, Smeeton will instruct kids and teens to run lights, sound, video, cameras and offers skills in stage management to culminate in a six-hour concert at the end of each week. Companies providing “the works” in equipment are Accurate Staging, Premier Global, CT Touring, Clair Brothers and United Rentals. Celebrity teachers over the years have included Bonnie Bramlett, Michael McDonald, Vince Gill, The Judds and John Anderson, among others. The objective is to provide world-class experiences in the visual, performing and technical arts to empower students. “It’s amazing how good they all are,” he says.

LD/programmer Phil Gilbert spent three weeks in April teaching advanced automated lighting programming for about 100 students of the Westlake Technical Entertainment Crew in Austin, TX. The Westlake HS grad returns annually to provide on-on-one equipment training and sharing of his real world experience. Discussions focus on the importance of communication skills, networking and other critical-for-success traits. Students seek answers on topics ranging from independent contractors to working with rock stars. “We’re much more focused on using technology as a means to involve the students in a team-oriented learning environment,” Gilbert says.

LD Lee Rose of Design Partners Inc. taught a different class of students — the International Cinematographers Guild (ICG). The two-day course in advanced lighting technology was held at the Local 80 Grips’ soundstage in Burbank, CA. Rose worked with the ICG National Training Committee to put together a program which included presentations by Lee on the differences between LDs and cinematographers, the history of advanced lighting technology and more.

Rose demonstrated automated and advanced technology lighting fixtures and color rendering of various lamp sources including LEDs. These sources were also scanned using a Photoresearch SpectraScan Spectroradiometer allowing for real-time viewing of the actual spectral response curves. Participants viewed how various fixtures rendered colors on large plasma screens fed by broadcast cameras provided by Sweetwater Digital.

LD Kim Killingsworth of Design Partners demonstrated the lighting of a three-wall set with a window and backdrop solely with LED light fixtures in a “sitcom style” setup, and then a more traditional “film-style” single camera set-up. Participants could compare what they saw by eye to the images rendered on the monitors.

Shining Star

Earth, Wind & Fire are bringing 40 years of hits to U.S. stages for their current tour, which hit the road April 30 and runs to July. “These guys deliver the goods,” says production manager Tony Bulluck. “It’s a fun, energetic show. Everywhere they play, whole audiences sing along. It’s amazing.” The three-truck, four-bus tour is transporting the design of LD Merle McLain. The group is known for a visually stunning show that includes pyro, illusions/magic tricks and more effects over the years, and Bulluck says this show will also reveal some new bells and whistles.  Bulluck has been with EWF since 2000, having spent the prior 17 years with Whitney Houston.

Ushering In a Busy 2011

LD Peter Morse just finished preparing Usher’s world tour for the spring U.S. segment, with Butch Allen as set designer and Eric Wade as the touring LD. Morse also refreshed and re-lit Donny & Marie Osmond’s show in Vegas. The duo just completed their 500th show and were renewed for another two years at The Flamingo. With that benchmark, changes were made to the show with new numbers, so Morse got together with Rob Koenig to program the updated show. (Arnold Serame programmed the original show.) Morse is currently in pre-production and the design phase for the Glee world tour, which hits stages in late May. Meanwhile, Morse is also working with Butch Allen to design Jennifer Hudson’s spring/summer tour, kicking off mid-June.

Tod Rundgren, Erykah Badu, Alan Parsons…SubClones?

LD Martin Thomas of Relentless Lighting Design just finished with Todd Rundgren on his Todd & Healing 2011 encore tour as LD and co-designer with PDI’s LD Howard Ungerleider and laser system operator Scott Wilson.

Upcoming projects for Thomas include design/programming for Erykah Badu’s European summer tour, with Damon Jones as the board operator, and design/programming for Alan Parsons Live Project’s 2011 South American tour in May, with operator Dustin Adams handling console duties.

New clients include the SubClones, produced by Alan Parsons, which involves a large multi-media production and visually intensive lighting design, Thomas says. Plans for the act’s debut release is for autumn, with a tour to follow. The SubClones are hiding their identities, and Thomas says he is sworn to secrecy regarding the artists and their forthcoming tour. “But I can tell you that it will involve quite a bit of interactive aspects, particularly regarding video effects and stage presentation of the artists. We are fleshing out the technical bits, and I have been putting together my own personal ‘Manhattan Project’ team of industry specialists to make it able to tour efficiently.” (Visit subclones.com and listen for familiar voices in the three streaming songs.)

UniverSoul Circus to Soundclash

Earlier this year, LD David “Gurn” Kaniski designed his fourth production for the UniverSoul Circus, with programming by Mike Hanson. When asked about the project, Kaniski describes the challenges. “It is demanding — both the environment and the schedule. This year we were hit with a major snowstorm and lost almost a week of good programming time. The tent can get below freezing on programming nights to over 100 degrees on sunny days.” While UniverSoul Circus tours all year through November, Kaniski has been off doing other things, such as touring the U.K. through March with pop artist Jason Derulo followed by the Red Bull Soundclash gigs.

Seal-ing the Deal

Phay MacMahon, who has had an LD title before his name for many years, is now playing the role of production manager. He started last year with Maxwell’s tour, went on to 30 Seconds to Mars, and then joined up with Seal in Europe and has been with the artist ever since. Seal recently finished a South American tour at the end of March. “Seal’s organization is a pleasant one,” MacMahon says. Production-managing was something he started out doing even in his early days of his career, he notes.

Quick Cues…

LD Han Henze performed lighting director duties for Allen Branton’s design of a music video shoot for Jason Crabbe. The shoot took place at the Loveless Barn in Nashville, with Kevin Lawson programming...Programmer Zach Peletz spent the end of last year with the Disney Dream cruise ship’s original show, Believe, with LD Chris Lee. Peletz says it was a massive LED pixel mapping install and a challenging environment due to the ship’s construction at the same time. In addition, Peletz still found time to program the 9 to 5 Broadway tour with LD Ken Billington and do a number of corporate gigs using digital lighting. “I’m expanding the range of consoles and media servers I program, and am staying focused on digital lighting as well. I am trying to get more into the concert/touring market,” Peletz says. Zachpeletz.com will tell you more.


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