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Ben Dalgleish Lights Janet Jackson and Post Malone

Mike Gormley • November 2019Visual Insights • November 10, 2019

Janet Jackson Metamorphosis photos courtesy Ben Dalgleish/Post Malone “Runaway” tour photos by Alexx Figgs

Ben Dalgleish started out in the biz at age 17 as a drummer in various bands in Wellington, New Zealand. The more gigs he did, the more he began noticing the lighting and its potential to be as creatively satisfying as music. Not long after, he switched to lighting full time. In short order, Ben had lit nearly every band in New Zealand and felt it was time to take the next step in his career. He made the move to the U.S. nearly four years ago at the age of 24, booking his first job with Big Gigantic. Big Gigantic is an electronic musical duo based out of Boulder, CO, and Ben still works with them today, having grown from lighting designer to show director, and having his company build all visual elements of their show.

 

Recently, Ben started a new company, which he named Human Person. He started this company to increase collaborations with other designers and companies. Ben commented on this new move stating, “I am thrilled to be working with new artists and creative directors on some very exciting projects. I’ve had the good fortune to work with an incredibly diverse group of artists over the last few years and had the chance to build a great team of people to build their shows.”

“Human Person is a network of creatives, designers, and programmers,” Dalgleish says. “Our diverse skill set enables us to approach all aspects of production design, from conception to conclusion. We pride ourselves on our long-lasting relationships with both clients and creators, truly allowing us to grow with our artists and deliver authentic, exceptional content.”

This year, Dalgleish won a Knights of Illumination Award for his work on the Post Malone Arena Tour (See page 56). The annual industry awards honor the achievements of lighting and video designers working across the sectors of theatre, television, and concert touring & events, and are chosen by a panel of independent judges. In October of 2019 Ben was also nominated for a Parnelli Award for Lighting Designer of the Year. Since 2001, scores of our highest achievers and most admired innovators have been awarded the Parnelli. The award recognizes pioneering, influential professionals and their contributions, honoring both individuals and companies.

Janet Jackson 2019 photo courtesy Ben Dalgleish

Janet Jackson Metamorphosis Residency in Las Vegas

Janet Jackson’s recent Metamorphosis series of shows in Las Vegas was the 53-year-old pop star’s first concert residency. It opened May 17 and ran through Aug. 17, 2019 at the Park Theater in Las Vegas, the venue that is also hosting other residency productions including Lady Gaga’s Enigma and Jazz & Piano shows and Aerosmith’s Deuces are Wild concerts, among other residency productions.

Set pieces roll onto stage

This was Ben Dalgleish’s first time working with Janet Jackson, and interestingly enough, Janet and her team were the ones who discovered Ben and his talents on Instagram. They saw some of his work pictured on the popular social network and contacted him to discuss a design job.

Lasers frame the artist

After chatting, Ben was hired on to light the new residency show in Las Vegas that Janet would be performing for three months. Ben was brought on as the lighting designer/programmer and quickly found himself in the role of content creative director. Ben brought in his team to execute the creation of a full visual show from scratch.

Janet Jackson 2019 photo courtesy Ben Dalgleish

‡‡         The Design Vision

Asked about his vision for the new show in Las Vegas, Ben answers, “I wanted to design the new show using a mash-up of various lighting styles, highlighting Janet’s many styles of music. I felt the show’s visual design needed a mix of Pop/EDM lighting mixed with theatrical finesse. I pushed myself to create different moods combining the style of lighting from when the music was released, but with a modern feel as well.”

Compacting the set for a song

On the visual content side, Ben had a similar approach — mix old with new, pop with theatre.
 “I was extremely lucky to have the freedom to come up with a range of content treatments that both told a story and provided visually stunning imagery. It was important to me to recognize and pay homage to the amazing visuals Janet has had in the past, but also to push it forward.”

GLP X4 Bar 20 fixtures frame the stage

A prominent feature of the production is the 90-foot-wide transparent Saco V-Thru screen, which Dalgleish utilized to great effect. “A real effort was made to make content, which accented the amazing choreography that Gil Duldulao and his team worked on, which was mainly achieved with unique looks featuring the large transparent V-Thru screen, and the content interacting with the dancers, and Janet behind it.”

The screen rose to reveal the artist

When asked about any particular challenges with the Janet Jackson Metamorphosis show, Ben responded, “The Park Theater is a challenging venue, as it has a very wide stage, and lighting the dancers in effective, yet beautiful ways took some time in rehearsal to get right. Another challenge was that Janet has many styles of music, and I needed to make sure the show flowed smoothly from one style to another, while maintaining a classy and visually impressive look throughout. On the other side of the coin, the wide variety of music genres she performs allowed me to really open up the programming playbook.”

Janet Jackson 2019 photo courtesy Ben Dalgleish. Colorful looks were bountiful at the show

‡‡         The Show and Gear

An array of lighting gear was supplied for the Metamorphosis show short-term residency by PRG. In addition to the lighting gear, a variety of special effects made their presence known throughout the show including pyrotechnics, lasers and more. We chatted with Ben about the gear he chose and the role of those fixtures in his design.

“The lighting equipment was vitally important to success of the show, as I had to light large array of dancers plus a principal across a 100-foot-plus stage. Also, not unlike the Post Malone tour (see related story, page 56), the lighting needed to take center stage as there was not a heavy scenic element to the show. I chose a mix of solid, functional fixtures that had punch, as well as a few more effects-based fixtures to allow for the lighting to look artistic and architectural.”

The see-thru LED in action

Dalgleish went on to chat about some of the gear he felt played a big role in the design. “The main workhorse was the Martin MAC Viper AirFX, which had enough power to punch aerial gobo effects that competed well with the large LED wall, as well as being used for key light in almost a theatre type way. For example, in the song “That’s the Way Love Goes,” the 90-foot V-Thru LED wall is lowered in front of the dancers, with the AirFX’s lighting each dancer up at exactly the right moment, growing in iris and zoom to capture their movement perfectly. As the set was designed using standard truss as the base, I opted to line Robe Spikies all over it, which were used to keylight band members, dancers and backing vocalists for one song, then taking full of their infinite pan/tilt features, flower effect and prism the next. A large number of GLP X4 Bar 20 fixtures where used — but I tried to have them become more of a set piece by having All Access build custom mirror frames to hold four lines of bars vertically. These flew in and out on automation motors, changing the look of the whole stage, reflecting both light and video.”

Human Person made all the video content.”Notch was used to design 3d environments”

‡‡         Video and the Bridge

The show featured a heavy focus on video that was complemented by high energy and clean lighting cues. In fact, the show was choreographed around the use of the 90-foot V-Thru LED wall that moved in and out downstage producing multiple unique positions for Janet and her dancers to perform the choreography that has become a staple of her shows. Equally impressive was the massive four-ton bridge that moved up and down via 20 motors while Janet and 16 of her dancers performed on the structure, a moment in the standout “Rhythm Nation” section of the show. The feel of the programming throughout the show had a fantastic flow, even including a unique twist within the lighting programming. During a throwback melody to the Control album, the lighting was programmed to give a slight “8-bit feel.” The movement of the lighting fixtures matched the staccato production of the album and the lighting design that originally accompanied it in 1986.

he bridge holds the cast

Janet Jackson Metamorphosis Residency
May 17-26 & July 24-Aug 17, 2019, Park Theater, Las Vegas

Production Companies:

  • Lighting: PRG
  • Video: PRG
  • SFX: Strictly FX
  • Automation: Cybermotion
  • Set: All Access

Crew

  • Lighting Designer/Content Creative Director: Ben Dalgleish
  • Lighting Programmers: Jacopo Ricci, Ben Dalgleish
  • Lighting Directors: Nick van Nostrand, Mitchell Schellenger
  • Creative Director/Choreographer: Gil Duldulao
  • Animators: Lorenzo De Pascalis (Ombra),
 Ian Valentine (Human Person), Matthew Cummer (Blacklake),
 Marco Martignone (Ombra),
 Andrew Keyser
  • Assistant Animator: Giulia De Paoli (Ombra)
  • Production Managers: Chris Gratton, Matt Miley
  • Tour Manager: Marguerite Nguyen
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Philip “Pip” Schulte
  • Lighting Techs:
Scott Walsh,
Phillip Matthews,
Windel Edwards,
Amanda Vargas
  • Video Director: Garry Odom
  • Engineers: Ryan Caudill, David Vega
  • Media Server Techs: Anthony Wilson, Allison Sulock
  • LED: Kurtis Lopez

The artist works the show alone. Post Malone “Runaway” tour photo by Alexx Figgs.

Post Malone “Runaway” Arena Tour

Post Malone recently began a U.S. leg of an arena tour covering Europe, New Zealand and Australia as well. Ben Dalgleish took on the role of lighting designer for the 24-year-old rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer. The North American tour launched Sept. 14, less than a month after Janet Jackson’s Metamorphosis residency wrapped up (More info on page 51), and the North American “Runaway” tour dates continue until Nov. 21. PLSN sat down with Dalgleish to chat about his role and the focus on his design for this tour.

The artist performs under a wave of light beams. Post Malone “Runaway” tour photo by Alexx Figgs.

‡‡         The Vision

Ben has been working with Post since Coachella in 2018, however this was his first world arena design for the mega artist. When asked about the amount of creative freedom he had in the design, Dalgleish replied, “I was given a tremendous amount of flexibility on the lighting design for the world tour. Working with our talented stage and show designers Lewis James and Travis Brothers, we spent about a month on the design, and from the start I wanted to tell a story with the unveiling of new looks and movement through the show, while incorporating a theatrical feel.”

A Tait Navigator system is deployed to lift the trusses. Post Malone “Runaway” tour photo by Alexx Figgs.

Asked about his vision for the design, Ben responded, “Post Malone is an arena pop act, but I am very lucky that the show we have presented to audiences is anything but the normal pop arena show. There are no props, CG content, no choreography, not even a band; the entire show is built around the visuals and Post Malone himself. A challenge I set myself was to use the lighting in a non-conventional way, using the lighting instruments to the fullest. Every chorus would have effects running on interesting attributes to add depth and accent, while pushing the show in a more theatrical direction — as far away from “flash and trash” as possible.

“For example, a chase would be running that’s adjusting a gobo rotation speed along with focus, so on the beat the lights would snap in and out of focus, rotating a full turn as they do. The show is full of these moments, accenting every musical detail, from big to small with a lighting event to match. With lighting being such an important part of the show, I made a conscious effort to develop lighting ideas and concepts not only throughout the whole set, but also within a song.”

I-Mag via screens set up in dual portrait style. Post Malone “Runaway” tour photo by Alexx Figgs.

‡‡         I-Mag and Lighting

Ben was also quizzed about the video aspects of the show design. “An interesting element was the lighting’s role in interacting with video. This show is 90 percent I-Mag, using Notch effects heavily. We spent days working on each of these Notch looks, as the level, color and type of light really made the effect what it was. For example, in the song ‘Wow,’ we have GLP Impression X4 Bar 20 fixtures tracking Post as he moves his way up and down the catwalk, back lighting him for a silhouette look. Also, the show was designed with a focus on making the show look good for people taking photos/filming on their phones.

“As there was no props or crazy gags, the lighting needed to be the photo worthy moment,” Dalgleish continued. “From the spread look for ‘White Iverson’ that was inspired by a butterfly to the off-rainbow colored box of light for ‘Candy Paint,’ most songs were designed with a moment that made people want to take a photo.”

Contrasting colors make for great visuals. Post Malone “Runaway” tour photo by Alexx Figgs.

Ben spoke more about the gear he utilized in his design. “Knowing the visual show was going to be heavily focused on the lighting design, I wanted to have a large range of different fixtures in large quantities. The Top Box directly above the stage is comprised of four different fixture types — GLP X4 Bar 20, GLP JDC1 Strobe, Robe Spikie and Vari-Lite VL4000 BeamWash. These fixtures all fill multiple roles. For example, a Spikie or VL4000 will be washing the stage and Post for a verse, and then in a split second it will be doing a complex flyout effect for the chorus.

“The GLP X420 Bar has been very successful for us on the tour giving the whole structure shape with light,” Dalgleish adds. “These fixtures actually replaced an initial look that was going to be achieved with lasers, but the X4 Bar 20 was a much more effective option in both cost and impact.”

A scary image looks down upon the vocalist. Post Malone “Runaway” tour photo by Alexx Figgs.

We asked about the particular lighting fixtures used, and Ben spoke about the following standouts. “We looked for the smallest and fastest LED fixture we could find and chose the Robe Spikie. You can program extremely fast and delicate movements with these fixtures, and the Spikie does the job.” He also praised the Vari-Lite VL4000 BeamWash fixtures he used on the tour. “We used these as ‘God lights,’ and they gave an epic feel when needed during the show.”

Another product Ben had very good things to say about was the PRG GroundControl Followspot Systems he used on the tour. “These were a big part of the show, as they really allowed us to dial in the front light to the nth degree. Having that amount of precise control with the spotlights in an arena environment is amazing, and it was a perfect product to help create the looks I was envisioning during the design phase.

The lighting gets scarce for a serene moment. Post Malone “Runaway” tour photo by Alexx Figgs.

“The show is just lights — no video acting as lights, just the push and pull of different fixtures lighting the artist, and the plentiful smoke and haze,” Dalgleish added. “I was very lucky to have a large rig that featured a large range of premium fixtures. It’s not every day you get to push an arena show in the direction of theatre and art and I am very grateful to have designed this show.”

Ben also took time to give kudos to the crew supporting the tour. “A huge mention must be made to the talents of Ben Ward, who has been the lighting director on the whole tour and has done a large amount of programming for the U.S. leg of the tour. He and the entire lighting crew spearheaded by Terry Muller have made the tour a great success on the lighting side, and I couldn’t be more thankful for their contribution.”

Smoke surrounds the artist for much of the show. Post Malone “Runaway” tour photo by Alexx Figgs.

Q&A with Ben Dalgleish on the Post Malone “Runaway” Arena Tour

PLSN: Can you elaborate on how you lined up with the LD position for Post Malone?
Ben Dalgleish: I had worked with Dennis Danneels, Post’s Production Manager on Big Sean, and when the designer position opened up, I reached out as I thought I would be a good fit.

How involved is Post in the design and stage setup, and does he work with you, or do you present him with an idea?
Post has two great creative directors, Lewis James and Travis Brothers who presented him with the idea of the catwalk with the box of lights above and he liked it straight away. From there I designed the lighting around this, specifying a range of different fixtures in linear lines.

Post is joinded by a guest to give out flowers. Post Malone “Runaway” tour photo by Alexx Figgs.

I guess I’m asking who directs who between you and Post. Is it collaborative or does he have a pretty set idea on how he wants his show to look?
We are very lucky that Post is very trusting of what we want to do! He is all on board for the amount of smoke and fire and flashing lights that is used in the show.

Where did you set up the rig for programming and rehearsals overseas? Did you do any previz work and if so, what program do you use?
The show was initially programmed with the whole rig set up for just under a month in England. Having the luxury of seeing the whole production in front of you was vital with the amount of detail I wanted to put into the lighting design.

Standing upstage on the runway. Post Malone “Runaway” tour photo by Alexx Figgs.

Was Post Malone more popular outside of America when his career took off? Is that why it took the tour so long to come to America with this tour?
I think Post has been very popular everywhere! I think the timing was just a matter of scheduling around all the normal summer festivals. Plus, of course, Post released his new album [Hollywood’s Bleeding] just in time for the American tour.

Did that truss above the thrust fly in right above his head at some point of the show?
The top box is on Tait automation system and moves to different positions throughout the show.

The artist gets lit from underneath. Post Malone “Runaway” tour photo by Alexx Figgs.

What does the near future hold for Ben Dalgleish?
The end of the year is going to be very busy with both Travis Scott and Post Malone’s own festivals [Astroworld and Posty Fest]. I am also very excited to be working with an iconic country artist, taking care of some interesting television appearances, which I will be creative directing, as well as designing the production and the lighting of course.

Post Malone “Runaway” Arena Tour
North American Leg: Sept. 14-Nov. 21, 2019

Tour Vendors

  • Lighting: PRG
  • Video: PRG
  • SFX: Pyrotek
  • Automation/Set: Tait

Crew

  • Lighting Designer: Ben Dalgleish
  • Creative Direction/Stage Design: Lewis James and Travis Brothers
  • Lighting Director: Ben Ward
  • Lighting Programmers: Ben Dalgleish, Ben Ward, Dan Norman, Sooner Routhier
  • PRG Lighting Crew: Terry Mueller (Crew Chief), Shawn Gallen, Scott Naef, Douglas Eldredge. Kyle Cottrell, Matthew Schelz, Travis Edwards, Gretchen Adickes

 

 

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