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12 Days of GRiZMAS

Mike Wharton • Event LightingFebruary 2021 • February 5, 2021

The Voyage team unleash all the horse power of their minimalist design. Photo by Tomas Morgan

Virtual GRiZMAS Supports Music Education Fund for Kids in Detroit

Ever the innovators, the full service production team at Brown Note has not sat idle during the continuing pandemic. The creation and introduction of virtual venues to their state-of-the-art previz suites has been the pivot point needed for them and their clients. Recently, artist GRiZ and his production team used The Stage, as it is named, to capture a one hour full production video which later streamed for a fund raising charity in Detroit the artist has been contributing to for the last eight years.

Kyle Kegan and Ian Davis have been working with GRiZ for a decade now. Their support of the artist also coincided with the creation of their design company, Voyage. What started as just a bus and trailer playing clubs is now a multi tractor trailer enterprise, with Davis at the helm as touring LD and director and Kegan as production designer. “Working closely with the client we take his ideas, dreams and wishes and bring them to fruition,” says Davis.

The Halo with LED Neon Flex is central to the entire design. Photo by Tomas Morgan.

The Challenge of a Good Cause

With the gap in touring that has occurred this year due to Covid, the two designers tell PLSN that “it was a bit of a challenge to get the wheels back on the bus, so to speak, and get GRiZ back into a production space again, but this show came together really quickly.”

The event, which is the final night of a series called “The 12 Days of GRiZmas” usually takes place live with full production in a Detroit venue. This year, donations will be collected to support Seven Mile Music’s goal to bring art, coding, and music education to the youth of his hometown. Historically, the December party’s donation drives have been wildly successful. In fact, in just the past two years, GRiZ has helped raise over $200,000. This year, a workaround had to be found to ensure there was not a gap in monies going to the cause. “GRiZ told us he wanted to do a stream and we had our marching orders,” says Kegan.

The challenge of finding a space to serve the production that would also assure the safety of the artist and crew was met when Kegan called on Ryan Knutson, president and CEO at Brown Note. “We knew Ryan and Sara well from working with them on projects around Denver over the years, and they were our vendor for the tours,” he says.

Only having a week to pull this all together the shoot certainly revved up the excitement facto as the pair sat down with GRiZ and came up with a design based on a few simple ideas. “We wanted to accentuate a 360-degree viewpoint. This also opened up different perspectives that don’t lend themselves to a traditional proscenium look.

“GRiZ himself envisioned a concept of concentric rings in his head, which furthered our commitment to the 360-degree view,” Kegan adds. “From the start, we knew drone shots were essential to this shoot, which led to some really interesting looks. I’m quite pleased with the way they turned out.”

Strip lights box the artist in on The Stage. Photo by Tomas Morgan.

The Stage

Brown Note Productions offers a 40-by-90-foot draped and fully customizable flex space in their facility just outside of Denver in Thornton, CO. An animated sub grid that flies in and out provides quick and efficient attachment points for rigging. The Stage is ideal for full 360 AVL production, stage and backline setup for broadcast and live streaming, video capture for content creation, rehearsals, trainings, corporate broadcasts and keynote addresses.

As with all of their spaces, The Stage is available for custom design with Brown Note’s extensive inventory of state of the art technology and can be paired with a wide range of additional services including multi-camera video production and recording, multi-track recording, mixing, and mastering, backline setup, professional technical crews and postproduction services.

“Ryan and the core staff he employs are closely knit like a family,” says Davis. “I believe that added immensely to the smooth phases and the culmination of the shoot is largely due to that. It played a big part in the success of this project, because they were so completely behind us. Brown Note provided us total access at all hours to the space, and they were very aware of all the safety protocols needed to be followed due to Covid.”

Working within that environment, the team at Voyage built an illusionary performance area that beautifully served the conceptual and intimate needs of the artist. They did this by building wider instead of taller with their structural elements. The video captures visions that transition from over the top to intricate murmurings.

Kvant 25w lasers blanket the performance space. Photo by Tomas Morgan.

Halos and Drones

“This being just over an hour shoot, we wanted to create simple looks that could stand on their own,” says Davis. “Avoiding any repetition and utilizing our elements more individually went towards the minimalist look and feel GRiZ wanted to achieve.”

A custom fabricated ring forming a “halo” hangs from the grid and is the center from which the design spread its wings. Denver-based TreeFrog Woodworking manufactured the ring. Kegan contacted a friend in Chicago, James Haag, who provided the LED Neon flex through his company F5D, which they affixed to the halo.

The performance space for the artist below the ring was a clear acrylic decking from Brown Note with six Elation SEVEN Batten 72’s underneath, boxing in the floor and visually creating hard right angles, while floor-mounted GLP X4 Bar 20’s provided sharp contrast to the prevalent circular images abundant in the design. “These two contrasting geometric auras enveloped the artist. Used alone or together, they provided the minimalist feel the artist was looking for, at times looking like an enclosed pod, while other scenes produce a transparent ether like blanket effect.”

Kegan’s design called for floor-mounted Robe MegaPointes to form an inner circle around the artist platform, while an outer ring of LED 150’s beyond them “added a lot of dimension to the space,” he says. Still further out truss towers were placed in a semicircular position with GLP X4 Bar 20’s hung vertically. The GLP bars also helped separate the artist zone from the outside world where an audience would normally be. By playing with this they were able to fill the space where every frame angle had something going on.

On top of each tower, a 25-watt Kvant laser was placed. “Using the multiple zone effect available on these units essentially doubled the tools in our arsenal giving a split look of 12 individual lasers rather than just the six,” says Davis. The video was shot in 24 frames to create a more cinematic effect.

Typically, a GRiZ show will be timecoded with SMPTE when pre-production time is available. This show was completely run live, with Kyle on a grandMA3 running lights and Ian handling the laser looks on a separate grandMA3 that controlled the Pangolin software. “We’ve worked together for so long and are so familiar with GRiZ songs that we were in sync,” noted Kegan.

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