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The Weeknd Dances a Red Singularity with New Videos

Mike Wharton • April 2021Features • April 1, 2021

The powerful punch of the SGM Q-7 delivers at low intensity. Photos by Lauren Dunn

Reliability and consistency. These are the bedrock attributes a lighting designer depends upon when selecting the tools he will deploy to bring a client’s vision to life. VEVO recently produced three videos for The Weeknd — Alone Again, Faith and In Your Eyes. The shoot was a series of one-takes, all completed on a single day. In addition, each song was shot with a single camera and with only one type of lighting fixture: the SGM Q-7, winner of the prestigious PIPA Award for Best Lighting Product of the Year in 2015.

The Q-7 defined a new level of power, accuracy, and flexibility in the lighting world when introduced in 2011. Not only is it a stunningly bright audience blinder, but it is also a low-profile flood light and an accurate wide-angle wash luminaire. Its excellent performance in any condition is the primary reason why some of the top lighting designers choose the Q-7 as their main light for touring, events, theatrical productions, architectural installs, or corporate shows. While this luminaire has proven its versatility and road worthiness for close to a decade as the most versatile strobe light in the industry, the Q-7 is breaking new territory into the cinematic and broadcast industry.

The nested set

A Pandemic Pivot

Josh Beard, CEO of Visual Edge, spoke with PLSN about their involvement with the project and their pivot from live entertainment to broadcast and cinema lighting when the Covid -19 pandemic flattened the industry. This recent project is one of several Visual Edge has collaborated with VEVO since the onset of the pandemic.

“Visual Edge was hired by VEVO to execute lighting design, programming, and board operation for a series of Weeknd performance videos,” says Beard. “Our job specifically, was to light the set they were going to build, which consisted of a large three sided main room whose upstage wall was 40 feet wide and 20 feet high,” with 24 SGM Q-7s lighting up the space.

The ceiling of the room had three individual rectangular “pods” covered with silk. Above each pod were positioned 12 Q-7’s. Two smaller scaled rooms were employed somewhat like the Russian Matryoshka “nesting” dolls — one large enough for a full sized person to get into and sit; the other slightly bigger than The Weeknd’s head. “The idea behind this was to play a trick on the naked human eye through the camera,” notes Beard. “This VEVO project was quite original, and while we were brought in pretty early for this one, final drawings for the set and the room went through several iterations.” Final approval did not get made until about 10 days before the shoot.

Jacob VanVlymen, WYSIWYG engineer and draftsman with Visual Edge, talks about the back-and-forth creative process. “There were constant changes on fixture selection due to the dimensional changes and positioning of the artists. We played with beam angles to see how they would read through this silk material we were shooting so closely through. Finding that sweet spot through previz in Vectorworks allowed us to walk in feeling pretty confident about how it was going to look. Something we really enjoyed about the Q-7 was the wide spread of the fixture without any diffusion.”

Beard had been talking with Chris Barclay from Upstaging, a preferred vendor for Visual Edge projects, and it was Barclay who had recommended the SGM-Q-7. “Those seem to be the best fit because we knew we could boost the refresh rate onsite,” says Beard. “The fact we could pick a refresh rate with those fixtures was extremely helpful since we were shooting on 35mm film, which requires more light output.”

Filippo Frigeri, Managing Director for SGM North America out of the Orlando office, says he “thrilled that this was happening. The film and broadcast segments of our industry are really just starting to discover how flexible and feature-rich our products are. It’s been 10 years since the Q-7 was developed, but the technology we had, even then, was so advanced that still to this day we check all the boxes of a camera-friendly light. And after years of real-world use, they still deliver their color consistency.

Camera tricks on the human eye.

“We’ve had a lot of success with the fixture across the globe, and a long relationship with John [Huddleston] and Chuck [Spector] at Upstaging,” Frigeri adds. “They initially bought 300 from us in 2013/14 and three years later added a few hundred more to their inventory. The color matching between those two bundles was tested prior to purchase and proved to be consistent, which is another big factor in their popularity.” Says Beard, “it’s a bit of a love triangle. Upstaging is our preferred vendor when it comes to lighting, and they have a good work relationship with VEVO previous to working with us.”

Beard ran the fixtures in the RGBW mode, and often at only three percent intensity. “The whole vibe of the set is grungy and mysterious. The white walls were never meant to be a real white. While the color red dominates the scenes of the videos, they intentionally added a taste of green to all no-color looks to get that ‘dirty’ effect. When you get below the five per cent range, you get a green shift which is what we were looking for,” says Beard.

Adds VanVlymen, “The reason we ran all 56 Q-7’s at such a low level is because just one fixture delivers 25,000 lumens. With that much punch at four feet, it really lit the room up.”

Beard points out that another huge plus in using the SGM Q-7 was the amount of throw they got out of each fixture. “The beam on it was a big factor. We didn’t have to add any diffusion. Left to right and top to bottom, the coverage allowed us to program wide sweeps or pockets of light as required by the director.”

Beard founded Visual Edge in 2014 along with Jonathan Woelfel and Ian Berkman, primarily pursuing work in the corporate segment of Houston, TX. They soon took advantage of touring opportunities offered to them, which opened the door to the live entertainment market. “At this point, we are actively working in a number of industries. I know that 2020 left many in the production world out of work. We lost a lot of projects, too. We were fortunate to be able to pivot somewhat, and it forced us to rethink the way we work as a team and approach projects. VEVO projects like this allow us to cross back and forth between the live and cinema worlds. The two are very different, but I think our experience in both gives us the edge.”

Related links: www.sgmlight.com/stagelighting, www.visualedge.co

56 camera friendly SGM Q-7 fixtures light the set.

Video Shoot for The Weeknd’s Alone Again, Faith and In Your Eyes

Executive Producer: Ed Walker

Executive Producer: Micah Bickham

Creative Director: Ed Walker

Director: Micah Bickham

Director of Photography: Jon Chema

Production Design: Tyler Jensen

Lighting Director: Josh Beard/Visual Edge

Lighting PM: Jonathan Woelfel

Drawing/Rendering: Jacob VanVlymen/Visual Edge

VFX/Design/Motion: Sydney Emery

Produced By: Contrast Films

Lighting Vendor: Upstaging

Upstaging Rep: Chris Barclay

SGM Rep: Filippo Frigeri

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