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Ozzy Takes FX to the Next Level

Nook Schoenfeld • February 2019Focus on FX • February 11, 2019

Before the balloons were released, the Forum was filled with the “blizzard of Ozz.” Photos by Andrena Photography/Dina Douglas & Yoshi Morimoto

ER Productions Wows Crowd for New Year’s Eve Show at the Forum in L.A.

In 2016, Black Sabbath embarked on their final tour, dubbed “The End.” The last show took place Feb. 4, 2017 at Genting Arena in the band’s home city of Birmingham, England, with founding members Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler on stage. But that didn’t mean Ozzy was stopping, by any means. In fact, he’s been out on the road supporting his No More Tours II tour since last summer. His previous No More Tours adventure was in 1992, so it seemed like the time was ripe to explore this end of touring angle again.

ER Productions provided more than two dozen Typhoons to make it snow with confetti during the NYE gig

‡‡         Ringing In 2019

Ozzy’s shows have never been big on pyro over the years. Propane flames have long been avoided on his tours. Any flames on an Ozzy show were achieved with video. But his show on last New Year’s Eve featured a full range of special effect products from international Laser and SFX provider, ER Productions. By special effects, I’m talking about everything from flaming comets to cryo, smoke effects to lasers. They were even called on for the all-important balloon drop.

As the story goes, Sharon Osbourne wanted her husband’s production to do something special for the home town crowd on this momentous evening. Enter Terry Cook, the lighting designer / Show designer from Woodroffe Bassett Design who, alongside Andy “O” Omilianowski, looks after this artist’s production needs. Terry opted to add special effects, as the only effects the tour was consistently using were lasers and lots of smoke. Since WBD has already been utilizing equipment from ER Productions for the touring laser systems, it only made sense that they rely on that vendor to supply the special effects goods. Terry approached Ryan Hagan (co-founder of ER Productions) who, with SFX project manager George Baker, helped Cook develop the design along with choreographing the placement of the cues in the show.

Custom balloons matched the printed confetti

‡‡         Let it Snow

Video elements are instrumental to the set and overall production design. The media content includes the use of snow as well as flames during the performance, yet none of those physical elements appear on stage. That was one of the things brought up in conversation. Upon meeting together, the group wondered the best way to fill an arena with faux snow as opposed to bubbles and/or suds that come down out of dedicated snow machines of past. That’s what led to the idea to incorporate Typhoons into the show.

The Typhoon is ER’s first non CO2 confetti machine. A new product launched just for this show, they work via a set of powerful silent fans that push the confetti through a specially designed tunnel that has a self-hopper, continuously feeding the confetti product into the machine. The typhoon can deliver confetti of all sizes through it.

“Terry wanted a big coverage of snow over as much of the audience as possible — that’s why we went for Snow FX confetti,” says Baker. “Snow Confetti is 10 x 10 mm snowfall paper confetti. It’s much smaller in size from normal confetti. While this machine can work with any sized confetti, this was the appropriate call.” The machines run silently and there is no CO2 necessary.

An audience truss structure was needed to support all the FX devices that Cook had spec’d for the show. This involved three spans of 56’ truss. These were in a U shape. There were two — 8 x 8 floating Cryo Platforms that held 24 CO2 tanks above the audience, as well as control system for the Typhoons and Psycho2 Jets. With the power and throw ability of the Typhoons, the fixtures themselves are not small. Rather than try and mount them to a truss, they were easily underhung with the use of four shackles mounted in the corners of the fixture. The Typhoons effectively pushed out over 200 kg of product.

The obligatory balloon drop during Ozzy’s NYE show. Photography/Dina Douglas & Yoshi Morimoto

‡‡         Mixing Media and FX

Michael Keller, the touring LD, expands on the product. “Some of our media content features snow falling on the artists as they are captured on the camera. This was done with media servers and cameras. The design team dictated that the Typhoons and their mass of snow be used in the songs ‘Mr. Crowley’ and ‘Mama.’ I was interested to see how this new product would work. At first, I looked up and was thinking that all of this white mass wasn’t quite what we were looking for. I was just blasting white light at it. But then this large mass of fine white confetti started separating and blanketing the crowd with snow. We had the ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ in full effect. Where it really shined was when Alex brought up some laser cues. It looked amazing shining through and reflecting all the beams.”

Also suspended over the audience were 24 Magic FX Psyco2 jets. These pointed blasts of cryo effects straight down a good 15 feet. There is a panning mechanism in the nozzle that allows the shooter to wave the CO2 blasts back and forth. The units were spread out pointing both ways to give even coverage over the entire audience area. The Pysco2 jets ran on SR and SL trusses all the way down their length. They were fed CO2 from the platform tanks and triggered with DMX. The effects were triggered from a Road Hog 4 console, with George Baker assuming the role of pyro shooter for all effects. The cryo was part of the midnight sequence welcoming in the New Year.

As soon as Ozzy finished the obligatory ten-second countdown, the stage appeared to explode as red mines with 20-foot tails and orange airbursts lit up the arena. More confetti was pumped over the crowd from 14 Magic FX Stadium Blasters, 10 of which were lined around the arena floor. These confetti blowers were packed with 120kg of custom branded Ozzy Confetti. (The confetti was all fireproof.)

Stadium Shot X-tremes sent streamers flying into the audience. Photography/Dina Douglas & Yoshi Morimoto

Streamers played their part as well, with 24 of the Magic FX Stadium Shot 2 fixtures lining the floor’s perimeter. They had used some stadium shots during the summer festival tour that ER’s Marco Sanchez would fire on cue. These fixtures can shoot streamers over 35 yards distance. To add to this effect for the NYE show, ER Productions added an additional four Magic FX Stadium Shot X-treme models. These fired 24 sleeves of streamers — or a total of 360 red, black and white colored streamers that could reach distances of up to 60 yards. The streamers were all used when Ozzy played the Black Sabbath anthem, “Paranoid.”

Speaking of that Sabbath tune, most New Year’s balloon drops happen right as the clock hits zero on the countdown. But Ozzy is far from predictable. While the production insisted on a balloon drop, the timing of it happened during Paranoid as well. ER Productions provided an Electro Kabuki system that included 20 EK2 solenoids and a single EK controller. Netting was stretched between the two parallel audience trusses to hold the 500 custom printed red and black balloons. The solenoids tripped flawlessly, releasing half of the net as the balloons cascaded down from above.

There were 12 stations where pyro was shot from, six on the ground and six in the air. Additional pyrotechnics were set off during the midnight sequence including Red MultiShot tracer comets that ran 20 feet into the air and were shot up over the backline. Bright white mines with a 20-foot tail as well as Gold Flitter mines were also engaged. Many of the effects were triggered from the Road Hog 4 — getting DMX signal to many of the devices would have meant networking a large amount of cables. ER relies on 30 Galaxis firing units to spread the signal everywhere from the stage to the trusses to the perimeter of the floor. These wireless devices receive the signal from the Hog 4 console and output DMX to all the devices that require it to fire. These Galaxis units ran on two separate frequencies, one for pyrotechnics and the other for the Stadium Blasters and Stadium Shots.

Low-lying fog machines generating thick plumes of smoke that stayed low on the stage were utilized during the playing of “Mr. Crowley” as well as “Mama.” This required the use of four of Look Solutions Cryo Fog HP/XL units. These fixtures mix liquid CO2 with the fog fluid in the machine to keep the smoke chilled and close to the ground.

Smoke was in constant use during the show, as it is a necessary ingredient to any show utilizing lasers. Unlike many shows that choose to use lasers sparingly, perhaps during a few select times in a show, they are a staple in many looks on this Ozzy show. In the words of LD Michael Keller, “If we’re paying for them, I want to get the most use I can out of them.”

Coned laser beams accent a red audience. Photography/Dina Douglas & Yoshi Morimoto

‡‡         The Laser Setup

Many companies start out as special effects vendors, and along the way, they incorporate a few lasers into their inventory, as just another function of the company. ER Productions is a well-known award-winning laser show and laser system design specialist. They even have a line of their own proprietary lasers they sell. For this show, ER provided 12 LaserAnimation Phaenon Pro30000 units. These pack a punch with 31,600 watts of power, and utilize all of its power in each of its diodes, meaning each color is equally as strong. When all are mixed together, the laser emits a beautiful true white beam. All the lasers were programmed using Beyond software.

These units are not fitted with Pangolin FB4 software, so ER provided outboard Pangolin FB4 racks that could take the DMX signal from the HedgeHog 4 controller and run the cues. The touring system utilized eight Look Solutions Viper deLuxe Fog generators and four of the company’s Unique Hazers as well.

Michael Keller was very happy with the show and the added effects. “I have always been a big fan of pyro and special effects. Alex Oita has been doing an outstanding job for us this last year, and we are so grateful that we could have him and the whole ER team behind us on this tour. If it was up to me, we would incorporate all these effects into every show we do.”

The tour is set to run through this coming summer. Whether there will be any more tours after No More Tours II is anyone’s guess — including Ozzy’s.

A gorgeous guitar solo look. Photography/Dina Douglas & Yoshi Morimoto

Ozzy Osbourne “No More Tours II” Tour

New Years Eve Show, L.A. Forum, Dec. 31, 2018


Lasers frame a 12′ mirror ball. Photography/Dina Douglas & Yoshi Morimoto

FX Crew:

Special FX Co: ER Productions

Laser Tech/Operator: Alex Oita

Project Manager/Shooter: George Baker

Crew: Marco Sanchez, Joey Jackson, Dan Pecora, Rebecca Prough, Chris Cerione

The view from the back row. Photography/Dina Douglas & Yoshi Morimoto


Pyro/Special FX:

1       High End Systems Road Hog 4 console

28     Galaxis PFE Advanced 10 output controllers

2       Galaxis PFE Black Edition controllers

25     Typhoons w/ 200kg of snow confetti

24     Magic FX Psyco 2 Jet cryo machines

14     Stadium Blasters w/ 130kg Ozzy branded confetti

24     Stadium Shot 2 units w/ 12 sleeves of streamers

4       Stadium Shot X-tremes w/ 24 sleeves of streamers

(120 +120 +120 Red, Black and White streamers 10m x 5cm)

4       Cryo Fog HP/XL units

20     Electro Kabuki EK2’s

1       Electro Kabuki controller

500  Red and Black branded Ozzy Osbourne balloons

24     Red Multi Shot Tracer Comets (20’ tails)

20     Orange Airbursts

12     Red Mines (20’ tails)

12     Bright White Mines (20’ tails)

12     Gold Flitter Mines (20’ tails)

47     Vapours

24     Bottles of CO2 flown on two custom CO2 Platforms over the audience

Another laser look. Photography/Dina Douglas & Yoshi Morimoto

Lasers & Atmospherics:

1       High End Hedgehog 4 controllers

12     LaserAnimation Phaenon Pro3000 units

1       Fiber Distribution w/150m Fiber Looms

1       Motion Labs 100a Power Distro

8       Look Solutions Viper deLuxe units

4       Look Solutions Unique hazers

1       Pangolin FB4 8 Way Rack

1       Pangolin FB4 4 Way Rack

Special FX – the icing on the cake.

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