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Rolling Stones ‘No Filter’ Tour Launches in Europe

PLSN Staff • Wide Focus • November 9, 2017

The Rolling Stones recently completed the first European leg of their “No Filter” tour. Neg Earth provide lighting for the shows and Solotech provided the video screens looming in four monolithic structures designed by a team of stage architects from Stufish led by Ray Winkler.

Patrick Woodroffe and associate designer Terry Cook of Woodroffe Bassett design (WBD) worked closely with Stufish to develop the show’s overall aesthetic for the tour’s European shows, which ran from Sept. 9 in Hamburg, Germany to Oct. 25 outside Paris. Dale “Opie” Skjerseth served as production manager.

A row of BMFL's extruse from the top of the LED walls. Photo by Manfred H. Vogel

‡‡         Bright Beams from the Top Slots

With many moving lights on the rig, WBD’s Woodroffe and Cook sought a high-powered fixture to occupy the large slots near the top of each of the four monolithic video towers, each measuring 23 meters high by 11 meters wide. Thirty-six Robe BMFL Spots, proclaimed as the workhorse moving lights on the current tour, filled that space as part of a spectacular and epic lighting design created by Woodroffe.

“Patrick and I needed a multi-functional fixture and knew the positions would be hard to access and given the complexity of CDM rules and regulations and the requirement that crew be able to access the fixtures safely … a lot of thought went into the process,” explained WBD’s Terry Cook. “We decided on BMFLs because they are high powered, intense multi-functional moving lights with nice sized front lenses (giving rise to the much-loved quality fat beam) that are also reliable.”

L-R: Roland Greil, screens director & d3 programmer; Ethan Weber, lighting director & programmer; Nick Keiser, video & camera director.

The lights were used to shoot into and illuminate the audience, to create classic huge aerial looks, and to beam down onto the stage and band as they worked that area and the thrust. “They really are the workhorse fixtures of the rig,” Cook added.

Woodroffe, who has worked with the Rolling Stones for an impressive 35 years, describes his relationship with “this extraordinary band” as “incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.” He enjoys a great rapport with them and a fluid understanding of the exact scale and style required for their touring shows to be a complete visual experience.

While video was always going to be a major part of “No Filter,” it was decided at the outset not to have one large surface. Instead they went with four towers — giving a more interesting look and additional depth to the performance space, as well as being ideal as classy portrait I-Mag scenes for featuring the four Rolling Stone band members.

The monolithic video structures measured 75.5 by 36 feet. Photo by Manfred H. Vogel

‡‡         A Sleek Stage Design

Some of Patrick’s inspiration for the monolithic style of the video towers came from original artwork from Stanley Kubrick’s seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey movie, and once the core creative, including the Stufish team led by Ray Winkler and video content producer Sam Pattinson of Treatment, were locked in to the concept of the clean, standalone look, it was vital that there were no compromises.

All the usually visible stage machinery, steelwork, motors, winches, rigging and mechanics associated with a large-scale stadium rock ‘n’ roll show … have disappeared, a process requiring massive effort, thought, attention to detail and ingenuity.

Woodroffe says he wanted that very crisp, distinctive “hard edged” look for the lighting … and that was THE major consideration that Cook took away from the first design meetings. With audience lighting also being vital to the show, they knew, early on, that they wanted a line of lights in high positions.

“We decided to cut the primary audience lighting positions into the rectangular form of the screens, so they become an integral part of the architectural composition,” says Woodroffe.

Cook and Jeremy Lloyd of Wonder Works, who project-managed the tour’s pre-production technical elements, worked intensively on how to achieve the desired overall look of the stage and the slots in the video screens. Belgian entertainment engineering specialist WIcreations was also involved in calculating, producing and fabricating some special elements and imaginative rigging to make this aspect of the design work as elegantly as Woodroffe had envisioned.

Solotech supplied the 12mm Saco S12 LED panels.

‡‡         An Efficient On-Site Build

On site, as the video crew build the screens out of LED frames filled with Solotech-supplied 12mm Saco S12 LED panels, they create the slots by leaving about a two-meter-high space below the top. Once the space is complete, lighting contractor Neg Earth’s crew would slide a lighting frame into the gaps, which locks to the existing screen supports. Then the BMFL Spots are installed.

The fixtures are located via a locking bracket and sit at 90 degrees to the stage. Front panels with 1-cell DWE Moles are then fitted to cover the base of the BMFLs, followed by the rain shields and then the rear rain hat. The process of rigging each row of nine BMFL Spots neatly and securely takes only around 15 to 20 minutes, thanks to some nifty and well-engineered solutions.

The positioning of these BMFLs was crucial because Woodroffe wanted to use them extensively throughout the show, and to be able to hit multiple positions onstage as well as out in the audience and produce an array of spectacular aerial looks. While getting the air look was relatively straightforward in any position, with the units hung in the standard position, it would not have been possible to hit the stage. They would have ended up hitting the screens instead.

It also would have left a large gap beneath the lights, which was not congruous with the clean look. The only option was to rig them at 90 degrees and slide the units forward to be able to hit the drum riser at 22 feet from the front of the stage. This off-beat positioning also resulted in more dynamic air looks.

WBD is also looking after the video integration on this tour. A d3 media server system was spec’d for the playback content and to format I-Mag feeds coming from camera director Nick Keiser to give them a bit of extra love with effects and tints. Roland Greil from WBD, in the role of screens director and d3 programmer, kept the balance between all visual elements.

A d3 media server fed playback and tweaked I-Mag to the screens. Photo by Manfred H. Vogel