Although Jay-Z's and Eminem's joint Home and Home Tour only played four dates in their respective hometowns of New York City and Detroit, programming the extensive lighting for both rappers and the video content for Eminem before the sold-out shows arrived on site was essential. Patrick Dierson, lighting designer for the tour, and Daniel Boland, show designer for Eminem, called upon bicoastal Prelite Studios to get a head start and maximize their creative time in an offline environment.
Dierson and Boland are longtime clients of Prelite, which helps lighting designers and programmers use emerging technologies to previsualize lighting and video elements for productions. "Prelite has saved my bacon on more than one occasion," Dierson laughs. "For the Home and Home Tour there would have been no way the production was able to rent out Comerica Park or Yankee Stadium for the time it took to make the show sweet. So it was amazing to have Prelite's technology at our disposal."
About a week before the band arrived Rodd McLaughlin set up a Prelite system running Vision software and Autodesk 3ds Max along with grandMA lighting control consoles at New York's SIR Studios. "That enabled us to do all the previz in the studio adjacent to where the band rehearses," Dierson explains. "I was able to get updates in realtime from the band when they came in, and we had the Pro Tools engineer, monitor engineer and Front of House engineer all in the same room, too. It was a very cohesive environment to work in with obvious benefits to the workflow."
He found Prelite especially helpful for "musicians who tend to 'see' with their ears. They could walk into our room and see the previz on the giant screen, and I'd tell them, 'This is what I'll be doing when you play.' They immediately got it. Even more mutual respect was built up during this process because the band saw how much effort we put into the show and how much we need each other to deliver a great show."
Dierson also partnered with Drew Findley, Jay-Z's screen director, and Dirk Sanders, his video director, who managed all the rapper's video content with their own system to create a "very cohesive" approach to Jay-Z's performance.
Dierson remembers what it's like to sit in the cheap seats, and he uses that recollection to the concertgoers' advantage when designing show lighting. "I like to use Prelite to fly to the cheapest seats in the house and make certain those people get a really interesting concert experience," he says. "I'm very cognizant of what it's like to be up there and always try to design something within the show that can get out to them. For this show we had towers of audience lights that could extend the stage look to the back of the house. The gobos, templates and washes were equally powerful there as in the front row."
He hadn't intended to use moving trusses for Jay-Z's portion of the show but discovered that there were "a handful of moments" where he wanted to deploy them. "Prelite let me drop in various moving trusses, play around and see what were the most interesting moves with a touch of a button," he reports. "It was fantastic."
On the West Coast Daniel Boland worked quite differently with Prelite. Tom Thompson shipped a Prelite system to Boland's home office in Altadena, California where it worked in tandem with a pair of grandMAs and a rack of media servers. Boland programmed Eminem's lighting on one console while Matt Shimamoto programmed the video content on another.
"I felt the real theme of the show for Eminem was his recovery from his addiction to drugs and alcohol: It was his comeback tour," Boland notes. "I wanted a bold look - everything was bigger and brighter with more powerful instruments. In fact, it was the first time I had used certain fixtures that Patrick had spec'd for the rig, like the Chromlech Jarags that rim the eyeball-shaped screens on stage. And I had never used PRG Bad Boys in a stadium context so it was a matter of getting them to punch out.
"It was great to mock up the rig and sit comfortably in my office and program any time I felt the inspiration. And I wasn't wasting people's time while I was creating color palettes and focus palettes on the new fixtures."
Boland was also able to "configure the moving trusses that Patrick designed so they weren't in the way of the images on Eminem's screen," Boland explains. "Working with Ben Johnson, who created Eminem's video content, we used the previz software to take snapshots of the screens and email them to the rigger physically moving the trusses so he could configure the trusses to not get in the way of the images. When we arrived in Detroit the trusses were already programmed - an added bonus I didn't expect."
In addition to Prelite's invaluable role in previsualization, Dierson gives kudos to Prelite support. "Not only was Prelite a great tool for the tour, the service from Prelite was fantastic, too," he says. "Prelite's reps on both coasts work well past office hours so we always had access to someone to help out if any questions popped up."
Prelite was founded in San Francisco February 2000 by Tom Thompson and Norm Schwab as a place for lighting designers and programmers to use technologies to previsualize lighting projects. Its success led to the launch of Prelite NY in June 2001 by Kim Grethen and Rodd McLaughlin. The bicoastal company provides studios where previsualization and creativity take center stage away from the distractions and interruptions of a chaotic work environment and where clients save time and money and minimize stress. Prelite also offers on-site previsualization services for those who prefer the convenience of working at the venue. For more information, visit www.prelite.com or contact Thomas Thompson at 415-883-7727.