NASHVILLE – Quite a few magical things have happened to Pentatonix since the group won first prize in NBC-TV’s hit program The Sing Off in 2011. They released a YouTube video that garnered 10 million views in one week, had a number one hit on the Billboard charts, and performed before sellout crowds around the world. The real magic, though, isn’t what happened to this group of five young cappella artists from Texas, it’s what they create on stage, says their LD Darien Koop of Darko Design (Nashville, TN).
“It’s amazing to watch them step on stage and see how they truly captivate and connect to the audience, making every single person there feel special,” said Koop, who has been the LD for superstars like Sara Bareilles, Incubus and Cee Lo Green. “When I took on this project and got to know this group of very special artists, I wanted to create more than a lighting design; I wanted a cohesive show that moved alongside their music.”
Koop accomplished exactly that in flying colors recently at the group’s concert in Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium with some help from CHAUVET Professional fixtures. The Nashville-based LD used nine Legend 230SR Beam moving yoke fixtures and 24 COLORado Batten 72 Tour linear LED effects in a lighting rig that did justice to Pentatonix’s soaring performance.
“I selected the Legend 230SR Beams because of their feature set-to-price point ratio. In a test between all of the moving fixture equivalents, I found that I far preferred them over anything else. Without a doubt, I will be using them again.”
Koop positioned the nine Legends in his rig in a ground row across the upstage portion of risers. At a height of five feet, this positioning gave him the flexibility to “have plenty of great aerial looks as well as bringing the light down to the floor.”
Given its intense output, beam shaping effects and vivid colors, the Legend 230SR Beam commands immediate attention as “eye candy,” says Koop. The LD added to the dramatic impact of the Legend fixtures at the Pentatonix concert by using them selectively at specific points during the group’s performance.
“I don’t actually use the Legends until the sixth song,” he said. “At this point they end up being the main featured look and fixture for that entire song. Then on the next song they drop out completely, and I feature mainly the Battens. I know plenty of other designers who would either agree or disagree with me on this topic, but in the final analysis, I like to be very selective on how many moving fixtures I used as well as how often I used them, because this tends to work better to accent the performance of the artists on stage.”
Koop used the COLORado Batten 72 Tour fixtures more frequently during the Pentatonix concert. The pixel mapping capabilities of these LED fixtures played the key role in accenting a highlight of Koop’s design.
“A big part of the design was our custom LED Piano Keys set piece,” he said. “I designed a modular fixture that we could carry around the world with us that is filled with LED tape and consists of 120 pixels. I decided that the best way to complement this piece and to fill the space around the stage was to move towards an LED bar fixture.
“I wanted to use the bar fixture both as eye candy and also side light,” continued Koop. “In the end the Batten 72s proved to be a useful fixture for both applications. I essentially ran all of them in 3-pixel mode. By doing this I matched the low resolution pixels of the set piece; therefore when I was pixel mapping the entire rig, it all worked seamlessly together for one cohesive look on stage.”
Koop hung the COLORado Batten 72 Tour fixtures vertically - six on a pipe running down from the upstage truss on either side of the set piece in a descending pattern. Then to “bring the look down to the floor,” he placed more units under the risers. He also used pipe and base to place six of the batten fixtures on either side of the set piece, again in the same descending pattern as the upstage units. “This worked in a way as side light, eye candy,” he said. “It also allowed us to create some interesting beam looks, as you could actually see it develop when placed that way.”
As it developed, Koop’s overall lightshow for Pentatonix conveyed an unmistakable and infectious sense of eager anticipation, defying convention and uplifting expectations, much like the cappella performance of the five young artists. This is in keeping with the journey of discovery that led the LD to the group.
“In late 2012, I was looking for something different. I was the PM and LD for a band that had just finished touring and was going back to the studio to produce their next record,” recalled Koop. “Being that I had been so busy that year, I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and find a project that would let me have some time at home as well as have consistent dates. One day my friend Travis Shirley called me up and mentioned Pentatonix and told me to call their manager Jonathan Kalter. From there I realized that this was the perfect project for me and moving forward was exactly what I needed.”
The fit with Pentatonix proved to be even more perfect than Koop first imagined. “To be a part of the group’s development, which includes growing pains but also the excitement of the unknown, has been a great experience,” said Koop. “Designing the tour for 2014 was a fascinating process. I was able to merge my ideas with the band’s creativity, as well as work with our choreographer to build the show from the ground up. When it all came together it was truly a group effort.
“Even our Tour Manager Esther Kaplan was able to lend ideas that led to great moments which I am unaccustomed to from a TM,” continued Koop. “My tech Ryan Court was indispensable. Our account rep at Elite Multimedia, Jason “Cannonball” Jenkins, and June Birmingham and Steven Chase of Xtreme Trucking also helped a great deal. The tour was the result of a dedicated team and I am grateful to be a part of it.”
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CHAUVET Professional offers innovative professional lighting fixtures for the production and touring market as well as permanent installation in theaters, hospitality venues, cruise ships, clubs, television and architainment applications. For more information, please visit www.chauvetprofessional.com
Chauvet, headquartered in the USA, is a leading global manufacturer of professional luminaires, truss and related equipment, fulfilling the needs of various industry sectors. Chauvet has four main brands: CHAUVET® DJ, CHAUVET® Professional, ILUMINARC® and TRUSST®. They share Chauvet’s unified strategy to pursue every market segment where it has a competitive advantage in terms of value, innovation and performance, with an emphasis on LED technology. For more information, please visit www.chauvetlighting.com