Electric Aura Designs Imagine Dragons' Grey Cup Halftime Show

VANCOUVER - Electric Aura Projects designed the 102nd Grey Cup Halftime Show, starring Imagine Dragons, who rocked the Canadian Football League’s championship game Nov. 30 at the BC Place in Vancouver.

This was the fifth consecutive year of Grey Cup halftime shows for production designer Robert Sondergaard and his Vancouver-based Electric Aura team. They knew the drill: they had five frenetic minutes to set up the stage; the band had 14 minutes to perform; and it all had to clear the field in three minutes.  

Imagine Dragons opened with pyro bursts accompanying “I Bet My Life,” followed by “Demons” and more pyro and sparks punctuating their hit, “Radioactive.” A reported 10 million Canadians tuned in to the game, televised on TSN.

Sondergaard created the basic look of the show - the set, the lights - and then met with the band in October in their Las Vegas hometown to nail down final looks. Grey Cup Producer Patrick Roberge of Patrick Roberge Productions joined the meeting.

Electric Aura Projects specializes in large scale spectaculars, having designed Paralympic Opening Ceremonies over the years, among other mega events.

Multiple design challenges in this event began with the BC Place itself. As its roof is suspended from cables, rigging couldn’t happen in the middle of the field where the roof opens. This also meant set pieces could not fly or exceed 18 feet high. The design required a big look that was small enough to set up and tear down fast.

Sondergaard’s design solution was a curved “lemon wedge” shaped set with tall walls for rigging the lighting and video. The middle section featured an LED video wall composed of 72 of the xVision 10 mm LED tiles from Vancouver video vendor 365 Productions. Montreal-based Turbine created the video content.

Built into the wall on both sides of the video screen were four pods fitted with 96 Martin MAC Auras. The LED lighting fixtures not only served as wash lights but also displayed video content. “We treated these pods as low resolution video screens,” Sondergaard said, “and the custom content matched the look and feel of the center 10 mm video screen.”

Using video to feed the Auras was new and was met with success, Sondergaard explained. “All the content was loaded into our Arkaos media servers, which were triggered from the show grandMA2 Lites. One output from the media server was sent to the video screen, while the other output used the LED Mapper in Arkaos to generate the color levels for the MAC Aura. These levels were output via Art-Net and then were sent back to the grandMA2 through the Art-Net merge in eight universes. This allowed us to maintain full control of the fixture for lighting programming (such as pan/tilt of the Aura) while giving us complete sync of the beam portion of the output with the video.”
Shining down on top of the wall were 56 Elation Professional Platinum Beam 5Rs. Rounding out the rig were more Martin products including 102 MAC 101s, 30 Atomic 3000 DMX strobes and 6 MAC III Profiles. Also spec’d were 26 Chroma-Q Color Force 12, 24 Chroma-Q Studio Force V12 Phosphor and 18 Elation Professional ELAR Pars. Sondergaard again counted on Christie Lites to supply the lighting gear, as he has for each of the five Grey Cup shows he’s done.

The designer also made use of the venue’s score boards and 360-degree ribbon of LED screens which encircle the interior stadium. They became part of the show by displaying Imagine Dragons’ video content as well.

Three grandMA2 Lite and one grandMA2 Ultra Lite consoles were networked together for control. Their production electrician Jason Bolger designed a DMX distribution system through 14 universes. With only one night of programming (from lighting director Jason McKinnon and programmer Shaun Forbes) and one night of rehearsals, Sondergaard depended on “a lot of wysiwyg,”  he said.

“It’s 28 minutes from the blow of the whistle signaling intermission to the start of the second half. Our challenge is that we all watch American TV, especially the Super Bowl Halftime Shows, and we strive to make our show look and feel up to that spectacular standard,” Sondergaard said. “But with a much smaller budget!”

View the full Imagine Dragons Grey Cup Halftime Show here:

Photo credit: Adam Blackesley/Media One Multimedia Inc.

About Electric Aura Projects:

Electric Aura Projects’ production team brings together lighting, set, video designers, CAD designers, programmers, electricians, crew chiefs, and support staff to ensure excellence in event execution. Their skill and experience is derived from collective backgrounds in live theatre, television, film, dance, corporate, theme park, and concert touring. 

Electric Aura Projects has a history of large-scale/prestigious projects beyond the five Grey Cup Halftime Shows, such as the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup Draw, the 81-acre Squamish Valley Music Festival, the Gay Games 9 and TV’s “The Bachelor Canada.” Past events include the 2011 Canada Winter Games Opening Ceremonies and the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Opening Ceremonies, among others.

Electric Aura Projects is based in Vancouver. Contact Electric Aura Projects at 604-728-7919; visit www.electricaura.net