Country music icon Tim McGraw embarked on his Sundown Heaven Town 2014 tour in May, with Silent House production designer, Baz Halpin orchestrating a typically inventive set that evolves as the show unwinds.
Having been approached by production manager, John ‘Lug’ Zajonc and tour manager Nick Cua, Halpin was soon discussing concepts with the artist himself. “He wanted this show to look unlike anything he had done before — moving away from the traditional imagery of country music and into something more modern looking.” He also wanted to display abstract ‘light and shape’ imagery and integrate the lighting with a multiple LED screen canvas.”
To help him implement this, Halpin, in conjunction with lighting director Pat Brannon, selected no fewer than 134 of GLP’s impression X4 LED moving heads to create a highly imaginative lighting dynamic.
Along with colleagues Chris Nyfield and Alex Reardon, they worked on designing a series of 41 custom motorized lighting ‘crates’ that would rise up from behind the stage. Each would contain three of the X4 heads along with hundreds of feet of LED tape, with the remainder of the X4 heads used as ‘shin busters’ from floor side positions, and from within the stage, built into the set.
This was conceived to meet the artist’s request. With their fresh imagery, both the lighting and screens — which display pre-shot footage, imag and digital content interspersed with live camera work — thus become an organic extension of the music. “Tim wanted the stage to look clean and to be able to transition from a blank stage to a completely full one, with the ability to create a ‘big rock show’ look when needed. I think the design direction intrigued him.”
“He loved the idea of the wall of light,” continued the designer, “so we came up with the idea of building from the floor up. We have the LED ‘scoops’ on the floor and we hide the lighting crates behind these.” As the show progresses the crates are deployed, rising up to create a massive vertical wall, capable of delivering a variety of different looks.
Baz Halpin has a long history of using GLP impressions for his LED solutions — in particular the popular X4, with its 19 x 15W RGBW LEDs providing a powerful, homogenized beam. “It’s a solid, bright, reliable fixture with low power consumption and high output with beautifully consistent colors. The scope of the zoom is great and the quality of the light that’s output is fantastic. It’s my go to LED fixture,” he confirms.
Aside from performance, economy is an essential part of the selection criteria, with the combination of reduced running costs, form factor and weight allowing him to use more of these versatile fixtures.
In addition, they conveniently truck pack, travelling within the crates on custom mounting brackets. “The saving on load-in times makes this a huge bonus.”
Since the show has been playing from indoor arenas to large amphitheaters production scalability was always foremost in Silent House’s design. All elements have the ability to shrink or expand and this process was continued through the programming, which was handled by Troy Eckerman. “The X4 is incredibly versatile and modular to be able to cope with the variety of different venues the show plays,” notes Halpin.
The lighting inventory was supplied by Nashville based Premier Global Production (PGP), for whom Baz Halpin has nothing but praise. “I have a long standing relationship with Richard Willis and Troy Vollhoffer of PGP and their support and service have been exemplary,” he says. “Tim McGraw has also had a great relationship with PGP so all the stars aligned.
“I am really proud of the show and I think everyone on the tour is also. The feedback has been very positive.”
Photo Credit: Bree Kristel Clarke