Would You Like a Tour with Special Effects?

When it was time for Drake to hit the road with his “Would You Like a Tour” production, he turned to Strictly FX to provide lasers, pyrotechnics, cryo and smoke effects.  “As an effects provider and design partner, Strictly FX certainly delivers,” notes Drake’s Lighting Designer Guy Pavelo.


Like many shows, the design arc changed throughout pre-production, which could have been problematic from an effects standpoint. It was not. “When the artist wants to change something, the answer I receive from Strictly FX is ‘no problem we’ll make it work and take care of it.’ With other firms, I have to listen to every other reason under the sun why they won’t take the time to do it,” explains Pavelo.


There are seven full color high powered lasers in the production, located in the air and on the ground, as well as four full color low wattage lasers.  The show was programmed on a Pangolin Beyond console by David Kennedy. “We don’t use the standard console files – we do all the cueing and programming from scratch. That’s our philosophy, and it’s not common in our industry,” notes Kennedy.


In a departure from the norm, the lasers used on the Drake production are fairly static, which fits in stylistically with the minimalistic feel of parts of the show.  “They wanted a consistent solid look within a song that suited the vision of Drake and his creative team,” Kennedy explains.


The lasers also work in tandem with the video on the song “The Language” which brings a new dimension to the production. Pavelo explains, “During that song, we use green lasers, which are very visually powerful. The content is night vision war footage from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the green lasers tied in very well with that.”


Audience scanning is also done with the lasers under the auspices of  the DRH (formerly the CRDH) variance. “The lasers we’re using are the maximum allowable audience scanning power under U.S. law,” notes Ted Maccabee, Partner and Visuals Director at Strictly FX. The scanning is another laser technique used to bring the audience into the immersive environment of the show. Kennedy explains, “The audience scanning adds a lot of dimension to the show. Even though they’re lower powered lasers, they cut all the way across the arena, and it’s a beautiful look- they make it 50’ to 75’ past the Sharpy beams, which creates a pretty effect that’s coming out to the people in the more distant seats.”  The effect is exactly what the design team envisioned. “Its’ a great addition to the production and we’ll start to exaggerate it more as the show goes on,” Pavelo reports.


Pyrotechnics, in the form of mines, airbursts, starbursts, gerbs and comets are also part of production. “The quality of the pyro product from Strictly FX is superior- there’s better color, better duration, and less smoke in the products that are supposed to have less smoke,” says Pavelo.


During the song “From Time,” live pyro in the form of glitter mines are merged with the video, creating a synergistic whole. “The product that was chosen by our pyro designer Reid Nofsinger was a great choice- it really tied everything back together and it was a big success,” says Pavelo.


Drake is also a fan of both cryo and low smoke. There are 14 CO2 jets that are featured during “Pop That” and “HYFR.” As for the low smoke, provided by two LSG units, Pavelo reports, “The first time Drake saw them; he was ecstatic and loved it. Needless to say, we’re using low smoke and it makes the song ‘Hold On, We’re Coming Home’.”


On the road with Drake are Pyro Designer/Pyro Operator Reid Nofsinger, Cryo Technician Jon Taylor Cryo/Laser Technician Matt Luciano and Laser Operator Nick Curry. “This is a challenging, ever changing production, and I’m very proud that our crew has been able to step up and continue to provide the high quality design and production services that Drake and his creative team require,” notes Maccabee.


The tour, which began earlier this fall, is slated to be in the U.S. until the middle of December, and then travels to Europe in March of 2014.