Victor G. Ortiz, CEO and founder of Darvik Productions, has enjoyed a decade of partnership with CBF Productions, collaborating on festivals up and down California, and at the beginning of 2020, they had events booked throughout the year. Plans shifted when COVID-19 struck the U.S. By April, Vincenzo Giammanco, CEO and founder of CBF Productions, called Ortiz, and the two decided to create a new game plan.
“We started brainstorming, and I think Europe was the first to reopen drive-ins, so that’s where we got that idea,” explains Ortiz. They rented the Ventura County Fairgrounds for Concerts In Your Car, a series of live in-person concerts, movies, theatre, and tributes all to be experienced over FM radio from the safety of one’s car. “We initially had a three-month booking at the fairgrounds, and at this rate, we’ve decided to extend until the end of the year.”
The venue offers space for 700 cars. Rather than ticket prices per person, it is a ticket price per car, so cars can bring as many guests as they can fit. Trucks and Jeeps have been plenty, but anyone not within the closed confines of their car must wear a mask.
The production crew also upholds strict healthy and safety rules: limited staff, temperature checks, and face masks. “Working all day in the hot weather and with the intense labor, breathing through a mask gets really difficult,” notes Ortiz, “but we allowed for extra time to take breaks to keep everyone safe.”
The original plan centered around a Stageline SL320 with large video screens flanking the stage, as well as delay screens for those attendees at the back of the approximately 600'x600' parking lot. “It was a more permanent design, and we had it all drawn out,” says Ortiz. The team went to the fairgrounds to determine what everyone’s experience would be while watching the performers on the 5-6' high stage from 400' away. A staff member stood on a ladder where the stage would be, and other members spread out between different vantage points across the bumpy parking lot. “We quickly realized that the experience was not going to be great for everyone, especially those in the way back. Even with the screens and delay screens, they just weren’t going to see the performance.” A week out from opening, they had to go back to the drawing board.
On May 25, George Floyd’s tragic death shook the world, and out of respect, Concerts In Your Car delayed the opening concert with Super Duper Kyle until June 26. “We thought the right thing to do was just pause,” says Ortiz. “On the production side, that gave us a couple extra weeks to redesign.”
The final layout resulted in a 360° stage with a circular truss and a massive LED screen at the top of each of its four sides. The lighting rig features eight Elation Professional CUEPIX blinders, four Elation Protron 3K LED strobes, and 12 Elation Colour Chorus 72s as well as 32 Chauvet Professional Rogue R2 moving head washes and 16 Chauvet Rogue RH1 hybrid moving heads, all run through an MA Lighting grandMA3 full-size lighting console.
“One of the biggest challenges was getting the proper key lighting on stage,” notes Ortiz. There are zero followspots. “We didn’t want to create a structure out in the parking lot and lose spaces, so we created key lights with nothing but uplights, using the Color Chorus 72s as footlights.”
Situated next to the beach, the venue can experience strong winds, making it dangerous to have such large screens flown. “We have a rigger standing nearby the whole time just monitoring the wind,” explains Ortiz. If gusts are between 20-25 miles per hour, the rigger gives a warning, and at 30 miles per hour, the rigger takes the screens down. “Most of the gusts happen around 5 p.m., so we’ve taken to leaving the screens down while cars drive in, and then put them up 30 minutes before showtime, and by then, it is so peaceful.”
Artists have been travelling with small crews, so Darvik Productions often provides their own lighting designers. No artists have thus far added any supplemental gear to the rig.
Pre-recorded safety and instructional video content precedes each concert. Darvik also incorporates Zoom, encouraging attendees to join a meeting, cutting to them in between TikTok videos. “People love it. They go wild. It's fascinating just to see people blinking their lights or honking their horns,” says Ortiz. After the videos, DJs amp up the crowd before the headliner performs. I-Mag, crowd shots, and even some more Zoom clips light up the screens above the stage during the main artist’s performance.
“It’s definitely hard to hear that there are some colleagues who are having to close their doors due to COVID-19. We’ve been very fortunate to be able to pivot and partner with an event producer, who was also willing to take that risk, and it has been slowly paying off. By no means will we see numbers that we’ve seen in the past,” concludes Ortiz. “But it is harder to know that so many friends aren’t doing much at all. Hopefully, things will change very soon.”
Concerts In Your Car currently has events booked at Ventura County Fairgrounds into September and is coming soon to Arizona.
- PM: Victor G. Ortiz
- LD: Martin Castañon
- Camera Director: Rene Sanchez Jr.
- Content Manager: Alfredo Solis
- Camera Op: Miguel Ochoa
- Camera Op: Andrew Barreto
- Camera Op: Edward Cruz
- Camera Op: Raul Garcia
- 20 Chauvet Professional Rogue RH1 Hybrid
- 32 Chauvet Professional Rogue R2 Wash
- 24 Elation Professional Seven Par 7IP
- 12 Elation Professional Colour Chorus 72
- 4 Elation Professional 3K Color Strobe
- 8 Elation Professional CUEPIX
- 2 Elation Professional HZ-500 Hazer
- 2 Elation Professional M5 Fogger
- 2 Elation Professional MagmaFan1