In May, I was approached by the hip-hop artist Logic to design his Everybody’s Tour, which traveled throughout venues across North America this past summer. My company, Visual Endeavours, was initially tasked with production design and programming, but as the project progressed, we also took on producing the content for the tour, hitting amphitheaters and sheds, and were given a short six weeks from pitch to rehearsals. Logic is a breakthrough artist, backed by his management and label at Visionary Music Group. They have done amazing things in the distribution of music to younger millennial crowds via social channels, and as such, Logic has a massive following: 22 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone, with a great deal of those plays garnered from his viral 2017 hit “1-800-273-8255” off his third album, Everybody.
The client asked us to create a visually engaging design based around the album artwork for the artist’s first headlining tour. The album’s message comes from Logic’s own upbringing and aims to bring people together via his music. Created by Brooklyn artist Sam Spratt, the album cover art itself is inspired by the painting The Wedding At Cana, created in 1563 by Paolo Veronese. Spratt describes a late-night phone call, when Logic was standing in front of the 16th-century painting at The Louvre in Paris and realized the inspiration for the artwork.
“Half asleep, I go, ‘Doesn’t that have like a 100 people in it?’” recalls Spratt. “‘130,’ Logic says with this giddy energy to his voice. And then he adds, ‘It hit me. I want a celebration: my friends, my wife, my family, my inspirations, my dogs, your dog, your girl, you, all races, colors, creeds, genders, sexual orientations. I want a painting of everybody, all together, having a meal.’”
This inspiration, along with the supplementary album artwork provided in the album booklet, would become our key directive for the next intense month and a half of development. Logic’s new album and the tour would serve to draw people together, unifying his fans and trying to do some good in the world, a couple of hours at a time.
While white-boarding how to use this album theme to inform a stage design, my creative partner Rachel Stoll had the idea to turn upstage into a gallery wall, as if concertgoers were walking into a museum filled with the album art as it comes alive. We sketched out a bunch of floating video panels, asymmetrically arranged in various aspect ratios, which could be used to show content in their own “frames” or as one continuous surface. From there, we drew out a stage arrangement that mimicked the tables and architecture on Sam’s canvas, using risers for five band members forming a big “U” around the central stage space and towers along the far sides of the stage, framing out the space like columns.
This initial design concept was pitched to the artist’s camp with resoundingly positive feedback and ended up being extremely close to the final result, with only minor changes for fixtures and truss placements. Coming out of a proposal and into the design process with a full working drawing was key to how fast the project had to move, and knowing that the entire tour package would have to fit in three semis—including lighting, video, staging, and sound—we knew that every element had to be well thought-out and intentional.
The initial drawings were produced in Maxon Cinema 4D, using the Hantmade Stage plugin to add realistic stage lighting. The plugin is a central pillar to my design workflow now, combining the massive toolset available in C4D and adding standard CAD tools and symbols of many major manufacturers on the market today, with a powerful rendering engine to back it up.
Once the final design concept was approved, we ported the initial C4D drawings to Vectorworks in order to produce technical drawings and get vendor bids out. For this tour, the client had already established a great relationship with LMG, and LMG account rep Jimmy Russo got in touch to take care of getting a rental package together. Thankfully, LMG has an excellent fixture selection, given that we were getting quotes four weeks out from rehearsals. The final design package consisted of Philips Vari-Lite VL4000 Spots for punchy texture and sidelight, Martin MAC Quantum Washes for eye-candy effects, Robe Pointes to create aerial compositions, and Philips Showline Nitro 510Cs for strobe and color washes.
An upstage and downstage line of Robe CycFX 8 fixtures, as well as CycFX 4s lining the upstage video panels, added volumetric sheets of lighting and enabled immersive punches for musical accents. From the video side, we had LMG 8mm panels on the upstage gallery wall, and 18mm blow-through panels to skirt the risers and as fascia on six truss towers. The 18mm video was the only major substitution we ended up making from the original design, which was drawn as a volumetric pixel product.
Up until this point, our work on the Logic project had been strictly design and programming, but about four weeks out from rehearsals, while programming prep was beginning, we received a request from the client for video content. This turned our streamlined process into a bit of a scramble. Four weeks would never have been enough time to create content for 22 songs, especially given the need to bring on animators, establish a rendering pipeline, and work on several other projects internationally.
To accomplish this challenge, Stoll stepped in to help art-direct the content, and we came up with a thematic approach that used the album artwork itself as its focus. We drew out several complementary visual themes from Andy Weir’s books The Egg and The Martian, works that were part of Logic’s personal inspiration for this album. From there, we tailored a package for the budget and timeframe that would yield around 30 pieces of custom loops for specific songs, along with 12 to 15 longer custom animations, all based on the album art to tie the entire show together. We could then fill the gaps with appropriate high-quality stock where needed.
With our scant timeline, the task of producing all the content fell to rendering gurus Art Perez and Matthew Strang. Art (Redhood FX), with whom I’ve worked on past projects, dedicated his time to painstakingly tracing out and animating the album artwork, starting from a 30,000 by 30,000-pixel Adobe Photoshop file provided by Spratt. Meanwhile, the burden of the 3D animations fell to Strang, a young gun Cinema 4D and Adobe After Effects wiz I met through CalArts, my alma mater. Both animators started working in earnest, creating working files from our storyboards, putting in long days behind their respective machines. With the timeframe, we had two check-ins prior to final delivery. This meant that we had merely a week after client feedback to tweak and re-render all content, making revisions a tactical process.
After just over three weeks of about 180 collective hours of animating for the 2D and 3D content, along with another 150 or so hours of rendering, we had a client-approved final content drive. Perez created the album art entirely in Photoshop and After Effects, carefully tracing each of the 88+ characters and architecture out, then repainting in the background where needed and animating layers to make beautiful parallax effects that really made the flat canvas come to life with depth and motion. Meanwhile, Strang worked in Cinema 4D and OTOY’s Octane Render to create clips with realistic camera dolly motion, volumetric lighting, and stunning photorealistic quality. We combined these custom elements with some time-coded music videos from Logic, as well as some sparse stock, and were able to fill out a VJ loops-style package for all 22 songs on the tour.
With a functioning production design package and final content distribution, it was time to program and send the show on the road. After pre-viz and pre-programming using MA Lighting’s MA3D and Anthony Petruzio’s Keylight custom model pack, we spent a week in production rehearsals in Nashville with the full team and LMG rental package.
I programmed the show myself on two MA Lighting grandMA2 consoles, using the provided SMPTE-striped backing tracks from the Ableton team. By the last couple of rehearsal days, every song of the show was running to timecode, allowing us to tightly synchronize lighting effects to Logic’s very intricate musical style: volumetric wipes provided by the Robe CycFX fixtures, big aerial looks from the VL4000s and Pointes, and subtle eye candy FX on the MAC Quantums.
For some songs, we also programmed in the Resolume server to sync to timecode, as well as trigger clips and strobes via Art-Net from the grandMA2. Thankfully, during rehearsals, we only had minor content notes to re-render, which Strang was able to take care of remotely (RIP to my Verizon tethering that month). Thanks to a hookup from GameStop corporate, we even enabled Logic to challenge his audience members to a one-on-one game of MarioKart or StreetFighter, live on the upstage LED screens. Hilariously, throughout the entire creative process, this was easily the one thing that the artist himself appreciated most. The little things!
The rest of the Visual Endeavors production team included Emily Bornt, lighting director, who is working on a series of additional shows in Europe with Logic; and Matthew Mercado, who programmed a stellar Resolume Arena file, implementing multiple mappings and layer routings that could be selected on the fly. Once production rehearsals finished, I sent the show out under Bornt’s supervision, and due to my own hectic summer schedule, I wasn’t able to visit the tour in person until Barclay’s Center some weeks in. Bornt did a fantastic job of taking the design out on the road and ensuring that I-Mag, video, spots, and timecode/programming updates all happened smoothly.
In the end, during our final check-in before loading the rig onto trucks, the artist’s team was extremely pleased with the results we accomplished in our short timeframe, and I was absolutely thrilled to see that our concept had turned out just like the renders, only better in real life, of course.
Aron Altmark leads the creative vision of Visual Endeavors Inc., an entertainment design firm focused on reimagining the live entertainment experience through art and technology. He blends his background in dance and theatre with clubs and music festivals to create immersive experiences. www.visualendeavors.com