Rock superstars Queen + Adam Lambert are on the road with their Rhapsody Tour, currently making stops in North America before heading to Korea, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. Live Design chatted with stage designer Ric Lipson of Stufish Entertainment Architects and lighting designer Rob Sinclair about their work on the show. Read Part One!
LD: Please tell us about the lighting design.
RS: We’ve taken the sum of our knowledge of what makes a Queen show, added to it, and tried to move it into a more contemporary direction. We still use big, bold looks and saturated warm colors but try to present them in a new way.
Everything about the lighting is there to enhance, rather than detract, from the band’s performance. It’s impossible to upstage Queen and their songs, no matter how many lights you have, and believe me I’ve tried and failed many times.
The show is run entirely manually by Neil Holloway. It’s unusual to have to be so hands on these days, and he accomplishes it brilliantly.
RL: Throughout the show, we use video as a way of creating scenic environments that complement the lighting and I-Mag looks. In Act One, the opera house evolves, and the color and lighting changes live throughout the act. In Acts Two and Three, we use textures and patterns that follow some of the physical pieces of the set but we create them in 3D and have them on the screens to continue the image. This expands the industrial and scenic finishes to make the set look bigger at times. [These] were created by Treatment Studio (video content producers) in virtual 3D and are rendered on the fly in Notch (operated by Ed White) to achieve dynamic lighting effects that react to the onstage real lighting created by Rob and Neil Holloway.
LD: What gear are you using?
RS: Our main workhorse is the Claypaky Scenius Unico. We use them for stage washes and, using the Blacktrax tracking system by CAST, as all of our followspots. There are no conventional spots which allows a precision of level and cueing. Each band member is consistently lit for camera throughout the show
LD: How do you decide your color palette for show sections and songs? How involved is QAL in this process with you?
RS: It’s a combination of things. Sometimes it’s based on video content, often from band feedback, and sometimes from instinct. The band are very involved at every stage and often come and give us notes in person. All three principals really understand production, and it’s great to have their views on how their songs should be presented.
LD: What previz did you do for the show?
RS: As is often the way, we previsualized the entire show and then changed every cue once we saw it in the real world. Previz is such an imperfect simulation that, although it’s great for mechanics, it can’t tell you how you’ll feel about seeing a cue in the room.
RL: The set design is also created as renders from an early stage to share with the band the ideas. These renders are done in still, and video, form. Once we have the design in place, we work with Treatment Studios to start placing the video content in there to show the different elements.
LD: Two words - Bohemian Rhapsody!?
RS: I’ve done whole shows with less cues than this song. It’s a lot of fun to light, especially the central operatic section.
LD: What role does video play in the show?
RS: This show has a lot of video, both in content and especially in I-Mag, which is expertly directed by Jon Shrimpton. There are so many important details that have to be captured and communicated. Video content was created by Treatment Studios. They’ve been a part of the team since 2017.
LD: Do you have any favorite moments in the show?
RS: I love the pure rock energy of “I Want it All,” the lasers in “Who Wants To Live Forever” and the camp fun of “Killer Queen.” Plus, who wouldn’t love to do the lights to “Bohemian Rhapsody”?
RL: I love the start of the show in the opera house, the transition into the backstage during “Don’t Stop me Now” and the eventual collapse of the opera house at the end of “The Show Must Go On.” After that, [Brian May’s] guitar solo is pretty spectacular with the space sequence. Adam on the Harley was also a fun challenge to work on.
Stay tuned for renderings and lighting plots!
- Set Design: Stufish Entertainment Architects
- Lighting Design: Rob Sinclair
- Tour Director: Juliette Slater
- Production Manager: Paddy Hocken
- Lighting Director: Neil Holloway
- Multi Camera Director: Jon Shrimpton
- Disguise Programmer: Ed White
- Laser Programmer: Seth Griffiths
- Lighting Programmer: André Petrus
- Lighting Crew Chief: Ron Schilling
- Lighting Draughtsman: Luke Rolls