French DJ superstar David Guetta raised over $2 million for COVID-19 relief with the Miami and New York editions of his “United At Home” charity livestream series. Performed at the high-profile locations of the rooftop of Icon Brickell and the observation deck at Rockefeller Center, the first two shows set the bar high with over 50 million viewers, breaking two Guinness World Records for "most viewers for a DJ set live stream on Facebook" and "most liked DJ on Facebook."
Where in the world would the next show take the DJ, and how would it top the previous two?
Romain Pissenem, founder and creative director of High Scream and show director for David Guetta, had the answer: New Year’s Eve in Paris.
They needed to select an iconic locale, and what is more iconic than the Louvre, the world’s largest art museum and a Paris monument? “I wouldn’t say it was scary, but it was very ambitious,” notes Pissenem. “We needed to create a design that would impress but not overpower the architecture. It needed to work with the Louvre Pyramid and highlight its beauty.”
Since the production was for a livestream audience only, Pissenem eliminated any trusses or structures early in the brainstorming process in order to not obstruct the architecture. “I wanted to create an electronic extension of the Pyramid.” Initially, Pissenem wanted to use video content to create an LED mirror of the Pyramid, reflected on the ground and seen overhead with aerial drones. “It looked amazing in renders, but at a certain point, it became boring.”
Instead, the show director found unlimited possibilities with an inverted rig: a matrix of nearly 500 lighting fixtures symmetrically scattered across the ground. “This show goes completely against classical designs,” admits Pissenem. “With the lights pointing towards the sky, we were able to create shapes that we may never be able to create again. The accumulation of lights made them one decoration, one object, and a symmetric extension of the Pyramid."
While the site amplified the production and design, it also presented its own challenges. “It is like being in a big jewelry box with a pyramid of glass in the middle,” describes Pissenem. The bass couldn’t be too loud so as not to damage the precious artwork; since it was a livestream production, omitting a full sound system was fortunately no issue.
“It is not the same as a tour as there is no audience reaction in front of the artist, and I wanted to create that kind of high-energy ambience for both the artist and the audience at home so that they don’t get bored,” notes Pissenem. “While we have over 500 lights, I didn’t want us to go crazy and use everything at once, and then after five minutes, you have used all your effects.” The team strove for a balance between strong, dynamic moments and creative, engaging designs. Working with drones to capture 360° camera views allowed for inventive programming.
The show director compliments his team at High Scream for making the lighting looks such a radiant success. “When you cook, you need the best ingredients,” says Pissenem, “and when you put on a huge design like this, you need the best professionals.” Lighting designer Ian Tomlinson and lighting director James Betts-Gray—both of whom Pissenem commends as “genius”—met that challenge, keeping up with Guetta’s last-minute set changes and never missing a cue. “It requires very amazing skill to program this kind of design live when you don't really know what will be the next song and still make it look like it was perfectly timecoded,” praises Pissenem.
Natural elements, including rain, snow, and sleet, heightened the design, creating stunning watery reflections within the beams of light. Additionally, hazers generated atmospheric smoke, which the wind swept up and swirled in elegant patterns. “It was the biggest natural special effects I could wish for!” notes Pissenem.
While Pissenem rejected the idea of an LED video panel design, he still included video content in a more subtle manner. High Scream worked with Sugo Design to develop the video content. “We wanted to show some art that is on display in the Louvre, so we overlaid the content on top of the livestream camera feed,” he explains. “This is not a real show nor is it a TV show. It is something in between, so we get to create new rules for that.”
Every New Year’s show needs fireworks, and this production was no exception and framed the iconic Louvre Pyramid with an impressive pyrotechnic display. “We always want to celebrate the New Year, and it was especially important to entertain this year because many people were alone and not with their family or friends. If they come to our show, we need to make sure our show comes to them even if it is through the TV or computer,” concludes Pissenem. “We closed the show with fireworks, and it was a good way to wish happy New Year to people.”
- Show Director: Romain Pissenem
- Stage Design & Production Company: High Scream
- Lighting Design: Ian Tomlinson of High Scream
- Lighting Director: James Betts-Gray of High Scream
- Video Content Director: James Codes
- Video Content: Sugo Design / High Scream
- Laser Operator: Dennis Klipp
- Production Manager: Richard ‘Avo’ Atherton
- Logistics: Suzie Shorten
- Broadcast Director: Remvo Evers of Nomobo
- Live Director: Job Robbers
- Equipment Provider: S Group FR