Principles of Design with John Broderick

Tim McGraw and Metallica — two bands that, apparently, have nothing in common, except for fact that they rely on the same LD: John Broderick. Not many LDs would gladly take on such wildly different performers in a matter of months. But Broderick's aesthetic proves remarkably flexible; when his principles of design are applied to differing creative situations, the result is, in each case, unique.

The initial concept for the McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors One Band Show came directly from the artist himself, says Broderick. McGraw designed the stage, which measured 90' wide by 50' deep and included a 24' thrust satellite stage used for a dramatic acoustic set. “It was an enormous amount of surface to light,” says the LD. “There were eight band members and Tim McGraw, spread out and moving all the time.” The production, which was sold as a 360Þ presentation, also included a 40' wide × 6' high LED wall.

Broderick's talents were put to more extensive use on Metallica, where he was also production designer. Here he had much more artistic freedom, the result of his long-term relationship with the band. “They pretty much left the design of the show to us,” he says, “because they're confident that we're tuned in to what their audience needs to see of them.” This was a stadium tour and the LD's main concern was presenting the band in that forum. “We always had to be aware of the people far, far away in the stadium stands,” he says. “We have an obligation to provide them with a fantastic show.” As a result, the Metallica production is based around a 200'-wide, 80'-high stage that features four non-standard rectangular LED walls upstage for IMAG and a variety of video content, including archetypal faces and Fellini-esque imagery. Other essential elements of the production include a Salvador Dali-inspired backdrop and the extensive use of pyro.

Philosophically, Broderick and McGraw found themselves in complete agreement on the overall look of the show. “With lighting, Tim and I pretty much see the same way,” he says. “Neither of us likes ‘the big moving-light show.’” As a result, the McGraw show, which was based on an airy pod system, is notable for its subtlety. “We like shadows and large, fat beams coming from oblique angles, rather than having everything illuminated all of the time,” says the designer.


The McGraw show also made ample use of asymmetry, a concept that is dear to Broderick's heart. “The show was really about balanced asymmetry,” he says. “I feel that I used more of a balanced asymmetry because it doesn't look so odd when you first look at it. There are symmetrical elements to it, which help to contain the asymmetry, and, when you walked into the arena, everything was part of a whole.” Conversely, choosing an asymmetrical design made programming more challenging. “It's easier to program it as a big light show,” he says. “You would simply design it symmetrically and grab light and make a fan.”

The concept of asymmetry was a major part of the Metallica show as well. “Straight lines, rectangles and 90Þ angles are boring,” says Broderick. “They don't allow you to force the perspective or to enhance the depth of the stage.” For example, he says, “I forced the perspective of the video walls so it appeared that they went back farther than they actually did; I stepped the heights backwards so that upstage right is a convergence point for all the trusses and the video screens. It's a false perspective vanishing point.” As a result, the 200' stage looked even more imposing.


Although both shows were booked to play in different types of venues, they shared much of the same hardware. A key part of the McGraw design came from High End Systems. “One of my favorite instruments is the High End Studio Beam,” Broderick says. “I'm a big fan of soft-edged wash lights, as opposed to hard-edged gobo lights. The hard-edged lights always look the same; no matter what brand they are or how bright they are, they're all limited in what they do — and they draw attention to themselves.”

The Studio Beam is, of course, a wash light, but that isn't its only advantage, he says: “Studio Beams are very bright. They have a very wide flood feature — if you need them and you're close up to something, they can do a really wide flood.” Broderick also makes use of the unit's strobing capacity. “The bulb strobe feature dims that bulb so that you can go from 50% to 100%, 50% to 100% and so on. It's a much more subtle strobe and much more effective as well.” (The beam-spreading capacity of the Studio Beam was also an integral part of the Metallica design).

Syncrolite units play a big part in both shows. Broderick used the 3K models for the first time with McGraw. “I was wary of the Syncrolites being big, giant searchlights, and only being able to use them in a very limited way,” he says. “Luckily, I had Troy Eckerman, one of the premier Syncrolite programmers around, and he showed me all of the instrument's tricks, so to speak,” he says. [Eckerman also programmed Metallica, using WYSIWYG.] In the end, the Syncrolites fit perfectly into McGraw's lighting system, says the LD: “The stage was so vast and the lighting system was so spread out, airy, and so high up, that the big fat beam of the Syncrolite is proportional to the stage. They didn't draw attention to themselves; they're part of the picture.” Broderick also used the Syncrolites for audience light, which is one of his visual trademarks. “We could illuminate the entire arena, the stage, the band, and Tim when we wanted,” he says

Syncrolite units were an essential component of the Metallica production as well, where Broderick used them in an innovative and theatrical fashion. “I had five 7K Syncrolites that were used as a very low sidelight, almost like shin kickers,” he says. “They were only 15' off the ground at the extreme ends. I also had five 3k Syncrolites that we hung diagonally on one angle of the stage.”

As with McGraw, audience light was an important component with Metallica. “The key to a successful performance is including the audience as a part of the picture, for a variety of reasons,” says Broderick. “I don't like a separation between the stage and the audience and that's one of the many reasons I lean towards using soft light in a large case — because it blends across the stage into the audience. Plus, the audience members can see each other and lift the energy nearby, and the band can see the audience for the same reason. It keeps the energy of the show up.”


From an equipment standpoint, Broderick took a huge risk in the McGraw production. He decided that he needed a unit that would outline the stage structure: “I did have R40 strips working all the way around the stage. I used probably a dozen in the first paperwork design,” he says. Unfortunately, that solution didn't give him much flexibility: “I realized that if I went that route, I was going to get three colors maximum, and that wasn't going to hold up for a two-hour show.” Then he remembered the Pulsar ChromaBank LED strips he saw in Europe when touring with Shania Twain. “I was wary of them; when you're close up, they do look a little LED-like,” he says. “But when you move away from them, they're very bright and very fast and don't look like LED strips at all.” Of course, he adds, “Once you commit to something like that on a tour, there's no turning back, especially on a five-city-a-week tour. But we won the bet and I was very happy with them.”

Since country music has gone mainstream, one might expect Broderick's color palette to be similar to that of a large rock and roll show. But the McGraw production was anything but that: “I used a color palette that's more pastel, one that's not so primary, “he says. “I try to look for different colors that we haven't seen before.” He applied his color theory to the Syncrolite units, which sported sandy tones, salmons, aquas, and a primary blue. The latter color, he says, “reads nicely — if it's used sparingly and at the right time. At other times, we had more translucent colors, like the sand tones, and they were quite nice as well.”

For McGraw, Broderick mixed single- and multi-color looks throughout the two-and-a-half-hour show. “Single-color looks can be effective if used sparingly, as can multi-color looks, if used sparingly,” he says. As you might expect, he draws his inspiration from the music itself: “To me, it's about a theme of color for a song or a verse and highlighting within that color the performers that you want highlighted.”

McGraw himself also had some definite ideas about color. “Tim went through the set list and gave an evocative color palette for several songs,” Broderick says. And, as it turns out, the instincts of the artists are usually right: “A lot of artists will tell me that a song is a certain color, and I may disagree with them. But I will program the song that way first, and 99 out of 100 times they're right.”

The Metallica color palette was similar to McGraw's, yet more saturated. “There was a lot of richness in the backdrop area, and there was a lot of transparency and pastels in the performance areas,” says Broderick. The Metallica show also relied on the LD's trademark dirty pastels. [He takes pastels and mixes them with different colors, making them less pure.] “I don't really like primaries except I will use them occasionally,” he explains. “After using a lot of dirty pastels, a primary can be very effective in a short period when the music fits and the picture fits,” he concludes.

Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors' One Band Show wrapped up their tour in late spring, while Metallica concluded the Summer Sanitarium tour several weeks ago. To see more of Broderick's work, check out the CBS special Ice Wars, scheduled to air on October 13th.



WLighting Designer

John Broderick

Lighting Programmer

Troy Eckerman

Spot Caller

Phil Ealy

Lighting Director

Jerome Thompson

Production Manager

Arthur Kemish

Lighting Crew Chief

Rich Vinyard


Jamie Grossenkemper

Lighting Technicians

Eric Perry
Steve Schwind

Syncrolite / technician

George Kiem

Lighting Company

Premier Global Production
Company, Nashville TN

Account Manager

Steven Creech Anderson

Stage and Set Design

Tim McGraw

Structural Design

Premier Global Production Company

Stage and Set Fabrication

Premier Global Production Company

Head Carpenter

James Vollhoffer


Robert Burdey
Brad Spence
Tyson Clark
Andrew Bender


50 High End Systems Studio Beam115
38 High End Systems x.Spot115
33 High End Systems Studio Color 575115
16 Martin Mac 600 Wash luminaire116
7 SX3K Syncrolite117
13 Lycian M2 series 2.5kW truss spot129
16 Martin 3000 Atomic strobe116
8 Pulsar ChromaBank LED strip108
7 Custom PGP truss pods128
20 8' PGP truss128
3 Flying Pig Systems Wholehog II console115
Circle Number on Reader Service Card



Production Designer

John Broderick

Lighting Designer

John Broderick

WYSIWYG / Rehearsal Programmer

Troy Eckerman

Lighting Director

Butch Allen

Tour Programmer/Op

Brad Schiller

Lighting Coordinator

Robert Cooper

Tour Manager

Rex King

Assistant Tour Manager

Andrew Weiss

Production Coordinator

Dan Braun

Production Manager

Mark Spring

Set Designed by

Dan Braun
Mark Fisher
James “Winky” Fairoth

Black Crew (Fourth Phase):

Crew Chief

Ritchie Steffa


Storm Sollars
Mike Parker
Marc Wuchter
Nick Militello
Russ Winfield
Jerry Kaiser
Matt Neiski

FOH / Spots

Pete Fehr


Bryan Keyes

Blue Crew (Upstaging):

Crew Chief

Ron Schilling


Rick Thurman
Janis Samet
Mark Powell
Matt Hubbell
Rhane Rhodes
Matt Cotter
George Reeves
Chris Barclay

FOH / Spots

Josh Levine


Josh Henderson


66 High End Systems Studio Beam PC115
27 High End Systems Studio Colo115r
18 Martin Mac 2000116
21 Coemar Panorama Cyc118
4 Coemar Super Cyc118
6 SX3K Syncrolite117
5 SX7K Syncrolite117
19 Mole Richardson 8-light Molefay119
19 Morpheus 8 Fader color scroller120
4 Lycian M2 series 2.5kW truss spot129
9 Strong Xenon Super Trouper II followspot121
24 Martin 3000 Atomic strobe116
2 Reel EFX DF50 Diffusion haze122r
8 High End Systems F100 fog machine115
27 Tomcat 10' Swing Wing Truss123
17 Tomcat 8' Swing Wing Truss123
26 Tomcat Medium Duty truss123
1 Tomcat Heavy Duty pre-rig truss123
44 1-ton CM hoist124
3 Flying Pig Systems Wholehog II console115
1 Wholehog II Expansion Wing115

Equipment Provided by:

Black Rig: Fourth Phase
Blue Rig: Upstaging
Both Spot Packages: Fourth Phase

Circle Number on Reader Service Card