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BEYONCÉ : THE MRS CARTER SHOW THE HIGHLY ANTICIPATED MRS. CARTER SHOW WORLD TOUR BEGAN IN BELGRADE, SERBIA, IN APRIL WITH BEYONCÉ DELIVERING YET ANOTHER HIGHLY CREATIVE AND TECHNICALLY DEMANDING TOURING VISION. SET DESIGNER, LEROY BENNETT, WAS AT THE HELM OF THE SHOW S MASTERFUL VISUAL DISPLAYS, WHICH INCLUDED A RECORD BREAKING LIGHTING DESIGN. TPi S KELLY MURRAY SAW PARKWOOD ENTERTAINMENT S INCREDIBLE PRODUCTION. When global star, American singer / songwriter, actress, producer and director, Beyoncé Knowles plans a tour, she is in the incredible position to be able to do so with her own multi-faceted company, Parkwood Entertainment. Not only servicing her various projects and branding for TV audiences and her record buying public, Parkwood Entertainment also has staff wellversed in the world of live production. The close team of technical experts and creatives who lead the way in terms of getting the artist s idea made into a packageable show is lead by Production Mangers Alex Miasnikof and Malcolm Weldon. PRODUCTION Before landing the prestigious role of Production Manager for Beyoncé, Alex Miasnikof previously worked for Montreal-based Solotech, touring with various artists including Celine Dion before becoming a Cirque du Soleil Production Manger / Technical Director. After three years with the circus, Celine Dion s team asked him to return as a Stage Manager and then as a Production Manager. Miasnikof furthered: Ken Ehrilch - Director of Celine s show - refered me to Beyoncé s camp when they where looking for a Production Manager so I ve only been working with her for the past year. I was hired for her Back To Business show for the opening of the Revel Casino. That led to a pretty full year between the Superbowl, the tour and promo events. The rehearsals were held in the New York area and lasted for six weeks. Miasnikof explained that finding a building which could accommodate the show s needs for a month and a half was quite a challenge: We spent the first month in a building at a shipyard we adapted by bringing in a Stageco roof and from there, we moved to the Izod Center for the final rehearsals. The tour is a huge production, with the sheer amount of equipment from each department needing to fit together in harmony. We re 24 Opposite: Beyoncé s tour has become one of the brightest show s on record. Below: Production Manager, Alex Miasnikof; Monitor Engineer, Daniel Gonzalez with his Avid Profile; System Tech Arno Forno chose d&b for the PA. dealing with a complex assembly of simple elements. What we affectionately call the wall of Inferno [the wall of lights] is a good example of that. The concept is pretty simple, a few Sharpys, strobes and moving mirrors creating a full back wall of lights seems simple, but when you factor in all the parameters it becomes an interesting puzzle! The initial design was based on the Back To Business show, which was really video driven with a 100ft wide by 40ft high video wall and a 100ft wide by 20ft high mid stage moving wall. Once we started designing the show, Beyoncé slowly moved away from the video element and decided to go with more of a lighting driven show, noted Miasnikof. Choosing the tour s suppliers was therefore a tricky task, as the look of the show changed along the way, so did the technical elements. The vendor selection was a long process. The show had a certain level of complexity and a lot of products are either custom-built or were brand new products. Therefore we needed to be sure that the selected vendors were able to support our needs, he confirmed. Perhaps one of the biggest achievements was using the recently launched 446 SGM X-5 strobes, which were supplied by Upstaging. Being the new person on such a huge tour was no problem for the PM who stated: I always work with the if it s not broken don t fix it mentality. Therefore I ve hired a lot of the crew who have worked with Beyoncé on past tours - some of them were with her pre Destiny s Child - and built my team from there. We have an incredible team of people who have made the impossible possible. It was quite an ambitious show to build and travel with, but everybody rolled their sleeves up and managed 25 Below: The automation team: Jamie Pharand, TK Woo and Russell Macias; The video crew with IMAG Director, Kevin Carswell; Production Stage Manager, Terry Cooley, with TPi s Hannah Eakins; The moving LED video wall from Chaos Visual Productions comprised 198 tiles of Everbrighten BR15mm, 22 tiles wide by nine tiles high. to build this show into a tourable package, he confirmed. There were quite a few challenges but I believe the biggest challenge was to keep this show to a tourable scale. The reduced version [it gets even bigger Stateside] has 129,000 lbs of equipment that has to be rigged. Keeping the artistic integrity of the show in a tourable package was definitely a challenge but I want to thank our head rigger - Chad Koeler - who worked miracles and still does on a daily basis! concluded Miasnikof. Production Stage Manager, Terry Cooley, has worked with Beyoncé since her careercatapulting Destiny s Child days (alongside one time band mates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams). Having worked with Beyoncé for some time, Cooley s role has changed over time, as he explained: As the years have gone on, she s become very involved in the show, where as in the early days I would talk more with the choreographers, making sure all the gags were running safely and independently away from the backing dancers for example. Now I work specifically with the band and production, I know the music and show in detail which enables the flexibility needed from a production stage manager. With Beyoncé in particular, I keep an eye on her movements so that she always has a go-to person during the show. If she needs anything production related, I m the direct contact for her performance, said Cooley. Before the show starts each night Cooley can be found doing various tasks which enables the gig to run smoothly. This includes allocating labour, helping with logistics, dealing with each venue and any language barriers that may entail. In particular I work closely with Beyoncé and her show directors. We have to get the show in and out on time and right every day, he concluded. AUDIO 8th Day Sound s Stephen Curtin started working with Beyoncé in 2011 as her band s monitor engineer before the opportunity to move to FOH came up and has retained the same desk throughout. He told TPi: I work with a DiGiCo SD7. It s my favourite desk and the one that I m the most comfortable with, I like the way it sounds, and the flexibility of it. There are things I can do on this desk that I can t do easily on others. The way this desk is set up is very user-friendly. I use a lot of the internal effects; reverbs and delays and I also use Waves with the console too, for summing. For vocals, Beyoncé uses her signature custom-made chrome-finish Sennheiser SKM 5200-II handheld transmitter, with an MD 5235 dynamic capsule on top. She s got a great voice, a very powerful voice and this Sennheiser combination is the right choice for her, Curtin stated. The backing singers use the 5005e capsules, making Sennheiser the mic of choice all around. In total, four 3732 s, nine SKM 5200 s, six ME 5005e capsules and three ME 5235 capsules are used on stage. Beyoncé really likes to make sure that the live performance sounds like the record, Curtin continued. So everything that makes the song sound like the record is here because she gives her all in her performances. On the side of the stage in monitor world, freelance engineer Daniel Gonzalez is now manning Beyoncé s mix. Like at FOH, the band s monitor engineer is using a DiGiCo SD7 but for Gonzalez, an Avid Profile is the desk for the job. He said: I ve been on this console for so long, it s natural to me. There s always something else you can do on a different desk, and I m the only one not using a SD7 but it s because the Profile works for me. The tour is going great. The UK has been exciting and Manchester has been the loudest crowd by far which can really affect the mix because of the loud screams. I actually have to 26 Below: Lighting Director, Whitney Hoversten; Beyoncé decided she wanted her tour to be lighting driven; The lighting rig comprised almost 1,000 fixtures, some of which were brand new and some of which were customised by lighting vendor, Upstaging. change what I m working on to compensate for the crowd noise! But at the same time, Beyoncé really thrives off that interaction which is what we want. For in-ears, everyone uses Sensaphonics which has been Beyoncé s choice for quite a while now. She knows what she likes and she prefers them. Their staff have been awesome and have even brought us new cables through the night! It s important to know that you can rely on someone when you re on such a big tour like this, so we re really happy with Sensaphonics, Gonzalez said. Beyoncé wears the 2Max model alongside her backing vocalists and the band and techs wear the 3Max. For Gonzalez though, being able to hear as closely as possible what Beyoncé does, is important. I use the 2Max because I specifically mix Beyoncé and her back up singers. It s very different mixing in an arena environment compared to mixing in a studio but we have to make the sound as accurate as possible. She has a very even mix and she s a really fun artist to work for because this is a really creative show. And as I have a great relationship with 8th Day, they ve been incredible too. Anything that you could want from an outside touring company, you get with them. They do whatever they need to get the job done and their crew are great, concluded Gonzalez. System Tech and Audio Crew Chief, Arno Forno, a Belgium-based 8th Day Sound employee, is very clear on his gear preference. He highlighted: We re rigging a d&b audiotechnik J-Series. It s a very consistent system, it s very easy to manipulate and I always get good, fast results from it. The system comprises 24 J8 s per side, eight J subs per side, four J12 s per side and the primary speaker clusters are flown at a 270º angle (12 V12 s per side hang) with 12 B-2 subs per side. Everything is smooth and easy with d&b, continued Forno. We re finished setting up on a daily basis by 2pm because to physically put the PA together it takes less than 30 minutes, which is another bonus for the time constraints you can face on a big arena tour like this. One of the most positive things about d&b is that if I need anything done, it will be done in less than 24 hours. They re on the ball! he smiled. LIGHTING The introduction of Peter Johansson s SGM X-5 LED strobes helped to inspire multi-award winning Production Designer, LeRoy Bennett, who specified 446 pieces, making it the brightest show ever measured (in lux output) on a concert stage. The low profile, lightweight X-5 is designed to deliver the same output as conventional strobes from one fifth of the power. Housing 2,970 LED s, power consumption of 360W with lamp life of 50,000 hours, contained in a slim aluminium chassis, it is designed into three cells - to boost creativity. These attributes had been brought to Bennett s attention by one of his partners, programmer Cory FitzGerald, and Randy Wade, who heads up SGM, in Houston, Texas. I was impressed by the combination of power consumption, brightness and rugged design, LeRoy explained. But I was particularly impressed by the fact that each strobe breaks down to three individual cells, enabling me to project very low res graphics as well a bright blasts of light and strobing, he said. Most of them are in a 4 by 4 block formation. Once Bennett had completed the final look of the show, he handed the reigns over to Lighting Director, Whitney Hulverston, to operate the mammoth design. Hoversten commented: LeRoy is brilliant to say the least. Shows nowadays are like going to see a movie - with all the video - but Beyoncé wanted a big lighting show this time which lit LeRoy s face up! It s very bold and a lot of fun to play with. 28 Below: TAIT created a bespoke stage for the tour; The tour carried a lot of pyro and gags, including 180 Le Maitre pieces, supplied by Strictly FX; Lead Rigger, Chad Koehler; during the show; The tour s visual concepts were the work of renowned Production Designer and Lighting Designer, LeRoy Bennett; The crew had six weeks of full production rehearsals in New York. LeRoy is very into mirrors right now so we have some Martin Professional MAC 700 fixtures that have been customised by our lighting vendor, Upstaging. The light has been removed and replaced with a mirror so that the Sharpys point up towards the mirror fixtures [which are hung on a circular truss] and redirect the light in another direction, which looks really different, Hoversten explained. The Sharpy is by no means new or customised but it still continues to impress me because you can get some really amazing looks from it. The SGM strobes and the Martin Professional MAC 700 mirrors are also very cool and the support from all the manufacturers has been really good, especially with SGM because its product is so new. It has been very quick and responsive, stated the LD. For control, Hoversten uses an MA Lighting grandma2. He highlighted: I didn t spec the desk, LeRoy did, but I would have chosen the same one. I like the grandma2 s reliability. The hard drive is Solid State Logic and the processing is also extremely fast, so it has a lot of good attributes. What this desk is capable of, I don t honestly think there s anything else like it in the industry. It s so customisable; it really helps you to see exactly how you would like your design to look, concluded the LD. The huge lighting rig comprises two MA Lighting grandma2 s, 198 customised Martin Professional MAC 700 mirrors, 71 Martin Professional Vipers, 94 Martin Professional Auras, 28 Philips Vari-Lite 3500 s, two Martin Professional MAC III s, 208 Clay Paky Sharpys, a whopping 446 SGM X-5 strobes and seven Syncolites. The lighting crew has a dozen people in its road team. She gives 110% every night without fail and we do a good job at capturing that... Hoversten concluded: It s the first time I ve worked with Upstaging and they ve been really great. A sentiment that Bennett also echoed: They have the best back-up and are always more than 150% supportive of every project, he said. VIDEO The show really does have to be seen for the magnitude of technical elements to be appreciated. Not only is the production very creatively lit, but is also still fairly heavy with video content. As one of the most visually engaging shows TPi has ever seen, the multilayered show design is relentless and faultless. Kevin Carswell, The Mrs.Carter Show s IMAG Director has worked in the industry for over two decades and has worked with artists as varying as Metallica to Michael Buble. He stated: It s an honour to be working with an artist such as Beyoncé. I worked with her on a comeback show in Atlantic City, and very much enjoyed it. She also enjoyed my work, so here I am today! Parkwood Entertainment produced the content for the tour collaborating with several video artists and directors. Ed Burke, Visual Director, for Parkwood Entertainment was overseeing the content production. Supplied by Chaos Visual Productions in LA, the chosen video and projection inventory includes two Hippotizer Genlock HD machines with Dual HDSDI capture and Timecode readerfour Barco HDFW26 projectors and two HD10K-M Christie projectors used on the side screens. Content was synched to show ltc timecode using a timecode control patch for software version 3.1 sp1 (now available in version 3.2) Two IMAG feeds were piped through the Hippo for several songs allowing for the live images to be displayed on the mid-stage LED wall. There is also a moving video piece which features a 72 1-inch wide by 14 9-inch high LED wall that consists of 198 tiles of Everbrighten BR15mm, 22 tiles wide by 9 tiles high. Two Everbrighten processors and two Folsom Image Pros are used for the LED wall. Carswell cuts the show with a Grass Valley Kayak 2.0 video switcher which he always chooses. With specifically directed music video quality content on the side screens appearing between the raw live footage, the arena crowd is really drawn into Beyoncé s world of entertainment. There s no real theme to the show, but Beyoncé is certainly iconic for her girl power themes and that s just evident throughout this show. The interesting thing about Beyoncé is 30 Below: Beyoncé was flown to the B Stage using a TAIT / Fisher Navigator so that she could interact with fans at the far end of the arena. that no two songs are ever the same, enthused Carswell. We don t do any effects, it s a straight forward cut of the show with five manned Sony HTX cameras. It s a pleasure to work with an artist like Beyoncé. She gives 110% every night without fail and we do a good job at capturing that with cameras placed strategically around the stage. We have six people from Chaos out here with us and they re just a joy to work with! With so much occurring on the stage at any one time, the design inevitably posed some challenges at the start. I was worried about the B Stage at first, but it s actually turned out to be one of my favourite times of the night, he revealed. We take a long lens camera operator and put him on a handheld in the B stage with another handheld in the pit. It s fun to cover that because she interacts with the fans so much. You can see her face and theirs just light up! PYRO Pyro, confetti, fire, CO2 and laser effects company, Chicago based Strictly FX supplied many visual elements to the tour. Beyoncé is very hands on with every aspect of her production and was an intricate part of the design process. She knows what she wants and knows what she doesn t like. It was a truly collaborative effort that naturally included her Creative Director Frank Gaston Jr. who helped us bring her production to another level, stated Strictly FX Partner and Effects Designer Mark Grega. Strictly FX Crew Chief and Operator, John Lyons and Pyro Technician, Eddie Romack Jr., are both on the road ensuring Beyoncé fans don t have to wait long to see the first example of the many effects that Grega and his team artistically weave throughout the production. John Lyons added: We did the Superbowl half-time show [with Beyoncé], so we started with that design and made it fit as a touring piece. There s a lot of dancers and the band on stage, so keeping in mind what they re doing over two hours, we figured a lot of our designs out with the choreography team during production rehearsals. The first time that the audience sees Beyoncé live on stage on this tour, she appears in a dramatic burst of flames and pyro. There 32 Below: The show s special effects were designed around the choreography throughout. are four of our proprietary MKII Venom flame cannons that spew flame upstage on a custom platform, as well as 30 silver gerbs, explained Grega. Effects are scattered throughout Beyoncé s set list. There were explosive comets in Run the World (Girls), an awe inspiring in 40 silver waterfall in End of Time, and flame effects in Naughty Girl (a midstage flame bar) and Diva (four MK2 flame cannons, as well as silver gerbs that erupt during the drum solo.) There s also a custom pyro guitar gag from Bibi McGill during Freakum Dress. Four confetti blowers are housed in a truss over the crowd. At the end of the song 1 + 1, Beyoncé flies over the crowd from the main stage to the satellite stage. As she flies, she leaves a trail of gold confetti - by Mylar - behind to give a pixie dust look. Grega explained: The pixie dust gag is a delicate and beautiful effect. It s a brand new device and is being used for the first time on this tour. In rehearsals, it was one of the effects that were really unexpected and made Beyoncé smile t
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