XL Video is supplying Pixled F11, Mitrix, VersaTUBEs and Catalyst control for the Deadmau5 world tour, which kicked off in the US headlining Coachella and is currently in Europe, WOW'ing audiences with its stunning multi-layered video design and dimensionally mind-boggling visuals, designed by Martin Phillips and John McGuire of Bionic Head.
The tour originated from XL Video UK project managed by Des Fallon and Chris Ferrante with support from Phil Mercer and his XL Video LA team. Once again XL's international operation has been able to provide transatlantic continuity and great service for its clients.
The Deadmau5 set takes the current trend for leading DJ's to boost the production value of their live performances to new levels of fluidity, emotion and humour. Characterised by nanosecond-perfect timing, some clever concepts and a seamless fusion of video and lighting elements, Des Fallon says, "This show creates a new benchmark for dance act visuals - we're very proud to be involved".
Phillips is well known for his work with Daft Punk. His design for Deadmau5 started with the DJ booth, a 3 sided cube that looks like it's tipped forward at 45 degrees. This is clad with 75 tiles of PIXLED F11 screen.
Behind that, on the mid-stage truss, is a barrage of 72 VersaTUBES, mounted in 6 custom touring frames that were fabricated by B and R Scenery in Camarillo, California. Upstage of this are 6 vertical hangs of Barco MiTrix semi transparent screen, each column measuring 2 tiles wide by 36 deep, in 7 touring frames, each 7 metres high.
The MiTrix columns are hooked on to rolling headers on a dolly track attached to the truss above, allowing them to be moved - manually - into 3 different screen configurations throughout the show - 6 slim columns, 3 fat strips and one complete surface with all 6 strips pushed together. On screen shifting duties are XL's Joe Makein and lighting supplier PRG's Ben Wingrove.
Behind this, at the back of the stage is a 65 mm pitch pixel curtain.
The 4 different resolution surfaces work together and individually with the carefully considered content. The whole 3D perspective of the performance space is constantly changing and in motion, with bits appearing and disappearing and moving forwards, backwards and sideways often giving the optical illusion of the objects e.g. the DJ booth, physically moving right out into the audience! A primary visual design objective was to radiate the giga-tonnes of energy coming off the stage throughout the audience - spreading the vibe and excitement with highly effective results.
Deadmau5 (Joel Thomas Zimmerman) wears his trademark giant mouse mask throughout the performance with a spherical head and a huge grin. Half way through, this gets swapped for a custom version that contains 964 SMD pixels (LEDs) around the front of the head, allowing special effects like quirky facial expressions and other video content to be run through it. This was a big technical challenge to set up, but has become a real show stopper!
XL Video's Richard Stembridge is managing all the control aspects.
They are running 3 of XL's full spec Catalyst media servers, one of which is playing back content via both outputs to all the main LED surfaces. The second machine is used to run the LED Mouse Head, and the third is a spare. They also have a Mini Mac running Quartz Composer software, loaded up with some bespoke modules of software specially written for the tour, to allow functions like video content to be created on the fly and individual pixel control of the VersaTUBES. This is an experimental Bionic Head project that is currently 'under development'. The output of the Quartz is fed into the Catalyst as a video input.
Considerable effort has gone into integrating the LED Head into the show and this became one of Stembridge's missions during just 8 days of production rehearsals at Van Nuys in California! It is pixel-mapped in the Catalyst, which sends 12 universes of DMX via an ArtNet DataLynx OP box into the Head, and from there, protocol converters transform the DMX into visual information for the pixels.
All the Catalysts are triggered by the FOH lighting desk, a Road Hog Full Boar, currently being operated by John McGuire, and to be taken over later in the tour by Ben Wingrove. Some of the content cues are MIDI triggered, some are audio triggered via the Quartz and others executed live from the desk. The spot-on timing is an essential part of emphasising the emotion of the music through its rhythm and matching visual cues.
The content was produced from different sources commissioned by Bionic Head, including London based Onedotzero, with Phillips and McGuire also creating some using both Catalyst library material and totally new compilations.
Phillips comments that he's "Extremely happy" with the service he's receiving from XL Video, who are always his first choice of video company (he's based in LA). He also has plenty of good things to say about Stembridge and Makein, who have been working long hours and a gruelling schedule to make it all run like clockwork - and always with a smile. The tour's production director is Mark Ward and production manager is Alex Keyser. Dates are scheduled through February 2011.