PHOTO : ROBERT KENNEDY , SOLOTECH PHOTO : MARK BEATTIE
THE VIEW AT TORONTO ’ S ROGERS CENTRE
THE 30-FT . -WIDE MOON OVER THE MOUNTAIN STAGE
parts of the show , he ’ d be performing in a certain area , but quickly realized he ’ s going to go wherever he wants . So , any looks that were centralized or localized in one area didn ’ t work . We had to match that energy and movement to the scale of the room .”
Again , Baeri stresses the collaborative nature of the process and the uniquely collaborative culture on tour . When it comes to any changes , “ Abel ’ s a conscious , professional , competent performer . He gets that things take time . I don ’ t usually stay out with the shows [ I design ], but this , for me , the second it came up it was obvious I would . These people are family .”
Another challenge that resulted in changes throughout the show ’ s development was balancing the overall storytelling ( via the main stage set and LED wall ) against the need for IMAG . “ When we started , we were planning
to integrate IMAG into the main screen for 70 per cent of the show ,” Baeri notes . “ Then it was ‘ we ’ re only going to have him on the main screen for 30 percent of the show . Finally , that turned into ‘ we ’ re never going to put him on the main screen .’”
“ You have to keep in mind that the audience is there specifically to see The Weeknd ,” Baeri says , adding that when the IMAG was cut out of the LED wall that became more challenging . “ I wound up using follow spots on him more than I ever have because of that . Given that , at any moment , Abel could be 150 feet in one direction or another , it ’ s a massive undertaking . It ’ s a time-coded show , and I ’ m thankful for that , but during the actual live show , there are 15 to 20 faders I use to track his movement , light him appropriately , and key him in the same style whether he ’ s on the main stage or anywhere else .”
That decision to cut IMAG from the wall was taken for a number of different reasons , Barton says , adding , “ Even though the final concept was to use the wall just as a scenic extension , we ’ d talked about doing a lot of different IMAG effects on that screen and the other screens .” Which , in itself , presented challenges owing to different aspect ratios . “ You ’ re shooting for standard 16:9 and the wall was like three times 16:9 wide . So , a camera operator must frame that shot , so they ’ re only using the top third of their frame , for example .”
To speak to that , Barton took an innovative approach , something he ’ s been thinking about for some time . “ The lighting programmer on the show , Joe Bay , and I came up with a live overlay system called ForSight for the camera viewfinders that could be cued . We could ‘ tell ’ the camera operators , from the consoles , through overlays in their viewfinder , what the framing should be . So , these operators are going to be shooting in portrait , and these others are shooting landscape , but we can adjust that and cue it for each song or part of a song . Integrating the camera system into the show is sort of the last part of live touring that hasn ’ t been updated in a while as far as how we think about cuing , control , and consistency show to show and switching between shooting for the main wall and shooting for the IMAG screens . That ’ s where being able to communicate to the camera operators non-verbally came in — something , going into this , I anticipated would be a big challenge .”
Although developed and deployed for the tour , ultimately , because the main LED wall wasn ’ t used for IMAG , it wasn ’ t utilized to the extent Barton expected . However , he sees this type of approach being adopted more widely in time . “ I ’ m certainly an advocate for it . I try to incorporate cameras in the projects I work on while thinking of new ways IMAG can help tell the visual story as opposed to just documenting the show . Ways to put power in the hands of the camera operators . That ’ s the direction I ’ d like to move in . As we ’ re all getting more screen-dependent as a society , we need to find ways of embracing that , helping to tell the story , and including people whether they ’ re on their phones or in the audience . I think that ’ s an element that ’ s ripe for exploration .”
Again , that speaks to challenges massive productions can present when trying to ensure the overall “ story ” is told in a way that ’ s understood but doesn ’ t overwhelm the audience . All while ensuring that at every point in the show , the main focus was as it should be , The Weeknd himself .
Kevin Young is the Toronto-based musician and writer .
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