LeRoy Bennett’s ‘Wall of Inferno’ informs one of the brightest shows ever.
Two giants of the lighting world have come together to help provide a dazzling show for one of the world’s greatest artistes.
The introduction of the groundbreaking X-5 LED strobes from Peter Johansen’s SGM provided all the inspiration necessary for multi-award winning production designer, LeRoy Bennett, to specify 500+ pieces for Beyoncé’s The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour — making it probably the brightest show ever recorded on a concert stage.
When the set climaxes with her popular song Halo, the accompanying drum roll is the cue for lighting director Whitney Hoversten to trigger every strobe in the house, completing a blinding blitzkrieg. “We throw everything plus the kitchen sink at it,” he says.
Beyoncé herself had expressed a preference for a lightshow-dominated stage set this time around (rather than the current video-led paradigm) and Bennett immediately set to work creating a stunning light ladder ‘torm’, interspersed with mirrors — known by the crew as the ‘Wall of Inferno’, and fabricated by Tait Towers.
This is dominated by the low-profile, lightweight X-5, which 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, it is contained in a slim aluminium chassis and designed into three individual cells to boost creativity.
These attributes had been brought to LeRoy’s attention by one of his partners, programmer Cory FitzGerald, and Randy Wade, who heads up SGM Inc, based in Houston, Texas. And so the designer decided to specify them for the first time.
“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 the strobes are arranged in a 4 x 4 block formation, with the pods mounted in custom brackets. The fact that these cellular strobes can be operated independently when fitted to these special brackets makes for a perfectly spaced pixel blinder. Whitney Hoversten, who also worked on the last Beyoncé tour, agrees that this provides the perfect opportunity to project lo-res graphics — something he hopes to exploit later in the tour. “We will use the individual cells to pixel map it and play images through it. Also, split into three blocks you can make it appear as if there’s more fixtures when you strobe individually. What they are capable of is fantastic, particularly given their compact size and low power draw; every 4 x 4 pod is just one circuit which is a huge advantage with power distribution.”
In addition to the power wall, the strobes are featured on the stage itself, as well as the stage risers and the header — meeting the request of the artiste herself.
For Beyoncé takes a hands-on approach to production, reviewing her show tape every night … and it was she who has now suggested an additional 15 X-5’s be added to fill in across the centre section of the stage.
Summing up, Hoversten remarks, “It’s very cool to see a show get back to lighting instead of video — and this is the brilliance that LeRoy brings to the production. The wall is as bright as hell — and the audiences have been loving it. There are so many cues but Beyoncé places a lot of trust in us.”
The lighting inventory was provided by Illinois-based rental company, Upstaging Inc — who are LeRoy Bennett’s supplier of choice. “They have the best back-up and are always more than a 150% supportive of every project,” he says.
John Huddleston from Upstaging, in turn, stated how impressed he was with the X-5. “It’s one of the first true plug and play effects we have purchased in a long time. The fixture design is very ‘Apple’-like in its elegance and we are happy to be able to offer them in our inventory.”
Finally, Whitney Hoversten added how impressed he had been by the support SGM had offered — from production rehearsals
right through to the shows themselves.