Anatomy of a Rig – Guillaume Fournier and Victor Lagiewski, The Art of Concealment

Posted on December 6, 2022

The power of light lies not only in what it reveals, but also what it conceals. Though, in actuality, revealment and concealment are opposite sides of the same coin as far as lighting design is concerned. Guillaume Fournier and Victor Lagiewski along with their team at
Chromatik turned this coin over beautifully when lighting the Fous Chantants d’Alès concert featuring Pascal Obispo in Alès, France.

Their challenge at the start of the show was simple and direct, but exceedingly intricate and complex to execute: How to allow a one-thousand member backup choir to enter a 50m stage with no curtain over a seven-minute period without attracting attention from the audience?

They accomplished this seemingly impossible task through the adroit use of light and fog, along with some help from Daft Punk actors playing a sound mix of electro hits and Obispo’s songs from the top of the bleachers behind the stage. As the actors performed, the designers backlit them with intense light from motorized strobes positioned on towers, and accented their show with copious amounts of fog. In so doing, they provided an ideal “cover” to conceal the arrival of the large choir.

This concealment was only the beginning of the magic worked that night at the Arènes du Tempéras. As the choir appeared, the designers enthralled the audience with a seven-minute timecoded show. Following this they continued to engage the crowd with immersive lighting from their 310-fixture kit supplied by S Group.

At the very start of the project, when did you know that you would have to conceal the thousand-member choir? Did you consider and reject other strategies for concealing the choir before you selected the option you did?
“In reality, at the genesis of the project, the artistic director Fabrice Schwingrouber
proposed to have the two Daft Punk actors playing a sound mix between Obispo and Daft Punk. Then we at Chromatik proposed to program a nice lightshow to entertain the audience during the choir’s arrival. We knew we would like to avoid the vision of the choir entrance, but to conceal the arrival at that point was not on our primary plan. We made a very nice discovery when we saw how well our effect worked in its own right, not just as a concealment!”

How many towers did you position the motorized strobes on? How high were these towers.
“We had 10 towers on the back of the arena. All the towers are on the outside against the back wall. So, to obtain enough height relative to the bleacher and the stage opening, we used towers from 16 to 18 meters high. There were two motorized strobes on each of the six stage left and stage right towers, and three on each of the four central towers. So, we had 24 in all. Adding to that, we had three of these units on a railing in front of the choir, and five of them on the stage front. So, in total, we had 32 of them on that installation.”

At what intensity level did you run the motorized strobes during the opening of the show?
“The intensity was in fact not too much higher than 20% or 30%. On some flashes. We used a little more power, but those fixtures are so bright, you can ‘break some retinas’ if you don’t pay attention to the output intensity level.”

How were these fixtures angled?
“The ones on the tower were tilted a little in the direction of the audience, for the angle of vision of course, and also to compensate our show not being very rigged vertically because of the constraint of the truss. But in the end, it looked very blinding — and that was the purpose.”

What color light did you use to conceal the choir?
“Not one color in particular, it was more the intensity, the lighting direction and the effects that helped us to conceal the choir. Of course, we used a lot of UV color and dark blue. But, playing eight minutes with just two colors was a little boring, so we also wanted to introduce some pictures of the show, like if we offered a teaser to the audience. So, we used dark amber, purple, magenta, pure red, green, yellow, lavender and even a very ‘80s rainbow effect. In addition to that, we couldn’t avoid using a powerful cold white to flash the musical accents!”

As you pointed out, you also had motorized strobes in front of the choir. Were they also used in the concealment?
“The implantation was thought to cover all the stage opening. But, because, and thanks to the tilt option of the fixtures, we also used the five units on the front stage reversed towards the back, at the end of the introduction when we revealed the choir. We used them like an old fashion ramp effect at that moment, and multiple times during the show.”

There was an impressive amount of fog used in the concealment. How many foggers were there and where were they positioned?
“On that show, and that venue, the fog is an issue. Until now, we’ve not been able to find the best position. However, we had five fog generators placed near the DJ booth, and on stage right and stage left. The last one was behind the choir. For us, the fog is the key, without it, the show looks insipid. To win in efficiency with the fog system, we try to imagine with the technical supplier S Group a new solution to have for the next edition.”

You also use hybrid beam/wash fixtures in your rig. Can you tell you about that?
“Yes absolutely, we had 66 beam washes on that installation. Ten of them were positioned on the sound towers, and we used them as front lights for the band. Approximately, we played on average at 50-percent of them. More when we have been wanting to put forward the band in the visual.

“The remaining fixtures were positioned on truss ladders on each side of the back towers. We used them for different types of effect, like beams sometimes, to enlighten the choir from the back also and give them contrast with the front light, or sometimes like a blinder.”

What happened when the “wall of light” was lifted and the concealment ended? Did you start the 7-minute timecode show right away?
“The show started with an introductive video, then we had the musical director who played a few bars of piano. During that “live” part, we started the timecode pre-roll and we switched from the live introduction to the timecode show. Then, we effectively had a seven-minute time code. After that, we went in live and when we were sure everybody was in place. We switched from the sound of DJs to the choir and the band, and from there, we were on live to enlighten the choir and let the audience see all of them.”

Can you tell us a bit more about the seven-minute time code show. What was it created in? How many fixtures did it use? What kind of looks did it create?
“That light show was made during a 30-hour preprogramming session, before the arrival on site. The purpose was to introduce the musical universe of Pascal Obispo. The mix built by the two DJs was ready in advance to help us to create as much as we could a lighting show on it.

“We almost used all the lighting kits, except the front light and the side light. For the looks, we tried to have a very impactful light, very visual, with a lot of rhythmical effects. That is also why we chose to have a time-code remote; it was literally impossible to send all those effects in such a short time just with ten fingers!”

It was very impressive how you covered the stage in chromatic color schemes. Why did you do that? How many and which fixtures did you use to do that?
“Thanks a lot ! For the joke, our company is named ‘Chromatik.’ Really, we always like to have a plain light, with plain color. Except for the classic rainbow effect, we try to have a coherent visual, and very subtle, even with hundreds of fixtures! The art of mixing color is not always easy, and to be successful, sometimes the best way is to stay simple. Adding that, those chromatic backgrounds give us the best contrast with the front light.”

What was the most challenging thing about this project?
“Definitely the amount of time available. We are always running and out of time. Until the last moment, we used the 3D programming as a backup to finalize as much as we can during the day, and to use our nights totally.

Also, having one thousand people on stage is not very easy, so to program the position of each fixture, we had to be very very efficient. Nevertheless, the weather was also a parameter to consider, because, all is outside without any protection. That’s why we were very happy to have a 95-percent IP65 lighting kit.”

When the project was all done, and you looked back on it, what did you find most rewarding about it?
“We were very happy about the way the audience received the introduction light show. It was very surprising how just very dynamic music in parallel of the very dynamic lights entertained the audience a lot.

“It was also rewarding for us to work with the wonderful Fous Chantants’ crew, including Fabrice Schwingrouber, the artistic director, and Didier Martin the technical director. Also, we are very grateful for S group, the technical supplier. especially for Leon Van Empel, the owner and founder of that company. And, for sure, we would like to thank all the technical team who worked for a lot of hours with a very very strong sun this year.”