As a rule, Andrew Cass prefers to stay away from having a single massive video wall behind the band, but like all rules, this one can be bent, especially in the interest of collaboration. Such was the case in December when Cass served as lighting designer and programmer for Closer to the Sun, the annual four-day holiday getaway organized by reggae icons Slightly Stoopid.
“My preference is to never do one big rectangle video wall behind the band,” remarked Cass. “That being said, on this gig I was able to share the visuals with a longtime friend and VJ, Jonathan Singer. He understandably needs close to the 16:9 aspect ratio to get all the content to fit, so this was a compromise. I initially designed some other video configurations that would have taken too much away from the video show, so this was to give us both what we needed.”
The end result seemed to heightened the impact of both lighting and video. Divided by columns of light into three vertically-oriented sections, a larger central one, flanked by two smaller side walls, the video background took on added dimensionality. Choosing his colors to match the video content, Cass created a flowing, harmonious visual panorama that fit Slightly Stoopid’s smooth jazzy beach reggae like a pair of well-worn flipflops
Video was not the only visual element harmonizing with Cass’s lighting, the laser light from the band’s touring LD, Mitchell Blakemore also blended seamlessly with the production. “We went through the setlist in advance, and all operators picked places for each element to shine,” said Cass. “Generally, the lighting did the intros, and then video would come in with the first drop or verse, followed by the lasers for a big final chorus. I had cued the show out in advance in 3D, so I had places in the show I thought would be most effective, and Mitchell, having done the show many times, gave his input.”
On the lighting end, Cass called on the 68 CHAUVET Professional fixtures in his rig, supplied by ProColor MS, working with Justin Casey and the team at HELM Projects. These units filled multiple roles in the design.
Figuring prominently in this mix were 24 COLOR STRIKE M motorized strobe-washes, which were positioned throughout the rig. “The Color STRIKE M became my strobe of choice in 2023,” said Cass. “It’s incredibly versatile and crazy bright. We ran it in a high channel mode for this gig so that allowed me to run some effects over the colored pixels to keep things interesting.”
Also playing a prominent role in the design were 24 Maverick Storm 4 Profile fixtures flown on the overhead truss fingers. “This was my first time using these fixtures,” said Cass. “They were impressive in a few ways. Their brightness held up to the video wall, and I also liked their gobo package for aerials.”
A collection of 12 COLORado PXL Bar batten fixtures positioned on the center truss finger helped define the space over the video wall, while eight STRIKE 4 blinders on downstage truss engaged the crowd.
Looking back on his Closer to the Sun design, Cass noted: “I have done rigs with trusses going upstage to downstage many times, and it always creates this issue of fixtures having to get around the light in front of it. Because of this, and to keep beams out from in front of the video, I did a lot of positions that go out to the sides — and I think that worked well for this design.”
There were a few points during the intros, when Cass created some really good looks during “lighting only moments,” with no video or lasers. Mostly though, this show was about the balanced coordination of different visual elements, the result of some inspired collaboration.