An Interview With LD Mitch Schellenger
It is one of the most fleeting, rare and awe inspiring sights in nature. Sometimes, if conditions are just right, a green dot will appear on the horizon for a brief moment before the sun sets in the evening. Scientists call this optical phenomenon a “green flash.” Most of us have never been lucky enough to witness one, but fans who turned out for Third Eye Blind’s 2014 Spring/Summer Tour were treated to an LED replication of this natural wonder thanks to a deft lighting design by Mitch Schellenger of iLikeLights.com.
Like the natural phenomena that inspired it, Schellenger’s dazzling green flash was instantaneous, lasting for only a second to coincide with a distinct drum hit from 3eb percussionist BradHargreaves. “If you blink, you would miss it,” said the LD.
Schellenger’s green flash also shared something else with its natural counterpart; it was part of a bigger, beautiful and totally transformative lightscape. Working closely with 3eb frontman Stephan Jenkins, the LD created a richly textured design that reflected the visual progression of an evening sunset. Like an element of nature itself, the lightshow worked to perfection on outdoor stages during the group’s summer festival tour.
Using a rig that included 22 Nexus 4×4 LED panels and other fixtures provided by 4Wall Entertainment Lighting, Schellenger limited his design to sunset colors like CTOs, ambers, and rich oranges to create a warm lighting scheme that complemented the ambient light outside. In this exclusive Lighting Insights interview, he recounts how the Nexus helped him recreate nature on stage for one of the most iconic alternative rock bands.
Your design really immersed people in a total experience by breaking down the barriers between the ambient sunset light and the light on the stage. Can you talk about your vision behind this design, and how the Nexus panels contributed to its realization?
“Sure, one of the first things Stephan Jenkins mentioned to me during our initial design conversations was the idea of creating a ‘wall of warm light’ to reflect the feeling of that time around sunset that everyone loves. Third Eye Blind wanted a very bright, warm, and powerful energy coming from stage. I knew I needed some sort of panel to fulfill that need. Nexus panels were the best tool to achieve the warm look we were aiming for with an LED fixture.”
You had some precise color demands in mind when creating this show. How did the Nexus panels help you in this regard?
“The color scheme was very warm with CTO, amber, and some deep orange. The only exception was one special cue (green flash). The inspiration behind this show was a setting sun and the optical phenomenon of a green flash. We played off of that inspiration throughout the entire show, all the way to the last cue with a drum hit and the ‘green flash’ ending the show. Even with such a specific set of palette demands, the 4x4s were able to handle the colors I was creating and gave me the desired result.”
Looks like the Nexus panels were turned on and off at different times during the show; what was the thinking behind this?
“The panels, at the very top of the show, were at full and played into the concept of the sun setting. Throughout the show, as the sun figuratively sets, the intensity of the show decreases along with the color temperature. The colors change from harsh amber to a pretty orange. This all takes place as the actual sun sets behind the crowd. The panels were also turned out during very soft parts of the sets and snapped back on with impact.”
How were the panels controlled? Why did you choose this mode?
“I knew I would be bitmapping with the Nexus unit, controlling each individual pixel. I also knew I would need the use of the warm white LED, due to our particular color scheme for this tour. The 53ch mode allowed me to do both of these techniques effectively and made programming a snap.”
What percentage brightness were the panels run at?
“With the need for a very bright fixture since I was competing with the sun, I ran them at 100% for most of the set. During some cues of the show they were cut to 50% to complement the mood of the music. Even at 50%, I was still able to achieve the structural style with a lower intensity. I still had my page of inhibitors, so if it was darker one evening or we were indoors, I was able to evenly lower the intensity without losing color.”
Speaking of ambient light, how did the Nexus panels stand up to the bright moving heads on stage?
“I actually picked the Nexus panels BECAUSE of their brightness. The first time I used them was last year on a corporate show, and I was blown away by their output. I ended up having to set an inhibitive master to control the brightness on that corporate show, so I knew they would be able to pack the punch needed for this tour. Being one of the first fixtures I chose, they worked great alongside the movers.”
It looked like the Nexus panels were used more as set pieces than blinders – correct?
“When I first saw the Nexus 4×4’s come out, I saw them as a great structural piece. When designing shows, I like to use fixtures, such as battens, strips, and even moving lights as structural elements. I like to sculpt the set using light as a building material, and the 4×4 is a great fixture for doing that. I have used them in past shows as blinders, but they are perfect for creating elements that can be pixel mapped and shaped.”
It also seems like the panels were used to silhouette the performers at different times. Can you describe the creative process behind that?
“Third Eye Blind likes harsh and mysterious light. While accomplishing a new look for this tour, I wanted to incorporate the shadow effect from their motto ‘born in shadow.’ Silhouettes and front light created a unique look of warmth, while keeping visual continuity for fans that have seen other Third Eye shows.”
Were the Nexus panels fun to work with?
“I have experience working with Nexus panels. Using Nexus panels on this show was just as awesome. They are very responsive and work great when bitmapping. Overall, I was very pleased with the way it turned out and I look forward to using them on future projects.”