Special Settings

Posted on November 2, 2020
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Photo: Brittany Berggren

Following COVID-19 safety protocols has often made it necessary for organizers to hold shows in settings that were never intended for such purposes. This, in turn, has required designers to light out-of-the-ordinary settings, such as open 360ﹾ stages. Here’s how two LDs from different parts of the world met this challenge.

Victor Ortiz, Darvik Productions
Concert In Your Car, Ventura, CA

Most people call the 65-acre site just off the Ojai Freeway the ‘Ventura County Fairgrounds’. Officially, though, its name is “Seaside Park,” a reference to its location on the Pacific Ocean. The views are magnificent here, but the winds blowing in off the beautiful sea can play havoc with anyone trying to set up a large LED video wall, or run fog for a lightshow, two things that can be very helpful when trying to light an open stage.

Contending with the occasional wind gust is only one of the challenges Victor Ortiz, lighting designer Martin Castañon, and the rest of the Darvik Productions team, has had to deal with at the 700-car capacity Concert In Your Car drive-in shows at this picturesque venue.


Unlike most drive-ins, Concerts In Your Car, which has featured artists like Third Eye Blind and Fritz and the Tantrums takes place on an open 360ﹾ stage, a configuration that provides better viewing angles for fans in their cars, but eliminates all design options that require a backdrop.

Ortiz and his team have navigated their way around this limitation with help from a powerful and versatile rig that features 14 Rogue RH1 Hybrid fixtures and 28 Rogue R2 Wash units.
Some of the rig’s fixtures are positioned on the massive truss structure that frames the 40’ x 40’ stage, which has an 8’ high deck surrounded by a 5’ camera ring. However, most of the lights are flown on the circular truss structure that hangs about 14’-feet over the stage deck. From this position, the fixtures create a concentrated coverage area that pulls attention toward the stage.

Another key component of the design are the large LED video walls that are hung on all four sides of the stage. The bottom edges of these panels are positioned just above the circular truss structure. By changing eye levels over the stage, this arrangement gives the stage a deeper look.


For their part, Ortiz and the Darvik team have grown accustomed to designing for the 360ﹾ stage. “I think we have gotten used to working without a backdrop,” he said. “Depending on which side of the park you’re on, you have either beautiful palm trees and the ocean as a natural backdrop, or the hills of our downtown Ventura. That’s not too bad!”

Lewis Williams
Seeds, Cornwall, UK
In 1905 a coal merchant by the name of JH Bennett donated funds for the construction of a massive cast iron and stone bandstand in Penzance’s Morrab public gardens. Standing serenely amidst the winding paths and lush foliage of the park, the open, circular structure with a classic cupola roof, has blended harmoniously with its surroundings ever since.

This sense of balance and proportion made the beloved landmark ideally suited for the final, season five showpiece of Seeds, an outdoor dance recital involving 30 socially distant performers from the UK. Aside from providing a supportive geometrical setting for the precise choreographed moves of the dancers, the holistic symmetry of the bandstand reflected the performance’s mission of supporting mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Lewis Williams wove the bandstand into the lighting design for Seeds by drawing on the output and color rendering quality of the CHAUVET Professional Rogue R1 Spot fixtures to create an engaging 3D aura of light around the iconic structure.

“I incorporated the bandstand into the design because it provides an awesome surface to bounce lights off of,” said Lewis. “Directing light from the R1s onto the roof of the bandstand, I got some stunning color and gobo effects through the smoke. It created an atmosphere throughout the entire area when I bounced light off the roof. The gobo wheels also worked incredibly well on this project creating stunning break up gobos around the band stand as well as beyond when pointed outward into the sky. So, we engaged on many levels.”