On September 18, the Fairgrounds Speedway gave lockdown-weary Nashvillians a chance to ride off into the future when it served as the site of Tempo Presented By EAMOTION, a 60-minute drive-thru experience that engaged the senses with an immersive array of sights and lights, powered by a ChamSys MQ500 console.
Entering the track’s winding two-mile course, visitors were greeted by a dazzling mosaic of colourful images created by a sea of sparkling lights, along with over 2,000 video panels and 400ft wide projection mapped surfaces. Tying this panorama together was a stunning matrix of laser light that seemed to envelop the entire course in its glow.
Dustin L Derry programmed and ran the laser show on his ChamSys MagicQ MQ500 Stadium console. “This was an exciting project to be involved with,” said Derry, the owner of Stonewolf Studios. “Erik Anderson of EAMOTION and Cour Designs, the creative force behind this project invited me to participate and I jumped at the chance to work with such a highly regarded team on something that has never been tried before, at least not on this scale. The future potential of this concept is incredible.”
Although the Tempo drive-thru experience was groundbreaking in its vision and scope, Derry programmed the show “as I would any other laser project.” Putting his show on a 60-minute timecode loop, he had 825 unique laser lighting cues, which were triggered via a single timecode stack.
Describing the MQ500 as “the workhorse” of his 24-universe – one for each laser – show, Derry recounted its role in his work. “I used the MQ500 along with X-Laser Mercury for programming the show in my home studio, and the interface between the two was perfect,” he said. “MagicQ was the primary ‘brain’ in my entire show.
“The Timeline Editor View in the software was especially important to me in this project,” continued Derry. “Being able to compare the audio peaks to my cues made lining up the timecode incredible easy. Before this feature was available, I would always work in Reaper to generate my timecode track. This new way of working allowed me to save time and skip that step.”
When Derry was on the event site, he was aided by the Net Session functions of his MQ500.. “Until this massive project, I had only ever used the Net Functions as a backup on high-profile shows,” he said. “In this project, however, it was nice to be able to move around on a mobile desk and still be able to update the show from anywhere on the track.
“Another thing that really helped me manage this project was the MagicQ’ s FX generation,” continued Derry. “I have maintained for quite some time that MQ’s FX generation is one of the greatest tools out there. It is incredibly simple to create organic-feeling movements when you map effects onto parameters many people normally wouldn’t think to.
“For example, in this instance, we did this by putting a sine wave on the spin channel so the object is constantly changing speeds with its movement – and then adding a secondary set of wave effects X and Y scale, plus a sign wave on the motion macro size and speed channels– plus a figure 8 movement effect offset a cross the builders,” continued Derry. “This all blends to create what look like little creatures swimming in an ocean against the current moving semi erratically but will a predictable grace.”
Supported by these tools, Derry created an impressively diverse array of looks in his show, which feature eight lasers on top of a 56-foot tall video pyramid, 12 on 12’ truss at a tunnel on Turn One, and four additional units used for abstract patterns at various points throughout the site.
“The idea was that the lasers would play a couple of different functions for Tempo and serves as a bridge between the various other visual elements of the event,” he said. “Specifically, we wanted to use our bigger lasers to create a virtual dome over the entire event — or in some instances underneath the audience member. We also used our smaller lasers to create a ‘laser tunnel’ on Turn One of the track.
“Our goal was to make our visitors feel as if they could reach up and touch the ceiling we were creating,” continued Derry. “I think we largely succeeded, especially with the youngsters in pick-up truck beds and moonroofs. A happy side effect of the decisions to terminate all of our lasers to points around the track, we were also able to present an abstract laser show in large areas such as the grassy infield, the empty grandstands and the banked walls of the turns large turns to help draw the various sections together.”
Among the highlights of the show for Derry and his Stonewolf Studios team, which included Sarah Lackner and Andrew Stratton, was what they called “Motif,” which he describes as “a giant blue sheet over the entire site that had four white beams falling out of the center on repeating runs in the strings.”
In addition to his main console, Derry had a MagicQ MQ80 at the site. This console served dual purposes, functioning as a portable programming/focus desk that was rolled around on a road case during late night tech sessions to check safety and programming, as well as being available as a backup system, something that was not need.
“Everything went extremely well in this project,” said Derry. “In addition to ChamSys, I have to give a shout out to Erik Anderson and the EAMOTION/Cour team, as well as Adam Raugh and Andrew Berry of X-Laser.”
Based on his experience at Tempo, Derry believes that immersive drive-thru events will become a permanent part of the entertainment landscape well into the future. When that’s the case, then visitors to this event will be able to take at least one good memory with them from these challenging times: the night they entered a historic racetrack and got a glimpse of a brighter future.