One of the festival season’s more unique early gatherings took place 25 to 26 February when Miami’s Virginia Key Beach transformed into a pop-up beach club for We Belong Here.
Datum Creative was responsible for the site, production and lighting design and turned to Elation Professional’s range of IP-rated luminaires to carry the production visually and fulfil the festival organiser’s unique ‘no video’ brief. Technical Arts Group (TAG) served as lighting vendor.
We Belong Here prides itself on offering a one-of-a-kind, intimate music experience with Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic as an ideal backdrop. The no video brief, while uncommon for shows of this stature, allowed for a 360° design that fully immersed guests in the music and gave the audience room to wrap around what was essentially an island main stage.
“The brief was to create a nightclub feel with space rather than a festival look where people are looking at video walls and the stage all the time,” explained Datum Creative Principal, Dave Singleton, who handled production and site design on the project. “They didn’t want to cram people into a small space so there was one and a half times the space you would normally have in a show like this. It made for an excellent atmosphere and really made it comfortable for the guests.”
Datum Creative’s involvement in We Belong Here extended beyond the lighting design. They were responsible for designing the entire layout of the site and consulted on production management. Despite being contracted in December, Datum Creative swiftly executed the project and had a design proposal prepared by early January. “The client let us know that the show went on rain or shine so lighting had to be IP rated,” said Singleton. “Because there was no video on the show, lighting carried the entire production all weekend.”
The rig consisted of 68 Proteus Hybrid moving heads, 34 Proteus Rayzor 760 LED wash/beam lights, 60 SixBar 1000 IP LED battens, 60 DTW Blinder 350 IP LED 2-lite blinders, and 36 Paladin Panel LED flood and effect lights, plus other lighting.
The 360-degree design centred around shipping containers, which formed the entire circular outline of the site and helped to create the sense of space. The containers, painted purple, is where most of the production was located with additional lighting gear also working from two truss ‘palm trees’ located in the middle of the site. Singleton explains that due to the 360 design, it was crucial to have illumination throughout the area, not least to provide an interesting background for the multitude of posts that flooded social media.
To achieve a variety of visual aesthetics across the site, lighting was dispersed across four container locations, utilising different container heights, a straightforward strategy of delineating the space that was highly successful. In order not to lose the container concept after dark while helping to light the entire site, 20,000-lumen Paladin Panel LED floodlights were used to uplight each container, two per container. A further eight fixtures were used to uplight each palm tree (one fixture per branch).
The Proteus Hybrid moving heads were used for their powerful punch and were put at every container location, including along the stage and in each of the truss palm trees. “I had used the Proteus Hybrids before in a controlled environment with haze,” Singleton said: “but here with the breeze from the ocean I wasn’t sure what to expect. When we turned them on, we were happy to see a clear solid beam that had a long throw. We did some big gobo aerial work with them and even with minimal haze coverage, we still got nice defined beam work. There were a lot of unknowns but it worked great.”
The Proteus Rayzor 760 LED lights were employed to create wash and visually captivating effects throughout the event space, as well as to border the stage. Moreover, the edges of the containers were lined with one-meter long SixBar 1000 LED battens, producing an alluring pixel effect. The designer took full advantage of the pixel-mapping capability of both types of fixtures.
Singleton commented: “Normally on a festival we wouldn’t necessarily do all the washes in a pixel mappable mode but because lighting was the main visual here we wanted to give any guest LDs the possibility to do something with their show that perhaps they normally wouldn’t. We had two guest LDs, from the two headliners Kaskade and Lane 8, who loved it and thought it was such a different concept. They told us that they can get a bit nervous when they can’t do their normal show [with video], but when they saw the level of planning and detail that went into this and the possibilities with the pixel mapping, they thought it was amazing and had much more confidence in it.”
New York and Miami-based production and rental company Technical Arts Group (TAG) served as lighting vendor on the project. TAG, formed in 2021 when several production and rental companies joined forces, holds a large inventory of Elation IP65 lighting. “TAG did such an amazing job,” Singleton remarked. “They are big enough to cope but small enough to care and carry a great inventory of Elation IP fixtures, all of which is fairly new. Great collaboration is what really makes a show and we couldn’t have been happier with the team from TAG.”
Like all projects, Singleton says the job had its share of challenges. A short 48-hour build schedule and a limit on how many containers could be delivered to the site each day proved difficult but Datum Creative met the challenge and had the site ready on time. Hotter than normal temperatures, nighttime bugs and even alligators actively roaming the site were easier to deal with. Despite the hurdles, Singleton reports that the project went really well and the festival was a big success. “It was a big fast build but it was a lot of fun and in the end it all worked out,” he concluded. And the Elation gear? “It was super reliable. It was on and exposed for around five days in dust, heat and salt air and we didn’t have a single fixture go down the whole time.”
You can watch the festival video here.