In his day job, 20-year-old Christian Sterk operates as a sound engineer, specialising in theatre sound and a freelance lighting technician for bands on the German touring circuit. Combining his love for live music – particularly, Coldplay – and a penchant for recreating concert stages in miniature, Sterk established a digital community to share his creations in 2018 and hasn’t looked back since.
The passion project, which Sterk documents on the Instagram account @coldplay_miniaturestage, has accumulated over 1,000 followers at the time of writing and features the step-by-step processes taken by the engineer as well as a portfolio of his ongoing creations. Ahead of the construction of Coldplay-inspired miniaturised stage pylons, TPi’s Jacob Waite checks-in with Sterk to retrace the start of this ‘big, tiny’ project…
What makes Coldplay’s live shows and production so impressive?
“I have been to four concerts in total, my first was 2017s A Head Full of Dreams Tour in Leipzig, Germany. Last year, I attended the current Music of the Spheres Tour and my fifth concert will be in Amsterdam in July 2023. Their live shows are so spectacular and everybody gets to play a part of the show. Through their use of [PixMob] wristbands, the audience feels connected to the band and everyone else in the stadium. I believe their music and live productions are perfectly matched together – the staging design reflects their latest album cycle and the use of special effects and lasers, confetti, wristbands, video, sound and a perfectly programmed lightshow with each effect used at just the right moment is the primary reason I strive to recreate their show in miniature form.”
How did you start creating miniature productions?
“I built my first small stages out of Lego and a few flashlights when I was young. In 2014, I built my first small miniature stage with a few LEDs and with help from my dad. A year later, I started building my second stage with around 60 LEDs. I started and completed the first part of my third miniature stage in 2016. Starting with just under 400 LEDs and a width of 50cm, I wanted to recreate my own invented stage design in miniature with a big LED matrix in the middle and six small lighting towers above.”
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Which elements of Coldplay shows have you designed and replicated on a miniature scale?
“After attending my first Coldplay concert in June 2017, I was so impressed by the show that I started right away – making my stage even bigger and based on the real stage design from 2017s A Head Full of Dreams Tour. After some modifications – the last of which was in 2021 – and the creation of @coldplay_miniaturestage in 2018, the stage was, for use of a better word, set. With a total of over 1,300 LEDs, 18 lasers and some miniature-hazers, the stage was around 100cm wide and 40cm high. I programmed the stage to the full 120-minute long A Head Full of Dreams show. I have never replaced the matrix and the six lighting towers, so the design was a mixture of the original and my own.”
Have you attempted to recreate the band’s latest touring production?
“Last year, after visiting three Coldplay shows, I was absolutely astounded by the production values. I was particularly impressed by the climate-friendly and sustainable implementation of such a big concert. The new technology of wristbands, the use of several LED spheres and the large round side screens are all absolutely impressive. I knew that I had to start instantly with the original replica in miniature. I tried to get some stage plans first, but so far no one has been able to deliver them to me. I had to study all the details from hundreds of different images that could be found on the internet and on Instagram. In some reports on YouTube and on websites I was able to roughly figure out the dimension of the stage and tried to draw my own plans based on the information and pictures. In November 2022, I finished the first part of the new stage – the front PA tower with a small d&b audiotechnik line array as well as the first prototypes of fully working moving heads.”
What is the design process from A to Z, and how do you decide what to create?
“My goal is to recreate the whole stage on a scale of 1/50 with fully working moving heads, flame throwers, lasers, and hopefully, pyrotechnics. My new 3D printer allows me to recreate all the construction in the smallest detail, like the truss, moving heads, line array and so on. To begin with, I make detailed plans of the individual construction of the stage. With only a ruler and zooming some pictures on my laptop screen, I try to figure out the original dimensions as accurately as possible. Based on that, I create some CAD drawings on my computer until everything looks very close to the original. Afterward, I send the files to my 3D printer. Once printed, the post-processing of the individual parts begins. Since I have also implemented the connections as in the original, the individual parts are put together like the real stage setup but on a miniaturised scale. I’m at the beginning of this big albeit tiny project, the difficult parts of the construction phase are yet to come.”
This is a labour of love isn’t it?
“It’s a long process, because I draw every truss, speaker and moving head myself. It took about two weeks to recreate the front PA tower with the line arrays. It all depends on how complicated the individual parts are and how much time it takes to draw the plans. For the lightshow, I use very small RGB LEDs with the WS2812 or SK6812 protocol, which allows me to control every single LED. With the right controllers, I can programme my stage, once it’s finished, with lighting consoles.”
What is the most challenging aspect of recreating these miniature artworks?
“The implementation itself. I try to recreate the stage down to the last detail without having ever seen any plans or being backstage at the original stage. I have several hundred pictures on my phone to understand the stage in detail and to figure out the original dimensions. Also, implementing the mini flamethrowers and pyrotechnics will be an almost impossible challenge, but I’ll do everything I can to make it work. That isn’t factoring in the costs required to build this project.”
Just like the Coldplay production, you have taken steps to make your creations sustainable. Could you explain some of these processes?
“Whenever possible, I am saving energy during the construction phase and after its completion. First of all, I will build back the old miniature stage and recycle large parts of it. For example, the construction wood, cables and LEDs. The new construction will be 3D printed with an eco-friendly and recyclable plant-based filament. As soon as the stage is built, the entire show will be powered by solar energy. I will build my own portable solar energy system to be able to charge the show batteries everywhere. Due to new technical possibilities, I will be able to reduce the power consumption by over 50% in comparison to the old miniature stage.”
What’s next for you?
“I’m currently working on the stage pylons to support the side screens. In the days and weeks to come, I will post updates on instagram (@coldplay_miniaturestage). I regularly post pictures of the complete sections and provide insight into the construction process. If anyone reading this has any questions or further ideas for my project, you can contact me on Instagram. I know all this sounds very crazy but this is just the start of my big, tiny project.”
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