Robe is Hardwired for Metallica

Photo: Ralph Larmann

Metallica’s latest tour featured a stunning in-the-round production design by Dan Braun for the arena section, with creative lighting by Rob Koenig who made use of 72 Robe BMFL WashBeams from Premier Global Production as the main lighting fixtures on the rig.

Koenig has worked with the band for around 9 years and, in that time, they have performed several in-the-round tours. For this one, Braun’s idea was based around 52 1 sq metre video cubes suspended above the stage, 36 of which were on steel cables and a custom motion controlled hoist system developed by TAIT and the other 16 in fixed positions. As per Braun’s request, there was no ‘traditional’ trussing on the show. Instead, all the BMFL WashBeams were attached to and associated with a video cube.

A combination of the TAIT Navigator and MA Lighting grandMA2 control systems and virtual markers in the MA 3D visualiser were used to process and physically pinpoint the lighting positions. A disguise video server also received positional information from the Navigator to map the video exactly to the 4-faceted moving cubes.

Of the 72 BMFL WashBeams, 52 were mounted to the bottom of the cube framing structures. The other 20 were rigged on 2 long cable bridge trusses along the dasher line of the arena and used as follow spots on the 4 band members. They were linked to a Spotrack remote follow spotting system, with the operators standing near the FOH platform doing the pan / tilt and actual following, while Koenig had control over all the other parameters of the BMFL follow spots via his grandMA console.

Koenig needed 20 overhead follow spots – 5 per band member – and using Robe BMFL WashBeams in this scenario was an excellent solution. It’s more practical, economical and safer than having 20 operators in the roof each night amidst tons of pyro. Additionally, it provides excellent continuity. Koenig first used BMFL WashBeams on the 2016 Guns ‘n’ Roses tour for which he worked as lighting director and programmer with Phil Ealy, and was “blown away” with how many different permutations and options there were with these fixtures. “It’s the best high-powered hybrid fixture on the market right now,” he stated.

There were some other lights on the rig. A total of 32 hybrid moving fixtures on top of stacks of Meyer VLFC subs in the corners of the arenas, and a selection of different strobes – 44 LED wash / strobes flown for audience light, plus 16 strobes and 10 flood / blinder / strobes on the stage floor. Other than these, it was all down to the BMFL WashBeams. While the show is video driven, Koenig relished the challenge of using the ‘negative space’ for weaving in his lighting looks and moments.

There was a lot of communication between lighting and video on the tour and Koenig was in constant contact with the band’s content creator Marcus Lyall of KPX Video and Andrea Cuius of Nocte Studio from London as well as video director on the road, Gene McAuliffe. He thinks that fixture counts are generally getting bigger on tour and admitted he was a little nervous about lighting this one with around 140. The minimalist approach has also paid off. “This show has been one of the more uniquely collaborative shows I have ever worked on, very challenging and very rewarding for all of us,” he commented.

Talking more generally about Robe, Koenig added: “From the more specialised fixtures to signature luminaires like the BMFL, Robe has developed a series of lights that are reliable, robust and ideal for touring.”

He admitted that he initially thought the Robe BMFL series might’ve be a little too ‘refined’ for a Metallica show. However, when the Robe BMFL WashBeam was launched “it smashed that wall – it’s great for all genres – metal, pop, dance, or for television work. It’s just highly flexible! We actually beat the crap out of them on the stadium leg of the tour which had no roof, and they all survived admirably!”

Koenig ran lighting for the shows himself using an MA Lighting grandMA2 console. He worked closely with programmer Joe Cabrera who helped ensure the infrastructure was set up for the Navigator, MA Lighting and disguise control systems to all talk to one other in addition to programming lighting, while second lighting programmer Troy Eckerman also collaborated with Koenig in refining the complexity of the lighting cues.

Premier Global Production, based in Nashville, Tennessee, was the tour’s worldwide lighting vendor, where the account is looked after by Anthony “Geddy” Kordyjaka and James Vollhoffer.