Hans Zimmer and his 19-piece band and orchestra hit the road with their latest touring campaign, featuring lighting design delivered by Lightswitch’s John Featherstone. The creative house pushed for an all Robe moving light rig for the tour, which started production rehearsals in Berlin with 250 Robe fixtures onboard ahead of the first European leg, with lighting equipment supplied by German rental specialist, Satis & Fy.
Featherstone explained how the design process originally started back in 2019 with Hans curating his creative ‘dream team’ which included renowned Broadway set and scenic designer Derek McLane; Video Designer, Peter Nigrini and Choreographer, Barry Lather. “Hans is a master at putting collaborators together,” stated Featherstone.
The lighting team featured Featherstone’s daughter, Hailey, as Lighting Director and Lighting Programmer, Chris Herman. “I was really fortunate to have such a fabulous team working with me, they really embrace collaboration and making this job great and rewarding,” he noted.
Hans arranged 12 new suites of his greatest hits to be played throughout the three-hour performance, using over 300 instruments with some numbers accompanied by an eight-member dance and chorus troupe, choreographed by Barry Lather.
“With this much energy and diversity onstage – from Wonder Woman to the Lion King – I knew I needed the most versatile lighting fixtures, ones that could morph and change constantly throughout the set,” enthused Featherstone. “Robe MegaPointe was my go-to multipurpose fixture!”
In creative terms, John’s underlying quest was for the lighting to be ‘musical’ and that also brought him back to Robe fixtures. “Robe make really elegant luminaires, there is a very organic way about the way they look and move, and the colours are outstanding,” he said, referring to the 172 MegaPointes featured on the lighting plot, deployed along the top trusses and populating the three left-and-right side stage verticals, with a few dotted along the downstage edges of the floor.
Six of the overhead trusses moved on a Cyberhoist system enabling Featherstone to integrate several ‘automation lighting’ cues into the show, whereby the trussing hardware moved while the lights on board remained static and on. This offered a contrasting and often subtle element of motion from the light movement itself and worked brilliantly in terms of physically transforming the shape and architecture of the stage space.
One of the advantages of lighting a longer show is that you can unlock a ‘Pandora’s Box’ of visual tricks and magic over time, keeping everyone on their toes with little aspects and moments of surprise.
While the stage had an epic film look at times with the overall big, wide screen appearance, when this split horizontally and the top half tracked up, it became stylishly concealed and unobtrusive and framed the rest of the stage, which was a characteristic of Derek McLane’s skillful scenic setting and Peter Nigrini’s thoughtful and textured visuals.
“Working with Derek, Peter, and Hans himself who is very involved with the stage presentation was one of the most enjoyable parts of this project,” Featherstone said, adding he was “extremely pleased” with the results.
For key lighting the orchestra and band – who covered a substantial area – Featherstone turned to another Robe favourite, 24 BMFL WashBeams and six BMFL WashBeam Follow Spots. Four of the latter were on an advance truss above the audience out in the house and two were on two of the mid-stage moving trusses for neat and tailored back light.
BMFL FollowSpots, operated via six BaseStations located backstage, were for the principals and soloists. Their main parameters were controlled via the lighting console so the operators could focus on the following, and “they worked exactly as we envisioned,” remarked Featherstone.
For the first time ever, Featherstone used Robe’s Tetra range of moving LED battens in a show design, adding a row of 36 Tetra2s along the whole downstage edge of the stage, plus 32 Tetra1s rigged above the stage in key positions on various mid stage trusses. “The Tetra range is really impressive,” he commented. “The output of Robe fixtures are beautiful and the colour continuity between different types of fixtures is really important – the developers have paid attention to this for some time.”
John, Hailey, and Chris Herman of Lightswitch programmed the show with a month of pre-visualisation in New York before decamping to Europe for production rehearsals. Featherstone praised the “outstanding” service of lighting vendor, Satis & Fy, in addition to Robe’s North American and German subsidiaries, who were instrumental in making the show a reality.