ROARK was commissioned by Timeflies, an electronic music duo, to develop content for their 2013 US tour and co-design their stage lighting rig.
Their tour started in 3 weeks. Taking into consideration the rehearsal days, that left just 13 days for video content production. They needed an entire concert of visuals (16 songs in total) to be displayed on a still yet undesigned LED wall.
The direction for the project was just this:
“This needs to raise the bar on our show. Imagine Timeflies going into the future.”
Physical rig design
ROARK and Timeflies’s production manager Robert Dugan first discussed the layout of the LED screens. The concept presented involved an arrangement of LED panels resembling the Timeflies logo, which looks like wings in flight. ROARK worked with Mr. Dugan to co-design the rig and mocked up layouts of several options, ultimately suggesting the addition of another row of panels on the bottom of the rig to better represent the Timeflies wings on stage.
Once the layout was approved, ROARK realized that there was going to be a shift in the pixel mapping due to the way the show’s video processor applied a rectangular signal to this custom shape of the panels. The only way to account for this when creating the visuals was to be able to preview each animated segment in context.
For ROARK, the best way to do this was to design and build a scale model of the Timeflies rig at ROARK’s studio.
Scale Model Prototype & Projection Mapping
Using the dimensions of the real rig, ROARK figured out exact scale measurements for each component including the wings, the trusses, the DJ riser platform and supporting light FX. Inspired by the Japanese technique of Karakuri paper machine making, the model that was ultimately built was exactly 1:12 scale and employed the use of card stock weight paper, rubber cement, and Xacto blades. Also used in construction was velcro for suspending the screen surfaces and matte black spray paint for the finishing (the black paint kills unwanted light bounce and provides a better overall color contrast for the projection).
The next challenge that arose was figuring out how to properly project the pixel mapping shift on the scale model. Projection was handled by a pocket sized Pico projector running an HDMI signal direct from the animation workstations. Once the content was correctly scaled and positioned, an exact replica of what was to be expected at showtime was achieved. This cardstock scale model rig and projection mapping proved to be absolutely essential for the ROARK design team to test each concept in context, understanding exactly how everything would look on tour.
Due to the truncated timetable, a highly efficient workflow was needed. The amount of time for concept, design, animation and final output was extremely limited and ROARK would need to complete the visuals for 1.25 songs per day in order to deliver enough content for the entire concert. Given the dizzying rate of production and need for flawless execution under pressure, ROARK decided to enlist the hugely talented Erica Gorochow for additional design and animation support.
Timeflies fully trusted the ROARK team to create freely, and as such a process that could have been a timing disaster was absolutely seamless. To complete the visuals for all 16 songs in less than two weeks, there was little to no room for revision. Any revisions or changes would directly impact the production time allotted for the next song on the setlist.
The initial discussions that Timeflies and ROARK had surrounding what specific mood they desired for the show, the clear setting of the scope and expectations for the project, and great trust in all parties involved made the tour what it was.
ROARK’s initial mood board was used as reference for the overall direction of the show. From that moodboard Timeflies selected a handful of directions they liked and helped guide our direction for individual songs. Once each song had a certain aesthetic direction ROARK moved on to the production phase.
ROARK committed to a posting every night to Timeflies with a reciprocal commitment to immediate commentary and/or approval. Timely feedback from Timeflies was crucial in keeping the pipeline moving.
At the end of it all, there were 3 segments delivered for each song to be triggered during specific song sections of the live show. In this case ROARK was fortunate to be able to work alongside seasoned lighting designer Matthew Iarrobino, who miraculously VJed each song and simultaneously ran the lighting for each show.
A big caveat of this assignment was the lack of midi sync with the audio being played at each show. Without a precise sync of visual content to the audio being played back, any change in the tempo of the tracks due to the live performance aspect of the show had the potential of throwing off any visual cues within the animation. This made the creation of beat matched animation impossible.
The second challenge was that because of the nature of live visuals, the secret lies in creating content that enhances the show overall but without overshadowing or distracting from the artists themselves. There is a very fine line between doing too much and doing too little.
These 2 factors informed all of ROARK’s design decisions on how well the visuals accomplished a certain “feeling” when projected alongside each track. By creating an ambiance that communicated the energy and mood of the song without any specific visual cues such as bass synced movements, Timeflies was able to integrate live video content into their show without the technical challenges interfering with their performance.