The past lives in the present. Although the experiences that shaped earlier years may fade with time, their echoes can still be heard in the current moment, endowing it with a new sense of depth and meaning. Crt Birsa of Blackout Lighting Design knew this full well when he designed a compelling lightshow for Bosnian stars Dubioza Kolektiv at Arsenal Fest 2021.
Birsa began lighting the genre-smashing band in late 2010 and soon after that he had bought his first ChamSys PC Wing. In all the years since, he has built on this experience with every single Dubioza Kolektiv show. Using ever-more advanced ChamSys consoles, he has continuously taken earlier looks and bent them in original ways to create designs that build on a rich legacy, while reflecting his client’s music in refreshingly original ways.
“My show contains ten years of history,” said Birsa. “This is a history that is constantly updated with new ideas for old songs, and also new songs being reflected in new and traditional ways.
“Designing for Dubioza Kolektiv is a wonderfully rewarding challenge, because the band combines some songs in blocks, so each tune has to stand out on its own, but at the same time all of them have to fit together in different combinations,” he continued. “Being able to save, edit, clone and morph my looks from generation to generation on a stable ChamSys platform is extremely important.”
For the Arsenal Festival, Birsa called on his MagicQ MQ80 (he’s also use MQ500 consoles) to unleash a vivid flurry of looks in support of the seven-piece band as they wove their way through a raw, powerful set that moved seamlessly from dub, ska, and hip hop, to rock, and punk sounds.
Coordinating his 150-fixture, 9-universe show with the video designs of Bob Raccoon, he directed brilliant beams of light down from the 10-meter high stage roof to create an architecture of light that opened clean performance spaces for each band member.
Birsa also engaged the crowd with bright colorful audience lighting. “The band-audience communication is very essential,” he said. “The audience is almost part of the show. Because of this, audience lighting is featured in my design. I also use some effects on the crowd.”
Given the complexities of his Dubioza Kolektiv show, Birsa said time coding was essential to his plans. “I could not have done things quite this way without timecoding,” he said. “The show would have to be built with much less to it if I had to run everything 100-percent manually. Happily for me, the MQ80 does a great job receiving timecode.”
Not surprisingly, Birsa tried to complete as much of his show as possible before he got to the festival site. However, intense sunlight, forced him to make some late adjustments, working while the temperature outside reached 39ﹾ Celsius (over 102 Fahrenheit). He notes that being able to connect the MagicQ MQ80 over a network was essential.
“What helped me on the day of the show was morphing the heads on my laptop,” he said. “I was able to import all the colour and beam palettes from other shows with the same lights and then transfer this show to MQ80 and check the cues with the help of MagicVis on another computer.”
Encountering last minute challenges when working for Dubioza Kolektiv is nothing new for Birsa. He’s run into surprises at other points in his ten years of lighting the band. But like everything else in Birsa’s history with them, these are things he learns and grows from. The end result is a timeline of shows that get better and more original with age, all without forgetting the past.