2020 iHeartRadio Music Festival Goes Virtual with Claypaky Fixtures Lighting Up LA-based Artists

The iHeartRadio Music Festival marked its tenth anniversary virtually this year recording its headline artists live, with no audiences, in Los Angeles and Nashville. Lighting Designer Matthew Ardine handled the LA portion of the show, which hosted Miley Cyrus, Migos, Alicia Keys, Swae Lee, Khalid and Usher at the iHeartRadio Theater. He utilized an array of Claypaky fixtures, which are part of the theater’s rep plot.

The two-day mega-concert was live streamed on September 18 and 19 and viewable on The CW app; it was broadcast September 27 and 28 on The CW and iHeartRadio stations nationwide.

Ardine has been one of the iHeartRadio Theater’s lighting designers for about six years. He designed the base rig for the 2020 festival then worked with each individual artist’s team to create a look for the performer’s brand.

“For the main iHeartRadio Festival design, two of my goals was to give each artist a unique look and to give every camera angle a full background,” Ardine explains. “The set was built for us to look 360, surround in LED video walls. We have a rep plot for the space for normal shows that are on the 40 x 20-foot stage with an audience. But for this show, we ripped out the stage and did a 360º set that filled the whole stage area and audience floor. The rep plot wasn’t effective with this new setup, so we took down every light, moved it to a new position then rented another 200 lights to fill the space.”

Ardine believes that not having an audience for the show “really opened up the creative possibilities. For my whole career I have focused only on filmed events, which sometimes have an audience. Most of the time all that matters is what we see through the lens. But with my pre-COVID shows, I still needed to make sure the audience had good sight lines. And, from a filming standpoint, we couldn’t stop a live audience show to do a song again and film the song with just a Steadicam pass.

“But not having an audience allowed us to have a workflow more similar to that of music videos. This year’s format for the iHeartRadio Festival became a cross between a live concert and a music video.”

Claypaky fixtures for 2020 iHeartRadio Music Festival.

Ardine deployed 12 Claypaky Alpha Spot 1500s as the main backlights. “We used them as two rows of a backlight wash for the musicians and lead singers. On camera, having a solid wall of backlight can be very important because when we are filming a close up, the colored back edge on the lead singer could be the only light that the audience sees.”

Eight Sharpy Wash fixtures formed the next onstage truss. “We used this system as additional backlights when zoomed wide or zoomed narrow to get beam effects that could add rhythm to the music,” he explains. Eight more Alpha Washes were positioned on the side “mainly as eye candy when the camera tilted up, but we occasionally used them as a side wash, too.”

An additional eight A.leda B-EYE K10 wash fixtures and 20 Sharpys were placed on the ground, upstage and under the LED walls as eye candy. “For Alicia Keys’s second song, we swapped the black Sharpys for the chrome version and placed them on her riser to give the set some bling,” Ardine reports.

The festival’s Lighting Director in LA was Mark Butts with Michael Dempsey the Show Director, Tamlyn Wright the Set Designer and Mike Beckman the Gaffer. Volt Lites supplied the gear.