Who hasn’t thrown a stone in the water and then watched with child-like wonder as concentric circles extended outward in their hypnotic pattern? Lighting designer Crt Birsa and set designer Greta Godnic evoked the powerful, primordial feeling of this transcendent image when creating the visuals for the 40th annual MMS song contest, which this year was built around the appropriately titled theme “Festival of the Melody of Sea and Sun.”
“The whole idea for the general look of the set and lights was to create the sensation of waves spreading from a central point,” said Birsa of Blackout Lighting Design. “MMS was held at a sea side town, and the most of the songs performed were about the sea, so connecting the stage design with water was essential. At the same time, since this is a song contest, we wanted dramatic looks to be part of each performance.”
Working on his ChamSys MagicQ MQ70, Birsa programmed a 7-universe show with 14 pages of cues and cue lists that accentuated the deepest elements of his collaborator’s set design.
“I am working with Slovenia’s best set designer Greta Godnic,” he said. “She usually gives the basic “shape of space” idea and then we start building the project together from the ground up. That’s how we can ensure that the lights have optimal positions in regards to the physical set. When we work like this, the lighting playground is much wider than it would be if the set and lighting design were progressed along separate paths.”
The end result of this collaboration was a visual panorama that was as deep, and captivating as the sea itself. As functional as it was beautiful the production design also provided a supportive backdrop for each of the 12 finalists, as well as the two special guests, who participated in the contest, which was broadcast on the Slovenia National Television network.
“As this was a live music show, there had to be some strong parts when the lighting energized the performance,” said Birsa. “This is why the set and lighting design were built, not just to be aesthetic, but to also provide some fast changes and lighting bursts.
“In terms of color, we went with a lot of dual- tone looks,” continued Birsa. “I think that this design looked best when using two similar colors. With the video we had in the background, creating too many colors with the lights would demolish the whole stage look — especially for the cameras!”
Birsa programmed the show on his MQ70 using Wysiwyg R46 over a three day period for preprogramming. A touring commitment took him to Spain during the broadcast, so the show was run by his associate at Blackout Design, Klemen Krajnc, using a ChamSys PC wing. (The key lights were run by Darko Lovrencic of the TB network and run on a Chamsys MQ200 console.)
Key to helping this project run smoothly was the time coding capabilities of his ChamSys console, according to Birsa. “This was the first time since I am doing the lighting design for this music competition, that we have used the timecode for execution of the lighting for the show,” said Birsa. “The Time Code features, including the Timeline Editor were very helpful for me. Since the Timeline Editor is available, I have been using it, because it speeds up the process of time code programming and recording. First I record the time code for main cue stack and after for all the TC tracks and then I open the Timeline editor and can visually put all the TC cues on the right beats. This fastens the whole TC recording process by half.
“Our rehearsals were tightly planned, so there was no time for mistakes,” continued Birsa. “This meant all the elements of the show, especially running the time code from the live band, had to be prepared and executed properly.”
Fortunately, notes Birsa, the MQ70 “made this easy,” so the show came off as he envisioned, flowing smoothly, naturally and gracefully as those captivating ripples in water.