It doesn’t matter whether a concert is going to be aired on TV and over social media, or not, Tom Kenny always designs with the camera in mind. He’s been following this philosophy since the mid-1990s, after he and the production team from The Who came to the conclusion that it was important to make people look as true to life as possible on film.
Social media and high-tech mobile phones didn’t exist back then, or any of the other technological wonders that would ensure that every note ever struck on stage would be preserved on video for all time. But the writing was on the wall, and Kenny was determined to create lighting designs that worked for both live audiences as well as video viewers.
His ability to achieve this often elusive equilibrium has since become legendary. The latest example of it took place at the T-Mobile Arena in mid-September when he wowed the crowd and camera at the iHeart Radio Music Festival with a big, but artfully balanced, lightshow that featured 124 CHAUVET Professional Maverick MK3 Wash fixtures supplied by 4Wall Entertainment.
Produced by Diversified Production Services, C2W, Firehouse Productions, All Access Staging & Productions, Inc., and ATOMIC, The iHeart Radio Music Festival is “a real hybrid,” notes Kenny. “It’s really a big TV special,” he said of the show, which was broadcast on the CW Network. “All the experienced LDs and creatives understand that this is not a festival in the usual sense of the word. It’s a huge party being filmed and aired for the enjoyment of millions of fans.”
With this in mind, Kenny used copious amounts of lighting, along with video elements to create an ebullient, festive aura that made it easy for fans at the venue as well as those watching on TV to get swept up in the good-time excitement. The characteristics of the T-Mobile Arena provided him with a good foundation for generating this atmosphere.
“I’ve lit many big shows and TV specials here,” said Kenny “This is very much a 21st century arena with all the bells and whistles that can help a show of this kind. It has a very high trim and some great video elements including ribbons that helped me build a bigger palette. This setting contributed to the show coming off so well, as did my colleagues in this project Mike Appel ,Fuji, Jess Baker, Mark Butts. Jason Uchita, Bob from 4Wall, Joey Vineyard, Cristin & Jack, Adam Hagin, and Alex Flores.”
Kenny utilized the 80-foot trim of the arena stage to “pump out some lumens.” Contributing to this flow of light were the 124 Maverick MK3 Wash fixtures, which were positioned throughout the massive rig. “The MK3s were my buckets of light,” said Kenny. “We used them generously for our biggest looks as well as for key lighting the audience, which was important for television.”
As for the rig itself, it consisted of five rows of descending truss as well as a floor package, side mounted units, fixtures that bordered the massive video walls, and a large overhead circular structure with protruding arms. Regarding the latter element, Kenny commented: “I have always been a big fan of circles. When I began lighting this festival six years ago, I felt it needed an overhead chip, and it’s worked out well.”
To create an added sense of intimacy, the design for the festival included a smaller front stage in addition to the main one. Protruding out into the crowd, this stage was virtually surrounded by fans. “The producers always like the artists to be able to get closer to the fans, said Kenny. “With powerhouses like Chris Martin and Billie Eilish plus the stunning Dhua lipa dance-off, the extra stage created some great moments.”
Many of those moments will undoubtably live on in the memories of fans, whether they were at T-Mobile arena or watching on TV. Tom Kenny’s design borne out of experience lighting for live-and-broadcast hybrid events helped ensure that.