LOWELL, MA – Every time Tim Messina sat down at his computer to work on a design for the 2017 Steubenville East Conference, he felt “less than completely satisfied” with the end result. The owner of Events United, Messina has been creating the lighting, audio, video, and stage design for the large Catholic youth conference for the past four years. Every year, he’s worked to engage teens by raising the visual excitement bar a little higher. “This year I put together a few initial design concepts in Google Sketchup,” he recalled, “but the results were either not as impressive as I wanted, or they turned out great, but would have been too costly to produce.”
Then with a flash of inspiration and some help from his CHAUVET Professional PVP X6IP LED video tiles, Messina (who also handles audio and backline for the event) had a creative breakthrough that ultimately led him to design Steubenville’s most dynamic and engaging stage ever. “I was looking for some inspiration so I thumbed through their marketing material once again,” he said. “Then it hit me: we could create their ‘ELEVATE’ logo with an LED wall.”
Messina’s only concern was that the cost of turning the seven-letter word “ELEVATE” into an 80-foot wide video wall would blow his budget for the conference. However, some quick calculations showed that the wall could be built with only 67 of the PVP X6IP tiles. This, plus the affordable price of the tiles themselves, meant that the idea was financially feasible.
“Once we determined that this was within our budget, the design issue became ‘how do we build the letters ‘V’ and ‘A’ in the wall?’” said Messina. “We couldn’t make the necessary 60° corners with video tiles, so we decided to use truss lined with CHAUVET Professional EPIX Strips.”
Although this idea worked to complete the letters, Messina wanted to make the logo more impactful, so he fitted the ‘V’ and ‘A’ with 32 Rogue R1 Wash fixtures, using 16 for each letter and placed 12 COLORdash Par-Hex 7 wash fixtures inside the truss to help the outline of the ‘V’ and ‘A’ pop. With the video wall concept figured out, Messina turned the content creation over to his lead video engineer Jon Martell, who imported the file to Vectorworks to create rigging plots, fixture layouts, weights, projection distances, stage layouts, and other parameters.
Weaving the Rogue Washes into the video wall elevated the design to a new level, notes Messina. “It turned out to be awesome,” he said. “It allowed our lighting designer Ryan Lane to make some very high energy effects. The R1s are really fast. This speed along with their zoom features allowed Ryan to get a lot of different looks. Having the light from the Rogues shoot out from the ‘V’ and ‘A’ helped balance the content from the other letters made with the X6IP panels.”
To complete the stage design, Messina added six overhead 30-foot truss structures. The two central truss units were flown 16-feet over the downstage edge. The next two truss structures were flown 8-feet away upstage; and the final pair were positioned 8-feet further towards the back of the stage. This created a sense of depth on stage and hit the performers with multiple angles of light from two Maverick MK2 Spots, two Maverick MK2 Washes, one Rogue RH1 Hybrid, and 2 Par-Hex 7 washes, that were positioned on each of the six truss units.
“I was blown away by how bright the Maverick fixtures were,” said Messina. “The quality of light and effects they made were fantastic. Behind the 80’ logo we placed 18 Strike 4 blinders to back light the band and the logo. They are incredibly bright, which let Ryan show off some big hits with the band. We also lit up the black backdrop with Chauvet Nexus 4×4 panels to help the camera shots not shoot into black behind the presenters. The Strikes and the Nexus panels added layers of light to give a sense of depth to the stage.”
Events United had custom designed power boxes made for the conference by Entertainment Metals. These boxes clamp onto the truss and provide three 20-amp circuits at 208 volts L21-30. “The boxes have thru’s on them so we can power a second box off the same main line,” said Messina. “Each box has two TrueCon and two powerCON connections per circuit which gives flexibility in different setups. We were able to power three of the 30’ trusses with just one line.”
Having all audio, video, lighting and backline handled by a single production company also contributed to the flexibility of the Steubenville rig, according to Messina. “We were able to talk as a team to figure out how all these components will work together, because everything was under one roof,” he said. “For instance, we have to make sure that our audio arrays will not interfere with the stage design or block the projection site lines, and are also able to set up cable paths for all the gear to work together and minimize extra rigging points.”
In the end, this coordinated effort led to a 2017 Steubenville East Conference design that surpassed even the high bar set the previous year. Looking ahead, one wonders what kind of looks Events United will come up with for 2018. One thing is certain though, it will attract a lot of attention.