Thirty years ago, Pink Floyd's The Wall Tour brought a new level of technical ingenuity and conceptual theatricality into the concert arena. Today, English rock icon Roger Waters is re-writing the rulebook once again with an even more ambitious revival of the classic show.
To help him update The Wall for an epic, year-long world tour, Waters enlisted Editors Andy Jennison and Michael Schwartz and Executive Producer Kenny Pedini at boutique New York-based creative studio Breathe and asked them to produce all aspects of the conceptual rock opera, from the live action, animation and graphics imagery to the social media campaign.
Thirty years after the original The Wall Tour, Floyd founder/vocalist Roger Waters remains one of rock's most theatrical showmen. His relationship with Breathe began in 2005 when his label Sony Music asked Schwartz to edit an EPK and TV spot for an opera that Waters had penned called Ca Ira. Then in 2006 Sony recommended Jennison to execute the visuals for Waters' Dark Side of the Moon tour. Both Schwartz and Jennison continue to work on projects with Waters today.
Jennison was a member of The Wall Tour's core creative team, along with Waters and his long-time creative director Sean Evans. "This tour is much more politically based than the original," Jennison says. "The themes are more global and less personal. It is similar in that we used some of the same iconic imagery, but adapted it to fill The Wall."
Production on The Wall began in December 2009. This time around, The Wall's Orwellian fantasia imagery spans the entire 240-foot by 30-foot wall, which builds brick-by-brick during the show's first set. Each of the 28 songs has a unique visual sequence that combines classic animations by illustrator Gerald Scarfe with new 'Banksy-esque' graffiti elements and edgy 3D animation.
Breathe had to overcome myriad technical challenges inherent in the tour's ambitious scope. To ensure the visuals hit the bricks and not the band or stage area around the wall, the producers worked with projectionist Richard Turner to develop an eye-watering aspect ratio of 8560 x 1080 and applied a series of live masks to the projections to block out holes during the wall's construction.
The aspect ratio required five overlapping projection points, with projectors triple-stacked for maximum brightness. "We had a projector installed in my edit room in order to project the images onto my wall to see them in a larger scale than what we could see on our computer monitors," recalls Jennison. "This worked out very well throughout the creative development process. But once we brought the visuals to the arena for rehearsals, it was a whole new ballgame. We were finally seeing the visuals the way they were intended to be projected - on the Wall. Finally seeing everything this size warranted some necessary adjustments. And once the band joined us, we had even more changes just coordinating with the staging and lighting."
To hype the tour via Waters' website and Facebook page prior to the first concerts in September, Breathe produced a series of viral videos from behind-the-scenes footage from rehearsals to give fans a sense of the show's progress in real-time.
Schwartz, a huge fan of docu-style/unscripted dialogue editing, stepped up to the plate. "I was given complete freedom to cut wherever the video took me," says Schwartz. "Every couple of weeks I'd present Roger a new video of random length and he'd give me notes. They would be up on his site within three hours of our sending it to him."
"Roger pushed us to wear a lot of hats on this one," adds Pedini. "In addition to the edit, we assembled a team of 3D and 2D animators to handle all the graphics and animation, we brought in Peter Francovilla to handle the sound design, plus we produced all the live action elements of the show." It was not uncommon for all the rooms at Breathe to be occupied with some aspect of the Wall tour at one point or another throughout the process. "Andy would be working with Roger and Sean Evans in his room creating the visuals while Michael was in the room next door writing and editing the web pieces, while down the hall the graphics guys were handling the enormous amounts of composites in one room as the sound design was going on in the next room." Pedini adds, "Roger was very hands-on and passionate about the work. He would walk from room to room and look over everyone's shoulder to check on what they were doing. It's a great way to work because he was right here with his sleeves rolled up in the trenches with everyone else. If something worked we knew right away. If something didn't work, we knew that too. And we didn't have to wait a day or two for someone to get the work in front of him. Roger was here and the buck stopped with him."
And don't think just because the tour has begun that the work is finished. "Roger is a very creative guy and he never stops coming up with new ideas," Pedini continues. "It's one of the things that I respect most about him. He's not afraid to change things up. It's all in the spirit of the creative process. He'll phone in ideas and we execute them and then deliver them to the next stop on the tour. Andy will work with Richard Turner and his team of projectionists to integrate the changes into the show and the audience will see them that night. It's a wild way to work."
The Wall Tour returns to Madison Square Gardens on November 6 and will continue into summer 2011.
Prod Co: Breathe
DP: Patrik Andersson
EP: Kenny Pedini
Producer: Phil Roc
Editorial Co: Breathe
Editor(s): Michael Schwartz, Andy Jennison
Executive Producer: Kenny Pedini
Assistant Editor: Ian Mayer
Post/Effects Co: Breathe
3D Artist: Ben Ib, Meats Meier
Compositor(s): Sandra Dillon, Danny Kamhaji, Ian Mayer, Matt St. Leger, Adam Yost, Henry Steady
Sound Design Co: Breathe
Sound Designer: Peter Francovilla
Additional Compositing: The String Theory
Compositor: John Vondracek