At the 2011 Billboard Music Awards: Beyoncé blew everyone off the stage with a dazzling performance of her hit single Run the World (Girls). With a live television audience of millions watching, the superstar singer surged before a magnificent battery of bold and imaginative graphics in a visual display of standard-setting interactive stage visuals from ThinkBreatheLive (TBL).
TBL again teamed up with Beyoncé, this time on her epic four-night Memorial Day weekend comeback concerts, "Back to Business," which were staged at Atlantic City's new Revel Hotel. Each show consisted of a two-hour, 23-song odyssey, the majority of which featured a massive TBL-generated interactive graphic display.
"Beyoncé is one of the great pure performers of our time, so we were absolutely honored and thrilled when she asked to work with us again — this time on a much larger scale," stated TBL EP Kenny Pedini. "For a legend with such a carefully guarded image to trust us with the core components of such a grand event really speaks to level of work that TBL is putting out."
The stage was an elaborate colossus that included myriad LED screens, including three 100-foot-plus monitors (one back LED, a mid LED that can hide or reveal the band members, and an LED floor), and several smaller screens on six towers. A blizzard of interactive visuals seesawed across the monitors throughout the show, ranging from a Tron-esque infinity treadmill floor to accompany End of Time, to a slew of strobe lights and silhouettes complementing a slow-motion version of Baby Boy to interactive lasers moving to every step of the choreography in Schoolin' Life.
As with last year's Billboard project, TBL worked directly with Beyoncé, director Ed Burke, and choreographer Frank D. Gatson, Jr. throughout the creative process. "In our first meeting, we asked who our point person would be, and they said, 'Beyoncé,'" stated TBL CD Andy Jennison. "And that was true — she was a fixture in our office. One of the things I love about working with Beyoncé is that she rolls up her sleeves and gets right into it. She doesn't just come in to approve things, she becomes part of the creative process."
During a series of preproduction meetings, Beyoncé's team presented visual references in order to give Jennison and his team an idea of the flavors Beyoncé was looking for. Jennison quickly put together a treatment that maximized the usage of the various screens that Beyoncé would employ during her show. The team of 2D and 3D artists immediately began working on executing visuals that accented notes, choreography, and Beyoncé's unique vision of graphic, modern and iconic imagery.
Jennison continued about the process. "Here is why I love working on these types of projects. This is a tremendously collaborative effort across multiple parties with lights, choreography, staging and a total full-on production to create Beyoncé's vision. Each department respected each others' craft and worked to make an amazing show."
When asked about the schedule, the team didn't beat around the bush. "We basically had about 6 weeks to create what should have taken three months", said Pedini. "But that's okay. You never have the luxury of time when it comes to these projects...or any type of project for that matter. The project is done at show time. If they pushed the show back another two weeks, then we'd work two more weeks on it, and come up with more crazy ideas. But this is how we work. The first tour we did with Roger Waters back in 2006 (the "Dark Side of the Moon Tour") was insane. We had three weeks to create all the visuals for the entire two-hour show. Challenging as hell but we were up for it. You assemble the team and push the start button. And you remove the stop button."
TBL has been busy in the epic concert scene lately. As Roger Waters The Wall Tour finished its South American run, the Tour returns this summer to North America to play a series of US baseball stadiums. The visuals created by TBL originally for US and European arenas had to be completely reworked to accommodate the huge soccer stadiums of countries like Chile and Argentina.
"To play in those enormous stadiums, Roger had to double the size of the wall which meant doubling the size of the visuals and creating some additional", said Jennison. "I was at some of the shows in Sao Paolo and Buenos Aires. It was the biggest thing I'd ever seen. I'm very excited that Roger is bringing the show to US baseball stadiums this summer. Everyone should be able to see this amazing spectacle we've all built."