James Blunt in Paris at the Zenith

James Blunt in Paris at the Zenith

Lighting set made by Martin.


Full Artical Published at French SonoMAG Click Here


Creating one more time the light show for James Blunt's « Some kind of trouble » world tour, Paul Normandale shows once again his confidence in Martin luminaires by installing quite a full danish rig on the stage of the Zenith in Paris. Glen Johnson, his faithful operator and willing lighting chief, is granted with a clearly intended subtle and mild light show made of color temperatures shades and low-keys. 

Glen Johnson welcomes us with a typical british composure, a few hours before the show. We discover a stage that could be thought as a Martin show room. The whole set of the Danish brand safe bets are here : spots, washes and even LEDs with 50 MAC101 RGB in the rig.
Lighting provider Lite-Alternative trust in the brand goes further. New kids in the rig are also there : MAC 101 CT, just out of the assembly line and ready to light up J. Blunt musicians' quick hands with their warm white beam.
completed with some other manufacturers as Barco for their Stealth Led video elements and Showtec for their Sunstrip Active DMX, this all automated rig gives the best to both mapping and sources - projectors shape complementarity. An original design that Glen Johnson evokes with us.


Martin and English people ....

Sonomag : Tell us about this design by Paul Normandale
Glen Johnson : Key words given by James to summarize his wishes about lighting and stage design were "1979-1982 and New York ...". We had to work from that !
Paul imagined a MAC 101 RGB wall set reminding those PAR lanterns walls from
this period. Upstage, we set up 5 ladders creating 5 columns of 101s; each with 5 pairs of fixtures. These fixtures have a nice beam look (not only the look, their optic closes down to 13°) and can exist in the middle of other light beams. They are really very bright. Alternating these ladders with rectangular elements of LED video walls appear as buildings and a typical New York skyline.
By adding some SunStrip battens, we could use a video mapping that spreads medias in the video walls, in the MAC 101 but also in the Sunstrip dichroïc lamps.
There is no front truss. We just use two side trusses and their fixture's (MAC 700 spots and washes) crossed beams.

Sonomag : There is quite no conventional fixture in this rig. How do you work front and back lights on James and his musicians
Glen Johnson : We actually have 2 conventional lanterns. Two followspots on James. Musician faces are lighted up by very small MAC 101 CTs which find here a perfect front light application. The main idea of the design was to enhance James and dim musicians from stage on some scenes. Installing MAC 101 CTs simply on the floor is enough to light them up when needed. These fixtures are so bright that they are opened at a few percents during the show.. We chose this model  (there are two other models of MAC 101 with white LEDs , warm or cold) because it combines both warm and cold white LEDs. It allows very fast and easy changes between color temperatures, with the same ease in intensity control. We use them as much as warm front light than like cold discharge lamp effect  in some scenes. As they are compact (3.7 kg and a few 30 cm of height), they literally disappear on the stage floor as the artist wished it.


Sonomag : Why did you choose MAC 101 for the wall rather than any other LED device ?
Glen Johnson : This idea of alternating LEDs fixtures and video wall pieces had already been used by Paul on Chemical Brothers tour last year (Sonomag was around there too, open your archives, fellow readers) in order to make pixel mapping even on several devices (fixtures and screens) but with the same sources : LEDs. On top of having a narrow beam and a real lighting power, MAC 101 RGBs are also fast and their color calibration is even which makes them ideal for video mapping. Most of all, we isolated rich colors of the media displayed by Barco Stealth walls to send them very quickly and evenly with MAC 101s. This way, scenes are completely even and there is no need of a lot of light to create a mood. The last strong point, but not the least of this fixture : it can be easily integrated (thanks to its small size) and operated in touring conditions. We had neither any issue nor any fault. Colors are calibrated by the manufacturer. We had absolutely no problem with them including with CTs, all just released. This is an essential quality when there are a lot of shows and that set up times are short with a reduced crew.


A rig under control ...

Sonomag : You're such a small crew ?
Glen Johnson : Lighting crew is 3 people including me ! We need fixtures that make our life easier, with fast rigging and taking less space in trucks (only 4 trucks for the whole tour set up : sound, lighting, trusses and the 7 bicycles for the English crew !).


Sonomag : You talk about pixel mapping and permanent tuning between lighting and video. How do you control all these different sources?
Glen Johnson : I do control everything alone from my lighting desk, a GrandMA 2 from MA Lighting, brilliant in mapping indeed. I discovered it when it has been released (Glen was one of the very first live user of this desk). Being used to Wholehog, I adopted it immediately anyway. It is linked to another GrandMA through a network for safety and communicates with 2 Catalyst media servers (in redundancy, one is enough for the show) which generates video streams. Everything was programmed in one week with Paul before the tour, with custom made videos especially for the show (by Judy Jacob). Some textures come from the Catalyst's media bank. Data is sent through fiber optic with Luminex switches (once again for safety,  English designers are really foresighted !).


Sonomag : Why so many precautions (system redundancy, fiber optic rather than RJ45, etc ...)? Did you experienced network issues ?
Glen Johnson : No, and this is specially because of all these safeties ! Once again, we are a very small crew with a lot of shows and reduced set up time between each show. The system had to be safe and reliable. I am used to work like this. In my opinion, these safeties are mandatory, also because the rig has not changed a bit since the beginning of the tour, whatever the venue or the festival. This is also why we have quite a small system (122 moving lights though...). It must adapt to a lot of different places.


When lighting and video are only one

And it might be seen a lot of times ! With his small crew of passionate technicians, the tour that started in March will finish one year later in March 2012. Paul Normandale's lighting design is in good hands, those of Glen Johnson's, an happy operator.
Cohabitation of video and lighting works fine. One will appreciate not to see one big video wall in the background, but lighting fixtures for real, with LEDs too, moving rather fast. MAC 101 RGBs do their "little search-head PAR shaped" job perfectly, but with precise and very fast moves. Efficiently emphasized on their ladders in the background of the stage, they truly stand as American superstars on quite every scene, which are finally not so much lighted if we consider the quantity and variety of sources. MAC IIIs big yokes work sometimes, filling at once the whole stage and venue with their powerful beams. MAC 700 do the side lights with their well known efficiency.


This lighting design is yet original and perfectly associates  stage design and lighting. No sets, only video walls, trusses and luminaires are used to dress up the stage. This partnership goes further as video is completely integrated in the light show with an asserted choice of coupling both completely up to their controls. As a conclusion, for this tour, James Blunt benefits again of a warm and soft ambiance which reflects his music in spite of the numbers of so called cold sources. His lighting designer, Paul Normandale, sticks to his ground  (not too much light or effects, nice colors, shadows ...) and stays loyal to his favorite manufacturer, Martin.


Glen Johnson, from construction to lighting
Right after university, Glen Johnson, 42 years old lighting operator, discovers his passion for lighting and associated jobs. He begins by lighting private events and small shows at his students union. After graduating in construction and civil engineering in 1993, Glen meets Lighting Designer Paul Normandale and will (quite) never leave his crew since 1994. Between concerts and corporate events, Glen spends most of his time touring and operating as Lighting Chief with Paul. Operating light shows for a number of artists coming from various universes (from Tracy Chapman to Damien Rice, including The Pixies or Ryan Adams), Glen hides in James Blunt shadow since 2005 to light him up at his best. Working with Paul Normandale, he gets introduced to Martin gears that he claims to love using. Vari*Lite gears are also in favor with the young english man from Suffolk ! Operating most of his time, he enjoyed working a long time with Wholehog desks but started with MA Lighting Grand MA 2 right after its release with a lot of pleasure. Video enthusiast, he thinks that any media server should be a Catalyst. Working sometimes far from stages, he collaborates with Robert Jones for corporate events like HP or Compaq.


James Blunt – Zenith de Paris 2011 – Technical Sheet


Moving Light
50 Martin MAC 101
12 Martin MAC 101 CT
12 Martin MAC III Profile
6 Martin MAC 2000 XB Wash
12 Martin MAC 700 Profile
6 Martin MAC 700 Wash
24 Showtec Sunstrip Active DMX

2 DF 50
2 Jem AF1

2 Followspots at FOH

172 Barco Stealth modules
2 HD Images Pro

2 Ma Lighting Grand MA 2
2 Ma Lighting NPU
5 Luminex switches
2 Catalyst media server MAC Pro (custom model)
Fiber Optic + 4 Ethernet links snake


Video content
Judy Jacob (on songs : So Far Gone, High, Dangerous, I'll Be Your Man, So Long Jimmy, Turn Me On)


Technical crew
Tour manager : Robert Hayden
Lighting and set designer : Paul Normandale
Grand MA 2 operator and lighting chief : Glen Johnson
Light crew : Mike Sheppard, Alex Johnson
Rigger : Paul Burke
Video : Patrick Vansteela