“Where do you get your ideas?”

Coldplay“Where do you get your ideas?” The question is trite, perhaps, whether you’re a novelist or a lighting designer, but it gets asked so often because the answer is so mysterious. For lighting designer Paul Normandale, it’s “the most exciting part of what we do” — that outpouring of creativity in the “scribble-CAD-to-fruition” zone. For Coldplay’s Viva La Vida tour Normandale designed the lighting, Mark “Sparky” Risk served as lighting programmer/director, and Justine Cat-terall worked as part of the video content production crew. Here are a few details on how they achieved the looks for the tour.


Mark “Sparky” Risk: Paul and I have worked together before, most notably on the Bjork Vespertine Tour. We’ve known each other as friends for a good long while, so it was a pleasure to be working together again. Rehearsals for the tour were held in both London and Los Angeles and so we had plenty of pro-gramming time at our disposal. Everything worked out pretty well. The spheres didn’t present too much of a problem at all. It would be fair to say that we experi-enced relatively little in the way of technical problems.

Paul Normandale: I flew from Tokyo to London and back in 48 hours to meet the band on two days off. They had many ideas about the shows look which was useful in some ways. I worked with Mark ‘Sparky’ Risk, who programmed the show and is the lighting director. His patience and my inabilities are the stuff of minor legends.

Normandale: The early thoughts about the design are as you would expect — sketches and half ideas, some of which, upon reflection, amused many. But this scribble-CAD-to-fruition is, I think, by far the most exciting part of what we do. Temporary, transient, lost forever in many ways, the sketches to renders pro-duce an odd period of limbo as you prepare to show the artist, and then indeed the other members of the production, a concept. I used Vectorworks for 2D, Stu-dio 3D for 3D renders and visualization via ESP.

Coldplay RendersJustine Catterall: “We created material for both the spheres and the stage wide backdrop behind the band. The material generated included video cre-ated from the bands own artwork and that of Brian Eno (from the 77 Millions Paintings archive). Matt Whitecross, a previous contact of the band, had generated some material already — a “dancing politicians” piece used as an Internet viral for the first single released from the new album Violet Hill and a library footage-based piece that was previously used as a backdrop for the Lovers In Japan promo. Coldplay is certainly not a band to get complacent! The show is always subject to change which certainly keeps the road crew on their toes.

Normandale: The band has a total aversion to both LED screens and side IMAG, so it was really an interesting challenge to come up with something new to fulfill the video and IMAG realities for a 320° arena show. The spheres had three and four meter inflatable rear projection surfaces with amazing lenses that allow internal projection for 95 percent of the surface, mapped with spherical software, in all a six month process of testing and trails to produce what I hope is a quite unique solution — always a nice thing.

Lighting Company (U.S.): Upstaging Inc. (John “Coach” Bahnick)
Lighting Company (Europe): Lite Alternative (Jon Greaves)
Lighting Designer: Paul Normandale
Lighting Director/Programmer: Mark “Sparky” Risk
Lighting Crew Chief: Dave Favorita
Lighting Techs: Jason Blaylock, Dan Swalec, Wayne Kwiat, Ben Bain, Dave Cox, Dave Jolly, Niall Ogilvy
Motion Control: Tommy Green, Steve Richards
Production Manager: Craig “Fin” Finley
Tour Manager: Andy Franks
Staging: All Access Staging & Production
Video: XL Video (Des Fallon)
Video Director: Andy Bramley
Video Content: Justine Catteral
Catalyst Programmer: Ben Miles
Lasers & Confetti: Strictly FX USA (Ted Macabee), Mike Hartle, Brook

Lighting Console: Flying Pig Systems Wholehog 3 and Wing, Catalyst and Green Hippo Hippotizer media servers
17 Martin MAC 2000 Wash XBs
7 Martin MAC 2000 Wash Fixtures
32 Martin MAC 700 Spots 20 Martin MAC 250 Wash Fixtures
27 Martin Atomic 3000 Strobes
(10 w/ scrollers)
4 Nova Flowers
12 i-Pix BB4s
10 Omni Wash Lights
28 Mole Richardson 4-Lite Blinders
8 Mole Richardson 2K Mole Beams
4 Custom Clip Light Fixtures
4 Reel EFX DF 50s
4 Look Solutions Unique Haze Machines