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grandMA2 Rocks Bon Jovi’s Because We Can: The Tour

Because We Can is Bon Jovi’s 15th tour, and grandMA2 is playing a key role as the Jersey rockers play 92 dates around the world during an almost year-long gig. A.C.T Lighting is the exclusive distributor of MA Lighting in North America.

Because We Can supports Bon Jovi’s studio album, “What About Now,” whose lead single gave the tour its name. Uniquely, the band’s arena and stadium shows are completely different although four grandMA2s work front of house: Two grandMA2 full-size units are dedicated to lighting, two grandMA2 lights are devoted to video and there are 8 NPUs. All exist on the same Art-Net network.

Performance Environment Design Group’s Doug “Spike” Brant conceived the arena show design as a kinetic sculpture with a lot of movement. By contrast, the stadium show design transforms the entire stage into the front end of a 1959 Buick Electra with the band playing in the 130-foot wide grille flanked by four headlights each 10 feet in diameter. The headlights are made of Chromlech Elidy-S panels. TAIT engineered and built the muscle car set, complete with New Jersey license plate.

The 60-foot multi-level stage section where the band performs is the only common element in both the arena and stadium shows; it provides familiarity to the rockers at both venue types and is easily set up from date to date.

Eric Marchwinski, the tour’s lighting programmer, previsualized and programmed the lighting for both the arena and stadium tours. Control Freak Systems’ Kirk Miller, the tour’s video programmer and operator, did the same for the video elements. “Eric and I tied ourselves together via Art-Net,” Miller explains. “We shared a lot of control over things like the automated columns for the projection during the arena tour. Faced with the challenges of automation, it was great that we could control our own motion presets.”

According to Marchwinski, “there was an incredible time crunch for the arena tour. grandMA 3D proved to be an integral part of programming offline. We were able to do everything with an extreme degree of accuracy. We used 16-bit motion channels that were embedded into the content, which gave us thousands of DMX values. The fact that grandMA 3D let us put in physical values meant we could look at it in a number of ways.”

“The grandMA2 is a very comprehensive system that we stretched to its full potential,” he reports. “No other console would have allowed us such direct control and amazing data management. In fact, the grandMA2′s flexibility made it a show control console instead of just a lighting console.”

For the arena shows Marchwinski also programmed control of 32 winches with lights on them plus 10 lighting towers in the back. “We have feedback coming from the [TAIT/FTSI] Navigator control software for the winches,” he says. “We can control things in feet and degrees.”

Working together, TAIT and Control Freak Systems created a program that allowed the grandMA2 to send control commands to the Navigator software. Miller explains, “We could program automation like lighting – the grandMA2 made it unbelievably easy to manage that data just like you would a moving light. Only it was a 2,000 pound video column instead.”

Miller, who has been using the grandMA2 for close to three years, agrees with Marchwinski that the platform is more than a lighting console. “We don’t look at grandMA2 as a lighting or video desk but as a show control desk – one control surface firing off everything,” he says. “For this show, there was no debate-that was the control system we were going to use.”

On the arena tour the grandMA2s are controlling four media servers, three Encores via CFS Encore Bridge, and Navigator. The use of the grandMA2 in the complex control system has proven to be a distinct plus for Miller and Marchwinski. For the stadium system, either the lighting or video grandMA2s can control the LED tiles as well as the Elidy-S panels. Marchwinski creates numerous color tricks by taking control of the 120 LED tiles in the center grille of the stage.

“The support we get from A.C.T and MA has been great,” Miller says. “They help us solve problems and push the limits of the desk and make things happen. grandMA 3D is amazing – no other product on the market offers such a feature. It gave us the power to do the show well in advance of getting the video columns – we relied heavily on grandMA 3D for this.”

Sooner Routhier is the lighting director of the Bon Jovi tour.

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