The Los Angeles Philharmonic asked XiteLabs to create the entire visual experience for their once-in-a-lifetime 100th Anniversary Concert and musical celebration at the Los Angeles landmark The Hollywood Bowl. The show took place on September 30th, 2018, and was the culmination of a day’s worth of artistic events along an 8-mile stretch from the Walt Disney Concert Hall all the way to the Hollywood Bowl.
The NY Times wrote about the LA Phil as “America’s Most Important Orchestra. Period” in April of 2017. “The ascendancy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic is the salient event in American orchestral life of the past 25 years,” Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker.
It was our honor at XiteLabs to conceive of, design, produce and operate all of the visual components of this illustrious evening’s show.
As part of our discovery process, we explored the relationship between color and sound, drawing on previous studies and a selection of documentation on Synesthesia – ‘the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body’. After we were provided the program of music that the LA Phil would be performing that evening, we delved into the process of associating color palettes and visual stylings to the amazing selection of music that was to be performed. The musical selections ranged from popular, well-known pieces such as Stravinsky’s ‘Firebird Suite’, to the debut performance of a 12-minute atonal modern work ‘Guasamacabra’ by Venezuelan composer Paul Desenne.
Under the direction of famed conductor and the LA Phil’s Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, these and other compositions were performed powerfully and dynamically by the orchestra, who also incorporated the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA) into the performance of Arturo Marquez’ modern classic ‘Conga Del Fuego Nuevo’.
In order to bring the show to the public in a meaningful way, and to be inclusive of mainstream music and performers, the LA Phil invited guest performers Katy Perry, Herbie Hancock (the LA Phil Creative Chair for Jazz), and Kali Uchis to join in and perform some of their popular hits. These performances highlighted the magic of the LA Phil—and with wonderful orchestral arrangements by David Campbell (Joy, Brokeback Mountain, Spider Man, and Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney) brought well known pieces such as Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ to new life in front of the full-capacity audience of 17,500 in attendance. The encore and finale to the evening was the emotional and iconic Main Theme from ‘Star Wars’, with guest conductor and original composer John Williams wielding his (light saber!) wand.
Integrating Real-time visuals, reactive to both audio and the conductor’s wand motions, pre-rendered CG material, and live performance controls via Midi/Osc, XiteLabs created the most robust real-time visual mapping show ever done at the Hollywood Bowl, configurable to any venue or scale of show. With the interactive tracking data of Gustavo Dudamel’s performance feeding into Touch Designer and passed to Notch via OSC, and 8 discrete channels of submixed audio from the orchestra driving our pre-programmed looks for pieces such as Star Wars, it was evident to attendees that this was no ordinary projection mapping show!
Our chief technical artist Matt Guertin designed our show system and established the methods by which the various software packages communicated, and also developed the UV Mapping method that ultimately allowed all the creators to speak the same language.
For ‘Star Wars’ our programming in Notch accounted for any given section of the orchestra, e.g., ‘Hi Strings’ to illuminate and animate certain areas of the the arch or ‘proscenium’ of the Hollywood Bowl, which, for the John William’s masterpiece theme for ‘Star Wars’, was skinned to look very much like the interior of the iconic Millennium Falcon ship that Han Solo pilots in the Star Wars films. In this way, XiteLabs fostered a direct relationship between the musical performance and composition and the audience’s visual experience of the music, while incorporating themed elements that spoke to the originality and beauty of the original IP. We were in awe witnessing The Master John Williams conducting this timeless epic, as our visuals surrounded him and the LA Phil orchestra in fields of asteroids, and onward through a warp-speed tunnel that bridged the past and future!
For Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’, we implemented a real-time particle system that enabled us to play live via a Midi keyboard and iPad controls over OSC, and perform live in conjunction with the physical fireworks show that was happening simultaneously. As the real-time projected particles whooshed up to sync with the real fireworks, Gustavo Dudamel’s hand and wand would push the particles around to breath even more life and interaction into the show.
Taking the live-performance and real-time integration to the next level, XiteLabs performed live visuals during Herbie Hancock’s classic fusion composition ‘Rockit’, which was reinterpreted and orchestrated into a jazzier, more elaborate rendition of the original MTV hit. During this piece, Vello Virkhaus VJ’d various real-time procedurally generated visual elements using an Akai MPK2, while Greg Russell used an Akai Mini to trigger visuals that were musically and rhythmically in sync with the improvised piece in a way that could be not done with pre-produced or rendered visuals. XiteLabs’ Tanner Thompson used iPad controllers to modify Touch/OSC commands during this song as well as others, controlling parameters such as particle speed, gravity, rotation, etc. to more fully control the visual experience live.
In addition to the real-time interactive aspects to the show, XiteLabs also created pre-produced animated elements for Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’, her cover of Queens’ ‘Bicycle Race’, Kali Uchis songs ‘Flight 22’, ‘After the Storm’, as well as portions of ‘Star Wars’.
The reaction to this visual experience by XiteLabs has been unanimous—the reviews from audience members as well as the LA Phil performers and directors have all been glowing. One audience member’s review says it all:
Our thanks to LMG for their support and expertise with projection equipment and staffing. The show ran with 12 projectors in 3 locations, consisting of Barco HDQ 2K40 and Panasonic RQ32K units.
We would also like to thanks Appix for their excellent crowd visuals cell-phone technology.
And most importantly, we would like to share our appreciating for the amazing roster of artists that worked on the project from Arizona, Moldova, Romania and the Ukraine !