EPIC ‘HOLOSPHERE’ Created for Eric Prydz
“EPIC 6.0 has been two years in the making, starting with conceptual sketches, through to putting together exactly the right team with the skills, know-how and passion to get the project off the ground, and now successfully delivering the show at Tomorrowland,” says Calvert, who’s been working with Eric Prydz on the EPIC shows for more than a decade as Executive Show Producer, Production Manager and Co-Show Designer. “When our team presented the concept to Michiel Beers and Jan Herinckx at Tomorrowland, they were extremely supportive and excited to co-produce the show with us.
“We are very grateful for their faith in this production and equally to our chosen technical fabrication team, Light Initiative. We believe the show takes the core elements of dance music, LED technology, creativity, engineering, lighting and video control to the next level.”
To deliver Tomaszewski’s holographic imagery, Light Initiative designed and manufactured a lightweight structural and cladding system that provided high transparency. Applied to their structure, Light Initiative developed a miniature LED strip and video distribution system, bringing the total weight of the sphere to a mere 4.6 tonnes.
806,000 LED pixels were applied across the inner and outer surfaces, equalling 276m2 of LED screen surface displaying bright, custom mapped animations. With a uniform 16mm pixel pitch, the sphere achieves an impressive 64% transparency, revealing Prydz at the centre of the action.
Light Initiative’s recent expansion meant that its London HQ was the perfect place for HOLOSPHERE’s creation. The company has doubled its warehouse space and opened a new fabrication area, within which the HOLOSPHERE was made.
Bryn Williams says: “One of the biggest challenges set by the Mark and Liam was to achieve a high level of transparency while not compromising the logistical demands of festival productions. To achieve this, the HOLOSPHERE was designed so that the structure and panels fit with millimetre precision and pack down into just two trucks.
“We designed the individual elements of the HOLOSPHERE to be modular and repetitive, so if a component fails - be that electronics, LED or PSU - that component can be rapidly replaced. This adds a further level of robustness and flexibility, which is great when you’re transporting such an intricate yet mammoth object to a festival scenario.”
Upstage to the HOLOSPHERE was a 31.2m x 9.6m 9mm pixel pitch transparent LED screen that enveloped the stage, expanding the spectacle to the edges of the arena. More than 540 lighting fixtures were used as part of the lighting design. Groups of fixtures were carefully rigged to trussing, controlled by automated Cyber Hoists that surrounded the HOLOSPHERE, with a daring, but subtle addition appearing as a 1.6m circular rig of fixtures that lowered into the HOLOSPHERE itself to mimic an ‘interstellar explosive experience’.
Ross Chapple, Lighting Director, Co-Designer and Operator for the EPIC shows, says: “Once we had come up with the HOLOSPHERE as the central show concept, it was my responsibility to work out how we would light Eric as he performed. My design aimed to emphasise the form of the sphere and give it some spread into the arena, bringing extra energy and big motion right out into the audience.
“We built ‘automated spokes’ that extended out from a central point of the sphere – the longest of which is 6.5 metres - and wrapped around to encompass the HOLOSPHERE structure. We also had hundreds of LED moving head lighting fixtures behind our upstage LED wall, which interacted with the content and provide high-powered looks behind and around the sphere, picking up key points in the music and animation. I’m really proud of the ambitious effects we all achieved.”
Eric Prydz’s Creative Director, Co-Designer and VJ Liam Tomaszewski, comments: “The holographic aspect to the sphere is about us creating visuals in three dimensions. This is unique: I don’t know anybody who’s created three-dimensional visuals and displayed them in three dimensions, using what we call the double equirectangular projection - a spherical map that wraps images onto the curved surface.
“The HOLOSPHERE visuals were rendered by six separate virtual cameras and stitched together to create content that would be correct from all viewing angles. Figuring out the process to get to an end result that we were happy with took a really long time. When a sphere is your medium, it’s a whole new challenge - you can't just render regular aspect ratio video and wrap it around. You have to work from the ground up with the sphere in mind, so figuring out unique looks and forming them into an overarching narrative was an enormous challenge.”
Dave Green, Technical and Software Director on the EPIC project and Co-Owner of RES, has been developing the software used to drive the video elements of the show for more than ten years. The software, called 'Ai', is now commercially available from Avolites in the UK, with RES being one of Avolites’ Global Centres of Excellence for Ai integration. The hardware used was two Avolites R4 media servers - one main show machine and one backup.
The system outputted three video feeds at up to 2160@50p and playing back media at custom resolutions in the order of 4k also running at 50p. Green comments: "The major challenge on the EPIC shows is always the same, keeping the media playing smoothly, while driving one of the most complex stage sets in the industry. We achieve this by using the fantastic AiM codec developed by Avolites, myself and Trey Harrison of Harrison Digital Media in California. The codec facilitates impeccable video quality along with class-leading performance. The Ai software also has incredible video mapping capabilities which allowed us to drive the near perfect spherical output map produced in collaboration with Bryn Williams at Light Initiative.”
Eric Prydz says: “I’m excited to see our nearly impossible idea come to life and I hope the people watching are as wowed by the sphere as I am. It’s fun to see how far you can push it, how extreme you can make things, and how you can come up with ideas that people haven’t seen or experienced before. Then, the joy of seeing people going absolutely crazy over it is an amazing feeling.”
Calvert concludes: “The EPIC shows get more and more ambitious every time. It’s as exciting as it is satisfying to see the hard work of so many talented people come together for a truly awesome experience. I’d like to personally thank everyone involved in both our internal project team, Light Initiative team and Tomorrowland’s team for their dedication and passion to realising EPIC 6.0, especially Bryn Williams for believing in our original vision and sharing the journey with us to realisation and successful delivery.”