Rock of Ages Entertains with High End Systems

LD Mike Baldassari specs SHOWBEAM 2.5s, Full Boar for film

The New Line Cinema film adaptation of the “Rock of Ages” Broadway musical opened June 15 with a star-studded cast, hits from the 1980s, and High End Systems, a Barco company, products in the mix.

The rock and roll romance of small town girl Sherrie and city boy Drew, meeting on the Sunset Strip in search of their Hollywood dreams, is told through the music of Journey, Foreigner, Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon and more, much of which is recreated in performances in the film.

LD Mike Baldassari, who has designed the theatrical lighting and concert scenes for a number of films including “Nine,” “Joyful Noise,” “Sex and the City 2” and more, was tasked with handling the live stage performances in this production. In his rig full of assorted lighting, he chose to include 4 High End Systems SHOWBEAM 2.5 automated luminaires. However, to run all the performances, he specified the High End Systems Road Hog Full Boar console for Programmer Paul Turner. Larry Thomas at Christie Lites supplied the theatrical lighting equipment for the film.


Baldassari needed to recreate concert lighting from 1987, so although he chose some new technology, such as the SHOWBEAM 2.5s, which were not around then, he hid the fixtures physically from the camera, allowing their beams to shine forth.

“I never turned on the LED ring on the SHOWBEAM 2.5s,” he said. “But I used them on the upstage floor in the arena/stadium sequence to make beams come over the back of the backline. The fixture bases are masked by the walls of the Marshall amps stacks. They’re featured specifically during the Journey song, ‘Don’t Stop Believin.’ “(seen at the 25 second mark in the trailer.


Baldassari describes how the SHOWBEAM 2.5s carry a look throughout the end of the film using their twin-beam effect: “The song ‘Don't Stop Believin' ‘ is the finale of the picture.  Dramaturgically, much of the story is wrapped up in that one iconic Journey song.  Additionally, the song travels a great distance visually.  It starts onstage at the Bourbon Room on the Sunset Strip, then transitions to an Arena, then to Dodger Stadium, where a helicopter shot picks up and carries us over the Hollywood Sign to the Sunset Strip where a Sky-Tracker sweeps the lens to end the film.  I had to find a way for the lighting to carry across all of those elements - which when you consider the club-to-arena-to-stadium-to-helicopter journey - it's a lot of visual ground to cover, so it needed a big idea.

“To do that, I started in the club with a gobo in the moving lights to create a multiple beam look.  Very simple - just split beams coming out of the lights.  Then, in the arena section, I had the same gobo created for the moving lights I was using in that part of the scene.  As the camera pulls out toward the stadium shot, it reveals the SHOWBEAM 2.5s coming over the top of the Marshall Stacks - doing their signature ‘Twin Beam’ function and twirling.  There is simply no other fixture that can do that, at the intensity needed, to make a difference in the big wide shot of an arena/stadium.  Of course, there weren't twirling beams of light in 1987 - but that feature visually ties the lighting to the helicopter shot that takes us out of Dodger Stadium, over the top of the Hollywood Sign and to the beams of the Sky-Trackers on the Sunset Strip.”


He continues, “When I first came up with the idea, I asked the Gaffer, Tony ‘Nako’ Nakonechnyj, to please have Sky-Trackers working on the street next to the Bourbon Room for all of the exterior shots of the building.  He liked the idea and made it happen.  Additionally, in early conversations with the Director Adam Shankman, he wanted our version of the Sunset Strip to be a place where there's ‘an opening every night.’ We completely embraced the idea, and the SHOWBEAM 2.5s, with its twirling twin-beam, was perfect for part of the visual transition sequence.”

Baldassari chose the Road Hog Full Boar console for various reasons having to do with filming. “One of the most important things when designing a film is the continuity of the lighting take to take,” he explains. “If the lighting doesn’t match between takes, the director will have difficulty in the editing process - which for the most part, is months after principal photography has wrapped, so there’s no going back to get a shot where the lighting isn’t right.  The Road Hog Full Boar works extremely well with timecode, so I worked with the Music Supervisor Matt Sullivan to make sure all of the mixes we were shooting to included timecode tracks.  Additionally, my programmer Paul Turner is a master of editing shows with a timecode element.”  He adds, “The other critical thing when it comes to work on film is the ability to change levels very quickly.  Because of the ability of the Road Hog Full Boar’s Playback Wing, we were able to add many inhibitor subs to control small parts of the lighting system.  If something was too bright to the camera, we could simply inhibit that part of the lighting system and not touch any of the cues.”