MIAMI – Like the universe itself, the Ultra Music Festival keeps expanding in dazzling fashion. Now in its 18th year, the three-day multi-sensory experience of bright lights and fast beats continues to draw bigger and bigger crowds. A large share of the more than 165,000 people who jammed into Miami’s Bayfront Park for the festival this year trekked over to the World Wide Stage to see EDM superstars perform under a high octane lighting rig created by Steve Lieberman of SJ Lighting.
Given the shoulder-to-shoulder density of the crowd, not every fan was lucky enough to get a direct center stage sightline. Still everyone in the crowd got a clear and direct view of the action on stage (and on the lighting rig), thanks to an innovative design by Lieberman, which drew on sharp, clearly defined “fingers of light” from 36 CHAUVET Professional Next NXT-1 moving LED fixtures.
“The large crowd at the World Wide Stage has to be accommodated with a viewing area that is kind of uniquely configured,” said Lieberman. “Biscayne Boulevard is closed off for the festival and we have people going up a 17’ hill all the way to the street to see the stage. So we have to bend the rig to give everyone a good perspective.”
Rather than position the stage in back of his arch, as would typically be the case in festival design, Lieberman puts it against the side of the arch. “Essentially, we curve the design, so even if you’re outside the chute, you still get a good view of what’s going on,” he said. “However to do this, we need to use lighting in a way that directs attention to the center of the stage from any viewing angle – and we need lighting that blocks out the area outside the stage. The Next NXT-1 panels excelled at doing this for us.”
Lieberman positioned the Next NXT-1 panels on eight truss beams fanning out from the center of the stage. Using a MADRIX LED lighting controller, he created a seemingly endless array of stunning effects that captured attention from any viewing angle.
“I called the shafts of light coming down from the NXT panels ‘the fingers of God.’ You had to look at them,” he said. “Of course, these beams didn’t literally block out the area outside the stage, but they most definitely pulled your attention away from it and drew it into the performance area so you felt like to you had a great sightline wherever you happened to be at any given moment.”
The sharply defined shafts of light and rich colors produced by the Next NXT-1 also helped Lieberman give his lightshow a unique look. “There are what I call ‘commodity fixtures’ and defining fixtures,” he said. “The commodity fixtures are good and important, but there are many of them that do the same things. It’s the unique fixtures like the NXT that give me the extra dimension and stand out.”
Aside from his arsenal of high-output fixtures (unique and otherwise) and clever stage design, Lieberman credits the entire Ultra team with making the World Wide Stage a success. “This is a team effort beginning with Russell and Charlie Fabisch and Adam Russakoff, our creative director Richard Milstein, production manager Ray Steinman, the people driving the forklifts and everyone; this show represents the hard work of a lot of people,” said Lieberman. “We spend months and months working on this three-day show, and when it comes to life, it gives you an incredibly good feeling.”