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Performance Space

  Finding a rehearsal space for DELIRIUM was quite a challenge! In the end, two locations were chosen for the monumental set up, including an abandoned automotive factory.
DELIRIUM, marketed as the quest for balance in a world that was "increasingly out of sync with reality, pushing the limits of arena performance through technical magnitude, human introspection and creative prowess," was an urban tale, a state-of-the-art mélange inspired by theatre, music, dance, and multimedia that pushed beyond the traditional limits of arena performance in its integration of sound and visuals. Pumped by this re-energized Cirque du Soleil rhythm, the DELIRIUM tour transported audiences into a universe of delirious sensory folly. And it turned into the most massive technical production ever created to tour a renas at the time.

[ Set & StageLightingSound ]

Set & Stage

The production was truly larger than life, performed on a unique stage configuration open to both front and back. The 136-foot wide, 80-foot high, and 20-foot deep stage bisects the arena longitudinally, dividing the arena into two intimate spaces that allow all members of the audience to be immersed in the show, feeling front and center no matter where they are seated. The production itself dwarfs even the largest of rock shows, with 20 18-wheelers hauling the equipment and 14 tour busses for the artists and crew. The production crew also includes a technical staff of 73, as well as 25 management and support people. Placing all this equipment into an arena is a complex puzzle normally reserved for stadiums, however. The technical coordination required was demanding. Enough equipment to satisfy two mega rock concerts was hauled across North America and Europe, set up and dismantled within just a few hours in every new city.

Above the arena, two custom-built rail bridges support 130,000 pounds of equipment, including 22 Show Distribution SD-800S motors that control the "flying" characters, as well as lighting and accessories to be moved about during the show. The main character alone requires four motors for his actions in the air balloon (two running at 4' per sec. and the other two at variable speeds). Three generators carrying 2,700W are needed to run the show. During the rehearsal process, Lemieux says that an arena rigging specialist told him that the show was "too heavy," and he did not mean emotionally. "Literally, the show had too much weight," he says. "We had to really work to make it lighter and we found a new type of truss. It's quite a challenge because this truss has to be quite solid. In the end we had exactly the concept we wanted, just had to work harder."

Because of Delirium's technical needs, Lemieux and Pilon had to put on their inventor caps in order to get the effects that they wanted. "Everybody loved the ideas we had, but the gear was not available because it did not exist. We had to create things for this show," Lemieux explains. "Victor and I read the [equipment] instruction manuals, and we do the opposite. When people ask us how we did something, we just tell them we do it with the same equipment they use, but in a different way." One of the pieces of equipment especially designed for Delirium was a motor truss. "We have two rail motors and six programmed motors that can carry people and scenery. Some are preprogrammed, and some are manual. When you work with acrobats, you have to suddenly go into manual mode. For a piece of set, you can program it, and it's always the same. With acrobats, you have to wait till the acrobat finishes and touches ground before going to the next cue."

Another custom-made piece of equipment is a lighting fixture that hosts an acrobat who is attached to fixture like "hooking onto a star," Lemieux says. The fixture is a combination of a dozen automobile headlights, complete with a battery pack and controlled via wireless DMX. The battery pack, too, was something created especially for Delirium. The effect is awe-inspiring, according to Lemieux, because the acrobat appears to be riding a star through the heavens. Alain Lortie, Lighting Designer, had used wireless technology in the past but was unimpressed because there had been a great deal of delay. "I was really surprised at how efficient the wireless system has been," he says. "I think the next generation of moving lights will have their own wireless DMX inside, and you'll just need to bring the power to the lamps." He adds that there will always be cable to be run for a production, but if you can reduce that count by at least one, then the electricians will be happy.

The wireless technology used to control the show's lighting makes extensive use of Sweden-based Wireless Solutions W-DMX. The system delivers DMX data from point A to point B but does not provide power output for dimming. RC4's Wireless Dimming System from Toronto-based Theatre Wireless provides integral dimming, but the designers did not want more than one wireless protocol running in the same show. Their solution was to use RC4's DMX-4WL dimmers, which look much like standard RC4 dimmers, but replace the digital radio with a DMX input. A short DMX cable runs from a W-DMX receiver to a 4WL dimmer. Each dimmer uses rotary dip-switches to set DMX channels, dimmer curves, and digital persistence levels. While using two separate devices occupies a little more space and is a little more work to set up than an integrated RC4 receiver/dimmer, the results are stunning, and it does the job. Delirium uses 11 DMX-4WL-HO (four-channel, 1000W units) and 11 DMX-4WL-MINI (four-channel, 200W units).

Lighting Design

Like Lemieux and Pilon, Lortie also had to consider weight when he was assembling the lighting rig. "I used [16] Vari-Lite VL2500 spots because they are smaller and lighter. I have more of those in the overhead rig. I have [24] VL3500 spots, which are heavier, but they are ground supported with booms or on the floor." There are also 30 VL3000 spots and 34 VL3000 washes in the rig along with four Martin Atomic 3000 strobes, eight Clay Paky Stage Scans, and seven Syncrolite SX3K-2s. LEDs also make an appearance along the edge of the stage, with 100 Chroma-Q Color Blocks and 196 Color Kinetics iColor Cove MX Powercore units. All controlled by a MA grandMA console.

The unusual, dissected performance space also gave Lortie an extra set of challenges; he quickly realized that lighting Delirium would be entirely different from anything he had ever done before. "When the audience is just on one side it's much easier to create some ambiance and backlight," he says. "But with this setup, a nice looking backlight on one side becomes a harsh Front of House (FOH) on the other side. Our setup is essentially a mirror image of the other side but we did try to give the same look for both sides of the audience and that's not always easy to achieve."

Delirium is very much a moving light show; Lortie uses only 20 PAR fixtures because he wanted to make the tour a "no focus show. You have to have time to make sure conventionals are in the right position," he explains. "[With moving lights], it's easier to track the show from the console on a daily basis rather than sending someone to the fixture to aim it to specific points. Weight-wise, moving lights are heavier, but you need fewer because they do more."

  Multimedia definitely plays a key role in DELIRIUM. Spectators are treated to gigantic, crystal-clear images with infinite possibilities for projections on screens, floors, and the audience. In all, DELIRIUM has 540 square feet of projection space dominating the scene, the equivalent of almost 4 IMAX screens. Projection screens include 4 state-of-the-art roll-up screens suspended from the top of the arena, 2 tulle screens that stand at the stage extremities and 4 wings. 18 25-kW, 50,000-lumen Christie projectors including one in the main character's air balloon cast images around the arena. A unique system of pre-recorded, animated and manipulated live images keeps up with the musical tempo and insures the audience is alert.
Aside from the weight restrictions, Lortie also focused on giving the show the right look. "It was a big change from under the big top," he says. "It was really important to respect all of the video. When using white scrim, if you turn on one light on stage, it casts a glow that can detract from the drama of the projections." He also had to pay special attention to the performers' needs as well. In other shows that Lortie has designed, the lighting often tended to be the focal visual aspect, but he knew that Delirium was an entirely different proposition altogether, considering how the various design elements are melded into a singular sensation. In the case of Delirium, Lortie considered his lighting as simply another tool — like audio, dance, music, or video — for the directing team of Lemieux and Pilon to use as they pleased.

Sound Design

The sound system created by audio designer Yves Savoie was conceived as dual, opposing setups to cover both sides of the stage, using a total of 96 of Meyer Sound's MICA compact high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers. Each side sports three towers of 16 MICA cabinets, along with two columns of five 700-HP ultrahigh-power subwoofers. Six M1D ultra-compact curvilinear array loudspeakers per side act as frontfill for the first few rows of floor seating, with a handful of CQ-1 wide coverage main loudspeakers added to fill in some front corners.

On stage, six UPA-1P compact wide coverage loudspeakers per side act as monitors for the dancers, while 16 M3D-Sub directional subwoofers underneath the stage reinforce the performance's substantial rhythmic content, a benefit for the dancers as well as for the audience. The production plans to integrate Meyer Sound's Galileo loudspeaker management system into the existing network in December, in order to utilize Galileo's air absorption compensation filtering and array compensation presets.

FOH engineer Renate Petruzziello mixes the show on a Yamaha PM1D digital console, handling over 200 inputs on 80 channels. "In some of the smaller venues, we will use only 12 or 14 MICAs (per tower)," explains Andre Jr. Pichette, Delirium's audio systems designer. "That's the genius of this setup: that we can change it so easily to adapt to the hall. Also, the rigging allows us to tip each cabinet as much as we need to reach the very uppermost seats. Most line arrays can't do that.

"Even more important for us is the MICA's self-powered design," Pichette adds. "Delirium is such a massive production, and we have very limited space backstage. With a traditional speaker setup, we would need about eight more amp racks back here, which would be impossible. And with the MICA, it's just one cable carrying signal, RMS (Meyer Sound's remote monitoring system), everything." Pichette also cites the impact of loudspeaker cable lengths in a traditionally powered system. "With speaker cable, the signal begins to really deteriorate after 100 feet. We have 250 feet of cable from backstage to the center columns, so our sound quality would definitely suffer with a passive system."

"Cirque shows are generally pretty complex productions, but in most cases it's a semi- permanent installation in a single venue," Petruzziello observes. "The challenge with Delirium is that we deal with two or three different arenas every week – one might sound pretty good, another might not. It's always a challenge. The Meyer gear has made our lives so much easier. I don't know what other system we could use that would have all its versatility. Particularly the MICAs, using 16 on each cluster, gives us a lot of flexibility. It really simplifies things when you have a system that's so easily adaptable."

As visually compelling and brilliant as the dual-sided stage design may be, its acoustical challenges are even trickier than traditional theatre-in-the-round. Creating sound for two opposing stages in an arena setting is a situation with great potential for problems, so Pichette gets an early start assessing each new room with MAPP Online Pro acoustical prediction software.

"With each new venue, I come in the morning, around 7:00 or so. I take my measurements and design the system in AutoCAD, then check with MAPP Online, print out a sheet, and begin to install it. It's so simple. By 8:45 I'm usually 'SIMing' (tuning the system with a SIM 3 audio analyzer), then we wait for the stage setup, and usually we're finished setting up the audio by around 1:00 PM."

Another challenge in doing sound for dual stages is the reality of only hearing one half of the system. "Andre takes care of all the speaker control from over by the FOH position, and he really relies on SIM 3 and RMS (Meyer Sound's remote monitoring system) to monitor the system," Lachance observes. "It's really critical to have good quality high-end monitoring like that, particularly in a unique setup like this one. If you're just listening to what you can hear from your own vantage point, you're on a path to destruction. Those people on the other side of the arena are not going to tell you if your PA is out. You have to be confident that it's sounding good everywhere, even in the places you can't hear."

"Close to the stage there's the additional challenge of balancing the sound from the stage with the sound from the speakers," Pichette explains. "There's a lot of percussion going on, and in many of the pieces the drums and percussion move across the stage, creating a lot of sound in the house. So it becomes a matter of bringing things in and out of the PA at the right times, just for those zones. The combination of MICA and SIM 3 is great for that."

"This is not exactly your standard setup," observes Petruzziello in a classic understatement, "but with the MICA, it's possible to make it work. Andre is a big part of it too. He's got a lot of experience using Meyer gear, and comes up with ideas I'd never have thought of. He's also something of a perfectionist, which is really inspiring to work with, and great to be able to depend on."

Cirque Corner