For the tour of artist Gérald de Palmas, the lighting designer Yoann Pelletier had the task of creating a visual design using only light, breaking with the trend of video and stage scenography. He worked mainly with white, with the finesse of the beams, subtle reflections, and a forest of Ayrton MagicDot-SX perched on top of poles with moving supports, which defined the space and generated beautiful scenes.
An interview with this young (32 yrs) lighting designer, with a promising future, who has already collaborated with the most noteworthy French lighting designers.
Yoann Pelletier, who is this guy?
Passionate about light since his childhood, Yoann learned lighting design on the job, working freelance for lighting vendors. He’s interested in everything, from production deployment, equipment maintenance, rigging… He spent some time with Skynight, the biggest full-service rental company in Romandy, Switzerland (Yoann is from the border), as stage manager, grandMA operator, as well as being responsible for the conventional fixture inventory. But his career really started when he got his foot in the door with the French production company TS3, called to replace on the fly the tour manager of the Adamo tour.
After a series of jobs as stage manager and console operator for about a dozen years, TS3 offered him the job of lighting designer for a tour of the Brazilian dance troupe Le Ballet des Rois, which he still takes care of, on-and-off, throughout the world.
He then collaborated with 213 Production and Dimitri Vassiliu on Superbus, Calogero, Pascal Obispo and Gérald De Palmas, but also with Jacques Rouveyrollis for the concerts of Gérard Darmon.
In 2014, 213 Production asked him to create the design for Gérald de Palmas’ Best Of Tour, which he accepted enthusiastically and with the encouragement of Dimitri Wassiliu, who was not available for the job.
De Palmas – 2016 version
A year and a half later, Yoann signed on again for a big tour of 70 dates in France that combined theaters, large arenas and, finally, the 2017 summer festivals. During the creative process, the French artist, songwriter and traditional-pop singer expressed a desire for an environment of beams to replace the physical scenography. To meet this challenge, Yoann sought freshness through the renewal of beams and gobos, taking the risk of integrating many different fixtures into his kit: spots, latest-generation hybrids paired with with moving mirrors, beams to create depth and, in particular, trolleys of MagicDot-SX fixtures. These small single-source moving heads were mounted on poles, like a forest of pixels, that allow the beams to pass through.
Yoann Pelletier: « Over the course of the proposals submitted to him, Gérald De Palmas clarified his request. He wanted light, no scenography with modern, linear or geometric shapes, no old-school sources, no saturated colors, but white… mainly white, anyway. In short: he wanted beams, lots of beams. Gérald is an artist who re-invents himself on every tour. He does what he does for fun and is always seeking to innovate. This year, he replaced the drums with electronic sounds and created his arrangements with synths and drum machines. It is interesting artistically because it is new and this allows him to always have fun on stage.
In terms of lighting, he is very attached to what he loves. So I stick with mainly white or pastel light, and especially no saturated colors – except the red that he allows me to use on one tune. At first this confounded me – because I like to build my lighting designs starting from the elements of the scenography – but this request finally allowed me to create different palettes focused on the finesse of the beams and colors.
A lacework of light
Yoann Pelletier: « My lighting plot is simple, what makes the difference is the work put into the programming and the use of the trolleys with MagicDots as a principal element, which creates a visual identity for the tour. I tried to create elegant lighting that reflects the visual idea of the album and the attitude and image of the artist. I was looking for freshness in the renewal of the beams and gobos, taking the risk of using a wide variety of new fixtures: spots and hybrid projectors in the medium power range… fixtures offering different gobos to increase the possibilities. »
Hooking up with Ayrton
SLU: How did the idea of the trolleys of MagicDots come about?
Yoann Pelletier: « Fairly early on in the design, I came up with the idea of having the trolleys with all these pole stands, each with a small source atop it, in order to have many beams, a real forest of tubes like a patch of reeds that let light through and create, if not scenography, at least a visual identity for the tour. So I looked for small fixtures that would fit that concept.
SLU: And you found the MagicDot-SX
Yoann Pelletier: Yes, I like this fixture because it is very compact and it puts out a lot of light. Thanks to its very fast linear zoom, it can be used for many applications, many events. It is an effective fixture. I love the speed of its movements, while the continuous rotation allows me to create innovative effects.
SLU: What effects, for example?
Yoann Pelletier: Thanks to the unlimited rotation in tilt, you can direct the light towards the base, at the yoke. It becomes just a pixel and brings a small point of modernity. Then it is enough to raise the heads just a little bit so that the beam comes out.
Another really cool effect is produced using the display at the front of the bottom of the yoke. Since it is reflective, when you aim the beam at it, the beam splits. I used this effect again and again. The Dot lights its own display. It’s subtle, but nice. You should almost stick a little mirror on it (laughing).
SLU: How many did you place on each trolley?
Yoann Pelletier: There are six, alternating with four FL 650s, all mounted on poles at four different heights. This is really a do-it-yourself rig (he laughs).
For the trolleys I used the lids of old flight cases that were left around at Skynight, long flight cases measuring 183 cm in length by 64 cm in width. I cut, I fitted, I drilled holes and mounted the poles myself. I mounted the casters underneath and, to strengthen the whole thing, I doubled the bottom with a second wooden board. The tubes are classic, interlocking pole-mount tubes. The trolleys are transported by adding more tubes to the sides of the flight cases for safety, while the two highest MagicDots are removed. This assembly held up pretty well. I’m pretty satisfied with my tinkering.
From a scenographic point of view, the trolleys are mobile, which allows me to have them upstage, behind the group, or positioned around the artists. Their positions have never been identical from one venue to the next, as they are adapted to the width of the stage.
There are five different positions in all, which makes it possible to vary the scenes. »
The wireless DMX
SLU: How do you get power and control data to the fixtures on the trolleys?
Yoann Pelletier: « There is a 6-circuit Socapex multicore that runs out to every trolley for the MagicDot-SXs, the FL 650s and the LED arrays of the festival kit. The DMX is transmitted wirelessly to the MagicDots, which incorporate a Lumen Radio receiver. We have three Swisson transmitters, because the gear on the trolleys is separated into three universes, and the DMX is then relaunched over cable to the matrices of LEDs from the DMX-output of the to the last MagicDot. It’s quite convenient.
SLU : You are certainly one of the first lighting designers to take the risk of using wireless DMX on tour. Personally, I have never met anyone else who has. Was the connection reliable?
Yoann Pelletier: Yes, we just encountered dropouts with one unit. We talked about it with Ayrton. It may be a compatibility problem between the Swisson transmitter and the Lumen Radio receiver. Normally, Swisson is compatible with both Wireless Solution and Lumen Radio receivers, hence the advantage of investing in Swisson for a lighting company.
SLU: You weren’t able to identify the cause of the problem?
Yoann Pelletier: No, because it was a very random occurrence on a single unit, and it happened very rarely. The Dot was in a fixed position, restarted a little behind and returned to its place. My eye saw it but it was never a problem for the show so, in the end, I could live with it.
For me the wireless DMX was a perfect solution that worked very well. We still had a backup, running DMX between all the MagicDots to be able to run them wired, just in case. It was enough to put a 30 m cable under the trolley. We couldn’t multiply the risks too much. We already had quite a few new fixtures. »
A touch of time code
Gérald de Palmas uses Ableton as a sequencer for his electronic instruments and when he found out that it is possible to synchronize the lights with the music, he liked the idea a lot and he asked Yoann to synchronize some cues.
Yoann Pelletier: « I jumped right on this request. It was an opportunity to try it. I had experience with this on the grandMA but not yet on the Hog. I immediately thought of using the time code generated by Ableton, the easiest way to satisfy Gerald quickly, leaving me time to look for MIDI triggering possibilities that could work well. I took advantage of the month before the tour in November to try it. So, I used time code to synchronize the starts, some cuts, and some breaks during the songs. It was a learning exercise as an experiment and it allowed me to get rid of the intercom and the count by being synchronized with the stage, but nothing more. I run the major part of the show live. If there were no adrenaline, there wouldn’t be any fun (he laughs)! Also, Gérald really plays live, and you must have the faders at your fingertips to follow him and get there at the right time. It’s just a little help, but the show is still very much live! »
From theaters to arenas,
a well-studied polymorphic lighting rig
Because he also fills the role of stage manager, the other constraint to which the lighting designer had to adapt is the disparity of the sizes of venues on the tour. To go overnight from the 10 m stage-front of a theatre to the 20 m stage-front of an arena demonstrates the planning that Yoann was able to do well beforehand, which he integrated into the creation of his lighting plot.
Yoann Pelletier: « I planned from the outset to be able to expand the design for the arenas, with very few extra fixtures. Everything had to fit into one truck.
My lighting plot was designed in such a way that I still tour with the same show, whether it uses a small rig or the complete kit. The MagicDot-SX trolleys were also designed for this idea of expanding the set. »
Using few fixtures in the lighting kit – 11 spots, 6 hybrids paired with 6 motorized mirrors, 6 washes and 39 LED panels, as well as 36 MagicDot-SX – Yoann Pelletier shows a gift for creating versatility with elegance. It takes us back to the idea of the all-lighting designs of the eighties, but with modern style. He has the talent to deploy the MagisDot-SXs in 1001 ways, while these fixtures lend themselves perfectly to the application, mobile on their wheeled trolleys, under the gentle heat of the FL 650s.
He has the imagination to propose subtle reflection effects to multiply the beams. With the choice of his sources, he knows how to overlap wide beams and maintain separate planes. He fills the space with light, always with fluidity and transparency. His light is neat, distinguished. Yoann does not play on the power of the beams, but all in finesse so that the light breathes and that the show evolves in a harmonious environment. Loaded with talent, Yoann Pelletier also has the passion, precision and the stuff of a great designer. It is understandable why he’s won the confidence of Dimitri Vassiliu and Jacques Rouveyrollis.