Adding That Specialz Touch to Diana Krall. 1940's styled, hand machined and larger than life!
The starting point for this project were some images of 1940s broadcast microphones, the sort with 4 springs supporting a central mic from an outer ring. The brief called for a larger than life version with RGBW LED lighting within the outer ring and inner mic part. Although it seemed like a straightforward project, it required considerable engineering precision and processes: ring rolling, laser cutting, hand drilling, fettling etc. The construction had to be robust as it would be travelling around the world in a truck.
Everything was assembled and machined by hand where required, making sure that the fit was perfect before sending parts off for powder coating. A custom DMX power supply was built for each mic with a multipin connector on each part so that everything could pack away. The PSU lives in the truss with a multicore connection to the mic which also has 2 suspension wires that clip onto rigging eyes.
Jazz is a musical genre that oozes subtle nuance and moody sophistication. For a lighting designer this can present both a gift and a challenge. Yet, Paul Normandale's design for Diana Krall includes some soft touches that prove his ability to inject intelligent individualism into each of his clients.
A microphone has one clear function on stage. Not when it is transformed into a lighting feature on Krall's latest tour. Designed by Normandale and built by custom manufacturers, Specialz, these retro-inspired microphone fixtures would do little to enhance anyone's vocal performance.
Specialz's Dave Smith explains further: "The design of the microphone is based on an Ellis spring Carbon Mic from the 1920's. Paul took that image and re-invented it to augment the Diana Krall set that could be best described as 1940's retro. Our brief was very clear: there were to be half a dozen units flown from the truss and lit in such a way as to show the audience what they were without overwhelming the rest of the lighting."
"Each unit is 18" in diameter and weighted so as to hang correctly from the rig. The light source Paul opted for was RGBA tape; this is installed in the outer ring and in the sprung center microphone section. The springs themselves are custom made and especially bright zinc plated to enhance the overall effect. We designed a specific eight-channel DMX controller that is mounted on the truss above the unit."
"With the practicalities of a daily set-up in mind, the cabling has a disconnect at both the unit and the truss end enabling the controller to be rigged separately; as the truss goes up to height, the units can then be hung and plugged up neatly and cleanly."
"As a returning client of Specialz, I was more than confident they would be able to produce exactly what I needed on this production," explains Normandale. "It is the attention to detail and the willingness to go that extra mile that makes working with Specialz such an agreeable experience. Whatever the brief, however unusual or seemingly unachievable it may be, they always find a solution that looks right, works well, and always with the practicalities of the touring environment at the forefront of the design process."
"Dave is absolutely correct to describe the set as 'retro'. I wanted to re-create the era where radio was king. The wooden wirelesses on set are internally lit as well and the hanging microphones complement that look, providing extra depth and perspective to the atmospheric feel of the stage, creating an intimate warmth around the artist. Joel Wojcik, the lighting director, uses the microphones for about 80% of the set, which reflects how key they are to the overall look and ambience of the show."
"As always," concludes Normandale, "They did a simply great job."