Fireworks exploded, laser lights shot wildly from the ceiling, confetti fell to the floor, and plumes of smoke were released from the bottom of the stage—all in the show’s first five minutes.
Discovered by talent manager Scooter Braun at the age of 14, singer Justin Bieber quickly became a household name—especially in households with pre-teen and teenage girls. So popular was he with his swooning young crowds that the entertainment media soon dubbed him this generation’s “King of Pop” and “Prince of Pop.” Bieber’s debut CD, “My World,” not only achieved Platinum sales levels in the United States, but the teen singer instantly gained superstar status by becoming the first musical artist in history to chart seven songs from a debut release on Billboard’s Top 100.
So what did one of the industry’s biggest names in talent management and one of the world’s most popular singers expect from their upcoming show’s creative team? Both offered a simple request: just make the show “epic” and make people “believe in magic again” through the explosive power of lighting, video, sound, and pyrotechnics. It was a straightforward request—and yet an exceedingly demanding one.
To meet this standard, Bieber’s managers in the Fall of 2012 brought in Chaos Visual Productions, an international concert and event producer that had emerged as the “go to” company for specialty lighting, LED special effects, and video-programming execution. Chaos then enlisted its frequent video-engineering collaborator, Caudill Pictures and Entertainment, Inc., to serve as acting screen director for the September-to-December U.S. leg of the tour. Chaos and Caudill had previously worked together on numerous engagements—with uniformly outstanding results—but never before had they been given the charge to create a show of “epic proportions.”
But that is just what they set out to produce.
The Caudill team was led by company founder and veteran video engineer Ryan Caudill. Caudill’s end-goal was to be able to cut and deliver an immersive, error-free show on a nightly basis. Before that time, however, he would work many long hours with the show’s video director, John Chu, best known as director of G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Bieber’s film foray, 2011’s “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.” The two men’s mission: to carefully craft, storyboard, and then build the entire show flow—in only a few weeks’ time.
This was no small order, as the show ultimately would encompass more than 250 live and manual cues and more than 60 looks from the tour’s three-tier video rig, yielding several hundred custom video segments. In addition, the onstage video architecture consisted of:
• Thirteen 9mm and 18mm Winvision screens.
• A 75-foot bi-parting 9mm LED wall, located upstage center.
• Two front facing “side walls.”
• Eight screens on roller carts that could be moved into different positions during the show.
• Two “reverse” screens that extended the visual experience to those in the backstage seating area.
• And, when the venue allowed, left and right IMAG screens whose imagery complemented that on the other screens.
The engineering demands for a show of this scope and complexity were enormous. The system architecture required Caudill to use a Hippotizer HD media server–one of the industry’s most sophisticated video-servers—to control the show’s numerous screens, and an equally sophisticated Spyder video-processing unit to direct the show flow. Moreover, the stage performance was so intricately choreographed that two months of rehearsals and pre-production were required until all video, lighting, sound, and performance elements were in perfect sync.
Finally, in September 2012, the show bowed—to an ecstatic audience and enthusiastic reviews. What the concert-goers witnessed was a show that was indeed one of “epic proportions,” a benchmark that was flawlessly met and exceeded in nearly 150 succeeding shows on five continents.
So popular was the Bieber spectacular that it went on to achieve the fifth position in Pollstar’s mid-2013 ranking of the music industry’s “Top 100 Word Tours.” By that time, its 67 shows had generated $69.9 million, with many shows selling out in less than an hour. Bieber confessed in early 2013 that he had “a lot to prove with this tour.” And prove it he did. Even Variety magazine, in an otherwise lukewarm review of Bieber’s performance, described the show as “epic,” stating that “fireworks exploded, laser lights shot wildly from the ceiling, confetti fell to the floor, and plumes of smoke were released from the bottom of the stage—all in the show’s first five minutes.”