Bluman Associates discuss using Notch software to create visuals for Emeli Sandé’s Real Life World Tour
How Bluman Associates tackled the effects for Emeli Sandé’s Real Life World Tour
Concert photography shows the colourful and theatrical designs that Bluman Associates created for the Real Life tour
Acclaimed singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé recently embarked on her Real Life World Tour, managed by Fruit Pie Music, and with visuals from creative technologists Bluman Associates. Sandé and her band dreamt up some ambitious ideas for the look of their stage show. Tour and production manager Kumar Kamalagharan of Fruit Pie turned to Pod Bluman, owner of Bluman Associates, to help execute Sandé’s vision.
“Pod Bluman never laughs me out of the park when I come to him with a grandiose brief and a non-grandiose budget,” says
Kamalagharan. “We’re on the same wavelength and bounce ideas around until we nail a practical, affordable and highly creative solution.”
To successfully deliver the all-singing, all-dancing visuals for the tour, the team at Bluman Associates opted for real-time graphics workhorse Notch. “We needed something dynamic, portable and simple for the touring team to set up,” explains Notch designer Kyle Reseigh. “Notch was also chosen because it very quickly allows us to support the team remotely, while still offering the wide range of looks we were aiming to achieve.”
Discussing the initial brief, Reseigh adds that the team wanted a system that worked alongside Sandé’s performance but could also be controlled via the lighting designer and operator. He continues: “There was a running theme of orange and the content was broken down into sections with specific visual influences for each song.”
Research and development involved a lot of googling on Reseigh’s part. “The band was very clear about the feel of each song,” he adds, “which gave me a very strong starting point. Most of the references provided came from soul, jazz and gospel musicians such as Al Green and Billie Holiday. Even the
classic novel Wuthering Heights provided some great inspiration on the vibe the band wanted to achieve.”
As well as researching various references, Reseigh was also focused on matching his visuals to the rhythm, tempo and swell of Sandé’s music. “With some songs I did work more literally in terms of symbolism,” he explains. “For example, during the song Beneath Your Beautiful the screen splits into an above and below of kaleidoscopic particles. The idea being that the above image is more beautiful, but essentially caused by the image below – metaphorically within, or underneath.”
When it came to ensuring that the concert visuals worked seamlessly in time with the music, Reseigh used supplied BPMS for each track, placing parameters that would pulse to the beat and lend his pieces a more intertwined relationship with the music. The overarching influence of African roots also proved helpful in this regard. “We took a lot of inspiration from the movement of fire and the aesthetic of patterns and symmetry,” Reseigh explains. “Threading these through songs allowed the style of movement to become seamless and complementary to the music, as well as each other.”
Reseigh worked closely with the tour’s lighting designer, Chris Richardson, who controlled the visual aspects. Richardson was sent renders to demonstrate the dynamics Reseigh wanted to achieve. The pair would then meet at the rehearsal space to previsualise the show, going through each visual, while listening to the touring tracks the band had provided. Reseigh adds: “Using Chris’ feedback, I was able to connect to the Notch Block in Disguise and add new elements that he could control to create more dynamic developments.”
Flexibility is key to pulling off a tour like this, as Kamalagharan points out: “There
“WE TOOK INSPIRATION FROM THE MOVEMENT OF FIRE AND THE AESTHETIC OF PATTERNS AND SYMMETRY”
Kyle Reseigh, Notch designer
are big challenges when visiting 29 venues of vastly different sizes, ages and facilities. Thinking on your feet and problem-solving logistically and aesthetically is a daily duty.” It was here that Notch’s real-time capabilities became invaluable.
“Being able to build and show at the same time is extremely useful when dealing with any client,” says Reseigh, “especially when there are many separate elements to what you are making. It provides the flexibility to enable changes during production, allowing the entire workflow to be much more linear and interactive for the designer.” Notch’s Gpu-based rendering engine also allowed for a quick turnaround on any visual element.
The ease of working across the Notch and Disguise media servers mitigated the kinds of technical challenges you might face on a project such as this. “Notch has a feature that allows you to ‘expose’ parameters, which can then be changed dynamically within Disguise after you’ve imported the Notch Block,” Reseigh explains. “Once these values were in Disguise, we could link them up to any incoming data, like Artnet, from the lighting designer.”
Artistically, Reseigh still encountered his fair share of challenges on the project, and the sheer quantity of content needed made it one of his largest to date. “Maintaining pace and inspiration became a lot more important for me,” he admits. To manage this, he made sure not to stay working on one song for too long. He continues: “If I couldn’t quite get what I wanted. I’d make a note of where I was at and move on to the next one. This helped me to avoid fatigue or burnout and gave me the breathing space to come up with a solution.”
Upon returning to these tricky visuals, Reseigh would play with Notch’s dynamic, movement and post effects, often solving his problem with ease. He adds: “Because of the real-time component, I could simply move the nodes to my other layer and get instant results. Notch really streamlines creative blocks on larger productions.”
“THINKING ON YOUR FEET AND PROBLEMSOLVING LOGISTICALLY AND AESTHETICALLY IS A DAILY DUTY” Kumar Kamalagharan, Fruit Pie Music
Kyle Reseigh began using Notch while at university, attracted by the possibilities for interactive design and lack of rendering
The seamless unification of lighting and video design was crucial to Fruit Pie Music’s brief on the tour Kyle Reseigh has utilised Notch’s real-time capabilities for a number of other musicians, including projects with Dua Lipa and Aphex Twin