CINCINNATI -- Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney and Jay Z -- Over-the-Rhine creative design and production studio Lightborne Communications has worked with them all.
Yet Lightborne executives said producing the visual effects for this year’s Lumenocity, which kicks off Friday, is one of the company’s biggest challenges to date.
“It’s like we are doing a full film,” said Lightborne executive producer Dan Bryant.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s popular show, now in its fourth year, is equal parts live music and visual arts. However, this year’s edition, “Lumenocity: Re-Imagine,” seems to have reimagined everything, starting with the venue.
Music Hall’s current renovations, which include exterior work, construction trailers and materials around the building, prompted the CSO to move Lumenocity from Washington Park.
Instead, the Taft Theatre, the CSO’s home for the 2016-2017 season, will host this year’s show, and the CSO and Cincinnati Pops will perform live to images projected inside the theater.
Moving inside the Taft limits the number of seats for Lumenocity but creates many more creative possibilities for Lightborne, the concept factory that will provide the projected images this year for the first time. The company replaces Brave Berlin, which created projections for the first three editions of “Lumenocity.”
“It’s an honor for us to work on this,” said Lightborne CEO Scott Durban. “It has a unique and beautiful challenge. It’s indoors creating a three-dimensional element. We are going to embrace that.”
The Over-the-Rhine company produced the mind-blowing visual effects for the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show with pop star Perry. But Lumenocity is one of the largest projects the company has taken on yet, executives said.
“This ranks near the top because of the nature of the show,” said Lightborne’s Bryant. “We are talking about 45 minutes of content.”
The show will immerse the crowd, company executives said.
“We want to focus on the architectural beauty of the Taft Theatre,” said creative director Ryan McAllister. “We will use the sides of the theater, the ceiling and even behind the orchestra.”
“It will have a wraparound feeling. It will be very dramatic,” Bryant added.
How Do They Do That?
Lightborne’s work on Lumenocity started in early May with a 3-D laser scan of the Taft Theatre.
“The 3-D model will allow us to match the architectural details of the theater,” said McAllister. “All of our animation will precisely match the details inside the Taft. This is incredibly time and labor-intensive.”
Lightborne worked closely with CSO Music Director Louis Langree and Pops Conductor John Morris Russell, who explained their feelings behind each song to the artists for visual inspiration.
“We typically work with pop, country or rock music. This is different,” McAllister said. “We have to draw on the visceral nature of the music as opposed to a beat.”
The visual portion of Lumenocity is being created on computers by a team of Lightborne artists and animators. Lightborne will use 18 high-powered projectors to shine the animations onto the walls of the theater as the CSO performs live; the animations will match the music.
“Olympic Fanfare,” by composer John Williams, was blasting through the earbuds of senior animator Neil Smith during a visit to Lightborne in July. It is one of the songs the CSO will perform at Lumenocity.
Smith is one of six different animators and artists designing the show, which is completely inspired and designed around the music. They sit in a row working on supercomputers with digital sketchpads and headphones.
“Creatively, this has been a fun thing to work on,” Smith said as he briefly looked up from his desk.
He meticulously watched his work; each picture must match the song to the note. It took more than two weeks to complete just three minutes of animation.
“Not bad for a first pass,” Smith said. “I feel honored to work on this. This is a big deal for Cincinnati.”
Move Indoors Could Enhance Show
Lightborne believes two factors will make the show even more stunning this year. The controlled darkness of being indoors and the smaller theater will allow crews to get the projectors closer to the walls on which they’re shining.
“The colors will be much more bright and crisp in a way that was not possible in an outdoor setting,” said Bryant.
The opening song is from the movie “Superman” – “Planet Krypton” composed by John Williams. The inside of the theater will be engulfed in stars, bursting into color at the conclusion of the song.
“We are not telling a story per se,” said Bryant. “We are eliciting feelings and reactions to the music. You can expect to see Cincinnati-specific imagery, colors and themes.”
There will be a tour of a future Cincinnati, 50 years into the future. Songs will pair with visuals that feature floral gardens and foundry themes. At one point it appears as if the theater is inside a speaker and cracks open.
“We think you will walk out in a different state of mind,” said Bryant. “We want you to have an experience.”
Who Is Lightborne?
Lightborne has been in Cincinnati since the 1990s making corporate videos and television commercials.
The music part of the company got started in the early 2000s when it made a music video for country star Kenny Chesney.
“It kind of spread like word of mouth,” said Bryant. “It just kind of took off from there.”
The video led to working with Chesney on his concert tour.
“It was great. He spent a couple of weeks up here working with us,” said McAllister. “He would let us do some work and then go out in a sleeveless shirt and cowboy hat for a jog around OTR.”
Lightborne’s resume is extensive: The company has since worked with big names such as Zac Brown, Taylor Swift, Kanye West, Jay Z, Andrea Bocelli and Fleetwood Mac.
• When: 8 and 9:40 p.m. Aug. 5; 2, 3:40, 8 and 9:40 p.m. Aug. 6-7
• Where: Taft Theatre, 317 E. Fifth St., Downtown
• Tickets: $12 for obstructed-view seating, $20 for unobstructed seating.
• Lumenocity Block Party: 7 p.m.-midnight Aug. 5; 1 p.m.-midnight Aug. 6; 1-11 p.m. Aug. 7. Fifth Street, between Sycamore and Broadway, and in the P&G pavilion.
• Information: lumenocity2016.com
Alternate Viewing Options
• On TV: WCPO and CET will air the 9:40 p.m. Aug. 6 Lumenocity show. Coverage will start with a Lumenocity special at 9 p.m., followed by the live show and then the post-show "Afterglow." WCPO also will stream the 9:40 p.m. Aug. 5 and Aug. 6 Lumenocity shows on WCPO.com and the 9 On Your Side app.
• Webcast: The Lumenocity shows at 9:40 p.m. Aug. 5 and 3:40 and 9:40 p.m. Aug. 6 will stream live at lumenocity2016.com.
• On radio: The Aug. 5 performance will be simulcast on 90.9 WGUC.
• Lumenocity Watch Party: People at the block party can watch Lumenocity on a giant LED screen at 9:40 p.m. Aug. 5, and 3:40 and 9:40 p.m. Aug. 6 and Aug. 7.