David Bowie - A Reality Tour
2003 – 2004
Bowie’s last multi-national concert tour in 2003 – 2004 to support the album, Reality. Set Design by Therese Depreze and Lighting Design by Tom Kenny.
Describe your role and how you were brought on to the project.
I had spent 3 or 4 years working with Tom as a lighting programmer and lighting director for many Bowie appearances and was hungry for a chance to move into video with this tour. We worked with Blink TV to provide the gear as well as content and touring support, so I served as an early version of my Screens Producer role during the tour development period – with a little media programming, content design, lighting department integration and producing all thrown in.
Tom Kenny advocated for me to take on the video duties. I had been programming media servers for a few years, Catalyst and MBox systems, but had not done anything this large. It was only due to the relationships & trust I had built with Bowie and his team, and Tom’s confidence in me, that I could make this happen.
Would you consider your responsibilities on this project creative focused, engineering focused or an aspect of the production team?
In the early days of live performance video, everyone wore all the hats, but I would say my role was primarily Production. I did some creative, I kept up with the engineering, but my primary focus was seeing that the screens design was delivered.
Was there a critical learning moment that you will carry with you to the next project?
Early in the design phase of the tour, I sent Bowie a mock up of the screens being discussed inset into a photo of the band on stage from a show the year prior. I made a little video to ‘Heroes’ with some basic content I made, using only a single camera perspective. (an OG pre-viz user!!)
When we discussed the design, and I will never forget this and tell this story whenever it applies, he said “We have to use these screens sparingly. I don’t care if we only use these screens for 4 or 5 songs. If we upstage the band with all these screens, we loose.” He liked the design, but he understood its use had to be well crafted or even he couldn’t compete with all that visual space.
That discussion has informed so much of what I do as a Screens Producer and as a creative collaborator. If the audience is looking at the screens when the performers should be the focus, that’s a failure. We have so much power and so much visual real estate these days – we have to use it well. We’re continually under pressure because the technology and the teams are expensive, the expectation is the client wants their money’s worth. Push back and make sure the focus is in the right place.
Laura Frank has worked in entertainment technology for over 25 years. Starting her career as a moving light technician, she established herself as a top lighting programmer with projects spanning rock tours with David Bowie and Madonna, to Broadway shows like Spamalot and television events like the Concert for NY. As the media server market started to evolve, Laura made the shift to screen content and control. After a decade of refining a media delivery workflow, she migrated her role to Screens Producer leading a highly regarded Media Operations team for prominent events around the world. Her shows included the MTV Video Music Awards, The Game Awards, the Turner Upfront and the CMA Music Awards. Currently Laura is focused on education, community development and consulting in the live event video and xR production space. In 2020, Laura co-founded frame:work, a video community organization.
With the founding of Luminous FX in 2000, Laura started a career path that led to the publication of her textbook, Screens Producing & Media Operations:
Advanced Practice for Media Server and Video Content Preparation. This work describes best practices for a Content Delivery Specification for the Multi-Screen live scenic environment.