• Amy Hunter

Future of set design at festivals and gigs

One of the things that we at Giggle love most about summer is festivals. With each festival comes a whole load of amazing set and lighting designs for us to study and use to gain inspiration from. At Giggle, we are always looking for ways to make our work more and more spectacular. Paying attention to what’s going on in the wider world of events allows us to plan for the future. We believe that immersive events will just become more and more common and important.


Gone are the early days of Glastonbury festival, where a headline act could rock up and just sing their hits to keep the audience entertained. Now its all about providing an experience; both visual and literal. The addition of the big screens to the festival in the early 90s really changed the game as it allowed artists to have more creativity with their sets. Coldplay's 2016 headline set at Glastonbury was one of the first to use interactive lighting to create an immersive experience into their set. The band gave out wrist bands to all the festival-goers, which then lit up and change colour in response to the music. It made the audience part of the show: they were an integral part of creating something beautiful.

Since then lighting and set design at festivals and gigs have only got more and more extravagant. This year’s Glastonbury festival proved that. It was the first time a black, grime artist, had ever headlined the festival, and so the set had to be special. Luckily, Stormzy knew just the right person to contact: Tim Routledge. Routledge is a legendary set/lighting designer who has worked on a huge number of projects and gigs; most recently creating Spice Girls set for their comeback tour. When designing the set for the Spice Girls, he wanted to create something inclusive and colourful. Routledge said ‘It’s not just about hanging lights and making them flash. It’s all about being challenged to do things that no one has thought of before.

One of the ways in which the world of set design has changed is thanks to the (fairly) recent transition to the use of LED lights. This allows for a higher level of control and efficiency. LED are much more discreet and don't get as warm as classic incandescent lights, which allows for them to be hidden within the set. This was a problem that Routledge faced when working on Sam Smith’s recent tour, as he was asked to hide all the equipment completely.

Sam Smith, World tour 2018

Itai Erdal, an artistic director who has designed over 200 shows, believes that LEDs have played a huge role in the modernisation of set design. However, he thinks that in the next 10-20 years there will be better lighting boards and better lights, which could dramatically change how set designers work.


At Giggle we’ve had some experience creating the perfect content for different set designs for gigs. Earlier this year we worked on the backing content for Sister Sledge, as well as creating some DJ visuals for Google Beach in Cannes. This involved us listening to A LOT (and we mean a lot!!) of Sister Sledge and DJ sets so that we could time the graphics perfectly to the BPM. We also had to make sure that we created animations that were consistent with the image and aesthetic of the performer so that everything matched up perfectly.


For these shows, our MD Jonathan Brigden can draw on his experience working on large scale shows around the world. From working with the aforementioned Tim Routledge on fashion shows to overseeing the production of Josh Groban’s set and visual design for his 2011 world tour. We have a great experience in bringing together set design, lighting design and of course projected or LED content for all sorts of shows from West End theatre productions, car launches and premieres.


One of the ways that we’re preparing for the future of events is by creating more immersive events. A lot of the work we do is for immersive experiences for different events, most recently we used some clever 3D photography for Game of Thrones finale premiere.


Recently we’ve been experimenting with new software that could help bring new experiences to the events that we work on. One of our favourites so far has been Notch, a real-time rendering engine. What does this mean I hear you ask? In the past, you used to have to wait for your content to be rendered before using it at a big event. This can often be a lengthy and time-consuming process. But Notch allows you to render all of your effects, lights and geometry in realtime. The huge benefit of this is the ability to create content quickly. But Notch also can create immersive and reactive content when its paired with an Xbox Kinect. The Xbox Kinect tracks your position and then Notch renders shapes and particle on to you in realtime. All of this means that we can capture performers and then stream the image straight onto the big screens but with loads of graphics added. Here’s a little clip of Ed trying it out for the first time, a couple of weeks ago.


To find out how Giggle could use this technology to improve your effects then get in touch on 0117 244 6106 or email info@studiogiggle.co.uk