Epic Games’ extremely popular online video game Fortnite launched an innovative in-game live concert series September 12 as part of its Party Royale island event space. The three-week “Spotlight” series featured full-scale, tour-worthy productions headlined by alternative hip-hop artist Dominic Fike with his backup band, singer-songwriter Anderson Paak with his band The Free Nationals, and DJ Slushii. The artists performed at PRG’s xR studio in Los Angeles, observing all COVID-19 protocols, and were shown live within the Fortnite game.
Far Right Production of Atlanta GA & Watertown, Connecticut used three grandMA3 consoles running grandMA3 software to control the concert lighting, disguise media servers and Image Engineering laser systems plus all the in-game events that provided interactivity around Fortnite players and the concert performers. ACT Lighting, Inc. is the exclusive distributor of MA Lighting products in North America.
Previously, Epic offered Fortnite players smaller-scale in-game performances that were limited primarily to DJs in their own homes. This year Epic upped the ante turning Party Royale’s virtual festival stage into an important tour stop for musicians. The party island’s theater space also draws big names for broadcast events, such as an early episode premiere for Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week.
“It’s a great way for Epic to give back to fans,” says Guy Pavelo, who’s partnered with Steve Kidd in Far Right Production. “Epic made a big point of saying they wanted the concerts to be live with rebroadcasts scheduled later in the weekend.”
Far Right had teamed with Epic last year on the Fortnite World Cup competition, which drew 34 million entrants worldwide and ultimately produced a $3 million winner. The mammoth production pushed Far Right’s grandMA2 capabilities and propelled the company to migrate to the grandMA3 platform.
“We felt it was time to get ready for the future and move to the grandMA3 hardware and software,” says Pavelo. “We purchased our new systems from David Diamond at ProductiveAV in Richmond, Virginia, who also lent his support to the Fortnite concert series.”
Working closely with Epic, Far Right was responsible for designing, programming and operating the concert lighting, disguise media servers and Image Engineering laser systems as well as streaming all the in-game events to Epic’s North Carolina headquarters. The in-game events included changes in time of day, the appearance of CG stars, fireworks, confetti effects, holographic dancers and light streams created by the Epic team – all flowing with the concert and interactively tying players to the musical performances. The fireworks were actually generated by an individual’s viewing device with the user’s smartphone, computer or PlayStation determining the intensity of the effects they saw.
Pavelo marshaled Far Right’s three full-size grandMA3 consoles and a programming wing for the three concerts, each of which started from scratch and grew over time, he reports. “Dominic’s show had 200-300 cues, Anderson’s 400-500 and Slushii’s 1,600-1,700 – all 100 percent time code,” he explains. “I was very surprised that we didn’t need any expansion to our systems: The extra complement of parameters on the full-size grandMA3 resolved the need for this.
“We learned so much as we went along — by the time we got to Slushii we were able to pump out his cues in one week with no issues. We were so pleased with how the grandMA3 works and functions. With show sizes this large we wondered about tanking the consoles but they never went down once.”
Pavelo says they used grandMA3 Phasers “quite a bit” for the concerts. “The laser guy (Nick Arnold – Image Engineering) said he was impressed with how clean and consistent the Phasers looked compared to others he’d seen. I created about 1,000 different Phasers for the three shows. (Due to Phasers becoming presets as opposed to effects)
“The Recast function was also brilliant. We used it a lot for Anderson Paak as his band moved around on stage. During rehearsals I was able to use Recast to fix a show’s worth of key lights and highlights, which saved a ton of time and figuring out. I wish I had Recast years ago!”
Pavelo programmed the show using the 3D visualizer built into the grandMA3 software. “It was fantastic. It seemed much more robust than previous versions and the client, using 3D as tool to see what was happening, was very happy too. Separate computers ran the 3D software for previs records, laser previs, the media servers and lighting, and it never slowed things down. We were very pleased with that.” -We utilized a separate disguise server system to combine all previs systems into one master view for programming-
The additional computers running previsused newer RTX graphics cards, he notes, which ran the grandMA3 software very effectively. “It seems that grandMA3 used the features of the newer graphics cards in better ways,” says Pavelo. “That’s very promising in the future for quicker and more realistic previs.”
Pavelo reports that, “Epic was very pleased with the big step forward they took with the Spotlight live concert series. Shows were immensely better than before, and we hope that Epic will continue to make Fortnite an important tour venue.”
ACT Director of Sales, Doug Mekanik, concluded, “We’re thrilled to see the grandMA3 hardware and software exceed expectations. With a production as complex as this, we do everything we can to support the designer and programmer needs.”