High-quality graphics are used by entertainers to set the atmosphere for an event. For traveling artists, stage graphics must look stunning in a variety of scenarios—in the daylight, outdoors; or enhanced with specialty lighting in a dark, indoor venue. Also, stage graphics must be durable and easy to transport and install. Additional concerns include finding the right media and working through color challenges.
Source One Digital is well equipped to handle concert signage work. The company was established in 1996 as a two-man operation. It has since grown to nearly 50 dedicated employees in a space spanning 50,000 square feet. Based in Norton Shores, MI, the full-service large and grand format print provider offers direct-to-fabric, dye sublimation (dye-sub), UV roll to roll, latex, and solvent printing. The company is particularly pleased with the capabilities offered with its high-speed Inca Onset S40 purchased from Fujifilm North America Corporation, which features superfine art with white ink flatbed printing.
An ongoing relationship between Source One Digital and Christian rock band Third Day began when the print provider partnered with an east coast outdoor festival to produce multiple sets with custom mesh graphics. The band was set to play at the festival, saw the work, and asked to get in contact with the company that had produced the set work. Since then, the company has produced a variety of custom printed soft good signage for Third Day to take on tour, television appearances, and other events.
To properly create set graphics, Randy Crow, president, Source One Digital, says the company works closely with the band’s set designer to integrate lighting needs and achieve an overall effect.
Third Day and Source One Digital continuously develops the stage set, which incorporates a number of digitally printed elements including riser skirts, drum head decals, large fabric and mesh center stage backdrops, custom printed area rugs, and instrument and lighting covers.
The theme of the design revolves around the band’s latest album. “The client was primarily inspired by their album cover artwork and wanted the stage graphics to tie back to that theme,” explains Crow. The band provided the PSP with specifications of size and functionality. Source One Digital then recommended the best materials to match the band’s requests and budget.
The project’s goals consisted of a series of backdrops and stage sets changed either with lighting or movement throughout a concert. The company printed a variety of backdrops on mesh, fabric, and vinyl to switch the look from set to set. Velcro tear away concepts are installed so backdrops can be easily removed to reveal the next set of graphics behind it.
One portion of the project included four fabric panels designed to look like stained glass windows. Each panel measures four feet wide by 25 feet long. The graphics were produced with a direct dye-sub process on a soft satin fabric. The graphics were installed using pole pockets to allow for raising and lowering. On set, they are front lit off of the stage floor to make it look as if they are illuminated from natural light.
The stage graphics are intended to be used primarily indoors on tour for a year. The vinyl mesh stage components are for use at outdoor concerts and festivals.
To produce a complete stage set of graphics, different substrates are used. For example, backdrops are made of mesh, vinyl, or fabric—depending on the look and use the client requests. Third Day’s carpet elements were digitally printed and cut into shape for the band to stand on as floor graphics. Vinyl decals are used to cover instruments. Finally, lighting ties in the theme throughout.
“One of the unique vinyl soft good substrates we print on for the entertainment industry is specialty speaker mesh. This material is specifically made for acoustic applications. It features a larger weave than most other mesh vinyl to allow sound and air to pass through it so that it doesn’t affect the acoustics or pull on the stage rigging,” explains Crow. “The way we produce the product, the colors pop and deliver the wow to every event.”
Crow notes that color management is always an issue when switching substrates and printing the same art to create an overall theme. “Source One Digital is certified with all of our equipment so we can deliver dynamic color no matter what material, rigid or soft, we are printing,” he notes. The company is able to turnaround projects in a few days in order to meet the client’s tour deadlines.
In addition to production concerns, such as turnaround time and color management, concert graphics come with additional considerations. “Entertainers need to know that the stage graphics will look great in both daylight and at night. It needs to be easy to put up, take down, and pack as they tour,” says Crow.
Third Day is satisfied with the work Source One Digital provides for its concert signage needs. Tai Anderson, bassist, Third Day, speaks to his experience working with the company. “A few years ago, we had the opportunity to perform on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno upon the release of our tenth studio album, Revelation. I contacted Katie Konicek, national sales, Source One Digital, who helped me turnaround a full stage package of riser skirting, a vinyl decal for our B3 organ, and a vinyl sticker for our drum head. Source One Digital was able to produce the entire package in a quick, three day turnaround,” he says.
The band later added a full album cover backdrop to fully skin the production for the Revelation tour. “I wanted a product that could be illuminated when I wanted it to be, but also be translucent to allow a fiber optic backdrop to be seen from behind the drop later in the show,” adds Anderson. Source One Digital guided the band toward the 70 percent blow-through coated vinyl speaker mesh material. “We had fabulous success with the drop,” adds Anderson.
A Collaborative Success
With the help of digital wide format graphics, stage set designers have unlimited options. High-quality results are expected, so effective communication and collaboration between print provider and designer ensures a true vision comes to life for the masses.