Seeking a fresh look and a bold architectural statement for the 2020 Grammy Awards ceremony, Production Designer Brian Stonestreet of Brian Stonestreet Design designed dynamic, adaptive visual set pieces using Martin by HARMAN VDO Fatron 20 and VDO Sceptron 20 LED video elements.
Held on January 26, 2020 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and hosted by Alicia Keys, the 62nd annual GRAMMY Awards drew an audience of over 18.7 million viewers worldwide. Featuring a massive set with multiple performance areas and elaborate lighting and video displays, the show included performances by Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande and more. Brian Stonestreet collaborated with Producer Raj Kapoor, Screens Producer Drew Findley and Ron Drews, President of live events company Sweetwater, to design visual content for the show. To complement the content on the main video screens, the team outfitted the stage with Martin Professional VDO Fatron 20 LED video blades along with VDO Sceptron 20 units.
“I was looking for something that was architectural and felt new,” said Stonestreet. “I was excited about the visual difference of a Fatron versus a Sceptron, the newness to the market, and the fact that we wanted to make a strong presentation with this year’s set. The idea of doing something architectural on the walls that was less specific than projection or even LED was exciting to me because we had a huge amount of LEDs on the show, big screens and things. I was seeking a little relief from that, but also something that could carry the energy of the show, and the Fatrons seemed to work really well for that.”
The GRAMMYs stage included a set of moveable walls called “close-downs,” which were flown in to hide portions of the stage while performers set up, then flown out to reveal the next act. Stonestreet’s design called for these walls to be covered in VDO Fatron 20 units, mounted horizontally with staggered spacing and interspersed with thinner VDO Sceptron units for an abstract, striped look. Throughout the night, the close-down walls displayed a variety of video content, graphics, colors and textures to supplement the content on the main video panels.
“When there was a performance on one side of the stage and the other side was covered by a wall, the Fatrons and Sceptrons on that wall would play sympathetically with video,” said Stonestreet. “There were falling rose petals for Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile, there was graffiti for Aerosmith, and all of that was carried over on the close-down walls. So the content varied throughout the evening, and I thought that was really successful.”
Between performances, the entire set switched over to a GRAMMY-branded “house look,” designed by Screens Producer Drew Findley. During these interstitial periods, the close-down walls displayed the words “GRAMMY AWARDS” in seven-foot-tall letters. According to Stonestreet, the entire production and design team was delighted at how well these graphics translated on camera.
“We were surprised at how much detail they showed,” added Stonestreet. “When Drew designed content for those walls, he used the official GRAMMY Awards graphics, but we were all a little unsure of how the Fatrons would react. I think the first day Drew didn’t have the words ‘GRAMMY AWARDS’ up and then he tried it and it looked amazing. Even with the space in between the Fatrons, which your eyes visually filled in, they provided enough visible area to really define it. Sometimes it reads great in the room but it doesn’t read well on camera, or vice versa. This read beautifully in the audience, in the house, and on camera, which was exciting.”
With four rows of LED pixels, the Martin VDO Fatron 20 joins the VDO Sceptron and VDO Dotron to create a range of interchangeable LED video elements. P3 control provides streamlined, intuitive pixel mapping and video synchronization, and all VDO fixtures feature the same integrated power and data connectors, enabling designers to mix and match freely. Eight field-exchangeable diffusers and one lens array are available for the VDO Fatron 20, including ‘smoked’ options with a darker look, which Stonestreet used to help the fixtures virtually disappear when not in use.
“This year, it was a really wonderful experience using the Fatrons because they offered up something new and unique to the show, which I think was exciting,” says Stonestreet. “They were able to carry the weight of what we needed for the show, with constant moving visuals and things like that. I liked the fact that they provided a fresh look for something that we use every year, and they really performed well.”
In addition to ‘Music’s Biggest Night,’ Brian Stonestreet Design has provided production design for the Golden Globes, BET Awards, Billboard Music Awards, Soul Train Awards and the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards.