Exploring The Production Side Of deadmau5’s Cubev3

Photo by Leah Semeniuk @ leahsems
– Deadmau5’s Cubev3
As deadmau5 prepares to head back out on the road in 2019, he will of course need the latest iteration of his trusty Cube, the mind-blowing visual centerpiece of his live show since 2010. 
The Cube glows with visual effects created by deadmau5; it pulsates with music, and even contains the artist himself while he DJs [and VJs] up a storm. 
Chris Schroeder of Chris Schroeder Productions (based out of Chicago, formerly of SFX) has been working with deadmau5 (real name Joel Zimmerman) since he took his Cube 2.1, designed by TAIT, on the road in 2017. That version required moving the 10,500-pound Cube and lighting setup from show to show.
“The 2.1 Cube was amazing, it was an engineering feat, but it was also an engineering feat to get it in and out of venues every day,” Schroeder told Pollstar. “That Cube weighed 10,500 pounds, which means if you couldn’t get the wench cart in the door [which was about 3,500 pounds], you couldn’t do the show. Hammerstein Ballroom, Aragon Ballroom, we had to reinforce buildings. I had to go to civil engineers in New York, and for Red Rocks, to get approval to put Cube 2.1 onstage. We’re talking about putting steel supports in the basement of Hammerstein and Fox Theatre to make it work. We’re talking 5 a.m. load-ins. It was a real engineering feat just to put this in rooms, let alone a festival stage. Joel loves the TAIT guys, but their stuff (meaning TAIT Towers) is expensive and it’s heavy.”
After a tour full of logistical hurdles, Schroeder teamed up with Collyns Stenzel (who now works as deadmau5’s lighting director) to design Cube Lite, a lighter (4,500 pound), more touring-friendly version of the Cube that sacrificed nothing in terms of the pixel-for-pixel accuracy of deadmau5’s visual effects, rendered by the artist himself. 
Stenzel and Schroeder began brainstorming and after they came up with some drawings, deadmau5, without Schroeder’s knowledge, got a hold of those drawings and put them on Instagram, which put the heat on the duo to deliver.
“I’ve worked with a bunch of different artists in a bunch of different situations. Joel is the most hands-on and most intelligent person, when it comes to this technology, that I’ve ever run into,” Schroeder said. “It’s rather enamoring when he starts going on about this stuff. You really gotta know your shit and you gotta make sure you’re not bullshitting because he will call it out immediately.”
So the two figured out how to design a Cube Lite that is the same size and pixel-for-pixel accurate to Cube 2.1, but which can be pushed onstage (via rolling risers/change overs) instead of requiring installation. They reverse engineered a design that included two one-ton motors to lift Cube components in the air and a slide truss configuration underneath the WVAIR9 LED frame and a 16×10 foot riser, renting the Galaxia WinVision Air9 panels they needed in each country they toured. 
It was still not an easy assembly, as Cube Lite still required 12-16 workers putting in six to eight hours of work it could be toured much easier than the previous incarnation and their team was able to fabricate two Cube Lites for back to-back-shows..
The next challenge was, in their attempt to bring the Cube Down Under, they could not rent the LED panels they needed anywhere in Australia. Fast forward and deadmau5 now simply owns 103 of the required WinVision Air9 panels needed for current and future iterations of the Cube.
And the future looks bright. F5D, the fabrication company hired by CSP for Cubev3’s set-up, “absolutely nailed it,” according to Schroeder, and the new Cube dips to 45 degrees, spins about 360 degrees, experiments with the panel technology to get the most out of their semi-transparency, and of course, was done entirely on a budget. 
“Cubev3 has come straight out of Joel’s brain and we’re here to facilitate his vision,” Schroeder said. “He’s using touch designer for the majority of the visuals, we’re trying to get away from Resolumeonly and outdated content on shows. We’re working against lagged content on a consistent basis at normal live shows, that’s what you’re gonna see at Cubev3 shows. Instead of hiring a company to go render a bunch of files, Joel can literally change the visuals, in real-time, to something that pulses at the exact BPM with the music and moves with the Cube.
“We’ve facilitated and fabricated a way for the position data from the Cube to read real-time into touch designer via Artnet. So when the Cube is moving, it sends signals of information to the touch designer, so while the Cube rotates 360 degrees, the image actually stays still on the Cube,” Schroeder added. 
“It completely warps your mind, you think the Cube is moving, but everything in your brain is telling you that it’s actually not moving at the same time. It’s some next-level stuff as far as visuals go.”
The new Cube is set to debut at Ultra Music Festival in Miami when deadmau5 performs at the Live Arena March 30.
You can learn more about Cubev3 at www.cubev3.com.