Video technology really has come a long way in just a few decades. While nothing compares to watching a motion picture at the cinema, that experience can now be replicated on a smaller scale at home thanks to LED projectors, OLED TVs and surround sound systems. We feel closer to the drama and action than ever before with stunning picture quality and greater depth on our screens, immersing us into the story unfolding before our very eyes. That same technology also revolutionized the music industry with companies specializing in stage production using lighting, LED tech and on-screen content to enhance live entertainment.
One such company doing it all when it comes to producing content for live shows is Lüz Studio, a fitting name for the Montreal-based business that synergizes lighting and video content to create an immersive experience.
“Luz means ‘light’ in Spanish,’” explains Matthieu Larivée, who started the company in 2005. “We were looking for a name that shows what we do as a craft because there’s a lot of media companies out there doing CGI for movies, video games and live entertainment, but what is different with us is everything is light-based.”
Larivée and his team had a hand in producing shows for Foo Fighters, Billy Idol, Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood, and their client list continues to grow as they’re currently working on Jason Aldean’s tour. Lüz’s unique approach of merging lighting with the large LED screens behind artists to create a dazzling spectacle has captured the attention of many in the music industry, including Michael Strickland, founder of Bandit Lites.
“He wrote me an email – and we had never met, by the way – saying, ‘In 40 years, I’ve never seen that kind of content ever,’” Larivée says of his first interaction with Strickland. “He says that he sees a show and knows when it’s us.”
The Canadian studio works closely with artists to not only produce their sets but develop narratives for their concerts through graphic design and lighting. The days of simply having lighting and a moving image on a large screen are long gone. What’s in is the development of an arresting world through set extensions that combine images and fabricate the illusion of depth behind the performers and leaves fans wondering, “Is that real?” Content through LED technology is so advanced that television shows are using it rather than filming on location, and it is also taking live entertainment production to new heights. Billy Idol used the tech for his Las Vegas residency in 2019, hiring Lüz to design a cyberpunk setting that suited the British rebel.
Larivée said one person attending a Foo Fighters show asked how they got the UFO – which was designed by Lüz’s graphic artists and displayed on the large screen during the concert – onto the stage. It may seem like magic, but to manufacture such realistic imagery required hundreds of hours of work from CGI artists, programmers and staff members who specialize in software to merge images from multiple screens, ensuring that each element is perfectly timed with every song. That coordination is key for Larivée and his staff.
“As a lighting guy, I was trying to get control of the content because it felt so disconnected, like, ‘OK, there’s a screen and it’s a TV,’” says Larivée, who began working in lighting at the age of 16. “Then by tweaking the graphics, we started to do set extensions within a screen. What changes the perspective of a set is the lighting. This is how lighting design comes into play, and the evolution of it is what we do: lighting design but within a screen.”
While Larivée admits the technology in his field has somewhat plateaued in the past few years, there is potential for another breakthrough evolution with artificial intelligence.
“It’s going to change the art and music, and it will change the way things are working,” he says. “The cool thing is that we can do scripts with that technology and it kind of merges and adapts to art. AI might be able to interact live with the music, and that is going to be part of the evolution.”
Lüz Studio’s efforts are also making a positive impact in the world when it comes to reducing carbon gas emissions as the lighting and LED wall cut down production costs with fewer trucks on the road carrying equipment used to construct sets.
“When you watched all those huge stadium acts 15 to 20 years ago, they used to have a massive scaffolding. It’s not true anymore,” Larivée says. “Trucks are more expensive and there’s the lack of truck personnel. For the sake of your show and production, it needs to be quicker [to load and unload] and cheaper. And most people are aware of their carbon footprint. There’s always a way to think about how you can do it differently.”