TOTO - Official Website - Tour Production 1999

The current TOTO tour is not only an overwhelming musical event, but also a breathtaking visual experience. As David Paich put it, "a mini version of The Wall". So we caught up with Andy Doig, the Lighting Designer, and Blue Leach, the Video Director, for a look behind the scenes, or should we say behind the screen...



With an overall size of 15 by 8 meters, the screen is the biggest size that fit the stages at all the venues. "It could have been smaller and lower, but then when you get in a place like the Bercy or Essen, it's gonna look tiny", explains Andy. However, they did have slight problems with the screen in some venues that were not high enough. "We've never been so low that we've not been able to project. We've always managed to use the full screen, the only thing is that sometimes we've not had the space at the bottom. I prefer to have the space at the bottom because then there's no spill from the lighting onto the screen. If it gets low then some of my lighting interrupts the picture." Mounting a screen of that size also takes its time. "It's not too bad, it's about 3 or 4 hours and it's up. But what takes time is to just touch everything up. If the projector's one inch different, by the time the light gets to the screen maybe it's one meter different. Just a little bit makes a big difference. That's what takes time." No wonder they start working at 8 o'clock in the morning.


As the screen also contains a video part of 4 by 3 meters, the slide projection, the videos and the lighting have to be synchronized of course. "We have one computer running the lighting which controls the projection as well. So that controls all the color spots, all the lighting, the slide projection. The videos are a mixture of live and playback videos on laser discs which Blue just queues at the right time," says Andy. "The moving stuff goes in the middle and the still stuff just happens around that," adds Blue. "One accommodates the other. All the telescope projection happens around the moving video. So it's totally symbiotic. One doesn't make sense without the other." And how does it work technically? "The images are a very big format slide, 15 centimeters. The slide projection has a hole cut where the video is. That's how we get a different form for each song," explains Andy. And Blue puts in, "For the camera, you've got the identical mask, but it's a video key, so it keys off the middle part of it so all the cameras actually appear in the same shape rather than a big square all the time."

cruel Altogether there are four cameras used for the video projection, two hand held and two little mini cams, one on Dave's keyboard and the other on Simon's drum kit. There are no shots of the whole scenery on stage however. "There's no point," says Andy. "If you had a shot from back here you'd be seeing what the audience is already seeing. They wanna see Dave's fingers or Luke playing guitar not the whole band." Although the projection is basically the same every night, there's some room for improvisation. "Particularly the video side of it is a live mix every night. That's open house. The slide projection will work with a particular slide or an effect in one song, but that may change as well depending on the song."

One of the most spectacular parts of the show is the opening scene when the guy with the hat from the Mindfields cover moves up the screen. Andy explains how that works: "All the slides are on scrolls, so you can roll the film, and in that particular instance, instead of the film going from left to right, the scroll is rotating, so the film goes up and down. So the picture comes up. One has the picture of the hat that comes up and the other scroll has the clouds that go from left to right. That way we can play with both."

caught in the balance


Before the first slide is projected on the screen, there is a lot of work to do. Starting with the concept of the whole production. Instead of two small screens as they had for the last tour they now have one big screen. "We sat down and went through what we had last tour, what we liked, what was wanted, and chose what we wanted," says Andy. Not only from a technical point of view, but also from the contents of the show. "We had a proposed setlist of about 60 songs, some definites and some maybes, so it was like a mixture of the definites and the maybes," explains Blue. "And I sat down and listened to them and tried to come up with ideas, based on how the songs sounded, their lyrical content and the general feel of the song, and what it said to me and said to Andy. And kind of what the band intended it to be saying. So with a mixture of that we came up with an eclectic mix of ideas, rather than one specific one. They sent me over a copy of their live rehearsal tape and I sat in an editing room for a month and shot some stuff, used old stuff which belongs to me, put it into context."

Although the images and pictures are basically the same throughout the tour, there was an exception to the rule. "High Price of Hate is no longer in the set, so I use the eyes for Goodbye Girl. We lost the whole theme, but the eyes are a very powerful image, so it's a shame to lose them, so we put them into Goodbye Girl." Another problem was the addition of Child's Anthem and Melanie to the setlist during the tour. "We made up as we went along. The thing is we got about 10 or 20 percent of stuff that's not used in anything, so there's a little bit extra. Maybe put something different in," says Andy. "The mixing desk I've got," adds Blue, "you can put color backgrounds in, to make an effect there... put it inside a circle... There's always stuff you can do."

toto As much as the slides and videos need to be in accordance with the songs, the lighting also plays an important role. "I find certain colors for certain emotions, so I work with whatever works well with them. You can't light the face in green all the time, that's horrible, but for something like Africa you can use a little bit of green light," explains Andy. Although the production looks very big, it has fewer lights than ever before. "We've only got 46 lights, last tour we had 58. Less in numbers, but more in quality."

There's so much going on with the video projection and the light show, that it actually takes more than one show to absorb everything. "That's what we want, wherever you're looking there's always something interesting", says Andy. "We try not to distract, but at the same time we try to find something that's appropriate... sympathetic..." And Blue adds, "Yes, sympathetic to the dynamics of the music". There are songs when there's very little movement on the screen and even one song where there's nothing on the screen at all. Just for a contrast, "to calm things down and then it builds it back up again," explains Blue. "That means people focus specifically on the band then at that time... because there's nothing else to distract," adds Andy.

Especially fascinating is the way Goin' Home was put on screen. The driving scenes are a mixture of various cities and places, a "potpourri" as Andy puts it. "London to begin with and then there's a selection from the archives... Nevada... Las Vegas," says Blue. "We tried to make it a bit abstract because we don't wanna say it's Japan or... the thing is that we have to use it everywhere," explains Andy. And Blue adds, "It's anywhere you want it to be. It's going home, wherever your home is."

goin' home

Although the concept of driving in a car was pretty obvious, Blue came up with some very special ideas for that. "There's lots of time lapse, sort of car in a style, with the time lapse, the traffic, the lights and everything else, the car headlights... It's very much a driving song, obviously it's a driving song. The telescope projection is of a car dashboard... all the moving stuff is in the rear view mirror. So when I shot material for it, I stuck a cam out of the roof of my car, but facing the other way, so the effect's like you're looking in the rear view mirror. So people are following you."

Another very remarkable concept is that of White Sister. "That's one of my favorite ones," says Blue. "Lots of abstract images, like brains being cut in halves, and eyeballs... chemical equation... When I first heard it, that song, I just thought that it was very much like a chemical equation song. It had sort of a clinical feel to it. So I just filled it up with heads, you know, the phrenology heads, it's a plaster of paris head, with sections about memory... sympathy... so it's emotional as well. It's a very fast cut. It's almost like the power of suggestion, so you don't really hook onto one image. There are lots of them, so you kinda remember one or two, some of them are quite gruesome as well."


So after all these interesting views behind the screen, there's one question left. Will this production be back in the fall for those who haven't seen the show yet, or want to see it again to have a chance to catch up with everything they missed the first time around? "I think so," says Andy. "Maybe have some new pictures, but pretty much the same. Maybe the band will change the setlist, then we'll do some new images. But 90 percent will be the same."

Special Thanks to Andy and Blue

All photos © Andy Doig, except "Cruel" ©