Like many lighting designers, Matt Mills wanted to have more control over the follow-spots in his designs, and increased confidence in the consistency of their operation. Not happy with the varying levels of the follow-spots available at different venues, as well as with the inconsistency in experience of spot operators, Mills looked at the Follow-Me remote follow-spot control system. Finding it to be the solution he hoped, he has deployed it not only on his projects but made it available to his rental clients.
Mills, a partner and lighting designer with Touch Light & Media, Inc., has an extensive resume as a lighting designer, lighting director, and programmer. His work covers a range of projects including concert touring, corporate clients, and live events globally.
“I was introduced to the Follow-Me System at the beginning of 2017 while I was on tour with Disturbed,” says Mills. “Just seeing it, seeing how it was used, and how it integrated into the MA Lighting grandMA control system convinced me to look more into it. From the ease of operation to the affordability of it, I find it to be a really good system. There are other systems out there, but they are very expensive, and some do a lot more than I needed. There are many LDs out there, myself included, that don’t want to rely on house follow-spots.”
“While I had the system on the Disturbed tour I was able to thoroughly test it out. I knew that it worked great for me and I wanted to really dive into it because I wanted to buy some systems for rentals,” says Mills. “I am pleased I took the system on; I’m really happy with it.” Mills has a system for himself and then rents additional systems to other designers and projects.
One of his rental systems went out with Jason Aldean’s tour last year supporting a lighting design by Chris Lisle and lighting direction by Keith Hoagland. “They were very happy with the system,” adds Mills. That tour is a good example of the ease of use and quick learning curve for getting Follow-Me operational. “People pick it up pretty quickly once I explain it to them,” notes Mills. “It’s funny seeing the light bulb go off whenever I tell them, ‘Oh no, you can take any moving light in your rig and turn that into a follow-spot with the push of a button.’” Once they get their head around it, it’s really easy. On the Aldean tour it was run by the dimmer tech from Bandit Lites and he had never even seen this thing before at all. He got it, no problem.”
Mills sees a rise in interest in Follow-Me with other designers, “I have eight quotes out at the moment for rentals of the Follow-Me systems; it’s really growing in popularity.” He supplies a complete package with his rental Follow-Me systems that includes an SDI camera and optional lenses for different-sized venues. Since the majority of shows that he supports have video, he leaves the SDI cables up to the tour’s video team. The system all fits in a single Pelican case for a nice, compact package.
The Follow-Me system is an independent Art-Net based software application that only requires one Apple MAC computer and the software itself. Supporting multiple targeting mice for each operator, it works with an SDI camera that gives the operators a view of the stage and allows users to attach unlimited fixtures, from any manufacturer, in any orientation, to multiple targets from one operating system. AC Lighting Inc. is the distributor for the Follow-Me system in North America.
“I hate having to rely on somebody else to do work that everyone, especially the artist, is going to see directly,” comments Mills. “If that follow-spot is off, or if it’s in the wrong color at the wrong time, everyone is definitely going to notice that. Being able to only put the positioning in the follow-spot operators hands was huge for me.” On Mills’ shows he then controls the color, beam size, iris, gobo, etc. He has given the operators on some shows control over intensity, but as the designer he decides what and how much control the operators have over the follow-spot lights.
Mills has also brought the Follow-Me system into his corporate client design work, “With the many corporate shows I do there’s always those big awards nights,” explains Mills. “I’ve been using the Follow-Me system for doing table pickups, which works great. Whenever a person wins an award, we’ll swing the target over, I’ll bring the fader up, and then we’ll follow them to the stage.”
Mills sees another big benefit for his corporate clients, it keeps the ballroom clean and uncluttered without the need for duvetyne-covered scaffolding follow-spot towers. “Anytime you’re doing a corporate show, you’re always crushed for space,” comments Mills. “Even trying to figure out where you’re going to store your dead cases is a challenge, so, the fact that we can have a follow-spot system in a corporate environment without losing space is a really big advantage.” Mills typically goes with a three-point lighting system for these style projects. “I’ll usually throw in a couple of extra lights that are dedicated to be Follow-Me fixtures,” says the designer. “I will split the room up into quadrants and pick lights that would work best for each area and cover any contingency and necessary pick-up.”
Mills concludes by noting that if he were speaking to another lighting designer, he would highlight, “it really lets you control the spot cues. You control all of the lights; they can all dim out at the same time and they’re all going to change color at the same time. All the follow-spot operators have to do is point and follow the target. I know that is very appealing to a lot of LDs, especially the ones who have to call spots on a continuous basis. Don’t get me wrong, there are some cities that have fantastic spot operators that still look at it as an art form; that’s great, but it’s becoming few and far between in some locations. I have found the Follow-Me system is the solution to having consistency, control, and it is cost-effective.”
• Follow-Me, Remote Follow Spot Control System