This was a really problematic venue, with columns on 80 feet centers, it made placement of the set complicated and audience sightlines extremely challenged.
Eventually, so that the columns could be incorporated into the look more easily I made the stage L-shaped, which yielded a band stage on one side of the “L”, a presentation position in the center and a bigger performance area on the other side. The apex could thus nestle into the area between the columns. Taking that idea further, I also positioned some sections of the audience at 45 degrees. No solution solved all the issues but at least the diagonals had the advantages of adding a great dynamic to the look.
I watched a good number of old Soul Train shows, and felt with that feeding off the very open and clean look of the original show design, we could pull off a very big simple look that would certainly help meet a very tight budget. A “four wall” conference center venue like this requires that a large segment of budget is “lost” to infrastructure - rigging, stage platforms, audience seating and so on, whereas going into a theatre at least the available budget can go directly into creating a look since the basics are already in place.
The one major change we made in the process was to flip the soul train dance line and the dance floor. having stage, dance-way line and a satellite dance floor seemed like an obvious arrangement, but one of the producers, Alex Colletti, made the excellent call to put the dance floor right in front of the stage and have the dance line back towards the mixer platform. That put the dance action right at the stage and the lead in could be shot from a center camera position much more effectively, and moreover the dancers wouldn’t mask the “Train Tracks”.
I used a collection of Atomic Rental products to fill in the huge spaces, but to make it all a little less generic I added scooped spandex panels that reminded me of train wheels when they were offset to form overlapping circles.
Interestingly enough this was a set I found it hard to get good photos of since the venue was all at ground level, but on a TV screen it all looked absolutely stunning with sweeping crane shots that exploited the diagonal vistas and deep perspectives. The coming of HD and 16:9 has us all thinking widescreen and therefore favoring wide sets, and this one certainly had some major width!
Soul Train Awards 2009
Sunseeker Media for Centric TV