The Darkroom Creative Spec Hog 4-18 and SolaPix on Walker Hayes Tour

A collaboration between production designers Seth Jackson and (programmer extraordinaire) Nathan Alves, The Darkroom Creative is a full-service design firm that leverages the partners' experience in the entertainment industry to create impactful designs across a variety of price points. The firm recently designed Walker Hayes’ latest tour, specifying a Hog 4-18 console and SolaPix 37 wash fixtures for this leg. Touring support is through Bandit Lites.

Nathan explains, “We believe good design shouldn’t only be available to those with large budgets and the best creativity sometimes comes through limitation. When we partner well with our clients and their teams, we believe we can make shows less expensive, more creative, and more impactful to both the artists’ bottom line and the fanbase’s connection level.”

Seth adds, “We are designers, which means we design for the client’s needs balanced against their hopes and budgets! As Bob Bonniol once put it, ‘Art is for you, design is for the client’.”

Jackson says the Darkroom Creative got the Walker Hayes gig through ‘a very kind reference from Jeff Ravitz’. “We started with Walker’s organization last fall; it was their first headline tour, and everyone was just getting to know each other and find their process. This time around, everyone’s feet were wet, and we dived in with a far more advanced show.”


“Nate and I are a one-stop shop. We do our video content in house, we do the lighting, the production design, and the creative direction when asked. This tour was a total blend of lighting and video. The team wanted ever-changing environments for each song, so Nate developed an enormous amount of 3d environments and then relocated and treated the live camera work (directed by Jordan Karow) for each song. The lighting then filled in the spaces. We wanted to make the room a dance floor, since the audience would certainly be doing all the Tik Tok dances Walker and his family have produced for almost every song.”

Bandit’s Mike Golden is handling the account. Jackson says, “We also had tremendous technical support from Jake Tickle, who produced more than one brilliant solution in this process. Our system was handled by Jimmy Hatten. We spent a week at Bandit’s Venue One with just the lighting and Nate having his video set up to program alongside us, and then we moved to Municipal Auditorium for full production rehearsals.”

After design and pre-production, the tour was placed in the hands of Jacob Padgett. “Jacob was hired at the last minute, but he walked in like a seasoned pro who had been doing the show for years. He is our kind of LD!”

Jackson comments that including the SolaPix 37 fixtures were one of several Jake Tickle / Bandit Lites solutions. “Walker has four dancers, including his daughter, plus a band that tends to not stay in one place. I needed key light coverage that could punch through anything the rig was doing, even in deeper saturations. It also couldn’t lose intensity when it was zoomed open. The SolaPix 37 was the perfect solution. We only use four of them and contrary to what they were designed for, you never see the lenses, but you certainly see the job they are doing. Everyone has great coverage and color rendering for the cameras. They cut through everything. No matter how deep the color or how wide the beam, they consistently layered in a perfect key wash for the stage.” 


As for the Hog 4-18, Seth enthuses, “It was like coming home! I was so comfortable on the desk it became easy for me to try new things, take some chances, and produce a show that carried very few of my characteristic 'go to' looks and effects.”

Nathan adds, “Seth’s willingness to dive into Hog on this one really saved our bacon! Seriously, with all of the video workload on this tour, it was very calming to just know the platform was fully developed and working as intended. With our firm being department agnostic, I usually end up bouncing back and forth on these smaller shows making sure the technology is doing what we want it to. We didn’t have that concern with Hog. The support from everyone at ETC was amazing. The platform, manuals, and tutorials made it easy for Seth to jump in and crush the look.”

Seth comments, “With the video load on this project and no lighting director until the very end, I was going to be hands on and programming this show. I resigned myself to learn a new desk, and Nate and I thought it would be good for business if I learned something other than the MA since he is a wizard in that territory. Jake suggested the Hog 4. I started the training videos but turned them off in a few minutes. I knew the desk. My heaviest touring years belonged to a Hog 2, and it all came back to me in seconds. I was home. I had such a great time programming this show. I hadn’t been on my own behind a desk in a decade, and this desk made it so much fun.”

Projects are continuing to pop for The Darkroom Creative. Jackson says, “I keep wondering when it will all go quiet, but so far that isn’t the case. We’ve even had to split the load in the coming months. We’ve got Barry Manilow going in for a special run at Radio City Music Hall in New York that is totally on Nate’s plate, while I head to Gateway Studio and Production Services to start prep for the final leg of The Doobie Brothers 50th Anniversary Tour. Next year, they’ll be heading out with a new tour, and Manilow continues his residency in Vegas, and I’m sure Walker won’t sit around long when this tour winds down in August!”

In closing, Seth adds a huge shout out to the tour’s production manager, Chris Newman. “Chris has the demeanor and professionalism that remind you of a Mikie Weiss or Benny Collins. In addition to Jacob and Jordan, there’s our one and only Bandit tech AJ Quintel. This is AJ’s second run with us on Walker and he and Jacob just are an amazing team to watch.”

Photo credit: The Darkroom Creative

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Bruce Jordahl
Bruce joined the ETC family in 2017. A former magazine editor and journalist, Bruce also worked in marketing at High End Systems throughout the 1990’s, returning as a consultant in 2012. At ETC he covers marketing for the High End Systems product range, and pinch hits on projects for other company departments. Based in Austin, Bruce is a musician and budding record producer, and was nicknamed ‘the ETC musical director’ at Workshop 2018, a moniker he is now comfortable with. He has enjoyed a long side career performing at lighting industry events, loves to talk about his amazing grandchildren, and gets occasional points for sending banana nut bread to his co-workers.