On Sunday, August 28th, Heather Shaw of Vita Motus Design Studio made history as the first female lead production designer for the MTV Video Music Awards, bringing to life a dynamic stage design for top tier artists like Nicki Minaj, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Anitta, J. Balvin, and BLACKPINK.
Heather Shaw of Vita Motus, a concept design studio located in Los Angeles, California, was approached by MTV to lead the production design for the main stage of their 2022 Video Music Awards. With an extensive background in event design and production, Shaw is no stranger to large scale productions, having designed for the likes of Electric Daisy Carnival, Cirque du Soleil, Do LaB at Coachella, Shakira, Kendrick Lamar, and many more.
Vita Motus is known for blending cutting edge technology with innovative spatial designs, facilitating unique performances for artists. Shaw and her team were presented with the challenge of designing a set which could successfully accommodate 25 award presentations, 12 live music performances, and various live TV events. Historically, the show has featured over-the-top sets with flashy performances, so Shaw was determined to push the envelope further this year by incorporating a nod to the future.
Shaw describes, “Our design process began with a reflection on MTV as a brand; how it has revolutionized the way in which people experience music. We wanted to pay tribute not only to its past innovations, but also to the way it continues to pioneer in musical entertainment, creating a parallel between the two under the themes of duality and the multiverse.”
The MTV and VMA iconography are eloquently interpreted throughout the stage designs, as Shaw notes, “We deconstructed the traditional MTV mark into a monolithic sculpture and then inverted it on the stage floor to communicate the parallel reality of the design, spanning between past and future. We also incorporated the VMA branding into the stage foundation, reflecting the pyramidal shapes of the letters via the performance stages flanking the awards stage.”
Keeping the audience at the forefront of the design, Shaw explains, “The live audience was a huge element of the design for us, allowing us to immerse the performance stages with elevated energy from the excited fans,surrounding the spaces from the sides, grandstands above, and on the floor itself.” She adds, “The award stage was similarly encircled by the audience, with dance floors on the ground and additional dance spaces to the left and right. To further elevate the connection between the audience and performances, PixMob technology was implemented to make the crowd part of the visuals. This was an integral detail to transform our initial light-filled renders to reality.”
As the first female lead production designer in the history of the VMAs,Shaw was inspired to work with a diverse team of women holding core roles on MTV’s production team, including the Supervising Art Director, Performance Art Director, Director, Executive in Charge of Production, and many more.
Always striving to design the future, Shaw continues to blaze a path in her industry with the launch of VitaVerse. In this next major endeavor from Shaw and her team at Vita Motus, the focus has been on applying their entertainment industry experience to a real time Metaverse venue, in an effort to create new, authentic connections between art and audience. The goal of their platform is to lower the barrier for the public’s entry into the Metaverse, utilizing hardware users already own to transport them into digital venues in their authentic non-avatar forms.