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Ambersphere Brands in control with The Wombats at Ally Pally

Ambersphere Brands in control with The Wombats at Ally Pally
Ambersphere Brands in control with The Wombats at Ally Pally

UK – Alexandra Palace in North London was the venue for the Wombats’ largest production during their current tour which has encompassed the UK, Europe and Australia since the beginning of 2015. Dan Hill is the LD at the helm: “This was essentially a larger, more intense version of the lighting rig we’ve had out lately. In London earlier this year, The Wombats played Brixton Academy and the show at Alexandra Palace really grew from that, nothing crazy, but extensions of what was already there to cater for both the larger crowd and the bigger, wider stage that Ally Pally provides. I wanted to keep things as dynamic and as fun for the band on stage and for people in the crowd as it was back in Brixton.”

Hill’s rig is heavy with fixtures from the Ambersphere Solutions family of brands with Clay Paky and Ayrton units making up over half of the total design and with a grandMA2 Lite FoH. Explaining the reasons for his choices, Hill begins with the Ayrton MagicBlades: “This was my first design with MagicBlades. I’d seen them used a few times before but had been waiting for the right chance to use them. They have a lot of features and capabilities which are great but I’ve seen them overused in a way that I’m not necessarily into. I wanted a fixture that framed the stage well ‘geometrically’. The band are so energetic live I wanted to frame and draw attention to this and thought the MagicBlades would be an ideal choice. Using the Blades in the side ‘wall’ position was great. It provided a sculptural sidelight but I could also use the linear effects and individual pixel control to create more dynamic emphasis to songs. I think it gave the stage and concept quite a ‘Bladerunner’ feel, which I was into!”

An often repeated reason for choosing Clay Paky Stormys is that they are an LED fixture that, due to its design and reflector, behaves like a traditional strobe. Hill is happy to add his name to that list: “I don’t like to see a cheap looking block of LED strobes; the Stormy gives me the RGBW colour changing capability of an LED fixture but it looks and acts like a real strobe. Add to that, I use them to back light the band. It works brilliantly and with a good colour spectrum from pastels to primary colours. Although I wouldn’t spec them as a pure washlight – they are after all, a strobe first and foremost – they were vibrant and punchy and created some great silhouette and shadow work on stage, ticking my boxes perfectly.

“The Clay Paky Sharpy remains the ‘go to’ beam light for me,” continues Hill. “There were over 30 on this rig. If I want a solid beam, a strong gobo selection, speed and reliability, I can go anywhere in the world and find a bunch of Sharpys that can do the job and do it exactly as I want. They are simply my first and only choice. All my fixture selections are integral to my final design and on the few occasions when we had to go without certain lights I had to seriously re-evaluate how the show was run to compensate for the negative differences.”

As for control, Hill takes a fairly prosaic approach: “An LD or operator can often be judged on what desk they choose to use, which I don’t really subscribe to; at the end of the day, they’re a tool to make lights work and a stage look good. However, after trying out and using most of the other leading console options, the grandMA2 just works best for me. Programming my own shows, this is important as it needs to be intuitive and I want to be thinking about how the show looks, not with my head tied up in console queries. The cue stacking and editing is powerful and the live control side of the console works really well. Once set up, the intelligent elements within the grandMA2 mean programming is quick, intuitive and the flow between ideas and how it works onstage happens without too much brain strain!”

Hill is already looking forward to his next projects, which will include a range of both Ayrton and Clay Paky fixtures run, naturally, by his console of choice, the grandMA2. “These fixtures are now firmly on my ‘tried and tested’ list and I’m confident they will work really well with my upcoming projects. As for the Wombats, they are now firmly embedded in the design.”

photos: Dan Hill

7th December 2015

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