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Steve Bewley creates the perfect Stormzy with Ayrton
UK & Ireland – “This is the moment that I have been waiting for my whole life. I am now ready to certify my position as a credible artist and someone who is here for the long run.” The grime artist Stormzy was in no doubt about the importance of the Gang Signs and Prayers Tour, in promotion of his debut album, that visited Academy venues across the UK and Ireland through the spring, before culminating in two shows at the legendary London O2 Brixton Academy.
Lighting designer Steve Bewley opted for an Ayrton-laden specification for each incarnation of Stormzy’s show. “There were 38 MagicPanel-R units and ten MagicBurst on my list. The UK and Ireland shows were all of a decent size, Brixton Academy has a capacity of nearly 5,000 and then we had various festival variations and a special rig for Glastonbury. Altogether, there were six different designs but the Ayrton fixture choices were always central to the show. Their dynamic look is not something that can be replicated and they were versatile enough to adapt to all the different venues and configurations.
“For the academy shows, we stripped out the house rigs to make it entirely Stormzy’s show in each venue. Our rig was composed of straight truss with the MagicPanel-R fixtures deployed in uniform lines across the mid and back trusses to give a great linear effect, and again across the floor. When we reached Brixton for the two showcase nights that were filmed, it was important that the rig delivered for camera as well as the audience.
“We pulled out all the stops then, increasing the number of MagicPanel-R units and loading them onto six moving trusses arranged in a horseshoe shape and split into three sections downstage and upstage; two further satellite trusses moved up and down behind that and more filled in across the front of the stage and downstage left and right at floor level. This helped fill in any gaps for the cameras and provided eye candy and more interesting perspectives for TV angles. We also had seven rotating screens as backdrops with seven more above arranged at a differing heights. Everything could be independently manoeuvred on Kinesys system to create multiple moving layers.
“I really like the way the MagicPanel-R’s square face looks good in big, long uniform lines of fixtures, and the break up of the horseshoe truss array made it look brilliant. With a solo artist, they gave the camera something extra to work with. By using the MagicPanel-R we were able to change it up easily by running huge colour effects through them, maximizing the appearance of the uniform line of fixtures coming through the architecture, and using the onboard effects to create a different look for every song.
Bewley also added ten MagicBurst fixtures to an upstage moving truss. This fixture is the first high-power graphic LED strobe on the market with Ayrton’s characteristic continuous pan and tilt, and the company’s first investment in the strobe market. “Although I hadn’t included the MagicBurst in a design before, Ayrton’s UK distributor, Ambersphere Solutions had shown them to me at a Tiny Tempah rehearsal and I was impressed. It was definitely what I had been looking for for a number of applications, and Stormzy’s gig at Brixton gave me the first opportunity to try them out. They didn’t disappoint: they are bright – very bright!
Bewley did not just use the MagicBurst units as strobes although, as he points out: “They are so bright they were amazing as an audience blinder and we put that to good effect on the livelier tracks to really get people going! However, the MagicBurst worked amazingly well as a huge white floodlight, and with all the screens and set moving in front of them, they gave us something interesting to work with.”
The start of the show began with almost nothing on stage, into which Bewley added huge stabs of white light from above, while keeping the source of the light concealed from the audience. “We were able to inject massive bursts of white light from behind the screens and other architecture, then when the MagicBursts did come into view, we could adjust the appearance of the fascia using the onboard macros, create effects and use them as a strobe, while all the time moving them around to create different angles and shadows. We had a lot of really cool shadows coming through because of the way the light sprayed out of the sides and hit all the architecture, and found we got weird colours and shapes as well as shadows which highlighted everything brilliantly.
“We were able to use the retinal memory of the audience to achieve a subliminal image by strobing the pattern on the face of the MagicBurst which was fun to play with, and another reason for choosing the fixture. This worked especially well because I was using some of the effects on the MagicPanel-R and emulating them on the fascias of the MagicBurst. I was able to do this using the inbuilt personality for both the MagicPanel-Rs and the MagicBursts without any pixel-mapping. The Ayrton kit is great for this because the personalities are so similar. I don't have to waste time with new learning curves or reprogramming. It’s ideal for touring with different configurations and saves a whole load of time.”
Bewley concludes: “My techs are happy; I’m happy and loved the different applications for both the MagicBurst and the MagicPanel-R.”
31st October 2017
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