Production News Headlines
Astera for “Fiach” Drive in Drama in Ireland
Ireland – Presenting theatre and performance in the pandemic is a truly challenging space, but it’s also no surprise that the hugely talented and resourceful entertainment industry worldwide is responding with some truly imaginative and ingenious solutions for offering the public much needed opportunities for engaging with thrilling and emotional dramatic experiences. “Fiach” is a fantastic example!
This unique new work by Philip Doherty unites the disciplines of theatre, cinema and comedy in a seat-edge live on stage and in-car drama, accompanied by vibrant large format video visuals, a thumping sound system and intense theatrical lighting all in a Covid-safe drive-in viewing environment.
It is also a great example of how a kit of eight Astera Titan Tubes, used with thought and invention by lighting designer Mick Murray can go a long way.
The ground-breaking Irish-language work was presented (with English surtitles) by Fíbín in association with An Taibhdhearc in a car park at Baile na hAbhann, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland, starring award-winning actors Fionnuala Flaherty and Dara Devaney.
Delivering a “blistering tale of love, passion and the power of the human spirit”, the adrenaline-fuelled action started when local hoodlum and drug dealer Fiach staggers out of a pub high on a mind-blowing-and-bending cocktail of acid and whisky! Getting into his car, he’s pursued at high speed by Gardaí officer, Clíona.
An hour 20 minutes of roller coaster action and darkly humorous comedy later, the story reaches a thrilling conclusion.
Producers Fíbín asked Mick Murray to create the lighting, video and staging designs. With an impressive array of idiosyncratic mixed media projects to his credit, Mick jumped at the chance and reached for Astera Titan Tubes (supplied by lighting rental and installations specialist Cue One) as a practical, powerful and aesthetically pleasing lighting solution.
Mick and Philip (Doherty), who also directed his work, discussed numerous elements and ideas. The requirement was for a mix of cinematic and theatrical lighting techniques and treatments, and for this to work properly, the quality of light was “hugely important” stated Mick.
This was the primary reason he chose Astera products, plus their ability to add “a more dynamic feel” to the show.
As Philip really wanted to immerse the audience in the show, in the stage design Mick positioned the cars (the dealer’s Ford Capri and the policewoman’s unmarked Nissan Primera vehicle) on staging decks with the actors inside as far as possible into the audience.
Four Astera Titan Tubes were rigged in the two cars and the other four on the four ‘scenic’ street lights complete with custom-designed 3D printed hoods.
The four dynamic ‘street lights’ completed the desired physical immersion effect extending from the edges of the car stages out through the lines of audience vehicles pulling them into the action.
Inside the two chase cars, Mick needed both key and effects lighting.
The two Titan Tubes were the main key lights, augmented with fill coming from LED strips placed on the sun visors and dashboards. In the police car, the Titans were secured either side along the top of the front doors, and in the Capri, one was in front and one on the left.
Live camera feeds from the cars were beamed up onto a billboard style projection screen behind the cars.
Much of the pre-recorded video content and close up shots: feet on accelerators, hands of steering wheels, etc., plus some additional optical trickery, was also shot on site during the rehearsal period, all coordinated and compiled by Mick and programmed onto a Smode media server.
“The Astera units were pixel mapped for effects to run over their static show states which were varied slightly in colour and intensity, always keeping the camera image looking good,” commented Mick, who was delighted with the results.
The street light effects threw the atmosphere and tension out in the audience area via slow animated pixel chases on the Titan Tubes, all helping to ramp up the energy and excitement so the audience felt they were part of the chase.
Other major lighting moments where guests needed to enjoy the narrative’s fuller visceral dramaturgy included when Fiach’s acid trip explodes in his head to Mos-Def / Massive Attack track “I against I”, assisted by a string of psychoactive effects produced by the Astera ‘street lights’.
Mick also found a perfect sodium colour temperature look for the Titans to match the street nearby for the drive-in state as people arrived.
The printed sleeve of the street light hood fitted over and protected the centre of the Titan Tube and slid into a T-shaped key-clamp fitting mounted on top of four metre high lighting booms. The hood also incorporated the mounting hardware supplied with the eight-way Titan Tube kits; a hole in the end of each hood accepted the M5 rigging eyelet and a slot / holes enabled the aluminium mounting clip to be screwed to two parts of the hood and attached to the Tube.
All eight Titan Tubes were run powered, via thin DC cables back to the Titan charger located in the boots of the cars, and were programmed, together with the other lights, via an ETC Ion lighting console by Ritchie Lambert who was working as Mick’s assistant LD. The car headlights were also DMX controlled and run through the lighting desk for the performance.
At the end of the show, the audience replaced clapping with flashing headlights and honking horns all in unison, proving that atmosphere can form between a socially distant / separated audience even when self-contained in their own car ‘bubbles’!
The production was a highly rewarding experience in which to be involved elucidated Mick who lives in Slovenia and had to quarantine for 14 days on arrival back in his native Ireland. The show evolved, parts of it very spontaneously, over about six weeks, four of which were spent on site ahead of the first show, building, preparing, teching, rehearsing, shooting the pre-recorded video parts, etc.
The performance and the production concept were a massive success.
Accommodating 45 cars at the Connemara site, each show was sold out for the two-week run, and there is now talk of touring it as a fully self-contained (technical production, set, performers, crew) innovative and highly entertaining Covid-safe drive-in drama production.
photos: Sean T O'Meallaigh
24th September 2020
Theatre awakens with Sleepless: A Musical Romance
UK – The long-awaited anticipated return of theatre is over! Based on the original screenplay of Sleepless in Seattle, Sleepless: A Musical Romance, is the first new indoor musical since theatres closed in March. PRG was on hand to support with Lighting, Video and LED – and we must say, it’s great to be back.
Peter Marshall, director of theatre for PRG worked closely with lighting designer Ken Billington, a long-standing client of PRG on both Broadway and the West End. Ken was supported by associate Dale Driscoll and programmer Victoria Brennan. Billington used a lighting rig mainly consisting of Mac Viper Performances along with PRG’s new Icon Stage LED profile with lots of GLP X4 wash lights and X4 Bar 20 battens supported by ETC Revolutions and Source Fours. The musical, which is live at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, is housed in the old Fountain Studios sound stage, which proved tricky to achieve the usual positions of a standard theatre set-up. This meant a large amount of trussing was required to mimic the normal theatre positions and each position had to be created and was unique to the show. With this, any change, no matter how small, impacted the set up, so this was carefully crafted out and installed by production electrician Sam Floyd and his team with the support of PRG and rigging from Unusual.
The 106 Sqm Everbrighten BR7 LED Display consisted of 426 Active LED tiles spread across ten LED Columns and two LED Banners, which created the backdrop to the show. The key focus was to achieve a 10-bit colour on the LED walls. For the server, video designer Ian William Galloway selected the Disguise Gx2c media server with Brompton M2 Processing and two Panasonic DZ21K Projectors.
The production which is showcased to a socially distanced audience took the safety of all involved very seriously. The producers and venue followed current Government guidelines for and for added safety, producer Michael Rose and Damien Sanders sourced Covid testing which could be done within an hour. Everyone on site was tested daily to ensure they could operate in a Covid free environment.
Producer of Sleepless, Michael Rose said: “Peter Marshall and all at PRG have been the most incredible supporters, colleagues and friends on everything we’ve done, but in these most challenging of times, they have turned into saviours for our show and our industry. For that, I will always be grateful and humbled. Being professional with a heart and an understanding of what is needed is paramount for any new production and PRG have got it in bucket loads.”
Overwhelmed by Michael Rose’s kind words Peter Marshall added: “It’s an absolute pleasure to be involved with this exciting new show and especially in the face of adversity given the current turbulent situation the live events and theatre market is facing. Thank you to Michael Rose, lighting designer Ken Billington, video designer Ian William Galloway and their teams for their enthusiasm, persistence and bravery with this show; the hard work has certainly paid off!”
All in all, a lovely musical, a nice story and a very happy ending for all involved. The show will go on…
24th September 2020
Medicine Festival relieves the Covid blues with Funktion-One
UK – Set in the tranquil parkland and ancient woodland of a stunning Berkshire country estate, Medicine Festival 2020 proved to be the perfect tonic for attendees and crew alike. It had been at least six months since most had been involved in any form of public event, but with safety measures in place, the five-day festival prescribed a healthy concoction of music, ancestral wisdom, art, well-being, future thinking, food, environmentalism, spirituality, dance and performance.
Audio Feed had been appointed as the sound partner long before Covid-19 turned the world upside down. When the organisers decided to go ahead, the Funktion-One specialists were tasked with updating the sound system designs for the three-stage set-up.
The decision to host the inaugural Medicine Festival in such challenging circumstances was founded in a desire to provide some much-needed positivity for the downcast events industry currently fighting for its life in the fallout of the Coronavirus apocalypse. Organisers worked closely with West Berkshire Council to enable the event to go ahead on the Wasing Estate. The council and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, were said to be delighted to have the opportunity to showcase how outdoor festivals can take place safely.
Safety measures included the reduced capacity (from 5,000 to 600), Covid-compliant risk assessments, social distancing, screening at the gate and a track and trace system for post-event.
Audio Feed’s Oz Jefferies relished the opportunity to get back to the business he’s dedicated the last decade to. He said: "It was great to get the crew and the equipment out working on a project again, and to work closely with our favourite contractors. It wasn’t always clear whether it would go ahead or not, but we were happy to support it when it did. We had to change the sound designs many times, but there was still a requirement for some good sized Funktion-One systems.
“We certainly had a few challenges. The downpour on build day reminded us what it's like to work in the British countryside. Meeting with event organisers, music curators and musicians and always remembering to keep two metres apart was out of the ordinary, as was building speaker stacks using face masks. However, the exhilarating feeling of building speaker stacks again was great.”
The Main Stage featured four Funktion-One Evo 6EH speakers, with four F124s two F215 Mk2s for bass reinforcement, and a pair of F101s for infill. Three XTA APA-4E8s and an MC2 Delta 80 DSP powered the system, with a DiGiCo S21 console at FOH. Over on the Lake Stage, four Funktion-One F1201s and four BR118s combined with XTA APA-4E6 and MC2 Delta 80 DSP amplifiers and a Midas M32. While Movement Shalla was home to two F101s, an E60 amp, an X04 controller and a Midas DM12.
Commenting on the sound, Nick Mulvey’s FOH engineer, Marco Perry, said: “The Funktion-One Medicine Festival 2020 sound system was well spec’d to cover eclectic DJ sets, various ceremonies and some truly magnificent live acts during the long weekend event. Within the noise constraints and its multifunctional purpose, the Funktion-One system performed outstandingly. Great performances, great sound system and great crew.”
The festival’s music curator, Moshe Halperin, echoed the sentiment: “Phenomenal crew, great sound system, great spec, over and above what was expected.”
Reflecting on a successful long weekend, Jefferies said: “It was very exciting to get in a field again and to work at an event that took social distancing seriously. The energy of the musicians was incredible, and their reaction to the Funktion-One sound and XTA amplifiers was even more intense than normal.
“The crowd had more energy than normal, perhaps because the rumour around the site was that this was the only festival of 2020. The Evo 6 system always manages to produce that little bit more energy from the crowd as well, especially with live music.”
photo: Philip Volkers Photography
24th September 2020
Sensational Sebastián Yatra shows delight with large Elation rig
Mexico – A full complement of Elation luminaires gave a spectacular closing to Colombian singer Sebastián Yatra's tour earlier this year in Mexico City, where he shared the stage with several artists, including Mexican singer Carlos Rivera. Chris Penso, an experienced lighting designer who has worked with Latin stars such as Franco de Vita, Carlos Vives, Chayanne and Marc Anthony, was responsible for lighting Yatra's tour.
For two special performances at the renowned Auditorio Nacional in Mexico City, the amount of lighting gear was enhanced and to spectacular effect. At Penso’s disposal were 66 Chorus Line 16 LED pixel bars, 36 Rayzor 760 LED wash/beam lights, 34 Smarty Hybrid and 28 Smarty Max moving heads, ten Fuze Wash Z350 single source par moving heads, 24 ACL 360 Matrix LED moving head panels, 20 Protron 3K Color strobes and 12 DTW Blinder 700 IP. Yatra worked with video engineer and content creator Williams Hincapie on the tour.
Penso commented about his lighting design: "The objective for this tour was to have a wide variety of textures, atmospheres and different sensations. Since Sebastian's repertoire is very diverse, we wanted to be able to go from very aggressive and dynamic looks to very subtle and minimal scenes.”
The talented LD revealed his favourite Elation lights to be the Chorus Line 16, positioned above the LED screen in the centre of the stage with others in musician platforms and on the stage proscenium and the Rayzor 760, which were mounted in pairs on three parallel structures to project general washes or narrow beams thanks to its wide five to 77 degree zoom.
"The Chorus Line 16 were a vital tool for the show and offer an infinite range of scenic possibilities,” Penso said. “Whether as blinders, back light, for aerial and dynamic effects, or when used with the zoom closed, they create a truly striking visual effect. Few luminaries can be classified as effect, wash and blinder and these motorized bars are able to give a whole show by themselves. From generating a wall of light to creating RGB pixel mapping, while zooming in and out and applying a tilt effect, all at the same time, this is definitely the future.”
Penso says that he has always loved wash lights, a lighting staple that he describes as “very faithful.” He comments, “The Rayzor 760 is a fixture of incredible colour accuracy with a very well-calibrated white that looks particularly different from anything on the market. Its seven lenses project light in a very particular way and its colours are brilliant and powerful.”
He says the luminaire’s unique SparkLED background sparkle effect adds another layer of elegance and versatility. “The unit looks incredible when using this effect no matter its orientation; it is perfect for TV cameras and backlight effects.” In the Yatra show, the Rayzor 760s provided solid colour and ambiance for each song, as well as general stage lighting as side and backlights.
Vertical ladders and diagonal podiums on both sides of the LED screen housed the Smarty Hybrid luminaires from which both gobos and defined beams of light were projected, as well as wide washes of infinite colour thanks to its beam/spot/wash modes in conjunction with smooth CMY colour mixing.
The Smarty Max hybrid moving heads were hung on two horizontal structures and used as side lights while at floor level Fuze Wash Z350 LED moving heads had the important role of supporting with fill light onto the musicians and Yatra himself. In a traditional look, DTW Blinder 700 IP fixtures were mounted on a front structure to light the audience and at times generate strobe effects.
Three circular arrangements of ACL 360 Matrix were an especially unique piece of design. These 5x5 RGB LED panels with motorised pan/tilt movement were placed facing down and during intimate moments of the show were used as the main light onto the singer. Finally, the Protron 3K Color RGBW LED strobes were distributed at the top of the entire assembly, both in the vertical grids and horizontal structures. “The idea was to have a strobe that could light the entire area of the stage,” Penso states. “Being such a varied show in musical genres, we wanted to have the option of using a light as a general strobe but also as an intense colour blinder. The Protron 3K Color are really powerful; rarely do you see a strobe with intense colours and with a real and solid white.”
Lastly, the LD expressed his satisfaction with the evolution that Elation luminaires have taken through the last few years and said he looks forward to working with new releases in the future. "Without a doubt, Elation is a brand that is here to stay. Not only does its equipment resist the rigours of installation and constant use but there is a very wide variety of fixtures with options for all types of venues, from discotheques to arenas and stadiums, and but above all, at a reasonable price.”
photos: Carlos Alvar
24th September 2020
KNV makes Italian debut on popular Battiti Live TV show
Italy – GLP’s pioneering new KNV series has been used for the first time in Italy, on two high profile broadcast TV shows. The first of these was Radionorba Vodafone Battiti Live, where DoP Massimo Pascucci, featured a large selection of KNV Cube, KNV Dot and KNV Line in the scenography, working alongside set designer Luigi Maresca and show director, Luigi Antonini.
This popular musical show is produced by Radionorba and broadcast by TeleNorba and Mediaset on the Italia 1 channel. Hosted by Alan Palmieri and Elisabetta Gregoraci, it features leading artists and their hits of the summer.
Generally, the traditional five episodes are recorded during the months of June and July in five different locations that represent the main cities of Puglia. However, this year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the show would have been cancelled were it not for a supreme production effort and the rapid drop off of infections. Thus a single location was chosen: the square immediately in front of the Aragonese Castle of Otranto in order to avoid moving equipment and manpower.
All GLP fixtures are imported into Italy by distributor, Alto Lighting, and for this show were supplied by rental company, MOD Srl.
Massimo Pascucci had no hesitation in using GLP’s revolutionary solutions after seeing videos of the KNVs in use. Because in this show I had focussed a lot on using the lights graphically, the product seemed perfect to me,” he said. Thus 12 of the KNV Cubes were accompanied by 25 KNV Dot and ten KNV Live. Each KNV format can be used independently, or seamlessly combined to form a massive, modular graphic display.
“In truth, the iconography of the show is about the heart, hence the Battiti (beats),” he continued. “So the Cubes were used in the centre of a structure that represented the heart Itself, housed in the central part of the roof. The other GLP devices (Line and Dot) were used around the stage perimeter, giving shape and linearity to the structure.”
Bespoke lighting scenes and states were programmed for each of the acts, as Pascucci explained. “For each song a different graphic is produced which is then displayed on huge LED walls, that make up the main scenography. The luminaires have been calibrated to this in order to harmonise with the dedicated mood of each performer, using the pixel mapping facility on the Hog 4 lighting desk.”
He remains in no doubt as to the many ways in which the unique KNV series enhanced the scenography and can see endless possibilities for the future. “The extreme brightness and possibility of integration with the existing lighting plot, really enhances the concept and opens up a new way of conceiving television lighting. By this I mean gradually dispensing with the conventional powerful beam movement delivered by automated spots. Instead it is possible to focus more on the stylisation of the scenes by integrating the lighting system with graphics, as far as possible.”
photos: Francesco Liuzzi
23rd September 2020
Hippotizer Drives Dynamic LED Array for The Voice Kids Colombia
Colombia – TV singing contest The Voice continues to dominate global viewing habits, and The Voice Kids in Colombia on Caracol Television is one incarnation of the phenomenon. Like its sister shows around the world, the spectacle demands ever-better visuals as each season ups the one before.
For the latest Colombian kids’ version of the show, multi-talented video designer Alvaro Fuentes, from Bogotá-based visual design company Visual in Motion, drew on his collection of Green Hippo gear to achieve the ambitious looks required by the production team. Fuentes’s Hippotizer armoury is headed up by a Hippotizer Karst, which alongside a family of Hippotizer media servers drove the content for Season 4.
“Because of the complex LED screens setup on stage, which were in different positions, sizes and resolutions, we needed a tool to map the content onto the surfaces,” says Fuentes. “That’s where Hippotizer is a huge help; VideoMapper is the perfect tool, making it really easy to make everything fit and synchronise.
“The other tool that we value the most is the DMX component, since we need to synchronise the video content and also the lighting fixtures, we wrap it all together in a lighting desk that controls everything via ArtNet.”
For The Voice Kids, Fuentes and his team positioned LED screens on every wall of the set. All were different sizes, including tall strips of 1m x 4.5m to contrast others at 3m x 4.5m. Between these screens, 3m x 4m boxes with the The Voice logo were displayed, illuminated by LED nodes mapped and controlled by the programmer. On the main stage floor, they placed LED strips of 6m x 0.5m right in front of every TV judge featured on the show.
The show is divided into stages, from the audition process to the singing battles and on to the finals. The visual content is ramped up as the stages progress, from library content at the outset to bespoke visuals created by Fuentes and his team for the finals, focusing on fast-paced animation and ‘festive’ colour blasts.
“To control everything, we used eight outputs of different resolutions, depending of the size and the pitch of the screens,” Fuentes explains. “Everything was mapped in 3D renders before the project began, so we could see what the visuals would look like and approve it before we got onto the set. Hippotizer made this simple, we always know we are in good hands.”
photos: Alvaro Fuentes
23rd September 2020
Global Lockdown Can’t Stop Outline MANTAS 28 System Delivering into Central Europe
Lithuania – Located on the westernmost edge of Lithuania near the Baltic coast, right in the heart of Europe, UAB “ProDJ” is a full-service technical provider working in many areas of production, from television through to festivals, opera, sporting events and arena-scale concerts. Its in-house facilities include dry hire, logistics, rigging, lighting, video, crew and technical support.
The company took delivery of an Outline MANTAS 28 ‘Golden Configuration’ rig during lockdown, a ready-to-roll complete solution designed for audiences of approximately 600 – 1,500 (and also perfect for integration with all Outline GTO, C-12 and Superfly kits as down / out fills when required).
The equipment list includes 16 MANTAS 28 compact line-array enclosures, eight DBS 18-2 subwoofers and a single Newton 16+8 system processor, plus a complete suite of rigging, cables, pre-wired racks, weather protection and even a two-day training course for operators. Extraordinarily, the entire system is powered by a pair of ‘GTA-Otto’ Grand Touring Amplifier Series eight-channel 2U rack amplifiers.
CEO Dovydas Bajoras commented: “We decided to work with Outline for lots of reasons: firstly they appear on many riders and in our view Outline offers a better class of manufacturing than anyone else. Also the price-to-performance ratio is very good; we tested other systems but some were not as compact as MANTAS 28 and others were much more expensive but without Outline’s audio performance. We will have more than 20 events this year with Mantas 28 and more than 50 planned for 2021. We had and still have plans to buy the Outline C-12 system when COVID-19 is over.”
“As Lady Gaga sings Million Reasons, we have one million reasons to work with Outline!”
22nd September 2020
Solico Event & Expo Technics Transforms Volvo Showroom into Event Space with Chauvet Professional
Belgium – Social distancing protocol has kept many of Volvo Van Kasteren’s customers from visiting the dealership’s new showroom on Grembergen Stone Road, but those who were fortunate to attended the facility’s grand opening celebration, held just weeks before the lockdown went into effect, still have vivid images of a memorable evening.
Taking place in mid-February, the two-day event, which introduced Volvo personalised service (VPS) concept to its market, dazzled with its lavish buffet, exciting entertainment and impressive display of the latest hybrid and electric vehicles, such as the XC40 and XC90, set against the background of a sleek glass and metal showroom.
Accenting the sights of the celebration was a lighting rig, brought in for the occasion by Solico Event & Expo Technics, that featured Chauvet Professional WELL Fit and Rogue fixtures.
In keeping with the engineering tradition of Volvo, the temporary lighting system was the result of a carefully thought out design process. Thanks to this attention to detail, Solico was able to overcome the challenges of lighting an event in a space that was created to function as a retail environment.
“Highlighting the combination of cars without our light getting in the way required planning, because there were no hoist possibilities in this facility,” said Solico’s Davy Vandaele, who served as project manager. “This was something we have done before. That said, all mood lighting had to be placed correctly to illuminate the vehicles and the venue without distracting the guests during their visit. It was especially important for us to conceal the cables and rely on battery-operated fixtures when possible in order to keep the look clean.”
The Solico team positioned 60 battery powered WELL Fit fixtures throughout the dealership to accentuate the architectural features of the showroom and create even, visible sight lines across the entire space. “Uplighting was essential,” said Vandaele. “Because the ceiling was lower in certain places, lighting from the uplighters came into its own to make the room more visible without it being an overkill.”
Drawing on the colour rendering capabilities of the RGBA WELL Fit units, the Solico team created a festive mood throughout the room with blue and orange washes. The 24 Rogue R2 Wash and 16 Rogue R1 Spot fixtures in the rig also added to the ambience.
In addition to contributing to the overall mood in the room, the wash and spot fixtures highlighted some of the cars on display. A pair or Rogue RH1 Hybrid fixtures were also brought to the event to provide dynamic looks in support of the DJ performance.
The versatile lighting display was part of a total look that Solico brought to the Volvo Van Kasteren event. “Our directive from the marketing manager was to create a Scandinavian look and feel,” said Vandaele. “By choosing the right lighting and the necessary programming, along with auxiliary materials, such as design stands that fit perfectly into the setting, we were able to transform a showroom into an engaging event space.”
22nd September 2020
Robe for Skoda ENYAQ iV Launch in Prague
Czech Republic – Iconic Czech brand Škoda world premiered its new ENYAQ iV all-electric SUV in the main hall of the O2 Universum event and conference complex in Prague.
This ground-breaking event generated a huge buzz of excitement, not just because of this landmark vehicle, but also as one of the first properly ‘live’ events delivered safely and spectacularly in a post Covid-19 world.
Meeting all the Covid compliance rules, this jaw-dropping 35-minute show (which was also streamed) highlighted once again the talent, creativity and solutions based ‘can-do’ mentality of the live events and entertainment industry sector presenting action, information and drama with all the emotion and engagement that comes with having a real audience present, plus amassed press and media.
Germany-based creative producers Schachzug collaborated with event planners Pure Perfection, technical specialists MacomNIYU and technical supplier Ambion, with the latter delivering the lighting, audio, video, SFX, staging, etc.
The MacomNIYU team had started speaking to lighting designer Chris Moylan from Berlin-based design company Optikalusion about the event back in in January, well before anyone realised how changed the world would be by show time.
Chris created a stunning and highly flexible lighting scheme for the event, with his choice of beam fixtures being 54 Robe MegaPointes. He also utilised three Robe BMFL Spots operated via three separate RoboSpot remote BaseStations, which joined around 450 lights on the rig all supplied via Ambion.
As the Covid relevant rules were constantly changing almost daily, the show evolution was also fluid right up to the last moments as recommendations about distancing, mask-wearing and audience numbers shifted. As the show dealt with these demands, Chris ensured that he had enough lights to cover all possibilities.
All the crew were tested prior to starting work on site, then rigorous mask-wearing and social distancing was enforced during the build and rehearsal period, with Plexi dividers denoting the different FOH workspaces, etc.
As Chris predicted, the look and style of the show that was presented had developed substantially from what was initially envisioned, and this was further fine-tuned during the nine days on site leading up to the show.
The show presentation space was dominated by a 23 metre by five metre wide 3.9mm pitch main screen flanked by two 7.5 metre wide screens at the sides.
The aesthetic was clean, slick, contemporary in keeping with the concept of electric transport. Vehicles were driven in and out of the space throughout and the shiny floor was also used as a giant video projection surface, so lighting had to compliment this with precise gobo patterning and blasts of colour filling the voids with atmosphere, vibrancy and animation.
Lighting was also used to build drama by creating accents and punctuation in line with the music track, as well as being functional as key lighting for presenters and vehicles.
Irish indie rock band ‘Inhaler’ popped up into the action on a rolling riser, revealed during a blackout partway through the show as a complete surprise, and all three cars came on stage for a rousing finale, ensuring the visual thrills kept the energy and anticipation pumping throughout.
At the end, the audience were invited down to the show floor to inspect the vehicles, so the lighting also had to make sure the cars were appropriately lit for this phase of the presentation.
“I needed to keep all options on the table,” commented Chris.
MegaPointe is a favourite choice for Chris who recently used them for “Lux Partum”, a streamed interactive light artwork created in Berlin during the lockdown. In Prague, the MegaPointes were rigged on the upstage trusses. “They are a great beam light and perfect for everything I needed on this show: the accents, the punctuation, reinforcing the breaks and changes in tempo.”
They were also the one fixture on the rig on which he was not prepared to compromise or take a substitution.
The BMFL Spots were positioned on the front and side trusses so they could pick up presenters and cars across the whole floor space, with the three operators stationed backstage where they could also be on hand to do some other technical tasks if needed.
Chris and his two programmers Matthias Schöffmann and Andreas Schindler worked closely on their grandMA3 control set up, each enjoying the various challenges of lighting the show and finding creative solutions including highlighting the cars without interfering with the projections and producing a large and diverse amount of ‘lighting choreography’ in a very short space of time.
A pre-vis studio set up on site where they worked in Depence2 modelling of the event was extremely helpful in achieving the spectacular looking results.
This was arguably one of the first corporate live events to be staged since everything came to a halt in March. It is being hailed as a massive success and everyone was very proud to be involved in effectively breaking new ground.
Having a live audience – and VIPs like Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš – together with the press and media present added a heightened resonance to the atmosphere in the room as well as demonstrating that live events can be safely and effectively delivered during the pandemic.
Event Safety Consult from Heidelberg coordinated all the health and safety aspects including the Covid related ones.
Chris was very impressed with the smoothness and organisation, right down to practical details like colour coded masks so guests, cast, crew, security, venue staff, etc., could be easily and instantly identified plus a myriad of other common-sense practices.
“This really illustrated how well-planned live events can meet all the Covid regulations and still deliver an amazing experience,” he commented, adding that naturally he and all the crew were simply ecstatic at being back on the road for the ten days, programming lights, working long hours, feeling alive and doing what every person involved in shows will tell you is “what we all live for”.
photos: Chris Moylan
21st September 2020
Iwan Hutapea Powers Indonesia’s FLAVS Livestream Hip Hop Festival with ChamSys
Indonesia – Organisers had big plans for FLAVS when they sat around a table planning the event last year. Billing itself as “the largest hip-hop festival in Indonesia,” FLAVS was more than ready to live up to this claim. Glastonbury headliner Stormzy was schedule to appear at the festival, which was supposed to kick off 4 April at Istora Stadium in centre of the city. So too were international stars like Azealia Banks and Lil Pump.
Of course, COVID-19 put an end to these plans. After first being postponed to a later date, the live festival was scrapped and moved to a virtual two-day event streamed from Studio Md TV. With local artists replacing the original star-studded line-up, sceptics might have expected the 15-16 August show to be a subdued, meandering affair haunted by thoughts of what might have been. They’d have been dead wrong.
As so often has happened when creative spirits have been challenged by this pandemic, those involved in FLAVS came roaring back with a fierce burning intensity that blew away any disappointment. The 40 artists who appeared at the festival created a tight, non-stop torrent of raw unapologetically passionate sound, leaving those who paid Rp 99,000 (US$6.99) for a virtual day pass with the feeling that their money was well-spent.
Supporting these artists was a rapid fire, colourful Iwan Hutapea light show run on a ChamSys MagicQ MQ500 console. Busking to keep pace with an ever-changing set list, Hutapea moved his six universe 80 fixture show through a varied mix of looks that reflected the music and personality of each artist.
The user-friendly layout of the MQ500, with its HD display made it easier for him to keep pace with the high energy performers on stage. “When you are running the boards in a show like this, you appreciate the logical layout of the MQ500 with its HD display and how easy it makes things,” said Hutapea, a long-time ChamSys users who’s work many large Indonesian festivals like Soundrenalin.”
The customised colour picker feature of the MQ500 was also essential to Hutapea’s design, as he bathed the stage and surrounding area with a wide variety of colour blends to give each group a unique visual signature. “Given that this is a relatively small studio rather than a bigger festival stage, we were limited in the looks we could create with aerial effects, so we often relied on creating unique colour combinations,” he said. “The MQ500 gives us a lot of power to do this.”
Those colour combos were coordinated with the distinctive configuration of seven video walls that ran across almost three-quarters of the upstage wall. With a larger square wall behind the DJ booth flanked on each side by three irregularly shaped panels, the video displays focused attention on centre stage.
“Everyone associated with this festival worked hard to make it a great experience,” said Hutapea. “This includes Visicita and DiandraPromosindo, the Indonesian LD Association, and Pecahin (Penata Cahaya Indonesia). They all gave me a lot of support.”
Hutapea took this support and ran with it, creating a compelling array of looks that any festival, virtual or live, would be proud to call its own.
21st September 2020
Peachy Playhouse Summer Season is Huge Success
UK – Peachy Playhouse, a new socially distanced entertainment concept developed to deliver safe live performances of comedy, music, children’s shows, etc during the coronavirus pandemic, closed its summer season at Loseley Park, Guildford on a high note.
That didn’t just include a spirit-rousing performance and some superlative, funk, soul, dance and hi-hop from the Ambassadors Band, the ground-breaking season – a big leap of faith and some serious planning and investment by Philip French from Peachy Productions – was a resounding success.
Philip and his team supplied 95% of the technical production infrastructure for the six-week period including staging, lighting, video and audio. The Playhouse show schedule ran for two two-week sessions with a two-week break in-between, working alongside some carefully selected locally-based partners to provide the other elements including catering, generators, marquees, and toilets.
Robe moving lights were front and centre of the production rig, with eight Pointes and 12 LEDBeam 150s prominent on the rig, pulled from Peachy Productions’ stock. When the company initially started and was investing in equipment, explained Philip, they chose a few key brands in all departments, and for moving lights, that was Robe.
“They are robust – definitely an asset in the English summer known for its erratic weather – great value for money, they have a good colour mix and the physical movement is very smooth,” he stated.
“They also provide a lot of power and punch for the size.”
Size was important in the Peachy Playhouse context. As a flexible space for both cinema and live entertainment, they needed fixtures that blended in with the stage, kept the integrity of the sightlines and had a decent impact.
Philip feels that LEDBeam 150s are “perfect” with the zoom and focus which makes them a “very flexible light.”
The same attributes – power and small size – of the Pointes assisted in throwing the energy coming off the stage right into the audience standing by their cars in the now-famous Peachy picket-fenced bays, getting that all-important connection between performers and audience.
With Pointes rigged overhead and upstage sides and LEDBeam 150s on the front bars above the cantilever of the stage and on the deck in the downstage corners for low-level cross lighting, Peachy’s main lighting designer Jared Greenall had plenty of opportunities to get creative with lighting the assortment of artists.
For a multi-purpose scenario like this, from a single stand-up comedian on stage to covering the animated ten-piece line-up of the Ambassadors band who played four times over the period, these Robe fixtures were an ideal choice. They were also good for creating a general ambience for movie nights.
Much more than a drive-in, tucked away in a pastoral corner of the stunningly beautiful and secluded Loseley estate, Peachy Playhouse was inaugurated to deliver some fantastic entertainment and be a holistic morale booster in a green, tranquil setting for those emerging from lockdown isolation, an aftermath devoid of so many social experiences that were taken for granted pre Covid-19.
The site was adapted over the time as well with a socially distanced eating area added, complete with atmospheric festoon lighting, and a bar appeared for the second run of shows.
The event gave Philip a chance to bring back some of Peachy’s full-time staff from furlough and to employ some of their regular freelancers in doing what they loved best as well giving the array of artists, many of whom had not performed live since March, a chance to tread the boards once more.
“There is an energy and an engagement between performers and guests in live entertainment that, for all the great streaming events happening, you simply can't get from being behind a computer screen,” says Phil.
There’s been a steep learning curve and numerous challenges involved in running this first season of Peachy Playhouse.
Dealing with all the new Covid-related rules and regulations and health and safety related practices has topped the list, and the second challenge was bringing people to the space.
“Having been in lockdown for some months we discovered that people were not putting as much emphasis on names on the bill, but more on the ‘overall experience’, which we set out to make as fun as possible and deliver it safely and enjoyably for all,” he states, adding that seeing everyone’s smiles and hearing their laughter has made all the risk, hard work and sleepless nights “completely worthwhile; there have been so many magic moments!”
The commitment needed to start a new venture like this at an extraordinary moment in time has galvanised Philip, who is brimming with new ideas and new contacts made, that are promising to bring other enterprises to fruition between now and the end of the year.
photos: Louise Stickland
18th September 2020
Michelle Pan's voice touches hearts with L-Acoustics K2/Kara system
Taiwan – In the Taiwanese music industry, Michelle Pan Yue Yun is considered a defining musician whose lyrics have resonated with thousands of people, giving voice to their feelings and experiences for decades. In July, the iconic singer delivered a stunning performance in front of 2,500 enthusiastic, socially distanced fans, friends and musicians at the Taipei International Convention Centre (TICC). Despite its reduced-capacity (the venue can hold up to 3,000), there was no reduction in audio quality, thanks to L-Acoustics K Series.
Rising to the challenge of designing and supplying the perfect sound system for the venue, which is primarily used for corporate presentations and conferences, Winly Engineering & Trading was tasked with overcoming a multitude of acoustical limitations, delivering a system that would provide uniform sound distribution across the entire space. Winly front of house engineer Nova Lo, system engineer Scott Kuo, and monitor engineer Andre Lai played key roles in the project.
“We have been working with Michelle Pan for over 20 years, so it was a natural move for us to be involved in the project,” reminisces Scott Kuo. “Originally, the concert was going to take place in April, but then the pandemic happened and wiped out live events across the entire globe. The show was postponed until July, which worked to our advantage as it gave us a few extra months to perfect the system, with the last three weeks spent working on site to prepare for the concert.”
The team used L-Acoustics Soundvision 3D acoustical simulation programme to design the audio system that would ensure optimum levels of coverage in this challenging venue.
“Turning the space into an effective music venue was a test pilot for the organisers, and we loved the challenge,” exclaims Nova Lo. “We had to consider things like uniformity of coverage, articulation and frequency response very seriously. Soundvision helped us prepare the system design, so just a few final tweaks and adjustments were needed on-site to achieve true sound precision.”
The final system comprised two left/right hangs of 12 K2, bolstered by four SB28 subs, floor stacked on either side of the stage. For front fill, six Kara were evenly spaced across the stage lip offering optimum sound distribution to the first rows. “We decided to use K2 as the main speaker to give the venue the best possible chance of improved sound quality and distribution, with Winly’s Scott Kou designing the whole system with the help of Soundvision,” says Nova Lo.
Speaking on behalf of the team, Deepjoy Picture Corporation shares how thrilled they were to be pioneering bringing live shows to life again.
“This was one of the first live shows to happen in Taiwan after what felt like a very long hiatus, so we wanted to celebrate the return of the industry by presenting the audience with an exceptional sound experience,” concludes Andre Lai. “The L-Acoustics system radically improved the venue’s sound quality and coverage. It was great to receive positive feedback from fans, musicians and producers, but most especially Michelle Pan’s close friends, all saying how excited they were to be back at a live event and how remarkably clear and emotionally touching the sound of Pan’s voice was that night.”
18th September 2020
White Light Rocks On with Jesus Christ Superstar: The Concert
UK – Last month, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre reopened with a concert version of Jesus Christ Superstar, making it the first major London venue to do so post lockdown. Having supplied the Open Air Season for many years now, as well as working on a host of outdoor productions over the past few months, WL was called upon to supply the lighting for this much anticipated concert.
Created by the team behind the Olivier and Evening Standard Award-winning production, Jesus Christ Superstar: The Concert is a special staging of the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber classic. Complying with government regulations, this version is being performed in front of a socially distanced audience in order to ensure the complete safety of everyone in attendance. And while there has been a lot of changes to when the show played here last, the creative design team remains largely the same, including lighting designer Lee Curran who was nominated for an Olivier for his original design. He comments: “This is the first show I have worked on since lockdown. Over the past six months, I’ve had five shows either cancelled or postponed, one show close early, as well as the US tour of Jesus Christ Superstar put on hold. So when I was asked to come back and light this concert version, I was incredibly happy to do so! That said, nothing about this has been normal. Everything happened so fast, to the point where the time from which I had the first phone with Tim Sheader until the first live public show was less than five weeks. As such, there was very little prep time and decisions on the lighting plan had to be made very quickly.”
Lee has obviously lit this show before and his previous work has achieved critical acclaim. So was it a case of approaching the concert version as a brand-new piece, or staying true to his original design? He explains: “I felt instinctively that it had to be recognisable as ‘our production’, but knew it could never be a simple revisit for two simple reasons: one, a socially distanced cast and two, a different set! Fortunately, the nature of the Evita set which we were working from meant there was really only one significant problem to solve, which was getting the backlight positions we needed for a range of spots. I worked out a goalpost solution which got incorporated into a larger framework that Tom Scutt designed to rise above the original band housing. The other factor that quickly became apparent was how much bigger the lighting design had become since the original production in Regent's Park. The last three productions had been indoors, and by the time of the US Touring production which we made last year, every aspect of the lighting was bigger and more complicated. So picking a way through that in the limited time we had was probably my biggest challenge.”
The other challenge was the more practical one of having to work around the strict regulations now in place. Lee comments: “Our production manager Andy Beardmore had to do extensive work on risk assessments and systems to make everything Covid-safe. This covered everything from temperature checks when arriving at stage door, to wearing masks at all times when on site, to one-way systems for moving around the site. We had medical-grade wipes and hand sanitiser at our production desks. Similarly, I kept my own headset for comms, and wiped down my desk and everything on it every day. There were a lot more procedures covering backstage too. Everything from how the trucks were loaded to allow for safe unpacking and moving of gear, to how the crew worked in rigging and focusing. And as for the choreography of cast and crew backstage during the show, to maintain social distancing - that was an unbelievable effort by everyone involved.”
As the company moved into tech, Lee found himself once again focusing lights outdoors after midnight, something he calls “the nature of the gig”. To achieve his lighting design, Lee approached WL who were once again intended to supply the entire season pre-Covid. He decided to draw on fixtures that he had used on previous incarnations of the show, as well as ones he knew he could rely on within the outdoor space. He explains: “The rig featured a lot of Par 64s, giving us punch and energy and effects that are visible even in matinees. Claypaky Sharpys were deployed for beam movement and effects in a couple of the bigger numbers. Martin MAC Viper Performances were used for spots, and Viper DX Washes for crosslight. SGM P5s are acting as backlight washes and lighting trees, and ETC ColorSource Spots are there for sidelight, with a few Source Four Tungsten Profiles doing the little bit of front lighting we have. Look Unique hazers and Viper smoke machines gave us our atmospherics.”
Jesus Christ Superstar: The Concert has opened to critical acclaim and has marked a much welcomed return to live theatre. It will run until 27th September.
Lee concludes: “To be making any work at all, especially a production that we all love so much, is an incredible privilege now more than ever. The theatre deserves huge praise for taking the risk to produce the show, when it would be far easier and financially more prudent to stay closed. They've given 140 people employment when there is precious little else around, and they've offered a bit of hope to the whole industry. The audience response has been phenomenal, and I think there have been tears before, during and after every performance, as people process their own feelings at simply being back in a theatre, on top of those our show evokes. Hopefully it won't be too long before that experience becomes commonplace once again.”
photos: David Jenson
18th September 2020
Fuse Technical Group chooses Brompton HDR for rock-solid visuals at Third Encore Studios
USA – When the entertainment industry’s lights were switched off by the global pandemic, Fuse Technical Group, like many others, had to come up with new and innovative ways to continue serving its customers. The solution became evident when the full-service production company decided to partner with LA-based Third Encore Studios and Monsters of Rock Cruise (MORC) to build a virtual live production environment for content streaming. Regular events including MORC’s PPV live streamed music performances are delivered in front of amazing, rich visual backgrounds thanks to the processing power of Brompton Technology and its HDR solution.
“Third Encore Studios is a well-known rehearsal facility in Los Angeles. We’ve crossed paths many times, but never worked together on a project like this before,” says Fuse project manager, Benjamin Johnson. “The coronavirus pandemic and the state of the entertainment industry meant there was a need to create new solutions and gave us our first opportunity to collaborate. We have solid technical knowledge and high-quality video and lighting equipment, and they have the perfect facility, all we lacked was great talent. That came in the form of the Monsters of Rock Cruise webcast, transmitted live via their Facebook page.”
Together with his team, Johnson built a high spec virtual event space, with an LED floor measuring 20ft by 24ft (43.2 sqm), enclosed by a 35ft wide by 12ft tall (38.9 sqm) LED wall. The space uses ROE panels: Black Marble 4 for the floor and Carbon 3 for the upstage and left/right screens, all running on Brompton’s Tessera SX40 4K LED processors.
“We have had over 25 bands and artists performing on stage at Third Encore Studios, with Jane’s Addiction, Bush, The Dickies and Polo G just to name a few,” shares Johnson. “Most of the performing talent prefers providing us with their own content to be shown in the background, so we have to be prepared to facilitate different formats.”
Significant improvement to the image quality, greater reliability, and quicker set-up times were just a few reasons why Brompton processing was chosen by the team.
“We also think the colour processing on Brompton products is just incredible,” he continues. “Fuse owns Brompton HDR-enabled tiles, which we’ve used on a couple of shows, and there’s no better colour reproduction than can be achieved with Brompton HDR. The Tessera SX40 processor with HDR firmware is like a match made in heaven.”
The Fuse team have found the Tessera XD 10G data distribution units particularly useful, allowing them to run fewer cables from the processor to the LED wall and helping them to keep a neat cable path on-site and making the workflow more efficient for everybody. Another Tessera processing feature they’ve made good use of is the OSD (On-Screen Display) which displays essential LED panel information on each tile, making tracking and troubleshooting quick and easy.
With one of the largest inventories of Tessera SX40 processors in their stock, the Fuse team had all the necessary ingredients to transition into this new way of working.
“The great thing about the virtual studio is that we can utilise the equipment we would normally use on live events, touring concerts, and corporate events,” says Johnson. “To build it into a studio just meant a bit of organisation. We split ourselves into teams, so that we could socially distance during the build and be as safe as we could possibly be. The studio was a very natural transition from our previous work. A lot of people are looking for a place to stream live content and we have the facility and the equipment to do it.”
Johnson believes this is more than a temporary solution and that live events and virtual studios can co-exist in the post-pandemic era.
“I think there's definitely a place for virtual studios in the future, particularly as live streaming is now getting a much stronger foothold. But I also believe that people love to gather, they love live concerts, and when it's safe again, that will come back,” he says. “The good news is that when that happens, we will have the expertise not only to facilitate more traditional live shows, but also to continue producing and delivering high quality content via our virtual event space.”
Offering his final thoughts on the quality of its processing and his relationship with the company in general, Johnson’s confidence in Brompton is rock-solid.
“We leave the LED walls and the processors on 24 hours a day, and we don't have any problems with them. We don't shut them off and we never have to restart them. They always work,” he concludes. “Outside of this project, Brompton has always given us excellent support, helping with firmware updates, or technical questions about the processors or the colour handling. The Brompton team has always been there for us, and we very much appreciate that.”
photos: Joe Schaeffer Photography
18th September 2020
Astera for #RedAlertRESTART Lighting Action in the US
USA – Astera products played their part for the recent #RedAlertRESTART campaign in the United States on 1st September, a collective lighting action that saw over 2,000 buildings, places, structures, landmarks and spaces lit in red to highlight the critical situation facing live events and entertainment and the demand for Congress to pass the RESTART Act (S.3814) soonest to offer some sort of relief to the industry and try to get things moving again.
John DiEleuterio, sales and project manager for from Wilmington, Delaware-based dry hire company Main Light Industries, reached for the company’s stock of Astera AX5 TriplePAR battery powered LED fixtures in support of the event.
This latest lighting ‘red day of action’ was part of a wider international industry campaign being led by the #WeMakeEvents movement, a collective of trade organisations, companies and individuals including PLASA (the Professional Lighting & Sound Association).
Like many in the technical production industry, John is passionate about his job, career and community, which is also a lifestyle, so he jumped at the chance to be involved.
Earlier in the year, he was also at the centre of “Illuminate Delaware”, a Memorial Day lighting event to honour the hard work and dedication of frontline workers during the Coronavirus pandemic.
For #RedAlertRESTART, John lit the Main Light office and warehouse building in Wilmington with 32 x AX5s positioned around the exterior, cutting a striking rich red look. He supplied another eight AX5 fixtures to the Wilmington Drama League community theatre group to illuminate their theatre building in a vibrant red.
Working closely with Ryan Morris (also a #WeMakeEvents local organizer) and his team at the IATSE Local 8 stage hand’s union in Philadelphia (around 30 minutes down the road and just along the Delaware River) John arranged the loan of 56 x AX5s.
Thirty-two of these were deployed around the IATSE Union Hall building for the night.
Six were used to highlight the iconic “Rocky” bronze statue at the base of the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The larger than life boxes with upstretched arms is one of Philadelphia’s most famous tourist attractions and popular photo spots, together with the 72 “Rocky Steps” leading up to the entrance of the Art Museum.
Rocky radiated red for this evening!
Another six AX5s were used to illuminate another striking Philly landmark, the Robert Indiana “LOVE” statue in Love Park, the entrance to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The remaining 12 x AX5s were used to light the front façade of the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on Philadelphia Avenue of the Arts, home to the Philadelphia Theater Company.
John underlined how “perfect” AX5s are for these pop-up installation applications: “You just have them charged up and ready to go and it’s an instant quality light source with excellent coverage wherever needed. Astera AX5’s are my go-to fixtures!”
John was delighted to have an opportunity to help raise awareness generally for ‘the industry’, something that is very much needed for all the talented people and teams who are working hard backstage, behind the scenes and concealed by curtains and drapes.
“I was very excited to do my bit for #RedAlertRESTART and see everyone get energised for the night! We all felt very united, it gave us a chance to engage and explain to people what we do and what is going on and I also think it gave some glimmers of hope that the industry stands strong together through this extremely tough time.”
John also personally owns some Astera AX3 LiteDrops which were deployed around his house for the occasion, making a big impact for a tiny fixture!
The event was hailed as a big success, but more is needed.
“I hope we can all soon get back to doing what we love best and seeing live events, concerts, festivals, theatre shows, etc. delivered safely and spectacularly, creating all those memorable moments that people love and enjoy,” concluded John.
The idea of lighting buildings in ‘emergency red’ started in Germany with #NightofLightDE in June, a concept that caught on with red days of action organised in many European countries and the UK (initiated by #LightiItInRed on 6th July, followed up by PLASA’s #WeMakeEvents action on 11th August) as well as South Africa (#LightSARed on 5th August) and others. Something big and worldwide is being planned for the end of September.
Photos: ohn DiEleuterio, Matt Coyle and Bob Perrault
17th September 2020
Julien Reux Evokes Legendary Moods for Wallows with Chauvet Professional Strike 1
USA – History resonates throughout the Roxy Theatre, the legendary Sunset Strip club opened in 1973 by recording industry icon Lou Adler and a group of celebrity partners. It was here that the Rocky Horror Picture Show made its US debut, and the Ramones gave their first California concert. Bob Marley recorded a live album at the club in its first decade, so too did Ratt, Frank Zappa, George Benson, and Bruce Springsteen.
Impressions of these iconic moments echoed through the heart, mind and imagination of Julien Reux, the owner of ReuxLight Design, when he sat down this summer to create some unique looks for a virtual four-show tour by Wallows at the legendary venue. Summoning the evocative spirit of the club’s rich past, he gave his shows a haunting, redolent flavour with help from the warm white light of 20 Chauvet Professional Strike 1 fixtures supplied by the Envizion Group.
Reux, who has been designing for Wallows since the alt rock band’s first tour (Nothing Happens) in 2019, described how his creative process kicked off. “When management told me that they were going to shoot at, The Roxy, I knew that I wanted to bring back an old school feel to the space,” he said. “Recreating the live concert parcan tungsten vibe from the 80s and 90s was a crucial to my plans for lighting the band.”
Wallows played one-hour concerts at The Roxy on four different nights. Reux gave each show its own look by configuring the single source 230W warm white blinders differently for each performance. Arranging the fixtures in a straight horizontal line for one show, having them form a semi-circle for another, and vertically orienting them in diagonal patterns for two others, he created an air of spontaneity that meshed nicely with the band’s lively sound. This spirit was supported by the healthy blend of specific cues and busking by lighting operator Landon Fleischman.
“Wallows is not shy about having the show as vibrant and colourful as possible,” said Reux. “I did not want to rely solely on monochromatic keylighting, but instead was looking to combine saturation and warm accent lighting to create dynamic moments. With the different orientations of the Strike 1s, I was able to utilise the small stage for more side angles. One of my favourite points in the show was when we had all the lights go off except for the Strike 1s, which were left on to silhouette the band.
“Cole Karaba, the band’s tour manager and FOH engineer, and Will Chandler of Envizion Group were instrumental in helping me,” continued Reux. “This show was actually designed to fit both live and broadcast settings. The Strike 1s were worked into the new show file for filming because of their LED frequency settings. I liked how the red shift attributes provide an extra punch for a big audience. Of course, in this situation, they also gave me big looks in a club setting. Plus, they really create the warm tungsten feel of the club’s original era.”
Looking at Wallows play in the Strike 1 fixtures’ warm glow; it was easy to imagine Neil Young and Crazy Horse performing the first show ever at The Roxy in September 1973. That was 23 years before the founding members of Wallows were born. But no matter, music has resonated off the walls of this club for generations and lighting has been right there with it every step of the way.
photos: Nikoli Partiyeli/@nikoliparty
17th September 2020
ChileStream – Going with the Flow
Chile – Carlos Hormazabal is an experienced audio engineer from Santiago, Chile. In a career spanning ten years, he has worked with a wide variety of leading artists, including Franco el Gorila, Frank’s White Canvas, Max Zegers and Paloma Mami. As well as touring, he has worked at many national and international festivals in South America and Europe.
Earlier this year, for reasons all too familiar to the global performing arts community, Carlos saw his live work come to an abrupt halt. Recognising that the short term future lay away from the live concert sector, Carlos drew on his experience to create ChileStream, a streaming platform through which artists and their audiences could reconnect. Assembling an experienced team of four, Carlos complemented his audio skills with a lighting designer, videographer and producer, setting the bar for production values very high in order to provide subscribers with a well-presented, authentic experience.
Carlos explains: “It was quickly apparent that COVID-19 would have a profound effect on the live performance arena all over the world, so I turned my attention to finding ways of satisfying the demands of audiences to engage with their favourite artists. I think it is fair to say that we are pioneers of these high quality streaming shows here in Chile. The response has been amazing, through our platform, fans can not only see the artist live but also enjoy interaction through chat, something that has proved very popular. Audio quality is absolutely vital to the success of the streams.”
Carlos was already a user of the Waves LV1 system, integral to which are his two DiGiGrid IOX units and a DiGiGrid D. He uses the set-up both live and in his studio, having fallen in love with the versatility of SoundGrid as well as the quality of the IOX preamps. Having enjoyed a long and friendly relationship with DiGiGrid’s Chilean distributor RG Store, Carlos had first begun exploring DiGiGrid products a few years ago.
“I’d started to take a real interest in the products and the advantages they could give me. Around that time I happened to be working on a show with Franco el Gorila, where Wisin & Yandel were playing, and I grabbed a chat with their front of house engineer who shared some very positive views about the hardware.”
Having become an established DiGiGrid user, Carlos is looking to expand his set-up: “The main advantages for me of the DiGiGrid system are its portability, sound quality and I/O, but above all its connectivity and stability. Having a plug and play system of this quality is, of course, fantastic! My next ambition is to acquire another LV1 system where I can incorporate three additional IOX to have independent preamp stages for both front of house and monitors.”
So far, ChileStream has staged more than 20 live streamed performances of Chilean artists including Luis Jara, DrefQuila, Franco Figueroa and Carolina Soto. To judge from the popularity of the service, Carlos Hormazabal and his team will be keeping busy for some time to come. Whilst nothing can beat the immediacy and emotion of real live music, ChileStream, with its use of DiGiGrid and other cutting edge technologies is making a valiant effort to keep artists and audiences together during difficult times. Everyone, including Carlos, cannot wait to return to the ‘real thing’; for now, the streams continue to flow.
17th September 2020
‘311 Day’ 3-night Las Vegas party brought to life with GLP Bars and hybrid strobes
USA – Kentucky-based production designer, Bobby Grey, already had a wealth of real-world experience behind him, ranging from theme parks to theatre, touring and designing top-end festival stages by the time he had reached 30.
His passion for sound and lighting dates right back to high school, when he was in a band and he was soon bitten by the theatre bug.
Concentrating on lighting he came under the influence of Joe Paradise and it was he who introduced Grey to his current charges, veteran rock band 311. Along the way Grey became an associate designer with Sightline Design Group, before starting his own company, Notan Creative in January 2020.
The band are now noted for their summer tours and legendary ‘311 Day’, held annually at the Park Theatre, Las Vegas (Park MGM) on 11th March. But this year the event went into overdrive as they celebrated their 30th anniversary over three nights. Bobby Grey designed another bespoke rig, using an abundance of GLP X4 Bar 10 and Bar 20 and JDC1 hybrid strobes, run in full pixel mode.
Of GLP’s automated lighting he said: “I’m a big fan of the way GLP create unique fixtures that don’t fit the mould of what everyone else is making. It’s great that a fixture like the X4 Bars can line architecture or sets so that the lighting and geometry work together. And I like the versatility of lights like the JDC1, which can be used in different ways to keep the rig looking fresh through the night. Instead of choosing an RGB strobe that gives you colour, or a white strobe that gives you punch, we get the best of both worlds in a unique form factor.”
When Paradise first invited Grey to cover some dates for 311 he immediately hit it off with both the band and crew. “I essentially finished growing up on tour with them. Some of our runs were full production shed tours, but some would be just Joe and me, or just me alone, with whatever fixtures we could fit into the back 15ft of truck space,” he said.
Paradise then handed the reins over entirely to Grey to design the March 2018 iteration of ‘311 Day’ at the Park Theatre. “As a result, I did their summer tour design that year and have been working with them on all of their projects since.”
He says the band’s music and aesthetic have always revolved around a ‘space’ and ‘psychedelic jam’ feel. Thus for the recent shows they adopted an outer space/UFO narrative. “At walk-in, we had the entire rig at the grid, hidden from view, and absolutely no backline on stage, we even hid the side trusses with curtains. It felt like walking into an empty venue,” he explained. They blacked out the houselights and filled the stage with low lying fog, and throughout the night used trippy psychedelic visuals, spaced themed visuals and live IMAG effects to keep things fresh.
Pods were slowly introduced with cryo blasting from each point. “When I first conceived these pods, it was immediately clear that they had to be lined with X4 Bar 10s and 20s. They could be zoomed in tight and point straight down, giving us sheer curtains of light. Or I could zoom them out wide and get lots of bloom on camera that made the pods look like there was a warp drive or energy field emanating from them. It was a key element of the design.
“And knowing that I had so many songs and three nights ahead of me to keep fresh, I knew that the JDC1 was the strobe for the job.”
Only a few songs lend themselves to strobes. Grey said: “If they were missing entirely it would have been noticeable. That’s why the JDC1s were so great. When not being used to burn eyeballs, they functioned as great LED wash effect lights. Since they could tilt, I could point them straight down so they were eye candy for the camera, or point them out at the audience and manipulate their pixels to break up the form of the pods. Their futuristic look really played into the space theme.”
For the success of the three-night extravaganza, Grey praised touring director / operator Alex Parayuelos who is “an invaluable asset to the production” and the trust placed in him by the band and their management. He also credits his entire technical crew, special FX vendor Strictly Effects, PRG (which provided automation) and the house crew.
Inventory for 311 Day was provided by Felix Lighting of Los Angeles. “Felix is a very supportive family and a rock in the Los Angeles lighting community,” said Grey. “Our rep, Ryan Herrera, bent over backwards to pull the pieces together for us. For our summer tours we have been very well taken care of by TMS from the band’s home town, Omaha. Aaron Steinbrink, our account rep, has made sure that our gear has been flawless every time.”
Summarising the impact created by the GLP automated LED fixtures, he concluded: “The company has a wonderful reputation as innovators and producers of quality, reliable equipment. I’m now working on a design that will utilise a few hundred KNV units!”
Photos: Meredith Newsome and Kimberly Mock
17th September 2020
Denny Arndt Weaves Water and Light into Design with Chauvet Professional
Germany – Light takes on a new life when it dances on water. Gliding ephemerally across the surface without disturbing a drop, it captivates with a special power, defying the normal rules that weigh down matter. This magical chemistry between light and water were beautifully evident at the Rathenow Summer Festival, thanks to a carefully balanced design by Denny Arndt that featured Chauvet Professional fixtures supplied by Soundspower Event Gmbh.
Held in the city’s famous Optikpark, the August festival featured performances by leading German DJs. The 180-degree stage was set up on a metal framework structure in the middle of the park’s large central pond. Artists performed on the open stage facing the crowd, which gathered following social distance protocol on the pond’s curved banks.
With no background on the improvised stage, Arndt, the owner of BlendWerk Design, gave the area a defining sense of structure by arranging 40 ÉPIX Strip IP fixtures around the DJ booth. “I divided the strips into two groups, one to the left and one to the right of centre,” he said. “This defined the scene around the artists, while also marking a clear division between the water and stage.”
The one-metre long RGB LED strips did more than endow the stage with a geometric form, they also supported the DJ performances with motion and dynamic looks. Arndt created a variety of pixel mapped effects on the units using a MediaMaster Pro over Kling-Net.
Artfully weaving the surrounding water into his design, Arndt had colourful beams of light shimmering across the pond to the crowd on the other shore. Helping him accomplish this were the 16 Rogue R1 BeamWash fixtures in his rig. Drawing on the wide 5ﹾ to 58.2ﹾ zoom range of the RGBW fixtures, he was able to vary the size of the beams dancing across the water, all the while being careful to keep his looks balanced.
“It was important to achieve a balanced beam looks to make the design engaging,” he said. “The Rouges worked beautifully with my spot fixtures to do this. They also had more than enough output to not be overshadowed by the spots, which again was very important to creating the sense of balance.”
The RGBW Rogue R1 BeamWash fixtures were also used to colourise the rail of the metal structure that crossed the pond at different angles, which incorporated the structure into the all-important geometry of Arndt’s overall design.
For keylighting, Arndt relied on 12 Ovation F-55WW Fresnel fixtures. Casting the artists in warm white light, the Fresnels added an inviting glow to the stage, helping to provide those on the other side of pond with the kind of immersive live music experience they have been waiting to enjoy since the COVID-19 lockdown began months ago.
16th September 2020
Adamson Anchors the Stage and FOH for Brett Kissel Drive-In Shows
Canada – When Canadian country star Brett Kissel announced the first of what would become eight sold-out Live at the Drive-In shows in Edmonton, AB on 13th and 14th June 2020, drive-in concerts were basically the wild west of what live productions might look like during the COVID-19 pandemic. But even in these unprecedented circumstances, Adamson Systems Engineering has never backed down from a shoot-out.
For the four shows on each day, 180 vehicles spaced several feet apart filled the parking lot of the River Cree Resort & Casino. By tuning into 89.5FM, fans heard the live feed from FOH through their car stereos and were invited to honk, wave, and even hang out of windows and sunroofs while staying in their vehicles through the hour-long performance.
Kissel had full reign over the stage with a big extension while each band member was surrounded by Plexiglas partitions. That part may have been strange for the performers, but it wasn’t the most unusual aspect for the wider crew.
“The biggest difference for us on the technical side is that there was no PA,” begins Colin Moore of CJM Productions, Kissel’s production designer and lighting director. Kissel and his band typically rely solely on IEMs for monitoring; however, the absence of a PA meant an absence of onstage energy and impact compared to a typical show.
“When I was first talking with Joel [Bird, FOH] and James [Bundy, monitors] about the shows, it was, ‘If the band’s not into it, Brett’s not into it, and if Brett’s not into it, the crowd’s not into it,’” Moore recalls. “So what could we do as a crew to support our family onstage so they’d feel as connected and energetic as they normally would?”
The solution was to not only deploy stage monitors, in this case, a complement of Adamson’s M15 wedges, but also sidefill stacks comprised of two Adamson S10n narrow-dispersion two-way, full range sub-compact enclosures atop two complementary S119 subs on each side of the stage. Two of the wedges were loaded beneath the grated floor of the thrust to ensure Kissel got a bit of a punch to the chest when he was closest to the crowd, helping to build some of that crucial reciprocal energy.
“Brett usually wants to hear everything,” Bird takes over. “He wants to hear the audience, he wants to hear the room, he wants to hear the PA. Being able to incorporate some Adamson array elements and a few subs just filled everything in and made everybody feel at home on stage.”
To reference his mix, Bird relied on a pair of Adamson’s new CS7p intelligent point-source ultra-compact loudspeakers with built-in DSP and processing from the newly-launched CS-Series, along with a trusted pair of headphones for isolation.
“It was like mixing through a PA,” Bird notes about the CS7ps. “They just sound so good, I pretty much left them raw and was really happy with the output and outcome; I didn’t have to do much to get something really pleasing and effective.”
“At the end of the day, we found doing these shows – especially with the scale and everything we put into them – provided a lot of hope for the music industry, whether that’s the artists or the crew, the rental companies, the trucking companies, all the way to the fans,” Moore shares in closing. “It was like, ‘We’ll call this a pretty good appetizer for now until we can get to the main course’.”
16th September 2020
ACS Sound and Light Creates Women’s Equality Day Tribute with Chauvet Professional
USA – The works of Georgia O’Keefe hang on its walls. So does Evelyn De Morgan’s 1895 tribute to feminine power, “Eos.” On 26 August, the voice of women shined not just on the inside, but also on the exterior of the Columbia Museum of Art, as the sleek postmodern building was lit in radiant purple, gold and white for Women’s Equality Day and the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment’s passage.
David Sneath of ACS Sound and Light, organised the inspiring display with the city of Columbia. A collection of 30 Chauvet Professional WELL Fit fixtures were used to light the museum and the historic building across the street from it at 1530 Main Street.
Delicately balanced with varying degrees of saturation, and white light blended artfully with colour palettes, the commemorative lighting at the museum commanded attention as it played off harmoniously against the building’s exterior lattice work of columns and cross beams.
Denise Simpson, a member of the ACS team, was responsible for positioning the IP65 rated RGBW fixtures around the museum. She arranged ten of the WELL Fit units at the base of the building’s columns, and used four to uplight a brick veneer section of its front. A further five fixtures were used to light the white area of the building’s serene Boyd Plaza, while a single unit accented the intersecting curves of the public space’s Apollo’s Cascade sculpture and fountain.
The lighting of the imposing 127-year old former bank building across the street from the museum took a heavier tone with deeply saturated purples from ten WELL Fit fixtures positioned at the base of the Romanesque structure, which features an imposing granite facade.
“We doubled up the WELL Fits at the 1530 building to create a more saturated look,“ said Simpson. “At the museum we were lighting mostly for four-foot widths and forty feet high for more throws. In each case we fit the degree of saturation to match the structures we were lighting.”
For the purples that dominated the display, Simpson carefully referenced the women’s suffrage movement’s traditional colours. “The RGBW colour engine of the fixture’s worked very nicely in matching the palette were after,“ she said. “We wanted the display to have an air of authenticity. This was the best way to honour the memory of the women we were celebrating.”
15th September 2020
CoNZealand, the 2020 World Science Fiction Convention, goes entirely virtual with RTS VLink
New Zealand – When the COVID-19 pandemic began to go global, the organisers of CoNZealand, the 78th World Science Fiction Convention, scheduled for late July in Wellington, New Zealand, were searching for an alternative to cancellation. Division head for technology services, John Maizels, was already assembling a suite of publicly available tools like Zoom video and Discord chat rooms. But to stage a full virtual convention, they had to find a way to manage it with a globally distributed tech team.
“The key to operating as a team when you can’t see anybody is good communications,” says Maizels. “That meant finding an effective virtual intercom system. Looking at its flexibility and especially the fact that there is no limit to the number of users, VLink quickly became a critical element of the project.”
Maizels, a freelance broadcast engineer based in Sydney, Australia, consulted with Magna Systems & Engineering (Chatswood, NSW), which was already heavily involved in virtualised broadcast events. “When John asked about RTS VLink, we could confirm it was the best online intercom on the market,” says Lucas Böhm, product manager at Magna Group Australia. “It’s perfect for global applications because it’s platform agnostic and infinitely scalable. It’s a very powerful tool.”
RTS and CoNZealand agreed on a 30-seat VLink license. With it, Maizels developed a new concept called Mission Control, a virtual control room. Key elements included RTS VLink for backstage and production intercoms, along with a virtual production switcher called vMix. Both were 'located' in an Amazon Web Services cloud, operating independently of all the public-facing events.
With its similarity to RTS digital matrix systems, Maizels learned the VLink basics quickly. He loved the software’s inclusive connectivity, working equally well on phones, tablets or desktops, regardless of operating system. “It felt familiar, yet had a lot of its own advantages,” he says. “I was extremely impressed at how seamlessly VLink could link literally hundreds of users around the world, most of them unfamiliar with pro intercoms. But VLink is so intuitive, people picked up on it very quickly.”
During prime hours, virtual CoNZealand ran 15 to 20 programme events at all times, simultaneously preparing the next hour’s schedule. In addition to panel discussions and presentations via Zoom, there were also virtualised renditions of the exhibit hall, art show, fan tables, parties, bars and cafes, all monitored via VLink.
Another challenge was presenting the traditional major events. These included the opening and closing ceremonies, Masquerade and two award shows including the Hugo Awards, hosted live by author George R.R. Martin from Santa Fe, New Mexico.
RTS VLink was a key element in Hugo Awards preproduction. Using point-to-point mode, IFB audio for the far-flung participants could be transmitted directly from a VLink panel. “Hugo rehearsals really highlighted the flexibility of VLink. And I must say, it worked beautifully,” he reports.
Overall, the virtualised CoNZealand delivered an immersive five-day experience, thanks to the creative planning and commitment of its all-volunteer global technical team. John Maizels credits RTS VLink as a critical tool in making it a success.
“We asked VLink to do two primary things. First, run Mission Control, then support the broadcast process,” explains Maizels. “I’m pleased to report that VLink did everything we needed it to. I would definitely use it again.”
15th September 2020
Carlos Katsurayama and LIT Live! Reflect Authority Zero in Livestream
USA – Skateboarding “opens your eyes to see the world differently,“ said renowned photographer and skateborader Jon Humphries. Authority Zero offers convincing proof of that. Growing out of the fertile punk skate scene of the mid-90s, the Arizona-based band has followed their own iconoclastic path over the past 25 years, mashing myriad musical influences from reggae and rock, to Spanish and Portuguese, in ways few would have thought possible.
Their unique style has powered the Lava and Atlantic recording stars to seven successful studio LPs. For loyal fans, though, the true flavour of the band can best be appreciated in live shows, where their skater roots shine through in their dynamic stage presence.
However, with live shows temporarily halted, Authority Zero, was seeking another way to connect to fans. This led them to do a livestream concert at the LIT Live! Studio in Tempe. Although the crowd connection was absent, fans who tuned in to the show got a full blast of the band’s searing energy, thanks to their relentless performance and a potent, versatile light show that featured Chauvet Professional fixtures.
“We have a great relationship with Authority Zero’s management,” said Chris Brodman, owner of LIT. “Our company has been their vendor of choice for a long time. Plus, growing up in Arizona we’ve been big fans for many years. So, when they wanted to do a livestream, we were a logical choice.”
To create a light show that reflected both the diversity and power of Authority Zero’s music, LIT taped designer Carlos Katsurayama. Drawing on the intense output and gobo features of the Maverick MK2 Spot fixtures in his rig, Katsurayama created a variety of patterns on the stage. This not only endowed the show with a distinct character, it also provided geometry of light that set nicely against the kinetic motions of the band’s members.
Complementing these patterns, Katsurayama animated the stage with fast-moving crossing shafts of light from the Maverick MK2 Spot and the Rogue R2 Washes in his rig. The bright (up to 8,650 lux at five-metres) Rogue units were also used to created evocative back and side washes on individual band members. For added intensity in his fully cue stacked show, Katsurayama relied on the Strike 1 and Rogue R1 wash.
“When it came to the faster punk rock vibe I make sure to use plenty of movement weather it’s scrolling between gobos or having beams flying through the air,” said Katsurayama. “For the more chill songs, I loved using slow prism rotations with well broken up gobos and a good amount of keylight and washes.”
Although the parameters of the livestream format can place limits on a lighting design, Katsurayama and the LIT team, including Brodman and production specialist Cody Lisle, pushed those boundaries to their limits. Breaking an old rule here, trying a new trick there, they took creative leaps without fear in true skateboard fashion.
14th September 2020
The Sound of Victory at Mamayev Kurgan with DiGiCo and Stage Audio
Russia – On 24 June, a spectacular concert was hosted at Mamayev Kurgan in Volgograd in honour of the 75th anniversary of VE Day. One of the only concerts allowed during Russia’s Covid-19 lockdown, it featured famous artists from Russia’s vibrant theatre, opera and cinema worlds, accompanied by the All-Russian Youth Symphony Orchestra, which was conducted by Yuri Bashmet. The concert was also broadcast live on the state-owned TV channel, Russia-1. Rental company Stage Audio was chosen as a technical support contractor for the show.
The audience was seated on the steps along the rectangular reflecting pool in Volgograd’s Heroes Square, with the artists performing in different locations during the concert, tens of metres away from each other. This necessitated special requirements for the mixing and routing system. Signals were received from four locations across the site, providing flexible exchanging of channels from any source (stage box/desk/broadcast) to any destination within a minute between devices, as well sending 128 channels for the televised broadcast and recording of the concert.
The Stage Audio team chose an Optocore-based DiGiCo system for mixing, routing and distributing audio at the event. In preparation for the project, the set-up was initially assembled and tested by Stage Audio, and only then sent to Volgograd.
"The system consisted of a DiGiCo SD12 as the production console, used primarily for playback and routing purposes, an SD10 as the front of house orchestra console and another SD10 on stage for the monitor mix,” says head of stage audio, Andrey Akhromeev. “The monitor SD10 handled 48 mixes on stage and for the choir stage at the Pantheon, whilst four IEM mixes and four wedge mixes were handled by the SD12 for the four small stages, which were used for individual actors. Three SD-Racks were deployed (one with 32-bit pre-amp cards for orchestra purposes), plus a D2-Rack, with a network module Optocore DDR4MR-FX with RME MADI Bridge transmitting signals to the mobile television stations (MTS) and for multitrack recording. All devices were connected via an Optocore loop to provide complete redundancy.”
With 216 inputs and 288 outputs in the Optocore loop for this complex project, the network was working to its maximum capacity of 504 channels. Inputs comprised 168 channels (56 channels from each of the three SD-Racks), 16 channels for exchange lines between each console and 16 channels from the terrestrial MTS. Outputs included 128 channels through the Optocore DDR4MR-FX network module for MTS and multi-track recording, 112 lines for the three SD-Rack outputs and 16 channels for exchange lines between the consoles.
"Despite the scale and complexity of the project, the whole system performed flawlessly,” Akhromeev concludes. “It delivered excellent sound quality, both on site and on air."
11th September 2020
Fanny & Stella Performance for Zero 88
UK – London fringe theatre returned to the capital with a bang, as the first socially distanced and fully Covid-compliant live musical production of post-pandemic England 2020 was staged in a specially renovated garden space at The Eagle pub in Vauxhall. “Fanny & Stella” a hilarious, poignant, and sharp-witted com-romp through some extraordinary events gave theatre fans a snapshot into the real lives of two eccentric Victorian Londoners: Ernest Boulton and Frederick William Park.
Based on the book and lyrics by Glenn Chandler (creator of hit TV series ‘Taggart’) the show was directed by Steven Dexter and produced by Peter Bull and Richard Lambert of Lambco Productions. Richard also designed and operated the lighting using his handy Zero 88 FLX S24 console.
“It was perfect for the job,” enthused Richard about the console, “totally portable and fitted easily onto a fold-out table, and just like the essence of the show, it literally popped up!” He is a great advocate of Zero 88 consoles, adding, “It packs away into a tiny flightcase about the size of a satchel!”
The 40-capacity audience sat under cover around tables that were re-arranged each performance to accommodate guests in their relevant social bubbles as identified in the online booking system, while the stage was in the open air.
Needless to say, most of the cast and crew became earnest meteorologists for the run of shows, which was originally scheduled to be nine performances, but another 18 were added to meet demand indicating that the British public is clearly ready to get out and start enjoying live theatre again!
Every single show sold out every single seat, and the final week the Box Office was inundated with phone calls and emails for tickets as it became the hottest show in town!
Richard specified front lighting only to attain the truly ENSA (Entertainment National Service Association, nicknamed back in the 1940s as “Every Night Something Awful”) style of ‘pop-up’ theatre aesthetic desired by the director to set the scene for the piece, which is set in 1871 when Boulton and Park were subjected to a notorious show trial for dressing as women and conspiracy to commit sodomy (then a felony) as detailed in the rousing opener, “Sodomy on The Strand”.
With a 6pm and an 8:30pm performance most days, lighting still made a subtle impact even on the earlier shows, especially on cloudy days, while for the later ones, the stage lighting combined seamlessly with natural light as dusk fell. This included some stunning sunsets over the month.
The main lighting fixtures were six GLP X4 Atom 30W full colour LED luminaires rigged on scaff bars above the audience area alongside some outdoor birdies. A Zero 88 portable Betapackprovided dimming for the garden spots.
These lights created a nice face-wash and some keying for the cast who stand on correct ‘marks’ at strategic moments.
Additionally, Richard scattered P-light strings around the garden in the bushes and foliage to augment the general ambience.
It was effectively a one-scene lighting show, carefully balanced for that fusion of stage and natural lighting. This ‘naturalistic’ approach to lighting also enabled the highly talented cast to shine without distraction or augmentation.
While he didn’t even scratch the surface of the power of the FLX S24 on this, Richard likes the FLX consoles for many reasons including the ZerOS software which enables “quick and intuitive” programming, and also makes shows highly cross-compatible between consoles.
He made the most of the surrounding environment, threading power and DMX cables through plant pots and along trellises in the garden and storing the console multicore in a hanging basket overnight! After each day’s final performance, the Garden was re-opened to pub patrons and audience members who wanted to enjoy an al-fresco drink.
The cast stayed distanced whilst onstage, while the audience had temperatures measured on arrival and scanned a QR code to register for track-and-trace before entering the pub where they were taken to their allotted places and received table service for food and drinks.
“Fanny & Stella” was a great success as the story unfolded revealing two extraordinary characters and their infiltration and influence whilst cruising the edgy underbelly of stiff upper lipped Victorian society.
photos: Richard Lambert