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Archive for July, 2016

Avolites delivers eclectic mix of lighting and video at Glastonbury 2016

28th July, 2016

Somerset, UK – Avolites’ lighting consoles, dimmers and media servers have once again delivered robust, festival-proof performance to astounding shows across Glastonbury’s vast and varied musical programme.


For nearly 40 years, Avolites equipment has been found surviving the mud in each corner of the Worthy Farm takeover. This year the British manufacturer’s consoles and media servers were not only used on the main stages such as the Pyramid, which was also powered by Avolites ART2000 dimmers, the Other, John Peel, West Holts and the Acoustic Stage but also Arcadia Spectacular and The Temple immersive dance environments, and afterhours areas such as the Unfairground art field.


Lighting designer Andrew Liddle, whose recent portfolio includes OMD, The Charlatans and La Roux, has been working with Avolites consoles for the past 35 years. Like Avolites, Liddle is a Glastonbury stalwart, hitting the festival for the 16th year running – this time with indie dance legends New Order. With a performance of ‘atmospheric magic’ that impressed NME magazine, the Manchester-born group took to the Other Stage in support of their latest album ‘Music Complete’.


Liddle augmented the Other Stage’s house rig with 24 x Clay Paky Sharpys, 4 x Martin Professional MAC Vipers and 6 x ETC Source 4s, controlling the set up with an Avolites Arena, supplied by technical event production house Hawthorn.


“I’ve been an Avolites user since 1996 and began using Titan in 2010,” explains Liddle. “I’ve always liked how easy the desks are to use, plus the patching and palette creation they offer. They are also intuitive and fast to programme, which is ideal for the festival setting.”


Performing on the John Peel stage was Brighton’s DJ legend Fat Boy Slim, with long-time lighting designer Stephen Abbiss creating the ultimate rave atmosphere for the raucous crowd that packed the tent. Abbiss transferred the show file from his own powerful Titan Mobile, which he uses for some of his biggest shows, to a Tiger Touch II running Titan v10.


“I’ve been using Avolites consoles since they only had one wheel,” says Abbiss. “They’re always my desk of choice as they’re so familiar to me now and my fingers like the fader spacing! I think Titan v10 has some good new features – window resizing is very helpful as is the Undo option.”


Also on the John Peel Stage, Tom Campbell of TC Lighting Design was operating a Tiger Touch II to control his design for John Grant; whose performance received a great review from The Guardian despite the American singer-songwriter suffering from flu.


Campbell, who is also currently out on tour with Welsh rockers Bullet For My Valentine, has been using Avolites for a decade: “I have always been a big fan of the speed and ease of programming on Avolites consoles – it’s incredibly useful,” he says.


As John Grant captivated the audience with his heart-wrenching back catalogue, Campbell complemented the performance with a series of retro-esque lighting looks, cleverly using LED technology disguised as classic tungsten fixtures. His design is also based around a rear ‘analog’ video wall, constructed using eight rear set pieces made out of metal gauze, ranging in height from 12ft – 20ft, depending on the venue. These are used to create a range of spectacular three-dimensional visual looks for the band to perform in, which Campbell triggers from the Tiger Touch II.


Moving across to the West Holts Stage, lighting designer John Rogers chose a compact yet powerful Avolites Quartz console to control his design for soulful funk group Quantic All Stars.


“The compact design of the Quartz makes it really festival friendly,” says Rogers. “However its small size is deceiving – one of the house techs of the West Holts Stage was really impressed that such a compact desk could take 15 universes in its stride. It definitely made a good impression.


“I was also using the new Titan v10, which I’m really impressed with. The expanded import feature gives you the ability to map the same source fixture to as many fixtures as you like. This makes rig expansion and show reusability a lot better. I already own Capture so importing theatres for visualisation will be a nice way to bring my show together more. There are also great improvements to existing functionality, such as Key Frame Shapes. I’ve always liked the immediacy of Avolites software features. Plus, the user interface elements always strike me as carefully implemented.”


Also important to Rogers was the ability to transition his original show file over to the Quartz from a Tiger Touch II running version 9.


“This show started life as a festival house desk show, so being able to bring that programming across consoles and software versions was vital,” he continues. “Without it I probably would have just busked the house desk at Glastonbury.”


Rogers’ festival tour design for the Quantic All Stars is energetic and bold, utilising Robe Pointes’ striking beam and prism looks to create a strong party vibe that runs through the set.


“The looks have to be big and bouncing, like a carnival in the sun, even if you’re in a muddy field in the pouring rain. And this year was particularly muddy,” he laughs. “However we had a great show and it was lovely to see some familiar faces around the festival. Big thanks to Greg Haynes for helping me get the Quartz up to the top of the slippery FOH tower and generally being excellent.”


Another seasoned Avolites user, lighting designer Ken Coker operated a Sapphire Touch – the Acoustic Stage’s house desk supplied by Rob Sangwell at Fineline Lighting – for Barclay James Harvest. Interestingly, the progressive rock group were the first band to take Avolites’ original equipment on tour in the 1980s.


“I have been using Avolites for almost all of my working life and I’m 58!” says Coker. “Despite growing over the years the company still has an air of a small business that cares and the team there offers fantastic support.”


Coker applied the house rig including Robe and Martin Professional fixtures to ensure frontman John Lees was perfectly lit at all times, whilst also creating a myriad of textures with gobo work and subtle beam looks. Like Abbiss, Coker is impressed with Titan v10’s customisable windows, applying the feature to boost the efficiency of his programming for the quick festival turnaround.


“I’ve recently got to grips with Titan v10 and I think it’s excellent,” he explains. “The ability to customise window size will be particularly useful for smaller Avolites consoles like my Titan Mobile.”


As ever there was plenty of Avolites action on the incredible Arcadia Spectacular, who brought back their stunning Metamorphosis show to the festival for the second year running.

Two Sapphire Touch consoles worked as the main and back up lighting desks, with a Quartz used to control SFX. A single Ai Infinity RX8 media server with eight outputs powered the incredible visuals for the entire set up, with a back up in place. This meant there was only one machine live at a time running the interface, plus seven outputs going out to external devices – six projectors and one LED processor.


“The eight outputs of the Infinity RX8 mean you can drive everything out of one machine, rather than having to network servers up, which saves a lot of time and trouble shooting,” says Avolites’ Ciaran Abrams, who has been involved in Glastonbury’s Arcadia for several years. “Its performance is great with smooth playback and it’s also really rugged and durable, which makes it ideal for withstanding the rigours of a festival setting. Not only that, it has EDID management, which adds a safety net to the output for additional reliability. So, if something gets unplugged anywhere on the stage, it isn’t going to interfere with the rest of the show.”


“Avolites has been one of Arcadia’s most dedicated supporters, suppliers and partners during the company’s evolution from small festival stages to international repute,” says Tim Smith, Arcadia’s Technical Production Manager. “The relationship has been invaluable and they continue to supply cutting edge servers and lighting consoles alongside technical collaboration and unfailing dedication.”


In addition, two Infinity R8 servers, one main and one back-up, ran video content on The Temple Stage. Avolites Ai expert Arran Rothwell-Eyre set up and operated the system, alongside top visiting VJs.


“We ran a total resolution of 7900 x 1024 content which was split across 8 projectors to create 360°-surround video mapping,” he explains. “As well as running custom content directly from the media server, we used multiple DVI and SDI inputs on the system to take live feeds from artists and VJs and apply them to the structure in real time. This allowed us to plug touring VJs straight into the system without a long and complicated setup procedure and as a result could easily combine their visuals with the specially made content.”


Glastonbury Festival ran from the 22 June to the 26 June 2016 in Pilton, Somerset.

Coldplay’s visuals guru chooses Avolites Ai media servers to create ultimate video system for world tour

22nd July, 2016

Coldplay’s acclaimed live-show video director Ben Miles chose to work with British manufacturer Avolites and Avolites’ Ai media server distributor and technical specialist RES (Realtime Environment Systems) to design what he describes as ‘the ultimate video system’ for the Brit rockers’ current world tour.

Crossing four continents, A Head Full of Dreams is a major stadium tour in support of Coldplay’s seventh studio album of the same name. The Latin American dates ran from 31 March to 17 April. The European dates – including the band’s seminal headlining of the Glastonbury Festival – were from 24 May to 6 July. On 16 July the tour moved to the US, where Chris Martin and his bandmates are playing 22 stadium and arena dates. It continues in December, with six stadium dates in Australia and New Zealand.

Coldplay’s live shows are renowned for their high production values – requiring a sizeable creative and technical crew. Miles heads up a team of 14 -16, including the spidercam team and Leo Flint, the tour video programmer, who runs the Ai media servers and Barco e2 alongside Miles.

Miles and his team look after the tour’s cameras, animations, visuals and the LED screens they’re displayed on. For this gargantuan tour, Miles knew he needed to create a new and improved video system – specifically designed to deliver the ambitious creative brief.

As a result he selected eight powerful Ai R6 media servers – manufactured by London-based lighting console and media server manufacturer Avolites – as the core of this new system. This was partly because he had used them on Coldplay’s last tour, Ghost Stories, and rated their technical prowess – particularly with regards to low latency SDI input and capacity for customisation. But his decision was also down to how approachable and adept he had previously found both the development team at Avolites and the manufacturer’s London-based distributor, RES.

Miles elaborates: “We started working with Avolites media servers over two years ago, on the previous tour. We’d already developed a lot of ideas based on aspects of the server that I really liked and also some new things that I really wanted from a media server that didn’t exist yet. I was lucky enough to get involved in the development process with the software team from Avolites for the last couple of software upgrades: version 8 and version 9. A lot of my input was to do with the frame delay between capturing and output.

“This came from the fact my big thing with media servers is live capture and using effects on everything I do. The programming environment behind Ai is Salvation, which gives us the ability to customise effects using a node-based engine. This means we can connect up lots of modules and pretty much any effect I dream up can be realised.”

Dave Green of Avolites says: “I got involved very early on in the project to help Ben design an overall system. It consisted of eight R6 media servers, four of which are used for front end media playback. One does a big 4k screen, which, to my knowledge, is the first time full native 4k has been used on a stage show like this. The other servers take care of the side screens. Then there is the back up for each of those, so it’s a fairly standard set up for a large scale show, apart from the 4k playback.

“What we did do was put in a set of downstream video servers that were there purely for the purpose of processing effects with minimal latency. So we took the outputs of what we call the ‘effects servers’ and routed them to the Encore 2, which is the final control system for the video walls. Alternatively we can route them through the other Ai media servers further downstream of that. That whole high level system design was unique to this project.”

Working directly with Coldplay, RES also produced some of the more psychedelic graphics for the show – inspired by 1990s rave culture motifs. Green designed the real-time generative effect used in the opening sequence, which is based on the tour’s logo and album cover image of the flower of life – a geometric pattern made up of a series of interlocking circles. At the request of Miles, he was tasked with making around 20 effects over the last 12 months, including a realistic looking prism style kaleidoscope, an effect which turns live footage into laser beams and various other psychedelic wonders. Green is proud of the stunning result, not least because it takes him back to his – and business partner Mark Calvert’s – roots.

“Ten or fifteen years ago the psychedelic scene got us into making visuals,” says Green. “We feel as though it’s now come full circle. We started VJ-ing on raves, never thinking for a moment that one of the biggest bands in the world would employ us commercially for making similar psychedelic patterns.”

One of the biggest challenges on the project for the Avolites, RES and Miles team was the integration of the live FX system ‘Notch’ formerly known as ‘Demolition’. 

“The Notch tool runs as a plug-in inside Ai and allows designers to create real-time content and video effects,” explains Green.  “It’s designed to utilise the very latest software techniques, squeezing every drop of performance out of the graphics hardware, which ultimately enabled us to deliver Ben’s and the band’s full visual wish list.”

Avolites’ Sales Manager, Stephen Baird-Smith, states: “We are delighted that Ben chose Ai servers and software for his ambitious Coldplay video design. As the project evolved it became clear that it would be particularly demanding, especially with the strong emphasis on live video effects. But we like a challenge, especially when the functionality developed alongside a project can strengthen the entire range, for all users.”

Coldplay’s tour is on such a large scale that a whole team of collaborators works on the creative vision behind it.  This includes the Avolites Ai product development team, RES, the band, their former-manager-turned-creative-director Phil Harvey, their production and lighting designer Paul Normandale and Miles. “I was lucky enough to pick my dream video team, everyone involved has been key to realising this complex setup,” concludes Miles. “I consider myself very lucky to work with so many skilled technical and creative people.”

FIX8Group further enhances FIX8Studio to provide outside access to latest multimedia technologies

18th July, 2016

Stockport, UK – Event technologist FIX8Group has been busy developing FIX8Studio: a fully supported visualisation and training space at the company’s Stockport headquarters, which gives visiting production companies, studios and creatives direct access to the latest digital content control and interactive resources.

Although the studio has been used internally by the group for some time, it came into full existence as a rentable space late last year, in response to increased demand from theatre, corporate, music, TV studios and arena shows which have complicated and large scale digital content requirements. As production director John Montague says, “We offer advice, modelling, digital content management and animation creation that exists on the cutting edge of this new world – but also one which can draw on the global experience of FIX8Group as a whole.”

FIX8Studio works with the latest server and control technologies, with developer knowledge of Hippotizer/Shape, the latest d3 releases and Watchout v6. “In addition, the Studio also has fantastic knowledge of Ventuz, Midi Protocols, Cin4D and 3DMax rendering along with the usual 2D and 3D packages,” adds Montague, “ensuring that each of them will be used to the maximum effect on any show.”

One of the studio’s strongest offerings is the linking of 3D ideas and visuals into a 3D visualised workflow, then to content rendering. This can happen through the most simplified route when required, or in the studio with full 4k screens for the most precise visualisations.

The studio specialises in offering its clients a collaborative approach and environment, consulting on different areas of the production as required. “We’re always open to some boundary pushing and technology development,” says Montague, “so long as it is technology which matches the creative purpose.

“We see a lot of technology on shows, and sometimes it seems like it’s there for the sake of it. Our deep knowledge of interactivity, combined with creative animation skills, allows us to make the absolute best use of the right digital response to a brief or question.

“We also work hard internally to develop and stay at the front of the curve for projection and control developments within FIX8Group and we bring these elements into the studio world of digital content to really understand how to make a fantastic show.”

FIX8Group’s work has been as varied as supplying progamming and server systems to concert tours by Girls Aloud and Nine Inch Nails; corporate production for a global pharmaceutical company; 3D and interactive development for a leading petrochemical research company; cross and pan-European building projection work; interactive BtoC installations for experiential companies and video programming on the Eurovision song contest this year. The FIX8Studio gives customers direct access to the same skills which made these projects possible.

“Since the studio opened it has proved incredibly popular,” Montague concludes, “and we’re even looking at the development and growth of interactive activations – both in how to bring the clarity and sharpness of design which FIX8Group is known for into the digital content and in the end physical activation. It can be a minefield for designers and production alike, so FIX8Studio will help guide and advise through this minefield to get to the sharpest and cleanest production around.”

Philips Selecon RAMA LED Fresnel keeps costs down in contemporary theatre

11th July, 2016

Peterborough, UK – Philips Lighting (Euronext Amsterdam: LIGHT), a global leader in lighting, announces Peterborough’s Key Theatre has replaced its existing tungsten Fresnels with 36 energy-efficient Philips Selecon RAMA LED Fresnel luminaires to save on power and breathe new life into the popular venue’s lighting system.

The new fixtures were supplied and fitted by entertainment technical specialist Stage Electrics, with whom the Key Theatre has a long standing relationship. Stage Electrics’ technical sales consultant Andy Elsegood recommended the RAMA LED Fresnels as a crisp, white LED solution for the theatre’s range of stage lighting requirements.

“We specifically wanted LED Fresnels with a clear white light,” explains the Key Theatre’s technical manager Gary Linley. “The Philips Selecon RAMA LED Fresnel seemed to be the only luminaire on the market specifically designed for that purpose.”

The majority of the RAMA LED Fresnel fixtures are positioned directly above the stage in the Key Theatre auditorium, facing out towards the catwalk, which follows the shape of the thrust stage. From here the luminaires deliver a perfectly even cover with their seven to 60° beam angle and soft edge, blending easily with adjacent beams.

Linley goes on to comment that saving on power was a factor in choosing LED technology: “It was a green decision as well as a financial one,” he explains. In addition to keeping costs down by consuming just 120watts of power each, the RAMA LED Fresnel’s heat output is minimised, keeping performers and audiences cool.

The new luminaires have already been used on a variety of performances, from music events, comedies, dramas and musicals.

“The RAMA LED Fresnel luminaires are performing very well and are easy to focus. I would recommend them to any theatre considering replacing their conventional Fresnels,” says Linley.

Situated in the centre of Peterborough, the Key Theatre brings art, culture and entertainment to the heart of the city and sees a broad calendar of events including workshops, live music and dance performances.

Avolites’ Ai S8 ‘one box solution’ Media Server on Above & Beyond world tour

4th July, 2016

Worldwide – A single media server – the powerful Ai S8 from British manufacturer Avolites – drove the entirety of the video and graphic element on trance legends Above & Beyond’s recent international tour. 

The band, who have been voted into DJ Magazine’s ‘Top 100 DJs’ six times, started their Acoustic ll tour on the 5th of May at London’s Royal Albert Hall and finished on the 6th of June at the Sydney Opera House. The tour visited some of the world’s most iconic venues, including two sell-out dates at the Greek Theatre, Los Angeles. Its spectacular visuals, designed by Neil Marsh, featured a mix of video, graphics and live camera footage from six on-stage robotic cameras.                         

David Kyle, video operator for the tour, made excellent use of the compact Ai S8 to run Marsh’s multi-sourced design. 

Kyle explains: “My role was to look after all video elements of the show and make sure we delivered what was required in terms of Neil’s design. Ai provided us with a one box solution that could control the cameras, mix them, provide a preview, receive timecode, playback content and take care of mapping without the need for additional equipment. This kept set up time down, gave us a more reliable system and reduced latency, which was important when using cameras.”

The Above & Beyond show design was based around three large semi-circular trusses, on which double-layered deco linen was hung. This provided a projection surface on one side and a red voile on the other as some shows were sold in the round.

“The video itself was not intended to be traditional IMAG style display, but more of an older, rough, film effect look,” says Kyle. “Depending on the venue the rig would change between the three semi circles or a single large screen that wrapped around the drape. For the Hollywood Bowl we also sent an unmapped signal to the in-house IMAG screens to ensure the full crowd of 18,000 could see the show. Another feed also went to the recording crew meaning we pushed the server to six outputs and six inputs.”

The impressive capacity of the Ai S8 makes for an extremely reliable and smooth-running system. In addition, it features a timecode takeover function, which allows the operator to make live changes during the gig. Once any live adjustments are made, the timecode returns smoothly back to where it should be.

 “The timecode function is very well thought out and really makes it easy to create a timecode show quickly,” continues Kyle. “Being able to disable it quickly on the live page has been essential when having to override the camera switching.” 

Further valuable features of the Ai S8 Media Server include: Map and Warp onto any 3D surface, smooth play back of up to 8k Media using the AiM Codec and Auto Blend. The Auto Blend feature means aligning and blending projectors manually is a thing of the past. Kyle explains how integral this feature was on the tour, especially for the outdoor gigs: “The Auto Blend has been a very useful tool. In some venues the projector placement was far from ideal, but as long as we could cover the screen, the Auto Blend took care of everything else. It saved a lot of time and effort. Some of the venues were outdoors and not dark until 20 minutes before show time. Setting up manually in this time would have been impossible.”

Kyle decided to investigate Avolites Ai after he noticed Ai Media becoming more common as the house server at video-heavy electronic shows and festivals. It was on the back of this that he visited London-based Avolites to find out more. 

“Straight away I was really impressed with what the Ai S8 could do and I am really pleased I decided to go with it for this tour. The support from Annalisa, Arran and Prads has been outstanding – this is my first tour with Ai and they’ve been really helpful from start to finish.” 

The Avolites Ai S8 media server was supplied to David Kyle and Neil Marsh through Mirrad LTD – a British visual arts and design house.

The tour was in support of Above & Beyond’s latest album Acoustic II, which is out now. 


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