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An Extra Dimension for the Chemical Brothers

The Chemical Brothers’ latest world tour kicked off at the Rockhal in Luxembourg and is taking them from venues as diverse as the Sydney Entertainment Centre, the New Arena in St Petersburg via Glastonbury, to Fuji Rock at Niigata in Japan. For Paul Normandale, the band’s Lighting Designer, this presented a number of challenges: “This was my first design with the band and my intent was to make the visual imagery more dynamic; to turn the band’s performance into a truly three-dimensional show.” However, any radical design would have to be accommodated in a wide variety of venues, including all the unpredictable vagaries of playing at festivals worldwide.

How was Normandale able to transform his concept into a viable, functional reality? Sales Director of Specialz, Dave Smith supplies the answer, “This was sub-contracted out by Mervyn Thomas of Total Fabrications. There was a concept drawing and a brief but no real idea of how to make it work in a touring situation. Warren Steadman, Systems Designer at Specialz together with Keith Owen, our Technical Director, came up with the way to make it work. As a design company, Specialz are limited purely by the bounds of present day physics in an attempt to develop something innovative and new which nobody has seen before.” This challenge was obviously right up their street.

The process of turning abstract concept to physical actuality was a collaborative one as Normandale explains, “Dave Smith and I talked about a series of different options; I’d been sent a sample G-LEC’s Solaris+ and it gave us the idea of creating a three dimensional lighting rig. We were supported from G-LEC by Mark Ravenhill and by AC Lighting.” The end result is a lightweight circular truss, eight metres in diameter from which are hung forty-eight lengths of G-LEC LED light ‘balls’ of Solaris+, each eight meters long, creating a curtained circle around the band when fully deployed and providing a three hundred and sixty degree visual screen. Any images are therefore clearly pixelated to the entire audience, however acute their angle of sight may be. With one piece of innovative design, the issues of ‘restricted view’ are immediately negated and, as Normandale says, “It effectively brings both the lighting and the band ‘forward’ towards the audience.”

Normandale explains the mechanics of the unit: “The rig is flown above the band; 6 Prostar motors deploy a series of rings devised by Specialz. These are controlled manually during the show by Steve Marr, our Solaris tour Technician. Fully retracted, the rig is only one meter deep and although eight meters deep when fully extended, it is adjustable in one meter increments, making it effective whatever height it is rigged from. It is very lightweight and designed to remain in a series of sections for quick festival changeovers – it only takes forty-five minutes to rig from scratch and can be flown independently or from a mother truss depending on the venue.”

The rugged nature of the unit has been proved by its reliability in a demanding touring environment as Normandale testifies; however, if required, Specialz’s customer service is always at hand as Smith explains, “Any touring crew will have my and Keith’s mobile number in case of emergency. If there is a major breakdown then we will support world-wide.”

Normandale sums up: “The support from Specialz has been excellent. Dave and Keith have an inherent understanding of touring and what is practical, and an imaginative idea about what is possible. The result has been independently reviewed as ‘an innovative and unique piece of design’. For me... it offers, I think, a new twist to the relationship and interaction between bands and visuals.”



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