Mandylights created an immersive live performance spectacle for Australian dance trio Pnau, transforming the Enmore Theatre into a pumping and pulsating club environment.

The band got in touch with Mandylights in order to put together a whole new show including visuals, lighting, and stage layout for their Australian tour as well as their performance at Splendour in the Grass and future festivals.

“The band were really trusting with the design which was good because the whole design and execution had to be turned around in less than a month,” commented Richard Neville of Mandylights. “Initially we placed our design idea into 3D and programmed a five minute segment of the show which we sent to the band members who were scattered around the world.”

Pnau has been together for 17 years so they know how things are done - thus making Mandylights job easier. Richard remarked that the band members were very involved in all aspects of the production with Sam Littlemore heavily driving the video content for the show and Peter Mayes doing all of the timecode production.

“Front man Nick Littlemore is also very involved in the creative process and it’s rare to get such a collaborative environment where all of the band members are so involved in the different components,” said Richard. “By the time we got into production rehearsals, everyone was on the same page trying to get the same great outcome.”

Mandylights brief was to produce a world-class touring show that could be scaled down quickly for smaller venues plus have a floor package option for festivals. With all new video content, it was important that the lighting played perfectly with the colours and progressions to create a holistic visual design.

Richard chose to incorporate Ayrton MagicBlades into the show for their versatility, saying that the MagicBlade-FX has enough tricks to produce an entirely new look for each song; no mean feat when the set is 80 minutes long.

“That’s what really attracted me to them,” he said. “Their zoom is really fast, as is their movement, making them ideal for EDM sets where you have fast tempos and changes, and you need to be pumping out huge looks.”

The MagicBlades form a rear wall of nine rows of three fixtures which is the main look for the show. They are situated on rolling dance towers that can be set up quickly. In smaller venues, the video screen was located behind the MagicBlades, so it was important to have low profile towers.

“We didn’t want to have truss uprights with lots of metal and cabling visible,” said Richard. “Each of these stands were only 20cm wide which means when we had the video screen upstage the punters still got the full video effect.”

Nine MagicBlades were situated on the front edge of the stage in front of the risers with nine more on the rear truss, aligned with the towers beneath to carry the look from the stage up into the roof.

Pnau’s current look is very UV based, so Mandylights looked to incorporate UV into the show without cluttering the stage look with a front truss. Consequently, the band is lit by four towers of side lighting, with each tower holding three ShowPro EX36 LED Floods running amber, white, and UV LEDs. A row of ShowPro Collider strobes rounds out the stage deck lighting package that sit upstage around the band in an arc.

“By using LED UV rather than traditional UV fixtures, we got these really pinging colours across the band without having to resort to traditional stage wash or front light,” explained Richard. “The Collider LED strobes are only momentarily used as strobes. I used them more as massive LED floods; Pnau are very big on reinforcing the beat in each song and so a lot of the time they were used to deliver precisely timed pulses that hit the beat. They were the baseline for the lighting rig and they were the fixture that reinforced all that the band wanted to emphasise.”

In the roof the Martin MAC Viper Profiles reinforce what’s happening on the stage floor. They do big fans, duplicate the colour look that is happening with the MagicBlades, and are focussed very tightly. Other than the MagicBlades, the tour used no wash or beam lights as it was “all about creating a smart, cohesive look that didn’t resort to the usual mish-mash of beams and spot-wash-spot-wash configurations that’s seen everywhere.”

Lasers were a big part of the show with Mandylights incorporating eight ER Productions Beam Blasts and five Sharpy lasers. Richard’s theory on lasers with EDM acts is that as a lighting designer you only need a core number of effects to excite the crowd.

“All the Beam Blasts do is go on in green with hundreds of beams cutting to the beat and rotating through a prism effect,” he said. “We only used the Sharpy lasers as moving laser fixtures, we didn’t turn the lamp on, and they were used to scan across the crowd. They were great; tons of colour and beams for two songs.”

For control Richard ran an MA Lighting MA2 console with video controlled by the band themselves with timecode, something that Richard described as quite a relief.

“It’s unusual to have a band that is so well organised that they are actually triggering the video, which is great as it frees us up to just work on the lighting,” he said. “The whole show is on code minus a few flashes and flourishes we put in from venue to venue. After three days of production rehearsals we ended up with just over 1000 cues in the set.”

Richard stated that he is happier with this show than any other show he has ever done, a result that came about from such collaboration between the band and the designers.

“We had the right amount of time in rehearsals, the right people involved and the right attitude from everyone,” he added. “We also had the same love and respect for the music. It was like the perfect storm.”


This article first appeared in the print edition of CX Magazine September 2018.
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