LD Steve Finch (right) is the first designer to tour a PixelDrive control system from James Thomas Engineering, which is controlling 17 James Thomas Pixelline 1044 battens, on Level 42's current UK and European tour.
Finch's design uses two pods of Pixellines with seven units per pod — dubbed the “PixelPods” — to provide the show's main effects lighting. These are hung prominently on the back truss and angled backwards. The designer immediately liked the Pixellines when he saw them demonstrated last summer. The PC-based PixelDrive system is triggered via any DMX-lighting desk. It gives control of visual images via a familiar set of attributes — similar to programming a moving light. PixelDrive integrates lighting designers with video and graphics departments, so all mediums can be controlled from a single lighting console. PixelDrive patterns and effects are quickly mimicked in real-time with a preview monitor.
The production was designed to provide a slightly different look for the band while still recalling the 80s, when it was frequently found on the charts. After experimenting with different Pixelline configurations in the warehouse of Siyan, the tour's lighting supplier, Finch came up with some pseudo-80s looks. “A lot of the lighting for this is 80s Tops of the Pops and televisual in style,” he says, referring to the venerable UK television series. What he means is the lighting makes use of big blocks of color and dramatic cuts between different levels of lighting onstage.
Finch also created some of his own graphics patterns to run on the PixelDrive using the program PaintShop Pro, and created a custom color palette within PixelDrive, which allowed him to create a number of kaleidoscopic effects.
“I like the fact that, as soon as you've programmed something in PixelDrive, you can bring up the scene and change color or throw effects onto it instantly,” Finch says. With no production rehearsals at the start of the tour, the PixelDrive's speed was useful in putting together the design rapidly.
The Level 42 tour is run on an Avolites Sapphire console, for which two pages of playback memories are allocated to PixelDrive effects. The rest of the lighting rig includes SGM Giotto moving units, plus an assortment of PARs and ETC Source Fours.
Finch's crew includes two staff members from Siyan, Brian Mandeville and Iestyn Thomas. Kevin Hopgood is production manager.