Bristol UK creative visual design practice SMASH Productions provided technical production, stage and architectural lighting and video designs and plenty of imagination to produce a stunning environment for the Electric City area of the 2013 Eastern Electrics Festival, staged at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire, UK.
They collaborated closely with the George Made That collective to meet the brief which was to make Electric City look and feel amazing, be as environmentally sustainable as possible and work to a tight budget!
All these challenges were relished by SMASH’s Tim Smith and his team who’s ingenuity and lateral thinking produced some remarkable results!
There were two main aspects of Electric City – an outside collection of impressive palette pyramids designed and constructed by George Made That … and a Marquee housing the Secret Stage.
The structures needed to come alive at night, and with the area being called ‘Electric City’, a myriad of visions abounded with sparks flying, electrical buzzes, pulses and a pervasive sense of high voltage tension!
However, SMASH also wanted the structures to look sculptural and beautiful, and the space to be THE place on the site for festival goers to chill out, kick back and relax.
“The whole concept required a completely bespoke approach when it came to specifying and applying the technology” explains Smith.
The four large pyramids were each internally lit with 12 specially customised SMASH LED battens. These were all cleverly concealed out of obvious view, so the structures lit up as if by magic – activated by a series of different interactive triggers.
IP rated LED PAR cans were strategically positioned behind the palette walls and combined with smoke effects to create fractured shards of light blasting through the structures and the walls behind them. 1200W strobes added an extra punch of surprise to this effect!
Five hundred metres of festoon – run across four dimmer channels – were used to link the four pyramids together creating a power-grid idea. Twelve egg-strobes were wound around the Electric City entrance sign.
All these lightsources were mapped and controlled through a custom SMASH MINI media server. This used VDMX5 software to manage the media content, clips and video effects and MadMapper to map the output from VDMX5 to ArtNet which was then sent to a Martin Ether2DMX 8 Node and converted to DMX.
Four Magnum smoke machines built into the structures and four Robe ColorSpot 575 moving lights in weather domes – which produced a searchlight beams to excite and entice people into Electric City - were controlled from an Avolites TITAN One lighting dongle.
The SMASH MINI media server utilized multiple software elements to produce a ‘living-breathing’ effect running through all the pixels and lightsources.
Audio feeds from the local stage were also used to capture BPM references and speeds to run chases / clip playbacks, and a full audio spectrum analyzer enabled other visual parameters and clips to be triggered at certain frequency ranges.
The idea was that as the music inside on the Secret Stage developed, organically through the night, so would the exterior lighting and visuals … each one related to the rhythm of the music, but all unique, individual and never repeated.
Bespoke media servers are a SMASH Productions specialty, and in a situation like this which required a very spontaneous animated approach and result … it provided an ideal solution.
Keeping the SMASH Secrets
On The Secret Stage – shock horror - the set up was slightly more conventional. Smith’s lighting and video design was based on being flexible and dynamic and the kit included 24 panels of SMASH Video wall (another product unique to the company) and another SMASH MINI media server which was loaded up with custom content created especially for the weekend.
The lighting was based around eight Martin MAC 101 and six MAC Aura moving lights. Two Atomic strobes and six Showtec Active Sunstrips were all controlled via an Avo Titan mobile.
All the bespoke video content used both indoors and outdoors was produced for SMASH by live visual artist Tom Newall. The lighting technicians were Tom Laurent and Alex Spear.
Smith comments, “It was a brilliant event and we all really enjoyed the experience, especially working with George Made That. We combined numerous complimentary skill sets, and also produced 3D models and videos of the area in advance so we could show the client and complete all the visual mapping when it was still a virtual space”.
In reality, the results were event more spectacular and successful than had been envisioned … Electric City was voted the most popular and fun area of site at a hugely popular event that also enjoyed fabulous weather for the weekend.