Dutch production company Spectrum AV has created a blank canvas studio in its warehouse that it is renting out to promotors who wish to host virtual dance festivals during the COVID-19 lockdown. Featuring an impressive lighting rig, comprising 68 ADJ fixtures, it allows the atmosphere of a high-energy DJ set to be captured and live-streamed for fans to watch in the safety of their own homes.
Established for over 15 years, Spectrum AV is a full-service lighting, video, audio and effects rental and production company based in the village of Udenhout, which is located between Tilburg and ‘s-Hertogenbosch in The Netherlands. Although the company supplies a wide range of clients spanning across the entertainment and business worlds, it has developed a particular niche in the EDM festival market. With a business model designed to make life as easy as possible for event organizers, the Spectrum AV team take care of all the technical requirements of many large-scale festivals and dance parties each year. This means that – like many other productions companies across the world – they were hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are only five miles away from where the first case of coronavirus occurred in The Netherlands,” explained Spectrum AV General Manager, Lex Willems. “Within a week every event with above 1000 guests was cancelled in our region and soon after even smaller gatherings were also banned, so we directly saw all of our markets collapse. Fortunately, one of our former employees is now working in the solar panel business and his company was really short of workers, so most of our staff temporarily moved to work there. We are really grateful for this, but our team are missing doing what they love in the entertainment business.”
Spectrum AV’s new live-streaming studio has provided a solution to this problem, allowing different members of the team to come back and get involved with the various shows, but it started as something much simpler. Willems and the company’s CEO, Jan van Bree, are both fans of the PlayStation racing game Need for Speed. So, when the Coronavirus meant that all their up-coming events were cancelled, they decided to use its inventory of equipment that was sitting idle to set up a big screen for gaming in its warehouse. Combining the screen with a 7.1 surround sound system created from the speakers they usually use for large EDM events, they created a killer setup and invited members of their team who were working for the solar panel company, one or two at a time, to come back for a game and to catch up.
Having built strong relationships with their clients over the years, Willems and van Bree also kept in touch with them as the pandemic progressed and often mentioned their big screen Need for Speed sessions. This conversation soon led to the development of an idea that could allow Spectrum AV to put its equipment inventory to use during the downtime and also address an issue their promotor clients were facing. As part of the global #keepyourticket initiative, these event organisers were asking fans to keep their tickets for rescheduled festivals and events, instead of asking for a refund. They wanted to offer something that would thank these fans for helping them maintain cashflow through this difficult period and virtual events proved to be the perfect solution.
With help from other members of the Spectrum AV team, Willems and van Bree expanded and transformed their personal gaming space into a dedicated studio for live-streaming virtual dance events. They put up large video screens and a circular banner frame, so clients could customise the space with their own branding, and designed a lighting rig that had the feel of a large-scale EDM festival, but that fit into the smaller footprint of the available space. The rig features all ADJ fixtures, which reflects the company’s lighting inventory.
“We have been using ADJ equipment since 2014, when we first invested in the Inno Color Beam LED”, commented Willems. “We now have more than 50 of them and are still unbelievably happy with that fixture. From there we purchased Vizi Hybrid 16RX units, before making a significant investment last year that included 100 7P HEX IPs and 48 Vizi Beam RXONEs. Now most of our lighting rental equipment is ADJ. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that the price of fixtures is good, which means that we – as a rental company – can make money by using ADJ fixtures.
Willems believed that ADJ offered the best fixtures in their price bracket. “The markets that we work in can be rough, so the equipment sometimes gets damaged. In the past we’ve had problems with fixtures from other brands where we have bought the same type of fixture, but they have come from different batches and therefore use different parts. We’ve found ADJ products to always be consistent, while the spare parts are both affordable and readily available, which is very important to us.”
For its warehouse studio setup, the Spectrum AV team deployed 12 ADJ Vizi Hybrid 16RXs. Four are mounted above the DJ, with four more hanging at either side, positioned at two different heights on drop pipes. These are used to create aerial effects that surround the DJ position, as well as for GOBO projections onto the floor of the space and the black draped walls.
“The Vizi Hybrid 16RX is not a new fixture, we’ve had it in stock since 2016, but it can still compete with the newest models on the market,” enthused Willems. “So not only does it have all the functionality we need, but it represents a great return on investment, as it can still generate revenue four years later. The innovation cycle has not overtaken the product, which is extremely important for us. If we are going to make a significant investment in a large quantity of moving heads, we don’t want them to become obsolete the next year. But this fixture has really proven itself over the long term, and that is something we see across the ADJ product line. Having used it consistently over that time, we can also confirm that the durability of the light is very good.”
The midair effects generated by the Vizi Hybrid 16RXs in the studio setup are augmented by additional beams created by a total of 16 Vizi Beam RXONE fixtures. These compact and powerful beam moving heads are deployed in sets of four. Two of these sets flank the larger moving heads on the truss above the DJ position, while the other two are positioned on the floor lining the sides of the space. “What I like most about the Vizi Beam RXONE is its versatility,” Willems explained, “it can be used everywhere! We can use 48 of them as part of a huge setup for a large festival, but we can also use four of them for a small party. It doesn’t matter where you use it, the RXONE always punches through.”
To complement the beam effects, the Spectrum AV team have also utilised two of ADJ’s static wash fixture models for its studio setup. Eight 7P HEX IP units are positioned around the outside of the central circular banner frame. These versatile par fixtures feature seven 12-Watt 6-in-1 HEX colour LEDs and have a heavy-duty all-metal construction that is IP65-rated, making them ideal for use in a professional production environment. In addition, eight 32 HEX Panel IP units are rigged in pairs above the four Vizi Hybrid 16RX units that are hanging down on pipes. These potent multi-function wash / blinder / strobe fixtures feature 32 by 12-Watt HEX colour LEDs arranged into eight individually-controlled sections which allow for the creation of dazzling ‘eye candy’ effects.
“We’d been looking for a high-power LED panel for a while, and when the 32 HEX Panel IP came out it had everything we wanted,” stated Willems. “It is compact and we particularly like the durability of the product, it is very rugged and won’t break easily. It is also IP-rated, which we’ve seriously tested. We’ve used these fixtures outdoors in heavy rain a lot and we’ve had no problems with any of our 24 units. It also has HEX LEDs, which is very important for us. We have several different clients in the techno scene and they really don’t like standard colours, but with the HEX LEDs we can create really unique colours that are very desired by these customers.”
Finally, to illuminate the DJs and other performers so that they can be seen clearly on live streams, a number of ADJ’s Encore Series Fresnel fixtures have been positioned throughout the studio space. The Encore FR150Z features an 8-inch lens and a 130W warm white LED engine, while the compact Encore FR50Z pairs a 50W LED source with a 6-inch lens. Both fixtures offer a CRI of 95, barn doors and manual zoom control for a beam angle of between 8 and 50-degrees, making them ideal for a wide variety of stage and studio lighting applications.
“The Encore Series was the latest addition to our rental fleet from ADJ,” explained Willems, “and we were quite surprised because the price on these fixtures is really low. I initially ordered a couple for use on a specific project, but we were so impressed by the quality and durability of these fixtures that we directly ordered 16 more. Our lighting engineers were also very impressed by the colour temperature of the light. The power of the FR150Z is enormous – we never use it at 100% – it is so amazingly bright, but still retains that beautiful colour temperature. The compact size is another thing we like, once again offering versatility. At dance festivals we often cover multiple stages, so can use them on both the main stage and on the other smaller stages. So, over the last year, I think that perhaps these have become our favorite fixtures!”
Despite only being introduced last month, Spectrum AV’s studio has already proven extremely popular. Almost 20 live streams or pre-recorded videos have been filmed so far, with clients including hard dance label APEX Records and the TITANIUM festival. The Spectrum AV team have also helped to support its local community by hosting a virtual quiz for the people in the village where they are based, with prizes donated by local businesses. In fact the studio has proved to be so popular that they are already working to expand with two additional spaces, one for corporate presentations, meetings and press conferences, and another specifically designed for live music performances.
“Everybody needs to think differently at the moment,” concluded Willems, “which is why these initiatives keep coming. We can facilitate them using the equipment we normally rent out, used here in-house, to create a new experience, and also new solutions to the problems companies are facing. Clients really appreciate use of the studio, it is an awesome tool for staying connected with an audience!”