Ambersphere in Control With The Wombats at Alexandra Palace

Photo by Dan Hill

Alexandra Palace in North London was the venue for The Wombats’ largest production during their current tour, and the rig was heavy with fixtures from the Ambersphere Solutions family of brands with Clay Paky and Ayrton units making up over half of the total design and an MA Lighting grandMA2 Lite FoH.

Dan Hill was the LD at the helm. He stated: “This was essentially a larger, more intense version of the lighting rig we’ve had out lately. In London earlier this year, The Wombats played Brixton Academy and the show at Alexandra Palace really grew from that.

“It was nothing crazy, but extensions of what was already there to cater for both the larger crowd and the bigger, wider stage that Alexandra Palace provides. I wanted to keep things as dynamic and as fun for the band on stage and for people in the crowd as it was back in Brixton.”

Explaining the reasons for his choices, Hill began with the Ayrton MagicBlades: “This was my first design with MagicBlades. I’d seen them used a few times before but had been waiting for the right chance to use them. They have a lot of features and capabilities that are great but I’ve seen them overused in a way that I’m not necessarily into.

“I wanted a fixture that framed the stage well ‘geometrically.’ The band are so energetic live I wanted to frame and draw attention to this and thought the MagicBlades would be an ideal choice. Using the Blades in the side ‘wall’ position was great. It provided a sculptural sidelight but I could also use the linear effects and individual pixel control to create more dynamic emphasis to songs. I think it gave the stage and concept quite a ‘Bladerunner’ feel, which I was into!”

A frequently reported reason for choosing Clay Paky Stormy is that, although they are a LED fixture, they behave like a traditional strobe. Hill was happy to add his name to that list: “I don’t like to see a cheap looking block of LED strobes; the Stormy gives me the RGBW colour changing capability of an LED fixture but it looks and acts like a real strobe.  Add to that, I use them to back light the band.

“It works brilliantly and with a good colour spectrum from pastels to primary colours. Although I wouldn’t spec them as a pure wash light, they are after all, a strobe first and foremost, they were vibrant and punchy and created some great silhouette and shadow work on stage, ticking my boxes perfectly.

“The Clay Paky Sharpy remains the ‘go to’ beam light for me. There were over 30 on this rig. If I want a solid beam, a strong gobo selection, speed and reliability, I can go anywhere in the world and find a bunch of Sharpys that can do the job and do it exactly as I want. They are simply my first and only choice.

“All my fixture selections are integral to my final design and on the few occasions when we had to go without certain lights I had to seriously revaluate how the show was run to compensate for the negative differences.”

As for control, Hill took a fairly prosaic approach: “An LD or operator can often be judged on what desk they choose to use, which I don’t really subscribe to; at the end of the day, they’re a tool to make lights work and a stage look good. However, after trying out and using most of the other leading console options, the MA Lighting grandMA2 just works best for me.

“Programming my own shows; this is important as it needs to be intuitive and I want to be thinking about how the show looks, not with my head tied up in console queries. The cue stacking and editing is powerful and the live control side of the console works really well.

“Once set up, the intelligent elements within the grandMA2 mean programming is quick, intuitive and the flow between ideas and how it works onstage happens without too much brain strain!”

Hill spoke about his next projects, which he said would include a range of both Ayrton and Clay Paky fixtures run, naturally, by his console of choice, the grandMA2: “These fixtures are now firmly on my ‘tried and tested’ list and I’m confident they will work really well with my upcoming projects.  As for the Wombats, they are now firmly embedded in the design.”