Keith Urban Embraces the Square with Ayrton MagicPanel-R 

Ayrton MagicPanel-R fixtures -  Keith Urban, Matt Bishop

Keith Urban’s 2018 world tour in support of his tenth studio album, Grafitti U, kicked off in North America in June 2018. Since then the country, rock singer, musician, songwriter and Record Producer from New Zealand has covered fifty-nine venues in six months.

The tour’s Production Design firm, FragmentNine, chose no less than 68 Ayrton MagicPanel-R fixtures, supplied by Upstaging, to add depth, dynamism and texture throughout this thoroughly creative and dynamic show.

Video Designer, Jackson Gallagher and Lighting Designer, Jeremy Lechterman of FragmentNine explained that part of the reasoning behind their choice of MagicPanel-R was largely due to its square face and unique abilities, which fit into a mostly geometric and ‘square’ design. 48 panels were rigged to four custom-built pods which automated as the most upstage visual element on stage, with two more pods left and right at stage level to provide low-level sidelight on the band.

The show’s set design is highly mobile and dynamic with a diamond-shaped WinVision 9 Air IMAG screen forming an overhead roof which, like the Ayrton MagicPanel-R pods, can be raised, lowered and angled. This is complemented by two more transparent video ‘walls’ set at 90° to each other in front of the band, and a third forming a backdrop upstage. The walls can be dropped in at any position from grid height to stage level to shape the stage or even ‘cage’ the band. The multiple combinations of screen positions and MagicPanel-R pods gave Gallagher and Lechterman a huge number of options for different looks and moods throughout the show.

“There’s a million things you can do with these fixtures.” Lechterman said: “At this point in the show we were running the MagicPanel-R’s infinite tilt feature and then stopping them really quickly, bringing them back and stopping them fast again, and repeating so the whole stage looked like it was being put on pause very abruptly. There are not a lot of fixtures that can ramp down that quickly, nor continue to move in that way. I thought it was an interesting way to use the MagicPanel that was not just making shapes or running chases with the pixels. I can’t imagine any other fixture being able to do that.”

The team at FragmentNine has had a lot of experience with Ayrton and MagicPanel-R having first used the fixtures on alt-J’s 2015 tour. “We are quite familiar with the way the fixtures behave,” said Gallagher. “For Grafitti U, we used the MagicPanel-Rs in full Extended Mode with none of the onboard macros apart from creating some shapes. It takes a little more time to programme, depending on what you want to do, but that’s the nature of having something more complicated, but which is capable of so many things.”

“The major reason we chose to use MagicPanels in this show is that we always go for structure in one form or another to create an interesting architectural environment on stage and give the audience some sense of location,” concluded Gallagher. “I think the MagicPanel-Rs did a great job on Grafitti U in particular, even during the few times they were off, partly because they were square-shaped, but also because we could make them into rectangular pods that we could use to create hard industrial architecture without having to resort to massive scenic beams. The MagicPanels in combination with the rectangular video screens created an architectural three-dimensional location for the band to perform within.”

The Keith Urban tour continues in Australia in January and February 2019 and Europe in March 2019, with further American festival dates in Summer 2019. Ayrton is distributed exclusively in the US by ACT Lighting.