Louis Oliver Picks Ayrton Khamsin, Bora and Mistral for Shawn Mendes: The Tour

Photos: Please credit all photos to © Ralph Larmann

Shawn Mendes: The Tour hit the road at the beginning of March on a 9-month, 105 date world tour under a lighting rig which comprises Ayrton Khamsin-S, Ayrton Bora-S and Ayrton Mistral-S fixtures as the major components.

Lighting Designer, Louis Oliver, avoided the use of follow spots or remote tracking as part of his design intent for the show, choosing instead to work with Ayrton fixtures to provide key lights for the young Canadian singer and carve out dramatic backdrops with creative back, top and side light.

“We wanted to keep the performance space organic, allowing the technology to hide in the background,” he said. “With the design, we wanted to craft bold environments for Shawn to perform within. We tested the new Ayrton fixtures and found they could compete with anything else on the market. Ayrton has created a range of LED fixtures you can use without compromise.”

The 78 Khamsin-S profile units are the workhorses of the show, rigged on three motorised trusses upstage of the performance area, on the front and B stage truss as well as five units strategically placed around the stage. Each of the upstage trusses and the front truss house 15 to 21 Khamsin-S units which are used as the key light and to create a multitude of atmospheric looks to frame and enhance the performance space.

“Each song has its own colour tone and is very identifiable by this and the looks created by the position of the trusses and lighting / visual arrangement,” said Oliver. “The songs are musically and visually complementary with varying pastel colours. It’s great that the Khamsin & Bora can produce these subtle colours.”

Overhead, a rectangular mother grid supports a Circular framed LED screen and two Khamsin-S fixtures located in the centre – the only lighting directly above the stage – which are used solely for back pick up. Three additional Khamsin-S are located at stage level – one at the bottom of the central staircase to light Mendes’ big statement entrance, and one on the far edges either side of the stage to provide harsh cross light on Mendes.

Sixteen Bora-S wash fixtures are treated as floor package but are actually rigged on floor-based pre-rig truss upstage of the main stage, from which position they are used as backlighting and for aerial effects. “The Bora is extremely versatile,” said Oliver. “The Boras provide a very noticeable source of backlight for Shawn and the band. Where the units are positioned allows them to remain out of sight until outputting. They are a fantastic complement to the Khamsin, with a larger lens and varying frost filters. Using them both provides a cohesive lighting rig.”

Ayrton also plays a large part on the circular B-stage in the centre of the arena which is overhung with a circular truss. From this, four Khamsin-S are individually attached to light locks which can then move through vertical space via custom winches to create shapes around Mendes. In addition to this highly original key light on Mendes, this Khamsin also serves as additional audience lighting and add dynamic interest during the VT breaks, helping to create a mysterious vibe and draw the audience attention.

“The winches allow us to quickly change the physical position of the individual lights, giving us a new box of creativity to compliment the simplicity of the B-stage,” said Oliver. “It is also exciting for the audience as the Khamsins can float a few meters above head height.”

The B-stage set-up is completed by 8 Mistral-S spot fixtures sited on floor shelves to deliver effects and textures on the floor during Mendes’ piano break, acting as additional lighting on the audience and during VT moments as a more subtle alternative to audience blinders. “The whole look is more organic to match and complement the spirit of the show,” said Oliver.

The B-Stage’s spectacular centre-piece is a giant LED rose sculpture which reflects the album cover artwork. “We discovered early on that Khamsin has a rose gobo as standard. This was a welcome surprise as the rose is the icon of the tour,” said Oliver. “It was the most used gobo in the show and we didn’t need to make 80 custom gobos!”

The move to LED lighting was a conscious decision by the tour’s creative team which was confirmed after a successful shoot out hosted by Ambersphere, Ayrton’s exclusive UK distributor. “We all knew we wanted something new and sustainable for this tour and I was keen for us to move to LED,” explained Oliver. “We didn’t think the technology was quite there yet with what was on the market, then Christie Lites (the tour’s supplier) introduced us to Ayrton’s new wash and spot fixtures and we saw they could stand up against anything. They are great for all purposes and you don’t have to compromise on any features.

“From the aesthetic point of view, Ayrton is a joy to have in a rig – they are a plain black fixture with no obvious branding, super clean lines, a nice shape, and uniform in appearance across all versions. When they are not on, they are almost invisible, but if ambient light hits them (such as the light from 10,000 audience smartphones!) they still look fantastic!”

A major deciding point for Oliver was the ability for Ayrton fixtures to remain true to their original design and programming, in terms of focus, brightness, colour temperature, etc for the whole duration of the tour. Glyn O’Donoghue, CEO of Ambersphere, commented:

“This is due to Ayrton’s superb design concept which keeps the front and back halves of the fixture separate from each other. This means that the circulation of air does not pass over the optics so the lenses remain much cleaner and the appearance of the beam remains the same as the day the tour started. From a technician’s point of view, this also means a significant reduction in maintenance and man-hours on the road and in the rental house as the optics need less cleaning and the LED source does not need regular changing. This isolation is a true signature of the new generation of Ayrton fixtures which makes them unique.”

Oliver agreed: “Ayrton has always been at the forefront of LED development with their effects lighting, so they’ve been continually ahead of the game – setting standards that other manufacturers note and take inspiration from. Now they are ahead of the game, creating a new range of spots, washes and multifunctional lights that truly compliment everything else in the rig. LED has come of age with these fixtures, allowing us designers to design a more sustainable, environmentally conscious show.”