HSL continues its touring relationship with legendary Bristol-based electronic/trip-hop collective Massive Attack, supplying all lighting equipment and crew to the current UK and European tour, working with lighting designer Robin Haddow.

Says HSL project manager Mike Oates, “It’s great to be working with Robin and Production Manager James Baseley and Tour Manager Dave Lawrence and their team again. Massive Attack have been one of the UK’s most  influential and creative bands over the last 2 decades, and their live productions are always inventive and interesting. This one is no exception”.

Robin Haddow worked closely with the band’s video and show designers United Visual Artists (UVA) on developing the look and feel of the show, for which they did a week of technical production rehearsals at HSL’s new space next door to their warehouse facility in Blackburn. They also received considerable input from Massive Attack founder 3D.

The result is a multi-layered integration of lighting and video elements into a tightly timed show which flows harmoniously with the music. The video content also includes the use of thought-provoking text information – a style that’s been continuous in their live work for at least 5 years.

With the music and the message always being the core of a Massive Attack show, the band is heavily back lit, with only the individual singers’ faces being gently key-lit during specific songs.

They are again touring 15 custom modules of Barco O-Lite 510 video screen upstage, making a 15 metre wide by 3 metre high back wall.

Attached to the base of each O-Lite frame is a Robe ColorWash 250E AT moving light. Upstage of the screen is a truss, rigged about a metre high off the ground on special tank traps, on which is mounted 15 Vari*Lite 3500 Washes. These are used extensively through the show shooting beams dramatically through the transparent architecture of the screen. Haddow likes the fact that they go from a really tight pencil beam to a wide wash. The screen produces numerous break up opportunities and is a bit like “having a giant gobo” explains Haddow.

For side and front lighting they are using 8 Robe ColorSpot 700E ATs, 4 on stands for the downstage edge of the stage and 4 a bit further upstage on flightcases.

There are Atomic strobes and 4-lite Molefeys dotted around behind the band but in front of the screen.

In lighting terms the visual pièce de résistance and Haddow’s “Favourite effect” involves 32 Robe REDWash 3●192 LED wash lights and 8 customised sections of trussing designed by HSL’s Rupert Reynolds. Each trussing section has been adapted to be quick-fitted with 4 REDWashes for easy set up.

These sit on the floor upstage of the screen, attached via steels to a trussing mother grid up in the roof, and are flown in and out on a 3-way Kinesys automation system operated by Andy Iliffe, one of HSL’s crew.

The effect is used sparingly for highest impact … it stays hidden at the start and then emerges half way through the set during “Angel”, and is used primarily towards the end of the set.

The result is stunning, with the smooth gliding of the Kinesys and the movement and power of the REDWashes. The rectangular light field and narrow beam spread of the  fixtures is a perfect complement to the screen aesthetics. Haddow also really likes the fact that they have the true white – in addition to the RGB functionality – which is unusual for an LED unit. White light in different colours, qualities and textures is a constant feature of the aesthetics throughout the show.

Also behind the screen, Haddow has 5 x A&O Falcon 3K searchlights with Flower lenses, which provide mega-bright multi-pinspot effects through the screen. One of 3D’s specific requests had been for ‘refracted’ light, but absolutely no mirror balls or other cliches – which challenged Haddow to produce some new and cool ways of doing this.

The show is run via three control systems – a Hog 3 set up which also drives a PixelMAD system that supplies content to the REDWashes (which are also programmed as conventional lightsources). This is operated by Haddow.

UVA’s D3 video control platform that runs all the content for the O-lite screen also fires certain lighting cues – operated by Icarus Wilson-Wright. The trio of control options is integrated via a Luminex IP merge device. This allows Haddow to select which source – and which individual channel – is controlled by which system. “It works absolutely seamlessly,” he comments, adding that it’s a great step forward from last year’s tour.

“HSL have been fantastic,” comments Haddow “Once again, Mike Oates has excelled himself at ensuring we receive amazing service and support, the kit is in great condition and the crew are fabulous”. The third HSL crew member is Chris Roper.

The O-Lite and D3 system is being supplied by XL Video and the PA comes from Wigwam, all long term suppliers of Massive Attack. The tour is currently scheduled to run until the end of November.


Date of issue : 4th November 2009.

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