HSL supplied lighting equipment and crew for the recent Top Gear Live events in the UK’s LG Arena at Birmingham’s NEC and at the ExCel Centre in London, with lighting designed by Steve Sinclair.
It’s the first time that HSL has worked on this hugely popular, high profile automotive extravaganza – a unique, highly entertaining mix of theatre, hair raising stunts, and powerful, hot-rodded, bespoke very special performance cars.
HSL was awarded the contract to supply the lights following a competitive tender process. While Steve had not worked with them before, he had heard that the award winning Blackburn company had “Really upped their game” in the last couple of years, and had also received several recommendations from others.
HSL’s project Manager Thor Andre Saether (Spantax) comments, “With HSL being a company full of “petrol-heads” there was a lot of excitement here when we got the job, and as it progressed we were not let down! Working with Steve and his team has been a great experience. They have been very involved in coming up with the best possible solutions for all the challenges a show like this presents. I went down to see the first show in Birmingham and would highly recommend it to anyone! It is one of those shows that gives you a real kick to watch, and we are proud to have been a part of it!
Steve has lit the show since 2003. Lots of vehicles whizzing around large arenas at breakneck speeds in the highly adrenalized, screeching tyres and rubber burning environment presents many challenges for the lighting.
It needs to be approached with precision to avoid blinding or distracting the drivers – whilst accentuating the real sense of drama and spectacle. There also has to be a pre-determined level of ambient light present – so the drivers can see where they are going!
With seating stands wrapping the arena on three sides, Steve also has to ensure that everyone can see all the action right across the 77 metre wide by 33 deep performance area from wherever they are seated.
The workhorse lighting fixtures for the two runs of UK shows were 40 Robe ColorSpot 1200E ATs and 20 ColorWash 1200E ATs, rigged on long trusses installed above the arena together with eight ROBIN 600 LEDWashes. Fourteen Robe ColorSpot 2500E ATs were used as effects lights and specials
Ten Martin Professional MAC 3Ks were the only floor based fixtures – six at the back of the arena and four at the front. These were primarily used to give a different look and feel during the pre-show car displays. With vehicles driving slowly around the arena, there were no speed/sight issues!
The lighting design also incorporated 22 x 6-lamp bars of PARs, which were used for general and base light levels, also providing a contrast to the texture and appearance of the moving light beams.
Eight Robe ROBIN 600 Washes were used as key light specials, for highlighting specific areas when needed, and there were 12 x ACL bars hung on two cross stage trusses, one up-stage and one mid-stage for additional powerful blasts of brightness.
L-shaped follow spot trusses were flown at the front corners of the space, which were also used as hanging points for some of the moving lights.
The presenters stood on a mobile stage that they drove around the arena, which was an exact replica of the studio set they use for the TV programme– and with follow spots to hand, they could be picked up from wherever they were.
Steve programmed and ran the lights on a Road Hog Full Boar console.
HSL supplied a 4 axes Kinesys automation system for the Motorbike Limbo stunt – consisting of two suspended polystyrene walls with ever closing gaps. Custom poly holders were fabricated so the polystyrene pieces could be attached to the Liftket motors.
For the ExCel shows HSL additionally supplied 60 points of rigging and about 250 metres of truss. (at the NEC they utilised the house trussing/flying facilities).
HSL supplied fourteen crew plus crew chief, Richard Griffin. Says Steve, “The service has been great from HSL, the kit was all in excellent condition, well maintained and very reliable ….. and their crew were fantastic”.