Leading UK lighting rental company HSL supplied all lighting equipment to the 2011 British Military Tournament at Earls Court in London … for LD Steve Sinclair’s dynamic design which helped showcase the action presented by a cast of 700 troops, 100 horses, massed bands and featuring the famous ‘field gun run’.
HSL tendered and won the contract for lighting contractor, which was project managed for them by Thor-Andre “Spantax” Saether. “It was a great honour to be involved in a project with such long traditions and we are proud to have picked up the ball on this contemporary version,” he says referring to its origins as The Royal Tournament, a spectacle that ran from 1880 to 1999 returning to the live event calendar last year in this new format.
Spantax adds that it was also good to be working with Sinclair again following HSL’s recent supply of lights to Top Gear Live in Birmingham and London, for which Sinclair is also the LD.
The action packed show, directed by Christopher Joll and produced by IMG, was themed around the special relationship between the British and American armed forces, and contained an eclectic mix of entertainment including the traditional field gun run that was so iconic to the Royal Tournament; a large horse orientated section including the Musical Drive of the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery; the White Helmet Army Motorcycle Display Team; the incredible US Army Drill Team and their flying rifles, plus several battle re-enactments from the American Civil War to the current conflict in Afghanistan.
It was a hugely challenging environment to light and required a multi-disciplinary approach, drawing on techniques from theatre to stadium lighting and all things in-between!
For certain sections of the three hour show, Sinclair had to close the performance area right down almost to a black box studio theatre environment, and for others it had to be almost a daylight arena.
The technical challenges included a 21 metre trim height for the trusses, needed to maintain sightlines all around, so fixtures that could really cut a punch were chosen. The floor was filled with a turf mix so it was soft underfoot for the horses, but this soon swallowed any amount of lumens thrown at it, so a large rig was needed to lay down the base washes.
The lightshow also had to be designed around an amount of scenic gear and props that were flown out of the way in the roof.
Two 64 metre trusses traversed the long sides of the arena in Earls Court 1, and there was also a T truss at either end, each with a 21.5 metre stem and a 9 metre cross piece. Sinclair additionally used the mother grid supporting a video cube in the centre to position some lights.
The basic arena washes were created using 44 x 6-lamp PAR bars. There were also 44 4-lite Moles and 20 Source Four profiles for key lighting and specials.
Thirty Four of Robes ColorSpot 2500E ATs provided powerful coverage all over the arena floor, and there were also 12 MAC IIIs, eight in the air and four on the floor, one in each corner of the arena.
In the entrance / exit tunnels either end, were Robe ROBIN 600 LEDWashes attached to the scaffolding supports of the seating tribunes, along with Chroma-Q Color Force 72 LED battens and 2K fresnels. Smoke machines were also allocated to each entrance.
Four Robert Juliat Lancelot follow spots were stationed at the back corners of the lower seating bleachers. Operated by local crew, they worked extremely hard throughout the performance. They were positioned specifically to spot the horses, which do not mind lights in their eyes but don’t like shadows, so could not be highlighted from above.
Sinclair controlled all lighting from a Whole Hog Full Boar console with a second Full Boar running as a tracking back-up. His programming schedule was hectic and the light show evolved – some of it organically – as the show unfolded and rehearsals progressed.
To heighten the drama of the Drill Team’s performance, they were very tightly and moodily lit at one the end of the arena. No light at all could be in their eyes as this would have impeded their ability to catch the flying rifles – all of which were fitted with combat-ready razor sharp bayonets! They were therefore lit almost entirely with back light from the ROBIN 600 LEDWashes, Color Force 72s and fresnels. Sinclair watched one run through, listened to the lighting cues requested by the Troop Commander, and then added his own magic in two hours of plotting that evening resulting in 28 cues in the desk. After the first in-situ run through with lights at the next day’s rehearsals … he had to tweak just one cue.
HSL supplied six crew for the in and out who worked alongside three of Sinclair’s own regular technicians, chiefed by Paul Makin, who looked after the show for the three day run of five performances, the first attended by HRH Queen Elizabeth II.
To save time and optimise the get in operation, all the conventional lights and cabling were loaded in first, followed a couple of days later by the moving lights – all before the equestrian floor went down, which would have made it difficult to push cases across the arena floor and generated lots of flying particles!
The event was another great success, and the latest in a run of top level projects that HSL has serviced this autumn / winter covering a diversity of music tours, theatre / television productions and special events.
Date of issue : 22nd December 2011.