First PixelDrive on Tour

Lighting designer Steve Finch is the first person to tour a PixelDrive control system, which is controlling 14 James Thomas Pixelline 1044 battens on Level 42’s current UK and European tour.

Photo Caption: Level 42 LD Steve Finch

Finch is using two pods of Pixellines with 7 units per pod – dubbed the ‘PixelPods’ – as the main effects light features of his design. These are hung prominently on the back truss and angled backwards.

All lighting equipment is being supplied by High Wycombe based Siyan, who have bought a large quantity of Pixelline this autumn from Lightfactor Sales, and already own 8 RADlite digital media servers. PixelDrive is a collaboration between James Thomas Engineering’s Pixel department and RADlIte developers IRAD.

Finch immediately liked the Pixellines after his first demo in the late summer, which happened simultaneous to PixelDrive coming on-stream. As soon as he had the chance to combine the two elements, he decided to take them on tour.

The PC-based PixelDrive system is triggered via any DMX lighting desk. It gives control of visual images via a familiar set of attributes – similar to programming a moving light – offering LDs the opportunity of expanding their imaginative horizons, without spending endless hours programming complex sequences. PixelDrive integrates lighting designers with video and graphics departments, so all mediums can be controlled from a single lighting console. PixelDrive patterns and effects are quickly and easily mimicked in real-time via a preview monitor.

The idea was to produce a slightly different look for the band at this medium level of touring, whilst also introducing a taste of ‘retro 1980s’ flare to the overall lighting design – the band were rarely out of the charts during this era!

After experimenting with different Pixelline configurations in Siyan’s warehouse, Finch came up with these pseudo ironic versions of the 80’s lightbox.

“A lot of the lighting for this is 80’s Top Of The Pops and televisual in style” explains Finch. It involves big blocks of colour and dramatic cuts between different physical levels of lighting on the stage.

He also created some of his own graphics patterns to run on the PixelDrive using PaintShop Pro, and created custom colour palette within PixelDrive, all of which add to the colourful and fun range of kaleidoscopic-type effects featuring in the show.

“I like the fact that as soon as you’ve programmed something in PixelDrive, you can bring up the scene and change colour or throw effects onto it instantly” he says. With no production rehearsals at the start of the tour, the speed and flexibility of the PixelDrive was a massive asset to his imaginative toolbox. He adds that he’d like to use PixelDrive again for future work, and that this tour has really wetted his appetite for further experimentation.

He’s running the Level 42 show using an Avolites Sapphire console, for which two pages pf playback memories are allocated to PixelDrive effects.

Other lighting fixtures on the rig include SGM Giottos for moving fixtures – used subtly and intelligently – and an assortment of generics including PARs and Source Fours.

Finch is working with his two Siyan crew-mates Brian Mandevile and Iestyn Thomas, and the tour is a great success – both in terms of everyone enjoying themselves, and it selling well. Sound is supplied by Capital Sound, FOH engineers is Mark Clements and Mark Jowitt mixes monitors. The good vibes are production and tour managed by Kevin Hopgood.

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