Lighting designer Bryan Leitch and video designer Nick Whitehouse collaborated closely to create an innovative visual mix for Feeder’s latest European tour, utilising six RADlite digital media server systems – the most RADlites toured together to date.
The RADlites were supplied by rental company Siyan – the first UK company to invest in this then new technology, back in 2001. Siyan now owns 8 RADlites and Leitch and Whitehouse pioneered its use on the epic Coldplay tour that ended earlier the year.
The Coldplay tour was instrumental in boosting general interest in the digital media server phenomenon. Following his experiences there, Whitehouse wanted to use RADlite again on Feeder, and was brimming with ideas about what could be achieved by running the video in this configuration.
The Feeder show was heavily video based – a medium they have always enthusiastically embraced. Whitehouse operated the RADlite servers using a Avolites Diamond 4 Elite, allowing video clips and camera feeds to be run in a similar fashion to moving lights. All other lighting onstage is run by Leitch using an Avolites Sapphire. One RADlite, running PixelDrive software, was dedicated to controlling 18 James Thomas Pixelline 1044 battens. The Pixellines were used for the overhead stage washes – another touring first.
The stage featured three different visual projection surfaces – an upstage 50 x 10 ft widescreen; a front gauze that was ‘in’ for the first song, and a large rear projection surface, created by opening and closing curtains. The whole stage aesthetic was ‘draped and theatrical’, concealing rather than revealing the equipment, and therefore heightening the element of surprise for the audience.
All pre-recorded video sources were stored on the RADlite hard drives. The mega-bright Pixellines beamed straight down onto the stage from the trusses above, reflecting back on the grey Marley flooring. Being run through the RADlite, meant the Pixellines could mimic the patterns created onscreen with the video inputs – on the stage floor.
PixelDrive is an innovation developed by RADlite’s creators IRAD and the James Thomas Pixelrange R&D team. It pixel-maps a video source and outputs the pattern via DMX to the fixtures. Each Pixelline batten has 18 RGB pixels, and when combined, these effectively form a super low res surface or can be used as a wash-light effect – as on Feeder.
When the Feeder show was conceived, video always a major element, and Bryan Leitch was very keen on a widescreen look from the outset. Whitehouse then added the larger rear screen and the front screen into the mix, plus 7 cameras.
These were low res ‘lipstick’ CCTV cameras, six black & white and one colour, six fixed on the three band members, with one going into the crowd.
Whitehouse create much of the video content himself, sourced from (1) existing re-edited and remixed footage of the band including promotional material, (2) newly created footage and graphics, and (3) images culled from royalty-free image archives.
The pre-recorded material was an eclectic collage, ranging from old archive footage of ballroom dancers to coloured numbers and text, to dreamy, swirling, kaleidoscopic patterns.
He also spent the earlier European club tour out-and-about with his video camera, shooting potential material that could be treated in the RADlite and worked into the show. Many of the images are abstracts, “weird but not distracting” describes Whitehouse, which works well with Feeder’s hard driving rocky oeuvre.
Whitehouse used over 200 video clips in total throughout the show, all of which was paletted in the Diamond 4, arranged in different modes and colours, etc, to enable quick and easy access for improvisational moments.
In addition to the five RADlites, Siyan also supplied three Hitachi projectors, rigged on the truss making three 12 x 2 metre images for the wide screen. All other video equipment – cameras and projectors – was supplied by XL Video. This included two Barco G10 projectors on the front truss, making the full upstage picture, and the widescreen images (with the shape masked to fit in the RADlite), and a Barco R18 upstage centre on the floor, pointing forwards, for the front gauze projections. The latter was used as a giant gobo projector when not on the gauze.
Whitehouse thinks RADlite’s many advantages include cost and truck-space economy, enabling a host of smaller and medium sized productions to create a highly effective, completely original, multi-layered show from a few boxes. Then there’s the obvious control and aesthetic advantages of having a show operated from a single user interface.