To celebrate the 25 th anniversary of the Wholehog lighting control desk, the Flying Pig Systems team, along with an original Wholehog console, will reunite at the PLASA Show in September.
In 1992, three young, twenty-something men – Nick Archdale, Tom Thorne and Nils Thorjussen – exhibited a new control system for live entertainment lighting at the PLASA Show in London. Called Wholehog, it had been conceived, developed, road-tested and launched in less than a year. Its disruptive power and features drew huge interest from the market, while its impact was recognised by the PLASA Show’s Awards judges who unanimously named it Lighting Product of the Year.
Wholehog was a landmark in the history of entertainment lighting control. For the three founders whose blood, sweat, tears and (no doubt) more tears had led them to this point, it was an extraordinary achievement against the odds. That they had known it wouldn’t be easy was acknowledged by the very name they had chosen for the company they had founded in October 1991: Flying Pig Systems.
The three founders were destined to be high-flyers long before they became Flying Pigs. Archdale was a British lighting operator and engineering whizz-kid, an Imperial College drop-out whose experience of controlling the new breed of automated lights on the rave scene had led him to the concept for Wholehog. Thorne, a brilliant software engineer and Cambridge graduate, had collaborated with Archdale on a previous lighting control desk, the DLD6502, and was redrafted for the Wholehog project. Thorjussen, a graduate of the
University of Austin, Texas, who had subsequently met Thorne at Stanford University Business School, brought his pin-sharp business brain to the mix.
Partly funded by Peter Miles and Tim Baylis of The Spot Company, with whom they would share a home at 53 Northfield Road, London W13, the trio embarked on a whirlwind year of productivity. The control system they eventually created would be a genuine leap forward in lighting control. While Wholehog could, naturally, handle all the usual conventional dimmer channels and scrollers, its raison d’être was its simplification of the control of multi-parameter automated lights.
With its ‘Fixture Library’ and ‘LTP+’ priority system, it brought a new level of speed and versatility to the lighting programmer and operator. Among its other innovations were the introduction of LCD labelling of palettes and playbacks, graphical patch, MIDI and timecode control, macros and the quick-and-easy creation of dynamic lighting looks with its ‘Stack Synthesizer’. And its capacity was something else: over 6,000 channels of DMX control.
Over the next three years, the Wholehog would conquer the concert touring production market, spec’d for The Grateful Dead, Peter Gabriel, Lenny Kravitz, Simple Minds, Prince, The Rolling Stones, Sting and Pink Floyd, among many others. In 1995 it was superseded by the Wholehog II, which would go on to even greater accomplishments and cement the name of Wholehog forever in the pages of entertainment technology history.
This year at the PLASA Show, the three original Flying Pigs, together with Peter, Tim and Simon England (DLD co-founder), will land at Olympia to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their achievement on a not-quite faithful recreation of their 1992 PLASA stand, complete with dodgy signage, potted plants and the Wholehog desk itself, alongside its forerunner, the DLD 6502.
The three founders look forward to welcoming all those who played a part in the story of Flying Pig Systems and Wholehog to stand T61, which will be knee-deep in limited edition swag and nostalgia. Equally welcome are all those who would like to take a first-hand look at a piece of genuine entertainment lighting history, and to meet the men who created it.