Suzhou in China is one of the fastest growing major cities in the world, situated just 100km west of Shanghai on the lower Yangtze River. It boasts many interesting historic and modern attractions, not least its latest nightclub, the 800-capacity Vela, which opened its doors in December 2019.
Lighting designer, Andy Taylor of Gasoline Design, was called in to provide the dynamic lighting for the club and chose to use a whopping 174 Ayrton MiniPanel-FX for his design. He explains his choice: “I have used Ayrton products on nightclub install designs before, most notably DreamPanel™Twin in Jewel, Las Vegas, and MagicPanel™-R and MagicBlade™-R in Omnia at Caesar’s Palace, also in Las Vegas. The fittings worked with spectacular effect in both of those designs, so when I was looking for something different to use as the workhorse of the effect lighting for Vela, the MiniPanel-FX was a natural choice. The client was also keen for the design to look like nothing he had seen anywhere else and to create that elusive ‘wow’ factor. Having a large array of MiniPanels ticked both those boxes to great effect.
“I don’t recall seeing any fixtures with the same square lens configuration as MiniPanel-FX, which was a big selling point. The most important thing for me is quality of function and reliability – I don’t want to put 174 fixtures in a design and get 174 different shades of white – and with Ayrton you can guarantee uniformity, even after many hours of use.”
Taylor was able to use the MiniPanel-FX to achieve the dynamic effect he wanted for the club. “The MiniPanels are primarily rigged in clusters at the centre of six rectangular moving pods. The intention was to create a ‘ceiling’ of moving light capable of being pixel-mapped as a low resolution screen that can mirror and complement the club’s LED screen content, as well as create massive in-air moving beam looks. There are also 40 MiniPanel-FX mounted on the back wall behind the DJ, sited in between, above, below and in two rows either side of strips of LED screen. These create beam and pixel-mapped effects that shoot out into, and over the guests.”
So which moments of the design stood out most for Taylor? “For me it’s important to instill in the operators and programmers that, just because something can spin around continuously, it doesn’t mean it has to all the time!” he says. “With a club it is particularly important to build the night, punctuated with ‘wow’ moments. So, for the first part of the night the MiniPanels are relatively leisurely in colour and movement. Their big reveal is the first time the ‘pods’ start moving. This is their first ‘go as bonkers as you like’ moment and it really heightens the disorientation and excitement caused by, in effect, the whole ceiling moving and twisting over the heads of the guests.
“Once the resident techs learnt how to program these unique fixtures, they were very excited about the potential of the looks they could achieve with MiniPanel-FX, which is always refreshing to see. It’s important that the guys who have to look after, program and operate the system night after night are as excited about its potential as I am.”
“We are so happy with the performance and results from the MiniPanel-FX,” says Vela’s general manager, Julie Zhou. “It’s very important to us to emphasise Vela’s unique structure in the best light, and the MiniPanels deliver this with amazing colour and a great quality, soft light. The house technicians enjoy having individual colour control over MiniPanel-FX’s four lenses, which they haven’t experienced with other comparatively-sized moving heads. The result is we now have a club that is very dramatic and full of colour, which we all like very much!