Impression XLs cut it for Scissor Sisters

Scissor Sisters 2010 - Lighting Director Glen JohnsonGLP’s powerful new impression XL has made its high-profile touring debut at the start of the Scissor Sisters world tour, which includes an appearance at Glastonbury and arena shows later in the year.

Lite Alternative’s Paul Normandale has designed the six floor-mounted impression XL LED heads into an elaborate motion controlled set. His company also fielded a further nine impression 120RZ Zooms from their inventory — adding to the fixtures they first incorporated into the set design for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs earlier in the year. Like the XL’s these were mounted at the back of the stage, and blasted their light through four 8 x 8 sections of spinning aluminum louvre shutters, lifted on a Kinesys K2 motion control section. After a three-year break, the New York-based Scissor Sisters were clearly seeking something more sophisticated than a disco lighting set — but GLP’s LED wash lights still had to keep company with a pair of 13W laser, confetti machines and conventional automated spots and washes in this riotous spectacular.

Tasked with animating Paul Normandale’s creative set — incorporating raunchy Mapplethorpe photos within the backdrop screens — was experienced lighting director Glen Johnson of i-Lite Ltd, who has worked with many of the world’s leading touring acts (and automated lighting fixtures).

He immediately noticed not only the brightness of the GLP XL — with 240 Luxeon LEDs it is almost three times as bright as the smaller impression — but the speed of response and a smoothness of flicker-free dimming quite unlike the ‘stepped’ effect of other LED lights he had used. The cold and warm white capabilities (variable between 3200K and 7200K) was another feature he was able to exploit via the colour temperature channel in the fixture control facilities as well as white and CTO on the colour wheel. “We find we can get most of what we need from the colour temperature channel,” he said.

Paul Normandale observed that the impression XL can genuinely be considered as a powerful beam light although his ambitious design had called for a high-powered washlight. “This seemed a good opportunity to monitor their temperature and durability.” Performance wise, he was in no doubt. “There is not a great deal of space behind the louvres, but depth wise these are tiny.” Although the combination of XL’s and 120RZ’s dominate the back lighting they are keeping company with conventional automated overheads, some key lights and four double i-Pix BB4 wash lights (fitted with barn doors) — not to mention the lasers, which were supplied by SFX of Chicago and operated by David Kennedy.

This is Paul Normandale’s first time out with the Scissor Sisters though he has designed for Coldplay, stable mates in the Dave Holmes management roster, which created the introduction. “This time they wanted to get away from ‘disco’ and wanted a darker look … something more structured. It’s quite a flamboyant show but the premise is like a ‘peek-a-boo’ set.” At Brixton Academy’s warm-up dates the six floor-mounted XL’s acted as cyc lights (with the louvers down) and then backlit the five piece band fronted by Ana Matronik and Jake Shears once the Kinesys system had raised the louvered sections, mounted on a sub truss, and ‘parked’ at variable heights (over a full travel distance of 27ft).

Glen Johnson is not the first to remark that the impressions remind him a lot of the old fast mirror scanning effects, and that the power generated enables it to produce an excellent strobing effect. “It’s an extremely fast head, really small and light so your marking times are zero and you can do things Conventional moving heads cannot, they are extremely responsive — and the dimmer is pretty damn good as are the colours. “Three colours …and it becomes a disco!” is Normandale’s philosophy. Thus each Scissor Sisters number is single-colour specific, for example Johnson will work on a CTO look on one song, CTB quarter strength on another … and then a red range.

Lite Alternative have enjoyed a growing relationship with GLP’s impression family since Mark Ravenhill, GLP’s director, Global Key Players, first introduced them to the company when Paul Normandale was designing a show for Antony & The Johnsons. “Everyone was looking for an LED product that was quick and stable — and as soon as Mark arrived it gave GLP a huge presence,” said the designer. “Now you see these impressions being used everywhere.” While this rig remains with the band until July 22, away from Europe production will pick up impressions locally before up scaling for the arena show from October 20 — when more impression XL and 120 RZ Zooms will be added to the set. Summarized Mark Ravenhill, “Lite Alternative have always been a very progressive company, and having a rental house in the north of England with such a wide range of our inventory is very gratifying.”