A key member of Los Angeles’ leading lighting design collective, Seven Design Works, Tobias Rylander has been making extensive use of GLP’s award-winning X4 Bar 20 LED battens to illuminate various touring lighting sets, generating giant color fields and sweeps from the innovative fixtures.
Such has been the growth in Manchester indie band, The 1975’s fan-base following the chart-topping album I Like It When You Sleep, that production has had to scale up from the originally booked theatre-sized venues to full-size arenas.
“Fortunately, I started by designing an arena-sized show, that could be scaled back,” smiles the Swedish-born designer, “because we had a feeling it would go that way.”
Introduced to the X4 Bars at local Los Angeles based rental company, Volt Lites he quickly recognized that these multi-functional lights would generate a wall of color but at the same time their compact form factor would leave the source hidden.
“The way I use the X4 Bars is to create these big fields in straight lines; they butt up to each other seamlessly and when we need to scale back, we simply cut a fixture from each side.”
The fact that Tobias has already picked up a prestigious Knights of Illumination Award for his innovative visual art on this tour will come as no surprise to those who have seen the inspired way in which he has conceived what he calls “an artistic lighting installation rather than a lightshow”. This perfectly reflects the band’s own influences.
Fortunately the band had been recording in LA — just half an hour from Tobias’s house — which enabled intense discussions to take place prior to the tour. They discussed everything from artwork color themes to the impact of social media. “We bounced material back and forth and when they talked about visual artists such as James Turrell as influences, it suggested big fields of color interspersed with monochrome and pulsating, random strobing. It made perfect sense to use the X4 Bars.”
To achieve this, VER supplied 28 X4 Bar 20’s on the first leg, increasing inventory threefold to a mighty 84 of the battens for the larger arena shows, which continue into the new year.
For the big UK dates, he and his programmer Darren Purves have added 56 of the X4 Bar 20s under a graduated floor, as a pool of lighting which comes to life when lead singer Matty Healy steps into the circle. The Bars also feature as additional lip fills in the downstage area.
In a largely monochromatic setting, the lighting juxtaposes with a number of 9mm LED video pillars, which are used as light sources, he says. “I have lines of X4 Bar 20s both on the downstage edge in front of the band to create a wall of color and one on the upstage edge in front of the main video screen to create and match the color of the video content. I have different color fields for the video screen — with solid block color from the Bars operating seamlessly off the back wall. It’s a way to not only give more depth to the video but to be able to tilt them down and zoom them out to create a field of silhouette.” And silhouetting is an integral part of the presentation.
Aside from the X4 Bar 20s’ form factor, enabling the sources to be hidden, the production designer is equally effusive about the feature-set. “The FX are extremely easy to program — and unlike a lot of fixtures they deliver a true white and have a good dimmer curve. Also, they color mix very well and very smoothly — and it’s so nice to be able to program a gradient with a wall of light constantly changing color. With their long throw distance their range will easily fill a whole proscenium.”
And with so much video content up against them — particularly with plans to install eight imag screens in a constellation at London’s O2 Arena — the X4 Bar 20s need to fight their corner. “When you are up against 16,000 sq ft of 9mm pixel LED screen where we are using the video purely as light, the X4 Bar has shown not only that it is sufficiently powerful, but that it complements the video very well.
“I never get tired of using the X4 Bars — they are a real workhorse for me right now.”
Photo credit: Adam Powell & Tobias Rylander