HSL has bought 12 new Robe DigitalSpot 5000 DT moving projector fixtures, six of which went directly out on the Human League’s latest UK and European tour, specified by lighting designer Rob Sinclair.
Sinclair has been producing and operating the Human League’s visuals for the last four years and designing their lights for the last two years. He first saw the DigitalSpot 5000s in action at PLASA 2006, where HSL’s Mike Oates demonstrated their capabilities. This was enough to convince him to use them on the upcoming tour.
Oates says, “We’d been itching to buy the DigitalSpots as soon as we knew they were coming on the market. I can see enormous potential in all sorts of applications for a highly efficient moving projector."
Human League’s live work has explored alternative visual avenues for some time. The enduring popularity of their vintage 1980s electro-pop music made returning to a strong projection show this year particularly relevant. Sinclair explains that some of the band’s most memorable gigs from 20 years ago featured a slide show, and Human League’s Philip Oakey wanted to inject this sort of vibe back into the current show.
This also gave Sinclair the chance to introduce a whole new narrative level, plus a myriad of color, movement, and ideas incorporated in the visuals as well as a vital element of humor. “The Digi Spots have enabled me to hugely expand the creative range of the show,” he says.
The visual design is based around three upstage screens, each measuring 10ft. x 7.5ft. The stage set and floor includes monitors and equipment racks that are also white, so Sinclair utilized these—and the band members themselves—as additional projection surfaces
The DigitalSpot 5000s are rigged onto a truss in front of the screens and operated by Sinclair via his Jands Vista console running ArtNet. This gives an Ethernet signal path between the fixtures, the console, and Sinclair’s laptop. He uses the latter for updating the content while the fixtures are actually rigged, which proves very useful.
Projection kicks in after the 6th song of the set and continues throughout the rest of the lively, up-tempo show that storms through the band’s repertoire of hits from the 1980s ands 1990s.
Each song has its own specific footage. All of it is specially created for the show, either shot from scratch by Sinclair or composited by him from various sources, including archival and historical Human League footage and clips from the DigitalSpot’s extensive onboard library.
It varies greatly—smoking guns and exploding glass for “Lebanon” to a selection of pseudo-psychedelic dreamy fish for “Human” and a collection of classic retro computer technology images for the stomping finale, “Electric Dreams.”
Sinclair likes combining both lighting and visuals in his work, “It makes complete sense for one person to be in control of everything that’s seen onstage—especially on a small-to-medium sized tour,“ he confirms. All content is stored in the heads of the DigitalSpots, “It’s a neat and convenient way of doing it,” he adds.
They proved to be extremely bright in the various gigs—primarily theatres and concert halls with up to 2,000 seats. Apart from that, he says, “They’re really reliable fixtures. You get them out of the cases, rig them each day, and they work without fail—it’s great—just what you want.” He adds that the pan and tilt is extremely predictable, which is important as in some songs they are overlaid to boost the impact of the image.
He’s also found the keystone control very good, “It’s my first foray into using moving projectors and they are doing everything I want and more. You can get a massive amount of show into a very expedient amount of truck-space,” he concludes, adding that there are also plenty of internal effects that he has not even touched.
Sinclair worked alongside technicians Mike Sheppard and Dave Jolly on the tour. For the UK leg, Lite Alternative supplied the rest of the lighting rig, but when they hit Europe they only took the DigitalSpots plus some assorted specials, utilizing assorted house rigs for generics and moving lights.
The backup and support from both HSL and Robe UK has been “Fantastic” says Sinclair. Robe also added QuickTime file compatibility into the DigitalSpots just before Sinclair started the tour, allowing him to keep his existing editing workflow.
Mike Oates adds, “I’ve been really impressed with what Rob has done with the DigitalSpots on this tour. He’s really put a great deal of thought into the whole visual show and has also really put the kit through its paces.