Everything about the British indie rock quartet ALT-J says “unique”—from their cryptic name (when typed on an Apple Mac OS X keyboard, it produces their trademark delta Δ symbol), to their seamless layering of multi musical genres.
It was ALT-J’s distinctive sound that got New York City lighting designer Jeremy Lechterman (JL Designs) “hell bent on finding the opportunity to design for them.”
ALT-J was opening for another of Lechterman’s clients, Grouplove, on a tour last fall, so he pitched a design to their management and got his wish: first being hired for some select dates on the band’s initial US headline run, then asked back to design their second tour in support of An Awesome Wave.
Lechterman just completed touring with ALT-J as Lighting Operator, with Dylan Novicky from Felix Lighting, his gear supplier, serving as Crew Chief. Given pretty much free rein on the creative front, the LD envisioned an outside-the-box design that would encompass ALT-J’s seemingly polar elements.
To create a lighting experience as unique as the band itself, he used the brand-new CUEPIX Panel from Elation Professional, which features advanced COB (chip on board) LED technology.
“To complement ATL-J’s ethereal, driving and percussive sound, I wanted to create something dreamy and airy, but also very angular and aggressive,” explained Lechterman. “The end result was an almost exclusively backlit show, allowing the band’s silhouettes to float through the haze, while pulsing patterns and rhythms dance across the upstage wall.”
Matt Talent, his account rep at Felix Lighting, suggested using the new Elation CUEPIX Panel in place of a tungsten matrix. Featuring 25 x 30-watt 3-in-1 RGB COB LEDs and a 60° beam angle, the CUEPIX Panel’s COB technology provides improved performance and reliability compared to surface mount (SMD) LEDs.
Since multiple COB LED diodes are directly mounted on and electrically connected to the circuit board as one lighting module, interconnection lengths are shortened and thermal resistance is better, resulting in greater output from a smaller illumination source, more even light distribution, better color homogenization and better heat dissipation.
The CUEPIX Panel also features RGB color mixing, individual control of each COB module, variable/selectable dimming curves, and strobe and zone chase effects.
Still, Lechterman was “initially hesitant,” given the CUEPIX’s lack of road experience.
“I was eventually won over by the color mixing ability and Matt’s insistence that I wouldn’t be disappointed. He was right. They are a phenomenal fixture. Their size, ease to program, color mixing, intense brightness and the fact I don’t need a media sever all contributed to them being a perfect fit for this tour.
“I always wanted some sort of ‘video’ on this tour. Turns out that super low-res, mostly lighting-based ‘video’ was the perfect solution.”
Lechterman used a total of 28 CUEPIX Panels on the stage, arranged in 7 columns of 4 each. The panels were hung from curved truss, alternating heights to create a “wall” upstage behind the band. They floated about 3′ off the deck and maxed out at about 19′.
“In many ways, the panels were the core of the design,” said Lechterman. “Because of their speed – no dimmer delay – and color mixing, I could do pretty much whatever I wanted with them. Sometimes I had moving images playing across them, sometimes there were linear chases, sometimes fire-fly-like random pixels pulsed around, and sometimes the whole thing cranked up into a strobing, pulsing blaze.”
The panels, which feature integrated rigging points, have been very road-friendly too, according to Lechterman. “The coffin key method of locking the panels together is rather painless, and even rattling around on our set carts they seemed unfazed,” he reports. “Programming was a breeze.
“Everyone – band, our staff, local staff, fans – noticed the panels and was impressed. Artistically, everyone appreciated how different they look from a traditional video wall, and how many diverse ways they can be used. Everyone on the production side was grateful for how easy they were to load-in/load-out and how reliable they have been.”
Dan Efros was Media Content Creator for the ALT-J tour. Victor Zeiser served as Programmer. Steven Taverner of East City Management is ALT-J’s manager, and Sarah Moir is the band’s Tour Manager.