Additive Lighting’s sweet success with Hot Brown Honey

Posted on Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Fresh from acclaimed seasons in festivals around the world, Hot Brown Honey returned to Sydney Opera House this June. With lashings of sass and a hot pinch of empowerment, this posse of phenomenal women smash stereotypes, remix the system and dare to celebrate our similarities and differences.

Lighting this audacious platter of dance, poetry, comedy, circus, striptease and song, was Paul Lim of Additive Lighting.

As the show title suggests, the set was designed to represent a bee hive with Busty Beatz, the musical director, the queen bee on top of this hive structure. The set designer Tristan Shelley came up with the idea of a honeycomb facade made up of yellow plastic buckets heat-formed into hexagons.  As Paul thought about how to light this structure it became obvious to him that he had to light each bucket and create their own low resolution LED screen.

“I wanted it to be a backdrop for the performances in front of it, but also character in its own right,” he explained. “I spent many late nights exploring the grandMA2 Bitmap Engine in MA3D, finding images and text that worked on the unconventional pixel layout.  It turns out text is not that easy to render in a hexagon grid!”

Paul’s biggest challenge was the budget, saying he built an LED screen on the smell of a soldering iron!

“I knew what I wanted it to do and I knew that if I ordered components direct from China, I could build it myself,” he said. “However this meant that there were many late nights soldering plugs and sockets and control boxes and hot gluing LED strip. We had a lot of reliability issues early on, but after a couple of iterations on how the set is constructed, we’ve made it robust enough to be transported and bumped in in two hours.”

The main touring rig consists of six profile moving lights (MAC Quantum Profiles), six LED wash moving lights (Claypaky K10 or MAC Aura XB) and six small LED Pars for footlights. In the Sydney Opera House, in-house stock consisting of MAC 700 Profiles and MAC 250 Wash were used.  Control is grandMA2.

The hive consists of 266 x 24V warm white Led strip in buckets with twelve 27 channel LED controller.

“As the hive is monochrome I really enjoyed the different textures, images and text I could render on it,” said Paul, when asked for a favourite moment in the show.  “We got enough variation with the single colour and I feel that the simplicity is part of its strength. I particularly enjoy the smiley faces bouncing around during Bali Bagus and scrolling text during Hair. The strength of timecode should not be underestimated in programming a show like this. It promotes repeatability as well as real visceral link between the music and the lighting.”

Recipients of the 2016 UK’s Total Theatre Award for Innovation and Australia’s Greenroom Awards for Best Production and Best Design, Hot Brown Honey have lit centrestage at the most prestigious venues  and festivals across the globe including Sydney Opera House, Melbourne Arts Centre, Brisbane Festival, Tiger Dublin Fringe, Auckland Pride Festival and Hull Freedom Festival to name a few.