Outback dust not a problem for Clay Paky rig

Posted on Friday, February 10th, 2012


With no other show on earth like it, one of Australia’s most legendary stories is retold as Australian Outback Spectacular celebrates the courageous spirit of the Australian horse and commemorates the legend that is Phar Lap with their new show, ‘Spirit of the Horse with a Tribute to Phar Lap’, which opened in December.

After a hugely successful run of ‘Heroes of the Light Horse’, it was time to introduce something completely new and exciting to Australian Outback Spectacular. Australian Outback Spectacular’s ‘Spirit of the Horse’ brings to life this iconic Australian story in a specially designed world class arena, featuring an amazing cast of larger than life characters, stunning special effects and magnificent animals including the spirited Australian stockhorse.

The new show has been directed by one of Australia’s most celebrated film and television directors, Simon Wincer, who is best known for movies, ‘The Man from Snowy River’, ‘The Lighthorsemen’, ‘Phar Lap’ and ‘Free Willy’.  In ‘Spirit of the Horse with a Tribute to Phar Lap’, Wincer adds a new element to the show by blending extracts from his movie with live Phar Lap action in the foreground, further enhancing the amazing show and introducing high definition movie vision to many scenes. 

The show called for a complete redesign of the lighting by lighting designer Clint Dulieu whose aim was to give the production a fresh look and feel.

“It’s a lot more modern, vibrant and theatrical,” he stated. “From the second you walk in, the venue looks different. Even the couple of numbers that have been retained from the previous production have been lit differently. Some of the old conventional fixtures are still in the same place as that’s the only place you can hang them. However, we knew that the moving light rig would have to be replaced as this is the worst environment for them; the amount of dirt and dust in the venue is unbelievable.

“We really needed some variation with the fixtures as the old show had a rig of thirty moving lights that were all the same and that all had to work as one to get the coverage. If you wanted to use one as a special it really left a hole. I need variation and layers which is what we have achieved with what is essentially four systems of fixtures.”

After thorough research Clint decided upon a moving light rig comprising of forty Clay Paky fixtures. Ten Clay Paky 1500 HPE are situated down the centre of the venue for big break-up looks and cover the entire arena with colour and texture. Fourteen Clay Paky 700 HPE fixtures can augment the 1500 HPE’s whilst also supplying break-ups, effects and specials such as acting as spotlights for the horses. Eight Clay Paky 700 Profiles with their fabulous framing and shutter ability were added to do specific pickups.

“We also needed a wow factor which is why we have eight Clay Paky Sharpy’s upstage and on the floor,” added Clint. “The Sharpys have really stolen the show, this is the first time we’ve had floor lights and it’s nice to have that extra dimension. The Sharpy is getting a name for itself as a rock and roll light because of its razor beam but some of the large frosted-out and break up effects you can achieve are really nice and surprising.

“The biggest advantage of going with Clay Paky is that they could offer us the entire system with one brand – no one else could do that. Our primary concern was reliability and service. Our second concern was how it all looked because we can make it look great but that doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work after a week in the sand! The good thing with Clay Paky fixtures is that we got both.”

The new rig was not allowed to increase operational costs or power consumption in fact the mission was to save money. Replacing the old 1200 watt fixtures to the Clay Paky 700 watt fixtures and LED fixtures has resulted in less power usage and less labour even though the fixture count has more than doubled. Being able to light a greater proportion of the show with just the moving light rig has also reduced the dependence on the large par and scroller rig which in turn has also saved power and maintenance.

“The serviceability and reliability has increased greatly,” commented Clint. “That is one of the main reasons why I chose Clay Paky as they can deliver on that. The fixtures have so far been great. We had the expected teething problems that you get with any new rig. We service and clean the fixtures every fortnight to keep the dirt and dust away but that’s very quick and easy to do.”

As there were only a few days when the venue was dark, the new rig had to be installed in stages which was a challenge for Clint. As new fixtures were added they would be programmed into the old show and then the new.

“We’d start an install Saturday night and then I’d reprogram on Sunday and Monday before opening again on the Tuesday,” he explained. “The horses need to be slowly introduced to new fixtures so that they’re not spooked by them. They are creatures of habit and once they are familiar with the lighting states, there’s really nothing you can’t throw at them. We have strobes, gobo rolls, smoke, fog and pyro and they are all fine with that. The horses don’t have a good sense of depth perception so if they see a dark spot on the ground they don’t know if it’s two inches or twenty feet in depth. Consequently it can be difficult to get them to walk in and out of a hard edged spotlight! They also don’t like light in their eyes or shadows so you have to be careful.”

Since its grand opening in April 2006, Australian Outback Spectacular has entertained over one million people from around the world, celebrating the proud Australian culture.