X Factor enthralls with colour and light

Posted on Thursday, November 25th, 2010


For the past few weeks the X-Factor Live Finals have been broadcast out of Sydney’s Fox Studios. The massive set, designed by Mark Dyson, is lit by the talented Ian Anderson using a rig supplied by Chameleon Touring Systems.

The lighting system follows the lines of the set with many curves, radiating out from the prominent central LED screen.

”Every hole in the set basically has a light in it as that’s the style of the programme – a big, lavish production-based programme as opposed to just a singer on the stage,” said Ian.

LED lighting plays a large part in the production with forty Pro Shop Fusion Bars placed behind the three main LED screens so that when the screens are open, the Fusion Bars shine through. Ten Pro Shop LED Pars are used to highlight the CO2 jets when they go off whilst a further fourteen are used to fill in any holes on a week to week basis.

”They are my throw anywhere lights!” Ian commented. “I then have twenty-four Pulsar ChromaStrips placed under the judge’s desk to supply colour under the judge’s floor.”

Twenty-four Martin LC Panels are used to fill in the gaps on stage between the high resolution LED screens.

“They add a different texture around the edges of the set,” explained Ian. “We tend to run the same media through both types of LED screens although it looks quite different in each which is what we wanted.”

In the rig are eighteen Martin MAC250 Beams which Ian describes as nice, bright and quick. Chosen to supply some variable beam action around the back of the set, the MAC250 Beams have done a fantastic job.

”We’ve also got ten Martin TW1 fixtures which we love” remarked Ian. “They’re a good tungsten light source, they’re bright and their colours are nice and rich. We’re running them with narrow lenses and City Theatrical Egg Crates in front of the lenses to minimize spill. The TW1’s basically light guest bands and wider stage washes when required. They really are one of the workhorses of the show. Basically anything that is lit on stage will have at least one TW1 pointing at it.”

Eighteen Martin Atomic Scrollers with colour changers are scattered randomly around the set for extra sparkle and according to Ian they always look good and come across well on the cameras.

The three Look Solutions Unique Hazers have also been very busy through the shows.

“The Unique Hazers are very good in terms of being able to turn them on or off quickly to fill the stage fast,” said Ian. “They are very reliable in fact we never have any issues with them.”

This is the first show in a long time where Ian has decided to use tungsten follow spots instead of a discharge source.

”Chameleon bought four Robert Juliat Alex 2.5K follow spots specifically for the show and they are brilliant,” he stated. “They are more than bright enough – we run neutral density in them the majority of the time to drop the white back a bit. They are probably the best thing I’ve done on this show. They’ve helped me get the look of the show that I wanted – a nice, clean lit show. They have been absolutely excellent.

”We also have a Robert Juliat Korrigan at the back and that’s the off-centre back light hero. Every time a contestant comes on stage they will always have that nice white, clean back light on them.”

Control for the lighting is via three grandMA2 lights, one grandMA2 Fader Wing, two grandMA NPU, and two grandMA NSP. Another grandMA2 light is used to control media.

Choosing grandMA to control the X Factor was a no-brainer according to Paul Collison, Lighting Director for Visuals.

”The grandMA control platform has been behind almost every major event in recent times,” he said. “The only question was to jump in and try grandMA 2, or stay with the tried and true Series 1 platform. Given Series 2 was shiny and new, we thought, why not?

”Seriously though, grandMA2 had many advantages. Given the high parameter count, it meant the entire show including media servers, could be run from the one session. Meaning the back-bone of the system was simpler but also control could be centralised or decentralised as required.”

The control system consists of three primary surfaces and a fourth, floor surface for remote line-ups. Each surface is a grandMA light. Using the “world” feature of the grandMA means that Paul can allocate different elements of the lighting system to different operators at one time. So one grandMA light controls key lights or ‘white light’, another one controls all other lights including LED lighting whilst a third controls media servers. There are some cues that are executed by one operator that actually trigger lighting, video and audio systems such as the “deadlock” and “results” cues.

DMX distribution is via the new NPU (Network Processing Unit). Two of these devices along with one console expand the parameter count. Each unit has eight DMX outputs. Two NSP devices (Network Signal Processors) work in a ‘sniffer’ mode to output a further eight DMX outputs.