Anyone lucky enough to get to a Kings of Leon show this summer will have seen one of those memorable gigs that stay with you for months, even years, after the event. The stunning combination of light and video was the work of Paul Normandale: a designer who never fails to deliver. Classically Normandale in its asymmetrics and little idiosyncratic touches it was left to board operator Ali Bale to elicit the best out of Normandale’s design.
For Bale, this was the inaugural journey on a grandMA2 console. “I had been using the same desk almost exclusively for the last fifteen years; like most people you tend to stick to what you’re used to. A desk is a very personal choice but Paul encouraged me, telling me that I wouldn’t regret giving the MA2 a try. And, in fact, it was the ability of the board to allow you to set it up in such a way that is unique to its user is something that I feel is real strength of the console – something that initially won me over – without being limited to a fixed set of windows and faders which cannot be altered too much. For me and I’m sure a lot of MA users, the real time is spent setting up your desk, doing your house keeping and storing that file as a template for current and future programming with only minor tweaks in preparation for the next scenario you find yourself in. In that way it’s an incredibly adaptable and versatile desk.”
Normandale’s design asked for the grandMA2 to show off one its most exciting features. As he remarks, “With Kings of Leon, the rigs were getting bigger and bigger and we needed the bitmap ability of the grandMA2 – in fact Lite Alternative provided a total of eight grandMA2 for the project.”
Bale expands on Normandale’s comment. “Paul designed a wall of lights – about 500 in total – for Kings of Leon a couple of years back and this is where the MA2’s pixel mapping abilities really come into their own. On this current design we use 16 Elidy panels at 225 channels per unit. Although the 2 designs are completely unique to one another the pixel mapping again has been a crucial element of the desk’s functionality for the purpose of what was looking to be achieved; the ease of the pixel mapping facility on the MA lead to a much quicker programming sessions.”
Once out on tour Bale continued to find the grandMA2 full of useful tools as he explains, “We had lots of different festival scenarios and here, the use of fixture swapping was often crucial to getting everything right for the show. Needless to say that time frames are tight on festival load ins and the ability to swap fixtures with (at the most) minor updates to your already programmed show means you aren’t compromising your show and can update other necessary data more quickly. Throughout the whole tour the console never let us down but it’s good to know that Ambersphere are there to offer support and advice if necessary. The most critical point I can make is that we had some initial issues running the Elidy panels through Artnet on the MA2 and getting them to behave properly but thanks to the great work of Andy Rhymes at Lite Alternative a solution was found quickly and now they run without so much as a glitch.”
‘Of course a reflection on the grandMA2 would be worthless without a comment about its use with media input: here I have to say the desk is unbeatable,” continues Bale. “The unrivaled functionality of the MA for media use becomes apparent soon after you first start delving into the desk; the ability to learn the basics of its operation and branch out from there very quickly are second to none. The media side of the desk can be set up to cater for a more media savvy person or just as easily understood by a more lighting orientated person. The crossover is pretty seamless for both parties. Anthony Cairns, our media, catalyst programmer and operator had very limited knowledge of lighting desks before joining the KOL camp. He had some MA training in Australia, went straight onto a grandMA2 and has seamlessly achieved everything we set out to achieve. Having both started using the MA at the same time has allowed us to help each other hone our operating skills and to brainstorm any head scratching issues that may arise. The MA2 is something of a world-beater in the sphere of lighting consoles; I have to thank Paul for making me take the plunge.”
Ambersphere Solutions, the UK distributor for MA Lighting, Robert Juliat & Clay Paky, score something of a double whammy with Kings of Leon: Normandale has generously populated the rig with Clay Paky Sharpys. “The Sharpy is a great unit that bring something new to the table,” comments Bale. “It does exactly what it sets out to do and provides a unique and exciting element to a busy light market where manufacturers are always trying to keep one stop ahead of their rivals. I saw some recently used in conjunction with some lasers and was pretty blown away with how the Sharpys sat alongside them. With KOL we have them both in the air and on the floor; they function equally well in either elevation. They have been very reliable although with a beam that miniscule you have to really check all your positions at every load in; a tiny shift in locating a pre-programmed position will look massive over a long distance. On this rig we were looking for a very narrow beam look from a rig that trims out at over 55ft where we have clearance. The Sharpies have definitely delivered.”