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USA: Davey Taylor Runs Ultra Festival Rig For Empire Of The Sun With ChamSys

From the fantastical other-worldly stage setting with its psychedelic video images that unfolded like blossoming flowers, to the dancers dressed like plants and pink Valkyries, Empire of the Sun’s March 23 performance at Ultra Music Festival offered all the visual magic that fans crave from this Australian electronic music duo. But for Davey Taylor, the band’s longtime lighting designer, their appearance on the popular Live Stage represented something of a challenge, since the festival rig did not have his customary complement of color mixing fixtures.

Taylor was able to meet this challenge, however, with help from his ChamSys MagicQ MQ500 Stadium. Drawing on his console’s networking features, cue stacking and visualiser, he created a stunning and immersive 32-universe 162-fixture lightshow that enhanced the visually rich Empires of the Sun experience.

“Ultra Miami was a little different from the other shows that we have been doing for Ultra lately,” said Taylor. “The festival rig on our stage had a large percentage of beam fixtures. They were great, but it wasn’t what we normally work with in our designs. There was very little in the way of color mixing on the festival rig, which of course is normally a big part of an Empire show. So, we focused on getting some more color mixing onto the floor by adding 30 washes and battens, while at the same time pushing beams back onto the band and dancers.”

Taylor used his MQ500’s visualiser to add beam cues to the show that endowed it with more color. “I had only a small amount of time with the console for preprogramming and really needed to focus on incorporating the beams into the show in a way that contributed to the kind of look associated with Empire of the Sun,” he said. “The networking on the MQ500 was critically important. I used it to grab a number of values from the festival console and grab things like position palettes to speed up the process. I am always amazed by how easy this is to do on the MQ500 and by the endless possibilities this creates.”

Although he currently uses a combination of Vectorworks and WYSIWYG for most of his designs, Taylor relied heavily on his MQ500’s onboard visualiser for his Ultra design modifications. He notes that the console’s cue stacking features made it easy to add changes to his show. “I use the cue stacking a lot on the MQ500 and love the simplicity it offers. It is very easy to edit cues and individual timing,” he said. “I did very little busking on this show; I find a lot of my busking is usually done with color and fade times so was a little hesitant with the rig we had. However, I did take advantage of the linear blinders on our rig and started to play with a number of looks with these on the fly.”

Aside from having to adjust his plans because of the nature of the festival rig, Taylor also had to make adjustments to reflect changes in his client’s music. “The band has reworked a number of tracks and generated some great sounds into their live show,” he said. “This has allowed me to concentrate on new tightly focused looks without having to light the whole band and dancers. The Empire set continues to grow and be reworked. We have been creating a good contrast that opens itself up to lighting and the interaction with the remixes the band artist has created.”

Among those remixes was one of Empire of the Sun’s 2013 No.1 Billboard dance chart hit, “Alive.” Performed at the end of the band’s Miami Ultra appearance, it was a perfect metaphor for Taylor’s show, which not only adapted to an unexpected rig, but seemed to take on a new life with the change.