Penguin Cafe is an English chamber jazz ensemble known for blending elements of exuberant folk music, minimalism and electronica to create new and unique genre defying music.
The ensemble was founded by Arthur Jeffes in 2009, bringing together a talented and disparate group of musicians from the likes of Suede, Gorillaz and Razorlight to perform his father Simon Jeffes’ legacy of world-renowned Penguin Cafe Orchestra music.
In 2019, the band released their latest album of original music, Handfuls of Night—a collaboration with Greenpeace to help raise awareness for the endangered Antarctic seas.
Penguin Cafe recently set out on a U.K. tour from September 28 through October 7, performing songs from their new album along with classic hits from both Penguin Cafe and the original Penguin Cafe Orchestra.
To compliment each performance with immersive visual experience, Penguin Cafe hired Lighting Designer Ben M Rogers to design a practical touring solution suitable for small to mid-sized concert halls and theaters.
Rogers selected Martin MAC Allure Profile and VDO Atomic Dot lighting fixtures for their class-leading colour mixing, versatile effects and compact design.
“We decided early on to only bring a floor package on tour and use in-house key lights from the venues in order to allow for a practical solution across the variety of locations of the tour,” said Ben M Rogers, Lighting Designer for Penguin Cafe.
“As the music evolves, shifts and develops with a cinematic flair, I wanted to construct a lighting scheme that offered layers of lighting using a small number of fixtures.”
For the tour, Rogers deployed four vertical trusses or totems, each rigged with three Martin MAC Allure Profile fixtures, with additional units placed on the floor. MAC Allure Profile fixtures feature a cutting-edge RGBW light engine with unique seven-segmented beam control for an array of versatile looks.
Combined with instant colour control, the MAC Allure Profile enables dynamic projection and mid-air effects that are impossible to achieve with other fixtures.
Rogers also created a pattern on the front of the trusses using VDO Atomic Dot CLD and WRM fixtures. Combining a video-controlled Aura backlight and a bright strobe/blinder dot in one fixture, VDO Atomic Dot fixtures give lighting designers the power to create eye-catching, one-of-a-kind lighting displays.
“Whilst the overall rig has some symmetry to it, I wanted to create a visual pattern that had some diversity, so I reimagined the word PENGUIN in Morse code to create a reference of dots and dashes,” said Rogers.
“These were then laid out across the totems using the WRM units as ‘dots’ and pairs of the CLD units as ‘dashes.’ I also had a set of units on the floor to create a low backlight through the instruments. With the Atomic Dots, I use the Aura effect for colour chases, animation and glow, and the central blinder chip to punch through for contrast and accent as needed.”
Martin MAC Allure Profile and VDO Atomic Dot fixtures can be driven via Martin’s P3 controller or, in the case of the Penguin Cafe tour, via DMX.
“It was easy to dismiss the first presentation of these units as a gimmick until I my got hands on them and realized what potential they offer for dynamic and textured effects,” said Rogers.
“By layering the rotating gobos, prism and then adding multi-part splits of colour or colour animations across the beam, I was able to achieve a shifting textural landscape of colour and animation that was and ideal match to the musical textures of the show.
With a great punchy output and an exceptional zoom, I was able to fill the stage and auditorium with light using a relatively small number of units.”
“The option to pixel map the output of a spot moving head quickly proved itself as an elegant and dynamic textural addition to the functionality of this compact, quiet and efficient fixture,” added Rogers.
“The artists and audiences where thrilled with the show’s dynamic shift, and the venues and touring team were equally impressed with the compact size, low noise and high output of this fixture—a real pleasure to use.”