dbn Lighting supplies LED lighting and displays for UK music festival

July 1, 2014
Manchester UK based dbn Lighting supplied lighting production and rigging for five out of the eight primary stages at the 2014 Parklife Weekender festival in the city's Heaton Park and LED screens for one of these five plus one other arena.

dbn has been the lighting supplier for the festival organised by Ground Control since it started five years ago, since when it has grown in stature, popularity and physical size. Last year, it moved from the original site in Platt Fields to Heaton Park to allow for expansion and this year the capacity was increased to 70,000.

dbn's Project Manager Pete Robinson created an individual production design for each area, all of which served as eye-catching backdrops for the heterogeneity of acts appearing over the two days. He comments, "It was great to be involved again. We are all really excited to see the festival develop and to be able to help stage a world class music event like this in Manchester."

Main Stage (Stage 1)
This was the biggest performance space on site with a 22 metre Serious Structures Stratosphere stage, under which the dbn crew sub-hung several trusses including a drapes truss upstage and seven lighting trusses. The design was flexible and included the accommodation of specials for headliners Rudimental, Snoop Dog, Bastille and The Foals plus points for the IMAG screens - adding up to 34 points and motors in the roof.

The four main lighting trusses were rigged on diagonals, raked upstage / downstage making two Vs, with ladders dropping down at the ends to maximise the height and produce very dynamic looks. The moving lights were chosen and positioned for greatest versatility. Sixteen Clay Paky QWO 800s, 24 x CP Sharpies and 16 x Sharpy Washes were at the core of the design, together with 10 Atomic strobes with scrollers, 12 x CP Alpha Beam 700s and eight x A. leda 20 B-Eyes which looked cool as always! The B-Eyes and Alpha Beams were used as part of a highly effective house floor specials package for bands that didn't bring their own. There was also a splattering of 4-lite blinders, 2K fresnels and ETC Source Four Profiles, together with Reel EFX DF50 and Jem ZR44 hazers and smoke, plus two Robert Juliat Victor follow spots. For control, dbn offered an Avo Pearl Expert for the house rig which was looked after and operated by Edwin Croft for those bands not bringing their own LD or FOH set up.

Stage 3
This had a dancey vibe and was mainly DJ orientated making some serious noise in a 6 pole big top into which dbn installed a 6-legged ground support structure to match, comprising a box around the stage and two PA wings, from which they also sub-hung secondary trusses.

The design concept was multiple lighting fixtures hung on the legs and across the back of the ground support and on the stage floor to accentuate the width. On Day One, video was hung on an additional truss for one of the acts, and for the second night this was stripped out and the truss re-hung with a selection of LED battens and lights in a grid design emulating a low res pixel effect. The moving lights were 24 x CP A.leda K10 B-Eyes newly purchased by dbn -- a major Clay Paky investor, and these were in fact the first K10s in the UK with the rotating front lens -- as well as being out on their first job for dbn. "They looked fantastic and we love the eye catching dynamic effects," declares Robinson.

Augmenting the B-Eyes were 12 x Alpha Spot 575s, 16 x Alpha Wash 700s, four Alpha Beam 700s, 20 x Atomic strobes plus smoke and haze together with an array of 12 Chroma-Q Color Block db4s. The console was a Pearl Expert run by Chris Phillips and Steve Barnett who worked in shifts to cover the 12 hours of non-stop operation required. Stage 3 was one of the most popular arenas on site -- rammed full from the first act up on the first day... and remaining that way throughout the weekend.

Stage 4
This saw another ground support solution for facilitating the lighting rig and it was also another big top environment. In here the front and back ground support trusses differed in height by 3.5m so that the five fingers of truss over the stage were dramatically raked front to back and angled out as well to enhance the depth and feeling of space. The moving lights were 24 x Sharpies, nine Alpha Spot 1200 HPEs, eight Alpha Spot 575 HPEs, eight Alpha Wash 575s and 15 x Q-Wash LED fixtures together with 20 x Showtec Sunstrips rigged to the fingers and individually mapped to produce more simulated low res LED effects. Smoke and haze were integral to the package together with a sprinkling of generics and an Avolites Pearl Expert for control, expertly operated by Nick Buckley and Edd Marriott. dbn also provided the screen elements here -- 50 square metres of their proprietary EAStar 12.5 mm LED -- configured in three horizontal strips 14 metres wide and 1 metre deep. Two of these were hung upstage and the third level of LED wrapped around the DJ riser, all of which looked fabulous. In between these layers of 12.5 mm LED was a 3.5 metre diamond of screen, vertically spun through 45 degrees giving an interesting layout for the incoming VJs to play with.

Stage 7
This was a G2 structure with six large arches on the outside going up to a central apex and mast. The lighting design followed the flow of the structure with a circular truss installed around the mast and radial trusses running from this towards the outer arches. CP's 300 series moving lights were chosen as the primary sources for their compact size and light weight, with 15 x Alpha Spot HPE 300s, eight Alpha Beam 300s and eight Alpha Wash 300s, together with 12 Atomics. Studio Due LED CityColors back lit the grills and risers onstage and three Look Solutions hazers helped ramp up the atmosphere. All of this was controlled by Paul Crompton running an Avolites Pearl 2010.

Stage 8
This 12 metre Orbit stage was located in front of the impressive stone Town Hall Colonnade which is one of Heaton Park's many permanent architectural features. Two trusses were hung underneath the orbit and angled to fit to the contours of the roof, with vertical trusses on the stage deck at the back used as rigging points for a "visual lighting" scheme comprising five diamonds created from dbn's Chauvet Nexus 4x4 LED panels. A two metre diamond in the centre was flanked by four one metre diamonds with each diamond edged in Sunstrips -- four around the smaller ones and eight around the two metre one -- which looked super-cool.

"It was essential for all these stages -- and especially the outdoor ones -- to have impact and look interesting in daylight as well as during the limited after dark time at the end of the day," explains Robinson, who put a lot of advanced effort into perfecting the designs. Also on this stage were 12 x Martin MAC 250 Entours, eight CP Alpha Wash 575s, six Atomics and a couple of Jem ZR33 smokers along with 24 x Showtec Spectral LED pars used for front light and to light the colonnade behind the stage. Control was an Avo Tiger Touch looked after by Anthony Owen.
In addition to these five arenas, dbn also supped three other performance spaces. One of the most fun was The Smallest Club in The World, a 12 x 8 ft garden shed with DJ set up which was also one of the most popular places on site. This miniscule environment was packed from start to finish with people -- the audience had to work out their own rota system to share the experience around. It was lit with Datamoons, egg Strobes, smoke and imagination. The Tree House was another idiosyncratic concept with DJs performing several metres up on an artificial tree, also illuminated by dbn, and finally Robinson and his team also lit the VIP area. In addition to all this, 60 panels of dbn's Hartwell Media 18 mm pitch LED screen product was supplied to Stage 6, The Temple, a massive structure built around one of Serious's Stratosphere stages. The video panels were embedded into the scenic cladding on the front of the Temple which worked superbly, allowing them to be harmoniously integrated with the lighting.

dbn's crew peaked at 20 people during the setup which was accomplished very efficiently in three days. The ground support structures were all constructed first on the Wednesday, with the lighting load in started on the Thursday (before going live for the Saturday & Sunday) and when the main areas were nearing completion, they commenced rigging everything for the smaller stages on the Friday.

The challenges this year included moving the whole lighting aesthetic up several levels and paying a lot of attention at the design stage to wanting all the stages to have a clear and unique identity, rather than allowing any of them to become just another generic black box A or B. It was a goal that was achieved with finesse and style by the dbn team who were very proud to be part of Parklife 2014.


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