Radiohead tour goes bulb-free with i-Pix LED fixtures

May 15, 2008
For its current world tour, rock band Radiohead has chosen to use only LED fixtures for stage lighting.
Rock band Radiohead is using an all-LED lighting rig for its world tour, which kicked off in the US at the start of May. UK-based LED innovators i-Pix have created the BB7, a brand new fixture, for the tour, and this is being utilized by Radiohead’s lighting & visuals designer Andi Watson.

Watson’s unique energy-saving design three different types of fixture from i-Pix, plus other LED products, all of which work seamlessly together to produce a stunning, headline-grabbing design.

Chris Ewington of i-Pix said he was surprised how soon it has become possible to use LED lighting throughout, for a major tour. “We all appreciated Andi taking a massive leap of faith in having the courage to dispense completely with conventional lighting in his show,” said Ewington. “Not having a single discharge or incandescent lamp in the design, sets a new benchmark at least a couple of years from what we had anticipated.”

The new BB7 is a seven-cell high power homogenized 10 degree RGB source, which consumes 210 watts at 240 volts. Forty-eight of the BB7s are in various positions around the rig, including 25 in five custom 5-way frames produced by Specialz.

Watson, is also using 48 of i-Pix new production-model BB4s on his front truss. The BB4 is a four-cell, high-power homogenized 20 degree RGB lightsource, and consumes 120 W at full power.

Additionally, 14 i-Pix Satellites with holographic film are mounted on the floor in and around the backline to light the band at close quarters.

The BB4 and BB7 fixtures both contain custom LED light engines produced exclusively for i-Pix by Lamina Ceramics in New York.

This project started when i-Pix’ Chris Ewington visited the US last October to see a new prototype narrow optic. He then showed Watson the BB4, which was already in production in January this year, along with a test rig of the embryonic idea he had for the BB7 - without optics.

Once the new optic became available, Ewington sourced the first 12 and again met Watson in March, along with Radiohead production manager Richard Young and lighting crew chief Andy Beller, and showed the first prototype BB7 with the new narrow optic.

Watson liked it and thought the fixture was exactly what he wanted, after which i-Pix priced up the project for Richard Young. From this came an order to produce 206 fixtures (enough for 2 rigs) from scratch in just over 5 weeks!

Having just undergone the “birthing process” with the BB4, the i-Pix team were well geared up for this challenge. “From our experience, most shows spend months in discussion and a maximum of 6 weeks in prep, so this timescale did not come as a surprise,” said Ewington. “Our first fixture, the Satellite, was developed under similar circumstances to coincide with Radiohead’s last tour.”

To meet the schedule, the design period was condensed from six months to 4 days, the components were produced in two weeks and the units built over two weeks. i-Pix completed the production task with 4 days to spare.

"Andi put his trust in us before when he integrated PixelLines into his groundbreaking show for Radiohead back in 2003. He relied on us again in 2005, and in 2008 he really upped the anti!," said Ewington.

"I always enjoy working with Andi," says Ewington. "His professionalism, attention to detail and progressive approach to pushing the industry forward never ceases to impress. I often design fixtures with Andi in mind and consider him and his team as exceptional and very important to our industry."