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Miami, Florida’s Ultra Music festival is one of the world’s largest, loudest and brightest electronic music events. Now in its fifteenth year, the March 2013 festival saw more than 330,000 fans pack Miami’s Bayfront Park. The cream of the international EDM scene brought the bass, with performances from Swedish House Mafia, Deadmau5, Tiesto, David Guetta, Armin Van Buuren and more over seven stages.
This year’s festival was almost over before it began, with the collapse of a section of LED screen on the main stage. Two workers were crushed by the 6×2 panel, and one hit by flying debris as they set-up on the preceding Thursday 14. The cause has remained unreported, but circumstances point to human error in the rigging. All work over the site was shut down until engineers gave the all clear on the Friday morning. Starring artists Deadmau5 and Zedd took to Twitter to voice their concerns over safety on the stage they would soon be performing on.
Despite these setbacks, the show went on. The towering main stage, replete with pyros, water fountains and flame cannons, operated without incident, hosting the biggest names with the most elaborate shows.
The 2013 festival saw Sydney based lighting designer Richard Neville, associate designer Alex Grierson and Neville’s company Mandylights bought on-board by the event’s producers James Klein and Bruce Rodgers. Neville is well known for his work designing lighting for EDM and stadium rave events across Australia, Asia and the Pacific Rim.
The brief was to create something unique, different and truly spectacular, with production values topping the agenda. Neville incorporated nearly 300 Robe moving lights into his design for the Main Stage, including 176 LEDBeam 100s in the custom stage set.
The 200 ft wide set was built by Tait Towers and included the 176 scenic pyramids each of which were clad in 40 panels of Tait’s now famous Pixel Tablets – these shot to prominence after their use in the stadium seating of the London 2012 Olympics, turning the crowd into one enormous video screen.
Neville wanted a super-bright fixture to go in the middle of these and tested a number of options, including the Robe LEDBeam 100, which were supplied for the trials in Australia by Robe’s distributor, The ULA Group. Although the LEDBeam 100 was a new fixture to him, he was already familiar with Robe’s build quality through using the LEDWashes.
With 176 fixtures to rig, weight was a serious consideration. At a low 4kg each, the LEDBeam 100s were easily incorporated into the now heavily scrutinised structure without significantly adding to the rigging requirements.
Lighting for the Main Stage was controlled via four grandMA full size consoles, two active and two running in full tracking backup. In addition to the LEDBeams being controlled conventionally via the lighting desk, Neville and Grierson could switch to taking the ‘colour’ parameter from the show’s Hippotizer media servers – mapped across the entire set structure and fed with video content – to produce the kind of dynamic and extreme video effects that a contemporary EDM audience expect from a VJ.
In addition to the 176 LEDBeam 100s, the design utilised 25 x LEDWash 1200s and 89 x LEDWash 600s, dotted all over the rig and used for what they do best – producing big bold slices of light and powerful waves of colour covering the stage and audience.
Neville gravitated toward a Robe solution for a number of reasons, including the quality of the light output, the range of “Solid” colours and the highly efficient colour mixing. The speed of the LEDBeam 100 was also a major factor in the decision. In fact it was so fast that during the visualisation stage of programming, they had to have one in the studio as the software could not keep pace with the physical movement of the fixture!
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