During a game of racket ball in the 1830s, a group of London schoolboys noticed that a punctured ball, which “squashed” on impact with the wall, offered more variety and more intensity of play than its intact counterpart. Thus, to the delight of millions of fans ever since, the games of Squash was born.
Although its rules have evolved somewhat over the years, the game those lads stumbled upon in that long ago London afternoon, has lost none of its compelling power. Spectators who saw this year’s Allam British Open would readily attest to that; as they witnessed some of the world’s greatest squash players fiercely compete for the $165,000 (US) prize.
With squash enthusiasts all around the globe also able to tune in to the event live via SquashTV, as well as via the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour, organizers were keen to create a riveting production. Toward this end, Firefly AV was brought on board to award the tournament with a sporty visual flair. Helping them in this endeavor were CHAUVET Professional Maverick MK2 Spot and MK2 Wash fixtures, along with Rogue R1 Washes and R2X Beams.
The squash facilities at the University of Hull’s Sports Complex provided an ideal setting for the event in which World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy would defend the title he won in 2019. (COVID forced the cancelation of the 2020 competition, which is close to marking its 100th anniversary.)
While the state of the art glass-walled courts offered great spectator viewing both at floor and balcony level, the challenge for Firefly was to create a lighting concept which would heighten the intensity of the event for spectators on location, whilst also providing stunning looks for viewers at home without distracting the players.
The solution was to incorporate an all CHAUVET Professional rig that was both hung from suspended trussing and positioned on the floor. From here, Firefly’s lighting designer John Richards could program a number of different scenes and visual effects through his Chamsys MQ500M lighting console to provide illumination of the courts, as well as atmospheric illumination of the audience grandstand, which translated brilliantly on camera.
To highlight the action taking place on the court itself, Richards utilized eight Maverick MK2 Spots and five MK2 Washes to create bright and focused illumination. “The powerful and bright combination of the Maverick and Rogue fixtures proved to be ideal for providing general court illumination,” commented Richards. “We also positioned a selection of 15 R2X Beams behind the LED video screen at the back of the sports complex, which added depth to the screens for the live audience and TV audience. The beams were punchy enough to stand out against the light of the screens.”
To place further visual emphasis upon the courts, Richards and the Firefly team decided to consciously play with the effect of the coloured light reflecting onto the glass walls, which was achieved by positioning a selection of the fixtures directly next to the glass. While this might not have necessarily provided any additional functional lighting, by Richards’ own admission, it was an essential addition to give the event an intense visual flair.
“The R2X Beams added a lot of pop to the production,” said Richards. “What’s more, thanks to the colour correction feature, the saturated red and blue coloured effects also came across brilliantly for the TV cameras”.
Central to the entire lighting concept, however, and arguably the Pièce de résistance of the production, was the choreographed entrance lighting display, which was introduced to bring an element of theatricality when individual players entered the court. To achieve this suspenseful and dramatic effect, Richards and the Firefly team positioned 16 Rogue R1 Wash fixtures in two vertical lines festooning the sides of the entrance. This formation ensured that the saturated wash effects could create a curtain of light, crossing in unison to create an opening and closing effect.
“The most memorable part of the project was the lighting display we created for the player entrance,” concluded Richards. “Thanks to the Rogues, this effect worked to perfection, anchoring the whole tournament and simultaneously transforming the event into a true spectacle. This ultimately reflected the energy and excitement of the squash games. It was truly rewarding to see that our concept looked just as good on television as it did in real life!”
In a game where excitement is often generated by a ball taking unpredictable bounces, it was nice to see the adroitly crafted lighting design work to perfection, just as expected thanks to the work of Firefly AV.