Calendars lost much of their meaning over the past year, as the pandemic erased so many long-anticipated occasions from their pages. For a group of students at the University of Nottingham, one such date was Monday 12 July, when their already-delayed graduation ceremony was canceled again due to lingering safety concerns.
Happily, however, these students made up for lost time when the school held a glittering black tie ceremony with dinner, dancing and entertainment at Newark Show Ground. Setting an appropriately festive tone for the affair was its technical producer OneBigStar, which oversaw and managed the production of the event.
OneBigStar retained the services of lighting designer David Howard and supplied him with a versatile kit that featured over 80 CHAUVET Professional fixtures.
“We wanted this evening to feel almost like a festival, to erase the disappointment from the canceled graduation,” said Howard, who ran his lights with a ChamSys MagicQ MQ80. “It was important to have elegant looks, whilst also creating an immersive environment where everybody could be part of this space. Our goal was to give the students an Instagram-friendly backdrop for both the black-tie dinner as well as the party on this special night.”
Toward this end, Howard deftly transitioned his lighting from cocktails, to dinner, and onto the live music party later in the evening. “OneBigStar was fantastic in providing a flexible kit that allowed us to create a look and feel in the room that flowed naturally from cocktails, to dinner, to dancing,” he said. “The meant that the dance floor was packed immediately when the time came.”
Critically important to helping Howard create this diverse range of looks were the 10 Maverick MK3 Wash and 17 Maverick MK2 Spot fixtures in his kit. Both were used to transform looks in the spacious venue and endow it with a greater sense of depth and texture via an array of gobo patterns.
“The use of texture was at the heart of the lighting scheme,” said Howard. “A blank canvas venue meant the lighting could really take centre stage for the event. I really like to have one design language through the whole of a design scheme, and with this project, I really relied on using repeated circle shapes wherever I could to achieve this vision. The patterns tied the visuals together, both from the 2020 cabochon props, the content on the screen, and in projected and eye candy lighting.”
As part of this design strategy, Howard matched projected gobos around the dance and eating areas with the virtual gobos made in the pixel faces of the wash lights, as well as with the reflected light emanating from the massive mirror ball that hung above the centre of the dancefloor.
Further creating continuity in the room, Howard pixel mapped his washes to complement the looks created with his video wall and 20 ÉPIX Strip Tour units. “I particularly love how the MK3 Wash can be used as a room wash and morph to a beamy effect,” he said. “Its sheer power is immense too. I rarely ran the units at this event above 60-percent, which meant there was room to go big for DJ drops and band hits.”
Tying light and video together, Howard positioned some of the 16 Rogue R1 BeamWash fixtures in this rig around the IMAG screens. This allowed him to create captivating beam looks during DJ sets in addition to accenting the band with sculpting side washes.
Varying colors throughout the evening and accenting them with warm white light from his eight STRIKE 4 fixtures, Howard also created an immersive backdrop that engaged guests during dinner when there weren’t big dynamic lighting movements.
“For me the most important look to get right is always dinner,” he said. “The backdrop to the room has to be right to create a sense of excitement and glamour, whilst also being sensitive not to distract from dining. We mixed purple eye candy with CTO beams created by the MK2 Spots’ stars breakup gobo patterns that emulated mirror balls though haze, while spotting the tables with warm light. This kept food and dining guests looking natural, whilst still immersing them in the room.”
Enjoying themselves in that room as they dined and danced through the evening, University of Nottingham graduates could put the disappointment of the cancelled graduation behind them. Thanks to the magic of this celebration, they concluded their school years by creating new and brighter memories.