Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand based design studio Filament Eleven 11 is a creative tour de force combining the talents and imagination of lighting and visual artists Rachel Marlow and Brad Gledhill. Working across multiple genres – theatre, opera, dance, rock ‘n’ roll’ live events, installation, and light art – and embracing a mix of medias and light forms, the company is known for its innovative and fun approach to enhancing storytelling with this unique form of expression.
Filament Eleven 11 also owns some specialist lighting and control kit, and this year invested in Astera wireless LED products – AX3 LightDrops and NYX Bulbs – which have been busy on several projects.
Three AX3 LightDrop kits (24 in total) and 30 x NYX Bulbs were purchased from Astera’s New Zealand distributor, ULA Group, in the last year for use as “ultimately useful lighting tools” commented Rachel, and since then, she and Brad have both enjoyed using them creatively and inventively in multiple contexts on a variety of productions.
Both were already familiar with the Astera brand and its products, they had used them on a few shows including AX3s and AX1 Pixel Tubes as part of Rachels’ lighting scheme for “A Stab in The Dark” by Carl Bland, staged at the Q Theatre in Auckland, a production that was also livestreamed.
With puppets as well as live actors onstage and the puppets needing extremely careful lighting to retain all the magic, drama, and complexity of the puppeteering, the AX1s and AX3s were a great solution that could be moved quickly and easily around the stage without any cabling worries, helping to disguise all the puppeteer’s actions.
“A Stab in the Dark” was also streamed adding an extra layer of visual challenges to an already intricate lighting process, so the Asteras were great all-round asset.
Rachel explains that before making the commitment to purchase the fixtures, they had heard much general chatter out in the community about Astera and the products, so looked at what was available and thought these would be perfect for the many moments when it was necessary to get a fully DMX-controllable lightsource into unusual, different, or sometimes near impossible positions!
“We immediately saw a host of possibilities and appreciated things like the high-quality light output that drove the initial purchase,” noted Rachel, adding that they wanted to go LED as much as is possible to boost sustainability. The conclusion was that it would be a great all-round move to have some Asteras available for their various works which are known for their ingenuity and impact.
The NYX Bulbs were purchased after a demo from ULA Group’s technical sales specialist, Sean Rosig, who encouraged them to look. “As soon as we saw them in action and had a play around, we knew we needed these and that they would be great fun and very useful!” commented Rachel.
The first show for Filament Eleven 11’s own NYX bulbs was “Scenes from a Yellow Peril” a poetry show staged at Auckland’s Waterfront Theatre, where they were used in a long line upstage for a reveal.
In the same production, the AX3s were used to light the band, the cast, and a large costume set piece which was part of the design dramaturgy for the penultimate poem of the performance, where the entire band were struck live by the cast and musicians! The wireless AX3s were a perfect light to be quickly removed and easily reset each night!
Rachel first incorporated NYX Bulbs into “The Writer” by swapping out the Q Theatre’s backstage ‘blue’ system for the NYX’s, creating a dynamic colour changing and flashing DMX controllable format, the effects of which could be woven into the production’s narrative. The powerful performance piece addresses the contemporary issues of creativity, gender inequalities and power in a theatrical context!
In the same production, NYX bulbs worked brilliantly in domestic house settings for the living room and kitchen scenes, setting the mood as they could be turned on and off, colour changed and dimmed. Some of them were rigged on small Wahlberg winches which flew in and out from the ceiling.
Both the Filament Eleven NYX Bulbs and AX3s were used during the 2022 Elemental AKL Festival in downtown Auckland to illuminate all the iconic Town Hall venue’s foyers and public areas flooding the spaces with colour, kinetic patterning and vibrance! The NYX bulbs have also been used as collapsible, flying standard lamps and in many other scenarios.
“They are just so versatile,” declared Rachel, “The AX3s and NYX Bulbs help solve constant design issues and challenges, and being battery powered and wireless, they can be used absolutely anywhere!”
They have used them for footlights and as small blinders, even as truss warmers, was well as for general “trick of the light” applications.
Bradley recently used AX3s on an in-the-round show for soul artist Teeks at the Spark Arena – he and his band were on a revolve, so AX3s were again a perfect neat and wireless solution with no cable runs!
Sean Rosig commented, “It’s always a pleasure to work with Brad and Rachel, especially watching their faces light up with excitement when receiving their new fixtures! I specifically appreciate how they have explored the versatility of these lighting fixtures and used them do creatively to enhance their lighting designs.”
When not in use on their own shows, there’s been constant demand for the luminaires as dry hire items, all adding to the value of purchasing, notes Rachel.
“We are always finding new and different ways of using them and discovering design opportunities through having these products to hand! We have only just got started on this and we would absolutely not be without them now!” she concluded.
Photo: © Andi Crown, Tom Grut