VNV Nation, the Irish alternative electronic project led by singer, songwriter and producer, Ronan Harris, is currently on tour throughout Europe, promoting its new album, Electric Sun.

With music and lyrics ranging from melodic industrial dance anthems to haunting ballads and post-classical soundtrack pieces, VNV Nation is renowned for delivering incredible live shows full of sound and light, energy and emotion.

Lighting and Show Designer, Martin Heining, of MHShowdesign, has worked with VNV Nation for 8 years and understands well the style that excites him. “Ronan Harris is addicted to light,” he says. “He has strong visual ideas and loves beams which I like to feature strongly in my designs.

“The moment Marc Lorenz (Ayrton’s Designer Relationship Manager for Europe) showed me Cobra at his office and I saw its laser-sharp beam, it took me just seconds to know I had to have it for Ronan’s tour.”

Heining specified 15 Ayrton Cobra laser-sourced fixtures as the workhorses of his design which he deploys as floor packages arranged in 5 blocks of 3 fixtures. “These are my main effects lights which I mostly use as single beams,” he says. “About 50% of my design is about creating symmetrical and asymmetrical mid-air patterns. Plus, in this show there’s a lot of video content showing different lines, so I wanted to extend this content in the air. I therefore looked for a fixture which is capable of producing sharp, almost ‘painted’ beams.

“Cobra fitted the bill entirely. I love that sharp beam – no other fixture has that level of sharp-edged contrast – and I’m totally impressed how accurate they are.  For some songs I also use them as a beam-splitter effect employing the prisms – it’s impressive to see how sharp these prism effects are. I can use them to fill the whole lens, which is also something that will be especially useful for television.”

Heining is also excited by the unique possibility of pushing Cobra’s focus point. “You can move the hotspot to any point you wish from 50cm to hundreds of metres along the entire length of the beam!” he explains. “It’s really important to spend a little time at the outset to play with Cobra and truly understand how the balance between zoom and focus works to achieve optimum results. For example, it just takes a moment to pinpoint the hotspot precisely on a mirrorball to create the most amazing effects. Once you understand this simple feature, you can really start to create new and exciting effects.”

While half the emphasis is on the geometric linear looks, the other 50% of Heining’s design is about colour. VNV Nation shows are very colourful as the artist has a strong idea of the colours in his mind from the start. Heining likes to match the screen visuals and lighting precisely, transporting the colours of the video content out into the air. “Cobra is able to mix CMY colours perfectly so I can achieve the perfect match,” says Heining. “I am in love with the output, style, sharpness and contrast of the fixture. The contrast in particular is unique, and it delivers the same intensity at 5m as is does at 50m. This is an incredible tool to play with.”

Cobra’s IP65-rating was not strictly needed for the tour as all the dates are indoors. “However,” says Heining, “we use a lot of oil-based haze which leaves a substantial amount of residue on lenses etc. Cobra’s IP65 rating is a blessing as it makes it so easy to clean. We simply have to wipe the lenses with a lens cloth and it is done. This saves a huge amount of time and stress, both on the tour and in the warehouse.”

The touring venues differ vastly in size from 400 – 8000 capacity yet Heining reports that Cobra works well in them all: “They are able to handle everything from the smallest to the largest with equal impressiveness. They are also extremely reliable – we had 15 units with no spares and were out on the road for a month with not a single issue. I want to use Cobra in all my designs now, and am looking forward to trying them at festivals.”

The VNV Nation Electric Sun tour began in late February and runs until 29th May when it finishes in Glasgow.

Text: Julie Harper
Photos: © Martin Heining

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