As the European festival scene kicked back into action following the upheaval and restrictions of the pandemic, Ayrton teamed up with some established Swiss rental companies to support festivals across the country and showcase some of Ayrton’s latest groundbreaking fixtures. Menzi ebz of Switzerland facilitated Ayrton fixtures for the St Moritz jazz festival in July, while Stagelight AG Showtechnik supplied kit to the largest hip-hop festival in Europe at Frauenfeld, the Gurten Open Air festival in Bern and Schaffhausen’s Stars in Town across July and August.

Stagelight AG Showtechnik used the same equipment package from Ayrton for each festival: 16 x Zonda 9 FX; 16 x Cobra and 4 x Domino LT with every fixture adding its own unique features to the stages.

“Each of these fixtures brings a new dimension to meet open-air design challenges,” opens Stagelight’s Stefan Rüttimann. “We have a long and mutually trustworthy relationship with Ayrton and having Marc (Lorenz – Ayrton Designer Relationship Manager for Europe) on board gave us the confidence this kit would really perform for us across all three festivals – and they didn’t disappoint!

“Early July saw us at Frauenfeld.  Any hip-hop LD is challenged by the simple fact that there’s usually only one or two people to light on stage, so fill lighting – particularly floor/groundrow effects that can provide perspective and effects – is essential. Zonda 9 FX provided an excellent solution. I loved its LiquidEffects™ layers and want to use them in TV because they give you a really exceptional background. Plus, they are so, so bright – AND you have the endless pan and tilt features which, for hip-hop, is great. This was my first experience of the Zonda but it certainly won’t be the last.”

Marc Lorenz observed how enthusiastic the visiting LDs were to explore Zonda 9 FX’s LiquidEffects™. “It was interesting to see how easily the LDs understood the fixture and were able to implement even quite complex effects easily and adopt Zonda into their shows. Fabian, the FoH baby-sitter did a great job too and got the idea immediately. There could be 6 or 7 DJs each show day and you never know when the set starts or finishes so you have to be able to work the rig with speed and confidence. He was able to clone his ideas into the designs from the incoming LDs and keep the great looks coming.”

The middle of July took the Ayrton kit to Bern for the Gurten Open Air Festival. Bertil Mark, LD for Die Ärzte, is no stranger to the Zonda 9 FX but this was the first time he had used them live.  “Bertil preprogrammed the Zonda fixtures in advance so was able to make extensive use of the liquid layers. The results really showed what Zonda 9 FX can do in the hands of someone who is familiar with the fixture.

“At the Stars in Town in Schaffhausen we hung the Zondas as the stage was too small for floor kit and a band,” continues Lorenz, “which shows just how versatile the fixture can be. Rigged as a horizontal line on a truss just below the upstage truss allowed Zonda to provide all the eye candy and visual features, adding another layer of light in the background.  Bertil was there as LD for another band, but he took time out to come and programme the liquid effects – he must really like them!”

Ayrton’s ground-breaking Cobra accompanied the Zonda 9 FX units on the 2022 festival run.  Capable of projecting for several kilometres, this laser sourced fixture is extremely bright. Its gobo features, beam shapers (capable of an incredible 0.6° beam) and unique white source ensuring a fabulous colour spectrum, make Cobra a tool that can really make its mark.

Cobra is, of course, IP65 rated as Rüttimann explains, “We were able to use them on the wings across all the festival come rain or shine. I love these fixtures; this is the future – laser engines; we need a bigger word than bright. During night-time focus at Schaffhausen we had people 20km away posting ‘Is Rammstein playing in Schaffhausen then?!’ The police advised us not to repeat this but the promotor was delighted; it brought so much attention to the festival! We managed to behave all the way through until the LD on the final day went wild: using them to make circles in the air – residents 8-10km away reported UFO sightings! Beams could be seen on clouds showing how powerful Cobra really is.”

At Frauenfeld, Cobra supported Zonda 9 FX’s role of filling the stage and giving a huge look to enhance the single artists inhabiting the stage. Rigged over the main stage and on the floor in both wings, the Cobra were put to work as both beams and spots. As Rüttimann comments, “They are so bright in beam mode, it opens up a whole new aspect to what they can deliver. The combination of the brightness of the laser source from such low power consumption makes the Cobra the ideal workhorse for festivals: massive output from a small, IP65 rated unit with fabulous colours and gobos, which doesn’t require heavy cabling. LDs were stunned how bright their output was even in the sunlight that often camouflages the best efforts of a festival lighting rig. It was really helpful to have Marc Lorenz on site as he was able to advise LDs how best to use the special optics that make the Cobra so unique.”

“At Schaffhausen,” adds Lorenz, “We used them above and below the LED screens to create those iconic long throw aerial looks that reach far beyond the stage. In Frauenfeld, the technicians sitting in the crew hotel 10km away called to help adjust the focus – ‘A little bit more to the left etc!’ – it was a fun moment but shows how clearly the beams could be seen from that distance.”

The third Ayrton fixture Lorenz accompanied on their festival journey was Domino LT (Long Throw) which emits a massive 51,000 lumens and is designed for intensive outdoor use in any adverse environment the weather can throw at it.  With a precision beam range of 3.5o to 53o the Domino LT is the perfect tool for stadiums, large arenas and, of course, festivals.  The Domino LT fixtures were employed as audience lighting at Frauenfeld, but the team also tested it as a followspot in conjunction with the Follow-Me system; all agreed they were an unrivalled success, knocking previous solutions out of the park.

Lorenz was therefore completely confident to deploy them: “Once we had successfully tested the Domino as a followspot fixture at Frauenfeld, we were safe in the knowledge that they would be the perfect followspot choice at the Stars in Town festival in Schaffhausen, replacing conventional followspots on spot towers. We were lucky because Cyril Union (Ayrton R&D) had already developed a special software for the Ed Sheeran tour which allows the use of Domino LT in followspot mode. We were the first mainland European show to use the new software. We went on to use the Domino LT at Gurten to light the branding on the wing covers, placing them on the delay towers. The shutters and light frost delivered a lovely clean look with zero spill.”

“I have never seen an LED engine so bright before!” agrees Rüttimann. “The intensity delivered enough power to light the wings but focus on the sponsor logo – even with colours in. Clever use of barn doors and light frost created the illusion that the logo was backlit despite it being actually illuminated from the FoH Dominos.  We were able deliver one of the main requests from the festival organisers – that the sponsor logos shouldn’t be directly visible but should ‘pop out’ somehow.”

Ayrton’s Swiss distributors, Menzi ebz, took a similar festival package for the St Moritz jazz festival in July, adding 16 Ayrton Mistral-S to the Zonda 9 FX, Cobra and Domino lT offering. The fixtures formed a perfect package to light the artists in front of a stunning mountain backdrop. “As the pictures show,” says Marco Menzi, “the crew on site had a lot of fun with the huge washlight effects of the Zonda 9 and the cool, razor-sharp beams of the Cobra.”

Lorenz sums up the premise of Ayrton’s Swiss festival tour of 2022: “With all the pandemic restrictions, many LDs couldn’t make it to the usual demos and tradeshows, but the festivals gave them time to play with our fixtures and discover what each one can do in real time.  At Ayrton, we really value the kind of feedback these opportunities give us; it is an invaluable tool for us to continue delivering the very best lighting fixtures on the entertainment market.”

Texte: Julie Harper
Photos: © Julius Hatt, © Leonnardo Del Zenero, © Stagelight, © Jens Herre

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