Lighting The Nest

Seventy-four of Colour Sound Experiment’s AquaBeam moving lights, rigged on a twenty-five and a half metre diameter circular truss supported by an 8-legged ground support system, were an integral part of Nest, an immersive lighting, sound and sensory installation experience.

Nest was imagined by artists Marshmallow Laser Feast, in Lloyd Park, Waltham Forest, as part of the Mayor of London’s first ever London Borough of Culture event “Welcome to the Forest”.

The lights were choreographed to run with a special transcendental soundscape created by composer Erland Cooper, who compiled a series of sonic murmurations, working with over 1000 participants including local choirs, schools and musicians.

Matthew Button of Buttonlight was the lighting designer for this ephemeral and magical project, one of a carefully curated collection of unique works celebrating Radicals, Makers and Fellowship.

Matthew has worked with Marshmallow Laser Feast on several previous projects, and he designs their lighting concepts and displays in close collaboration with others in the team, including Ersin Han Ersin and Barney Steel.

The structure and form of the ring of lights was inspired by the impressive architecture of traditional gas holders – an important industrial artefact of the gas-powered age, much loved by many – which are fast disappearing!

Matthew needed fixtures that were bright and would withstand the cold and inclement January weather, and approached Colour Sound, with whom he also works regularly. The AquaBeams were a great solution, and the west London based rental specialist has a large stock of these.

The IP44 rated LightSky AquaBeam is designed especially for outdoor live events and productions like this. It’s been rigorously tested in the most exacting conditions, including enduring months of continuous extreme weather like driving rain, baking sun, dust, and windblown debris.

The lightsource is a 440W HRI which the optics help make extremely bright, and it has two colour systems – a fixed wheel with six dichroics plus open and an adjustable colour temperature between 3200K and 7000K, as well as linear CMY colour mixing, all of which ticked the right boxes for this application which only required white light.

The sound was delivered through a 28 speaker surround array system.

The pre-programmed movement of the lights was controlled via bespoke software developed by Adam Heslop with playback utilising the TouchDesigner platform.

This was triggered by timecode and the Art-Net flow fed into a ChamSys lighting control console to establish the offset movements, so the DMX values received by the lights remained continuous and in unison.

The light beams piercing the night sky started off the show as messy and unpredictable ‘mumerating’ into angular and ordered slices of luminescence. They subsequently became more random again – with sequences resembling birds frenetically building a nest – then morphed into massive beautiful spirographic circular beam motions, twisting and curving intricately around one another.

Like a big dance movement piece with lights, Nest was staged in the middle of the island in Lloyd Park which is surrounded by a water-filled moat.

Matthew explained that everything related to the project was planned in great detail in advance; any technical and physical challenges were overcome during pre-production testing, so the three-day rig period on site ran extremely smoothly.

The lighting and sound equipment was powered from generators located on the park side of the moat, with cabling fed over via a trussing bridge traversing the water.

The “Welcome to the Forest” event ran from 5.30 – 9.30 p.m. for three days and the 15-minute
Nest show ran every 20 minutes on a partially manually operated loop. A trail of small illuminated sonic globes – which also emitted sounds – guided people through the park to find the exact spot.

For the best results people could sit, stand or lie down in the middle of the circle, see the lighting and hear and feel the three-dimensional sonic murmurations…

Attracting massive interest, Nest was enjoyed by an estimated 35,000 people, and such was the popularity of the artwork that organisers had to limit the numbers inside the trussing circle at any one time… to ensure all received the optimum experience.

Photos: Matthew Button, Buttonlight.

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