Light Shows

We're thrilled to be able to offer a new unique service - custom designed Light Shows! Find out more about what this means and how it came to be with some info from our owner - James Aleksic - below.

As a child I always loved going round and looking at Christmas lights around my local area - and then as I got a bit older and started watching YouTube videos, I stumbled across a fairly new idea at the time - Christmas Light Shows set to music. I became quite obsessed with this concept, and created my own first light show on my family home in 2013 aged 16. Back in those days, I only used a 4 channel dimmer pack, some fairy lights and 4 RGB parcans and just created a load of cues in a piece of DJ lighting software called ADJ MyDmx and manually clicked through them all at the right time.

I've continued to grow my Christmas display each year, raising money for a local charity every time, though needless to say, things have moved on quite a lot from the early days! I quickly moved over to a piece of software specifically designed for Christmas displays - VixenLights - which allows the effects to be synced up on a timeline and programmed in a visualiser well before needing to set anything up! 

 

Check out the original 2013 display, and then our 2020 one below to see how much it's changed! 

I started these Christmas light shows while I was in high school, and just before I went off to college to study technical theatre production. At the end of the college course, we each had to "devise a 20 minute production" for our final major project, and as a technician & not a performer - I had to come up with an idea which I could present myself and spend months researching, documenting & perfecting to satisfy the assessment requirements -and so decided to go with a light show! These productions had to have a storyline, and so I attempted to convey the "History of Lighting" within the display. I was restricted to equipment we had within the college, or that I could bring in myself - but worked with what I had and eventually did my first 'Non Christmas' light show (but still within VixenLights!).

While I was at college, I started doing lighting design for the productions we were doing (learning ETC's software) - and then on leaving college started to work professionally in theatre, and eventually as a sound and/or lighting designer on a number of different productions.   I ended up working on a local amateur company's show where they weren't able to afford both a sound and lighting designer - but were willing to pay for my time to come up with a system allowing me to design and operate both myself. By this point, I was regularly designing lighting with ETC Eos, and programming sound on QLab - but hadn't combined them. The show in question was using backing tracks, so I ended up putting all of the tracks into their own group in QLab, then adding network cues with OSC commands timed from the start of the track for each point I needed a lighting cue, so that QLab could trigger the lighting cues on the Eos system without me needing to touch the lighting desk! This took quite a bit of perfecting, but eventually all came together and meant I could run the whole show from the sound desk (with MIDI buttons firing QLab and turning the pages of my script, and QLab recalling scenes in the sound desk as well as triggering all of the LX cues). This is a system we now regularly use for productions meaning only one technician is needed to run Sound, Lighting & AV without compromising on quality!

For musical theatre, I'm usually a very cue heavy lighting designer, often emphasising every big hit in every song. Studying and performing music all through school, as well as gaining the ABRSM Grade 5 Music Theory qualification made me a very musical person, and although I now only really play for fun - I really enjoy getting to use this music background arranging soundtracks for light shows. I also always found when listening to the songs in the shows I was working on that I really felt every beat and could picture ways for the lights to help the audience to feel the music too. Having dancers on stage is one thing, but I've always felt that if the lights can "dance" in time too - it just really helps to pull everything together in a way people aren't often expecting! Using this QLab and Eos system means that once the lighting cues are programmed, having lots of cues doesn't make it any harder to operate - so it gives me total freedom to have as many cues as I want (something I very much run with where appropriate!).

Check out the video below (especially the song Six towards the end) to see a bit of this *slightly* overkill lighting for a one night concert in a small venue!

I started to get a bit of a reputation for often putting small scale light shows into my theatrical designs, and was approached by a local theatre who were running an 'industry day' to ask if I'd design a 10 minute light show for them which could keep a big group of children & families interested for the whole time. They wanted it to be run in a theatrical way (with QLab and Eos) which meant I was the perfect fit as I'd been doing that for years in theatre shows anyway! This became my first full on light show programmed in this way, and was a really fun job giving me access to the theatre's entire lighting stock.  We didn't manage to get much video of the light show on the day (as well as the light show I was helping out with running workshops so didn't get a lot of time to set anything extra up), but below there's a bit of behind the scenes footage below (along with a few clips) - as well as one of the adorable feedback forms the children were asked to fill in about the day which a parent sent me a picture of afterwards!

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Even though I've now perfected this QLab and ETC Eos control system (which is perfect for more theatrical fixtures & designs - I still try to choose the best tools for each job, and continue use VixenLights for my home Christmas Light Shows (which I've now set up to be triggered by a big red button at any time by members of the public). I also chose VixenLights for a Christmas Display for a local theatre company who approached me when their 2020 production had to be cancelled due to Covid-19. This display spanned all 3 floors of their building, and was over 25m wide featuring lots of our hire stock alongside some of their set pieces and props from past Christmas shows. This one was programmed to start at specific times throughout each evening (another feature built in to Vixen) - and was a really fun way to end an otherwise fairly dark year.

All in all, I personally really love designing all sorts of different light shows - but even more than that am always amazed by the response, and how magical people of all ages find they are! They make a great fundraiser (e.g. Christmas displays) or can just be a really exciting part any event! It's still a very unique art form, so if you have an idea for something along these lines - on any scale - that you'd possibly like us to get involved with, please get in touch and I'd be really happy to work with you to make it happen!