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Avolites Case Studies - Mirrad

21 December 2016

 (L-R) Francis Clegg, Jamie Thompson and Dave Cohen

Based in London, MIRRAD is a collective of four lighting and show designers who, since coming together four years ago, have scooped up three Knight Of Illumination (KOI) Awards and seven award nominations.

The multi award winning team work individually and collaboratively to create unique lighting schemes for gigs, festivals and other live entertainment productions including: dance music pioneers Booka Shade, singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé, British reggae legends UB40, Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro, Irish pop rock band The Script, punk duo Slaves, grime legend KANO and X Factor winner Leona Lewis.

MIRRAD also designs and produces the lighting for Arcadia Spectacular - a British-led performance art extravaganza that combines lighting, video, sculpture, architecture, pyrotechnics, circus skills and electronic music.

The Arcadia Spider

The company's formation was organic. Its founders, Jamie Thompson and Dave Cohen, met while studying theatre practice and lighting at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Upon graduation, both began freelancing as lighting designers. Thanks to their close friendship and shared passion for pioneering design, they decided the natural next step was to work together. The pair then moved into a studio in London and quickly joined forces with Francis Clegg, who discovered a love for lighting while studying for an engineering Master's degree at Imperial College, London.

The fourth, and most seasoned member of the MIRRAD team is industry respected and prolific lighting pro Bryan Leitch who this summer lit the legendary Carole King at BST Hyde Park. Leitch mentored Thompson and Cohen in the early stages of their careers and he also gave Thompson his first job in the industry, assisting on Brit soul singer Joss Stone's tour.

The company operates flexibly. The four designers switch between working on individual projects and collaborating on large-scale events. But they aren't territorial about their solo work and when one designer is particularly busy, the others step in and 'help out' - providing additional creative or technical expertise and, where necessary, a fresh perspective.

Public Service Broadcasting

The MIRRAD ethos is supportive, collaborative and innovative as Thompson discusses: "It sounds a bit clichéd, but we take a family approach and we try to look after each other. The thing about MIRRAD is that we've all got each other's back and that's really important.

"For us it's about delivering a unique show, something that people haven't seen before, and we genuinely love working with clients to make that happen."

At the same time MIRRAD is expanding into video, recognising that delivering a truly integrated show calls for the provision of more than one visual element.

"We have always recognised that video and lighting go hand in hand," says Thompson. "We've developed good relationships with several content creation companies and we work closely with them to produce something that is at one with the lighting. We want to make sure every element of the show functions together efficiently and that they all complement one another."

When it comes to the collective's equipment of choice to deliver these integrated shows, MIRRAD has relied on Avolites from the outset. The company has invested significantly, having purchased S8 and EX4 Ai media servers, with Thompson citing that they "offer the flexibility to manage more complex jobs with ease."

The team has also recently completed construction of their own custom modified Avolites S8 Ai media server rack, complete with MIRRAD branded side panels. These racks have proved popular on dry hire, having recently gone out with UB40, Leona Lewis and Years & Years.

"The Ai servers were ideal for UB40, enabling us to seamlessly blend LED and projection from three 30k Barco projectors," says Thompson. "The servers enabled us to map and align outputs quickly, while also giving us the perfect balance and control between the two surfaces."

In addition MIRRAD owns a number of Avolites consoles, as Thompson explains:
"We made the decision to purchase the consoles because we were servicing a lot of shows and hiring in a lot of desks which didn't feel like a good business model. We started off buying a couple of Tiger Touches and now we have one of the biggest stocks of Avolites desks in the UK. We've also got a fair number of media servers. Since then we've bought equipment as and when we needed it. We also offer well supported dry hires."

The Script

Thompson likes the intuitive nature of Avolites consoles: "For me, it's about having an easy-to-use graphical interface; being able to instinctively deliver what's required in the most expedient way. Avolites design and manufacture great desks and offer everything a designer could need from busking to the most complex pre-programmed, time coded show," he says.

Thompson's favourite console is the Sapphire Touch because of its extensive work surface and multiple screens. He has his own personal Sapphire Touch, number 001, which has accompanied him on four world tours. Indeed, the MIRRAD designers use two Sapphire Touch consoles and a Sapphire Wing on the complex and demanding lighting scheme for Arcadia Spectacular.

MIRRAD first got involved with this unique show - involving a 50 tonne giant spider made from recycled military equipment - at Glastonbury Festival in 2014. Arcadia has since travelled to festivals and major events all over the world; in just the last few months it has visited Thailand, Taiwan and Australia. A MIRRAD designer is now always present because, although the show is time-coded, the nature of the live performance means adjustments are inevitable.

"Arcadia has to be spot on every time, because there are so many moving elements and people involved," says Thompson.

Thompson and his MIRRAD colleagues have also worked closely with the team at Avolites on many of the technical aspects of this one-of-a-kind show and have developed a close working relationship with the company.

"I have always found that the team at Avolites listen to their users and that is a crucial part of their business model," says Thompson. "They design products that people want to use and that's key. If you've got a product that you look forward to using daily, it makes your life that bit happier."

As for the future of the company, MIRRAD plans to continue to grow steadily while ensuring that the quality and artistic credibility of the collective's work remains consistent and respected. "We never saw ourselves getting to where we are so quickly and we're hugely grateful. Our aim is to continue down the same track, working hard on exciting and challenging projects and bringing our own unique creative approach to every job we collaborate on," concludes Thompson.