Ultimate Thunder – The Tetley, Leeds

Installation in the city workshop, The Tetley, Leeds.

Ultimate Thunder‘ is a musical audio/visual installation that was installed in The Tetley, Leeds in January 2020. The installation is part of Lumen’s ongoing research and development around creative application of digital technologies for immersive re-presentation of performance work, and is funded by Arts Council England and Leeds Inspired. The project was made in collaboration with Pyramid, artist Andrew Abbott and curator Yanni Ma.

Press release for the installation below, which outlines more about the project.

‘This installation re-presents a performance by ‘Ultimate Thunder’ – a Leeds-based band featuring six artists with learning disabilities and one without – at their Pyramid Of Arts base on a light industrial estate in Holbeck. They meet fortnightly and make very loud, semi-improvised rock.

The lives of people with physical and learning disabilities tend to be structured around the provision of support staff and transport, and are sometimes restricted by this provision. This lack of flexibility can often mean that they are unable to engage in the traditional band and gigging format. Usually, any change to their regular timetable of weekly activities needs to be agreed at least two months in advance if they are to be able to get the staffing support to make it happen. On this basis, the work of Ultimate Thunder does not get the audience that it easily could, in Leeds – a city where there is still an appetite for the kind of experimental, DIY, noisy music that they make. Their performances are in fact just rehearsals, within the four walls of Pyramid’s base, on a light industrial estate in Holbeck.

Sites like Pyramid’s base have been historically created by the transformation of day-care provision in the city. As local authorities shut their many day-care centres, they used the money saved to fund organisations to provide substitute activities. While this change has allowed for a much wider range of activities to be offered, it also means that light industrial estates like the one where Pyramid are based have replaced the day care centres of old, with the same issues of ghetto-isation and relative invisibility for the artists who perform there.

This installation, produced by Lumen Arts, allows the music of Ultimate Thunder to reach a wider audience, and also invites that audience to experience the kind of spaces where that work is produced – loud, warm, exciting, welcoming, inclusive music being created behind the closed doors of cold, utilitarian, concrete, practical spaces.

The Virtual Reality experience is a 360 degree video documenting a workshop led by Alan Courtis – an Argentinian artist and musician working with arts and disability – held at Pyramid of Arts in April 2019.

The installation is part of Lumen’s ongoing research and development around creative application of digital technologies for immersive re-presentation of performance work, with funds from Arts Council England and Leeds Inspired.’

Pyramid, Holbeck, Leeds.

Eighteen months ago, Lumen & Pyramid came up with an exciting way to re-present a musical performance using audio/visual equipment. The idea was to capture a groups performance using video and audio, and recreate it on different display formats and through different methods of sound reproduction, in order to create an immersive audio/visual installation.

The group we chose to work with, ‘Ultimate Thunder’, is composed of seven members – six with learning disabilities and one member. This was great for the band as they do not get out to gig very often and so this installation would act as a type of gig for them, with their performance being re-created through audio and video.

We thought of as many interesting ways as possible to recreate the video and audio of the band. Ideas of different monitors in different configurations, large projections, projections on different sorts of surfaces, VR headsets, wireless headphones and different types of speakers were all proposed for the installation. Then we set about to capture the bands performance in the spring of 2019. We setup in Pyramid of Arts space in Leeds, where the band rehearse regularly. We arranged many of their props and art in the space, setup lighting and used five different cameras to capture the video. The audio of each instrument was recorded in multitrack to go with each video of each band member.

Over the following months we started to compile the video footage to get a sense of what we would need to do to make it work well with our different screens. We choose one song out of six recorded to work with. The audio for that song was then mixed to sound like a powerful performance, whilst retaining a strong sense of the energy of a live performance. Matthew’s vocal performance was also sent through lots of different effects to add another layer of energy and act as a centre piece to the song.

The videos were then processed and edited – video cropping and the adding of effects, whilst making sure everything was kept in synchronisation. Each video was then exported of each performer with their individual track of audio embedded.

Brightsign media players were chosen for playback and were encoded and then extensively tested in the Lumen office with their respective display and audio speaker. For the singer Matthew, his video was split into there separate parts (head, torso and legs) and played back across three 21″ JVC CRT monitors, which were stacked on top of each other. His vocals then came out of a wedge speaker monitor on the floor in front and a smaller audio monitor on top of the CRT’s played back the effected vocals. The overall impression of it was really great, especially as the centrepiece to the installation. Individual sound systems were used for each intrumentalist to create ‘point source’ audio and each with their on video display system. So, the drummer was projected on a large 10 foot screen, making him and his drum kit life-sized, with the drum sound coming from a pair of full range speakers in stereo. The bass player’s video was projected onto the front of an Ampeg 8×10 speaker cabinet, with his sound coming out of the speaker cabinet itself. The guitar player was shown on a 50″ screen mounted in portrait, with his playing coming out of a Fender guitar combo amplifier. The percussionists were projected on a wall with their sound coming from the right side of the drummer speakers. And the keyboardist was displayed on a 42″ screen in landscape orientation with his sound coming from a small RCF speaker.

Lumen then installed the equipment in the City Workshop at The Tetley in Leeds. With all the videos in perfect synchronisation and the sound levels balanced with the space, the overall effect really was like a gig, with the sound coming from different locations, rather than simply out of a stereo pair of speakers and the visual elements coming from different locations and displays. Andrew Abbott also installed virtual reality headsets, which featured a 360 degree video documenting a workshop led by Alan Courtis – an Argentinian artist and musician working with arts and disability that was held at Pyramid of Arts in April 2019.

Young man enjoying Andrew Abbott’s virtual reality workshop.

We had the sound turned up quite loud for the private view. We got some excellent feedback and the band and their friends loved it.

Private view
Video of the installation

It was a very rewarding project to work upon and gave a lot of satisfaction to all of those involved. We would like to thank Arts Council England and Leeds Inspired for their help funding the project, the band themselves for creating a hugely inspiring and energetic piece of music, and The Tetley for hosting the exhbition and providing such a suitable platform to showcase the work.

Video complilation of footage from the Ultimate Thunder installation

Ultimate Thunder are Alex Sykes on keyboards, James Heselwood on guitar, John Densley on percussion, John Greaves on bass, Matthew Watson on vocals, Stuart Illingsworth on percussion/harmonium and Scott Anderson on drums.

Installation by James Islip, Stuart Bannister, Joe Osborne, Kathryn Gray and Andrew Abbott. Video editing by James Islip, sound by Joe Osborne, VR by Andrew Abbott.

Elizabeth Price: A LONG MEMORY – The Whitworth, Manchester

Elizabeth Price: A LONG MEMORY, exhibition at the Whitworth, 2019-2020. Photography by Michael Pollard. Images courtesy of the artist and The Whitworth, The University of Manchester.

Lumen were invited by the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, to install Turner Prize winning artist Elizabeth Price’s new exhibition, A LONG MEMORY. An exhibition which includes multiple, large audio/video works across two large galleries with a large central gallery between them featuring other works by the artist.

One of the galleries features three separate, synchronised video works (The Woolworths Choir of 1979, K and At the House of Mr X) running from two synchronised Blackmagic Hyperdeck Studio Pro decks, remote controlled by a tablet for easy control of playback. Each video work has its own sound, so multichannel audio is extracted from the video feeds of the Blackmagic decks and into a Allen & Heath Qu-16 digital desk for DSP and signal distribution to the three pairs of speakers. The sound is an important factor of the works, so the two larger pieces each feature a pair of Yamaha DBR12’s. They are a much larger speaker than typically used in art installations, so coupled with a subwoofer, the sound is very immersive, playing an equally important part of the artwork as the video.

Elizabeth Price: A LONG MEMORY, exhibition at the Whitworth, 2019-2020. Photography by Michael Pollard. Images courtesy of the artist and The Whitworth, The University of Manchester.

For the video projection, four professional Pansonic DLP laser projectors were used giving excellent results as always, even though their power output was scaled down somewhat for the very dark gallery. They were flown from a large truss system, designed for the show.

Elizabeth Price: A LONG MEMORY, exhibition at the Whitworth, 2019-2020. Photography by Michael Pollard. Images courtesy of the artist and The Whitworth, The University of Manchester.

There was also a final video feed running through the entire gallery, through a wall, to a small wall mounted, digital signage screen. This screen displays a ‘countdown timer’ of when each video will start playing.

The opposite gallery also features three separate, synchronised video works (The Teachers, Felt Tip and KOHL), but is very different from the works in the other gallery. Two works each feature four separate suspended screens, making up one complete image each and one work features two screens on top of each other to create one complete image.

Elizabeth Price: A LONG MEMORY, exhibition at the Whitworth, 2019-2020. Photography by Michael Pollard. Images courtesy of the artist and The Whitworth, The University of Manchester.

Each set of four projectors (a combination of Epson’s and Vivitek’s) were mounted in portrait, on a custom made Unistrut system that was attached to the wall. One of which was high in the air. The custom made rear projection screens were suspended and weighted into position with magnets.

The third piece of work, ‘Felt Tip’, features two screens on top of each other with front projection from truss mounted Epson projectors.

Elizabeth Price: A LONG MEMORY, exhibition at the Whitworth, 2019-2020. Photography by Michael Pollard. Images courtesy of the artist and The Whitworth, The University of Manchester.

Due to the nature of the screen orientation in the three artworks, it was very tricky work to line up each projected video on each screen to a high standard, whilst at the same time not overshooting. As even a fraction of spill would show up on the other side of the dark gallery space and even on an opposite facing artwork.

The installation in this gallery was powered by thirteen, synchronised Brightsign media players, again with three separate audio feeds into a Allen & Heath Qu-16 digital desk for DSP and signal distribution to the three pairs of Genelec speakers and subs. Again one video feed was sent through the walls to a ‘countdown timer’ screen in the central gallery space.

Elizabeth Price: A LONG MEMORY, exhibition at the Whitworth, 2019-2020. Photography by Michael Pollard. Images courtesy of the artist and The Whitworth, The University of Manchester.

The sheer amount of cabling in this entire installation and concealing it very neatly was staggering. A rough guess would be around 500 metres in total. All the cabling was hidden either in trunking that was mounted under the Whitworth’s old cornice, on a truss or under the gallery shadow gap. It was no mean feat fitting 30 metre lengths of XLR cable under the small shadow gap, for then a carpet fitter to cut through one…as this writer knows…

The exhibition has already been gathering excellent reviews in the press and really is a sensory experience, complimented with the further artworks and books that give historical context within the central gallery.

It was a pleasure to work with Elizabeth Price and Rose Goddard to achieve the best result for them and we thank curator Mary Griffiths and Whitworth A/V Technician Tristan Clutterbuck for having us work on this exciting exhibition with them.

Installation by Tristan Clutterbuck, Kathryn Gray, Michael Bryant, Mark Rhodes, Stuart Bannister, Ben Gwilliam, Joe Osborne and James Islip.

Brontë Parsonage Museum – ‘How My Light is Spent’ Audio/Visual Installation

Lumen were invited by the Brontë Parsonage Museum to install a new immersive installation in the cellar of the Brontë Parsonage. The installation is titled ‘How My Light is Spent‘ and is the vision of screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce. The installation is a collaboration of artist Jo Pocock of The Lantern Company, Illuminos and Lumen.

Lumen were asked to record audio of spoken word by voice actors. They were recorded in a professionally treated production room, using high quality equipment and then they were edited and processed in post-production.

Illuminos created the video content and then consolidated the audio and video content together to load onto the playback system.

Photo by Simon Warner

Lumen then embarked on the installation in the cellar. Six Genelec 8020’s were placed on stands around the room in a surround sound layout and the projector was installed on the ceiling shooting onto the bed. Illuminos setup the playback system and pico projectors and Jo Pocock put props around the room.

Photo by Simon Warner
Photo by Simon Warner
Photo by Simon Warner

You can read more about the installation in this press article here.

Installation by Kathryn Gray and Stuart Bannister. Audio recording and mixing by Joe Osborne.

Poor Image Projects A/V installations

Over the summer, Lumen sponsored Poor Image Projects with A/V equipment over three separate installations and events around Leeds. Poor Image Projects (PIP) is a new venture that explores the audio-visual in all its guises – be it computer-generated, analogue, high-definition, tactile, technical or sensual. 
Led by Leeds-based artists Anya Stewart-Maggs and Bethan Hughes, the project intends the viewers, participants and collaborators to glimpse and push the boundless nature of the audio-visual. Definitely something that we at Lumen try to actively promote. 
Access to Lumen’s equipment and expertise allows PIP to support their artists and provide a high quality audio-visual experience for audiences at their events; as you can see in the documentation of the events below. 
We actively encourage local and regional artists, curators and technicians to get in touch with us to discuss upcoming events or projects. There are many ways in which Lumen can provide support – from advice, access to equipment or more hands-on technical management and installation.   

It is great to see what PIP have presented this year, and it’s important for us to support the audio-visual arts community in our City. 
All images by Jules Lister. 

M.I.F. – Ibrahim Mahama at The Whitworth, Manchester

Lumen were asked by The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, to install Ghanaian artist, Ibrahim Mahama‘s latest artwork for the Manchester International Festival. The video piece is within the exhibition titled ‘Parliament of Ghosts‘ and it compromises of 7 channels of synchronised video housed within a ‘concrete’ silo inside of The Whitworth Gallery.

Seven, 16:9 native, Vivitek DH4661Z laser projectors, were mounted with custom made brackets on the silo walls. This was quite tricky due to the textured ‘concrete’ type wall panels.

The 7 channels of synchronised video fed the projectors from our custom built AV rack hiding within the silo walls. This rack is a fully synchronised, 4k capable, 8 channel video system powered by a computer and 2 Blackmagic Hyperdeck Pro 2’s. It is a very high quality, stable, synchronised video playback system, whether for playing two synchronised 4K video files or eight synchronised 1080p video files at high bitrates in ProRes format. Or even just playback of one video in very high quality. Playback can be remotely controlled by any phone, tablet or computer.

Lining up seven videos right next to each other, so it looks all level, is not a simple task, but with a combination of physical bracket adjustment, mechanical lens movement and digital adjustment within the projectors themselves, the end result was very impressive. Also the lack of raster from the projectors, as they are 16:9 native, meant there was no additional light above and below the videos themselves, which gives a strong look coupled with the high contrast ratio of the projectors.

It is a privilege to be able to work on ambitious art installations such as this one. We thank the Whitworth for continuing to choose to work with Lumen.

Installation by James Islip, Michael Bryant, Tristan Clutterbuck, Joe Osborne, Kathryn Gray and Stuart Bannister.

Projections for film: Lawrence Abu Hamdan

James Islip (Lumen) has been working with Beirut-based artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan on two recent artist short films.

Walled Unwalled is a single channel 20 minute performance-video installation. The performance comprises of an interlinking series of narratives derived from legal cases that revolved around evidence that was heard or experienced through walls. It consists of a series of performances reenactments and a monologue staged inside a trio of sound effects studios in the Funkhaus, East Berlin, January 2018. Projection was integral part of the shoot, where different videos, images and projection positions were used to give the illusion of set changes within a single space. The projections on set were provided by Lumen, with direction from Lawrence.

Trailer for Walled Unwalled – https://vimeo.com/277253686

Walled Unwalled has been installed / screened at (amongst others) New York Film Festival, Mor Charpentier Paris, Tate Modern London, Dubai, Rotterdam International Film Festival.

James has also just been working with Lawrence in Beirut on a new [untitled] project that will be released in March 2019. Here are some images from the set (Saint Joseph University Beirut).

Armistice Day 2018 Outdoor Projection – Bradford City Hall

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice, Lumen were asked by Steve Manthorp to outdoor project his film on to the clock tower of Bradford City Hall. The film featured falling poppies and selected photos of soldiers from the war, including some men from Bradford. The projection looked great on the already impressive city hall, using Madmapper and a Panasonic 21K projector. The film proved very popular with passersby and those that had heard about the event on social media.