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The process began at the end of 2006 with a conversation between Yann Guenancia of Halo Lighting and Fire owner Craig Elder.

“Craig sent us a ten second clip of a Justin Timberlake video and asked if we could have it ready in time for New Year’s Eve,” Guenancia remembers. “This was in November…” So began an impressively swift two months of planning, preparation and installation to get the room ready in time to see in 2007. “I’d say it’s probably a world record,” jokes Guenancia. “Some projects are plagued with problems and some just coast through; this really was one of the lucky ones.” Indeed serendipity and good fortune were in rich supply throughout the installation, but the project would still have faultered were it not for the ‘can do’ attitude of all involved – and the strong relationship of trust that has built up between installer and client over the last year of Fire’s overhaul. “Everyone says its difficult to get a large scale project through the boardroom process, but with Chris it’s really easy: he sets no hurdles in the way of what you need to do.

To help develop the concept, Guenancia brought in Gorden Haslett from the architectural side of the Halo consultancy team. Through a combination of detailed designs and CAD mock-ups, Haslett created a scheme to convert the curved railway arch into a five faced LED screen of Color Kinetics LED RGB nodes that would form the pixels for the screen. The first major consideration was the spacing between nodes, balancing the budget with the need for a dense enough arrangement to trick the eye into seeing a coherent picture – despite the arch’s restricted headroom. Having ascertained what dimensions would work best, a set of 48 panels were then prefabricated at Halo’s warehouse, each one comprising a layer of Color Kinetics iFlex string sandwiched between two plywood sheets.

Not for the first time on the project, the team lucked out. The iFlex strings they used are manufactured in five metre lengths and, with a panel width of 2.4 m, one chord fit precisely into two rows of pixels. Moreover the strings’ LED nodes were spaced 100mm apart – exactly as required.

A team of four spent two weeks drilling the 50,000 holes needed to accommodate the 12,672 nodes and associated wiring. When complete the panels were then lifted into place and, using 18-way multicore cable, each string was connected back to the drivers based in the control room behind the DJ booth. “Interfacing different brands together wasn’t an easy one, but every company we worked with were really enthusiastic – they really got on board with the project,” notes Guenancia. With the help of Nick Tolkein at Color Kinetics and Nigel Sadler at Green Hippo, the Halo’s chief engineer Simon Middleton was able to create an electrical rack that would bring the system to life.

Imagery from a Green Hippo Hippotizer is manipulated via a Behringer BSC 2000 midi control desk in the DJ booth. A Color Kinetics Video System Manager then converts the Hippotizer output into an ethernet signal that the LED drivers can understand. The Hippotizer also manipulates the image through stretching and compression to fit the Lightbox screen, though – as luck would have it (again) – the surface when flattened forms an near perfect 3:4 ratio, and the video required very little adjustment.The audio install was completed by Chad Journer of Audio Energy. Like the Halo team, Journer had already worked on redesigning the club’s existing three arches. As in the other rooms, he opted for an Outline Doppia PA system powered by Chevin-Research amplifiers. He also developed a remote management system that can control any aspect of the sound from a laptop or PC anywhere in the world. “This remote system consists of a rackmount PC and four BSS Soundweb Units connected directly to our Virtual Private Network (VPN) via SSH. We developed this system so that we could make instant changes to the sound without the need for an engineer’s visit,” Journer comments.

Fire is now home to eight different club nights, each putting the new system through its paces and attracting an ever-expanding army of regulars. To some, Fire has become a superclub by stealth, remaining under the radar of most outside the gay scene. Word is spreading fast, however, and an increasingly mixed crowd is turning up to experience this clubbers paradise. With the expansion into two further arches planned for the near future, Fire looks set to burn brighter still.

Words: Pete Brewis

From: Night Magazine May 2007 Issue