Iconic Ministry of Sound debuts at ivy

London’s iconic Ministry of Sound Club has made its Australian debut taking up a weekly residence at Sydney’s ivy nightclub.

The venue has undergone some serious renovations to deliver a totally revitalised clubbing experience, including sound-proof and all-weather roof, extra lighting rigs, a brand new staging set up and an overall entire venue transformation from a brand new entry, right up to the main stage.

Creative production company Alfred did the production design for the fit-out including rigging, custom stage, DJ booth, lighting and video design, including video content to suit Alfred’s lighting brief. Merivale production team, specifically Bailey Holloway, tendered out the lighting system and awarded it to Chameleon Touring Systems.

Alfred engaged lighting designer Peter Rubie to design a new lighting installation as the previous install delivered a fair amount of light pollution.

“Sometimes the atmosphere was slightly uncomfortable and not the kind of vibe you’d want for a Ministry of Sound event,” said Peter. “The venue has a lot of white space so anytime you throw wash lights around the room it bounces everywhere. The giant LED screens they had also threw a lot of ambient light around the venue. It just didn’t have that dark, clubby vibe the Ministry of Sound guys were hoping to achieve.”

Whilst there are still LED screens, the content is now much darker and the lighting has been redesigned to be tightly controlled. The room has also been flipped around with the stage now at the opposite end of the venue.

The new stage structure consists of nine uprights that form a large curved panel at the back behind the DJ. The structure has eight screen hangs, staggered in length getting shorter towards the outside of the curve. It all wraps around the large internal stairwell. From the top are nine fingers that stretch out; each finger holds two or three Ayrton MagicDot-SX with the centre five tipped with a Claypaky Stormy CC.

“It means we ended up with twenty-one MagicDot-SX above the stage and they’re our workhorse in terms of looks that we can build into,” explained Peter. “We do a lot of work with them in terms of different positions and crosses, plus we do a lot of effects in the MA2 running across them. When we do our movement effects we put a lot of work into working with their groupings and offsets to make interesting patterns.”

Peter commented that he very much likes the Ayrton MagicDot-SX for their single optical collimator beam and although he has the zoom version, he hasn’t used this functionality very much.

“For Ministry of Sound we really want narrow, crisp beams to avoid light pollution plus we want the dynamics of razor beams that we can run effects across,” he said. “However the zoom function does give the venue the ability to flood them out and wash the room during the week on non-Ministry of Sound events.”

The tiny build of the MagicDot-SX is with its combined yoke, head and base is something Peter really likes as it means that you can’t always tell where the light beam is coming from, consequently they don’t dominate the fingers of truss. He also says that you can’t beat them on speed and that they get cranked up very fast for some of the dance tempos.

Two panorama bars, holding sixteen more MagicDot-SX, are attached to the bulkheads either side of the venue. They tend to follow the same programming as the stage MagicDot-SX making the venue feel all encompassing.

“Rather than have everything coming from the DJ end, we wanted to involve the crowds during the bigger moments,” added Peter. “The Stormys are used for their strobe effect rather than a colour wash as we don’t like to flood the area with colour for long periods of time. There are occasional moments where there will be a big bump and we’ll accent it, but they won’t stay turned on for more than a second or two. If we want to wash the crowd with a blinder effect we have eight tungsten Sunstrips installed between the LED panels which you just can’t go past. Having an all LED rig is great but having that one tungsten element is really nice and warms everything up. It’s just a great blinder effect, we run lots of different chases through them over the night which like everything else, are synced to tempo faders.”

Six Claypaky B-EYE K10 mirror the shape of the curved backdrop, one sitting beneath each of the three outer LED panels.

“I’ve seen so many LED wash lights enter the market but you can’t go past the B-EYE in terms of effects,” commented Peter. “The definition you get between the rays when running the B-EYE effect is much crisper and as a result they end up looking great not only to the eye but in all of the promo photos. We only have six units but it looks like we have hundreds of rays coming out from behind the DJ.”

A simple grid above the dance floor holds twenty Martin MAC Quantum Profiles that Peter favours for their bright punchiness and crisp gobos.

“In following the concepts of the original Ministry of Sound Club, we wanted the lighting above the dance floor to be quite simple to contrast with the stage set up, with the console and programming being the workhorse,” he elaborated. “We very much rely on chases or interesting MAtricks configurations. We definitely didn’t want to see stock-standard ballyhoos going on in this rig, rather we wanted it to be constantly evolving over the night and kept interesting.”

Eight Martin MAC Auras line the lengths of the grid although these are mainly used for the venue’s day to day operations and not so much the Ministry of Sound nights. For other events, the venue offers the side MagicDot-SX plus the grid of Quantums and Auras but none of the special stage gear. The MAC Auras and MagicDot’s deliver plenty of colour wash for those nights. A further two MAC Auras are positioned above the stage from where they can light the DJ.

Control is by an MA Lighting MA2 light and a fader wing + touchscreen combination, with another running as backup. Peter, along with one of the Ministry of Sound operators Darcy Cook, spent a lot of time programming in the wee small hours.

“The venue doesn’t shut until 3am so we didn’t get any programming time until then,” he remarked. “I did the first few nights programming on my own and then Darcy came in to assist me adding a bit more layering and some of the MAtricks that we needed to make the MagicDot-SX and Quantum Profiles do interesting patterns and formations. Dan Morgan is our other operator for the Ministry of Sound nights.

“We have very little programming in terms of looks; we have a walk in look but the rest is just lots of layers.  Loads of temp faders, layered buttons for things like stacks of position moves, stacks of intensity effects and strobe buttons, then we add colours and positions on top of that manually through the programmer. A lot of the work is done in the effects engine of the MA.”

Ministry of Sound Club Australia lights up ivy each and every Saturday night, featuring four rooms of music, and a carefully crafted lineup of killer acts.

Photos: Ministry of Sound, Peter Rubie

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