Portman Custom Lights P2 Hexaline
Portman Custom Lights – P1 Retro Lamp and P2 Hexaline
by Tim Beeston.
Tim Beeston is the Managing Director of Melbourne’s Flashbang Productions which offers services ranging from entertainment lighting and design to production services and event logistics. Their creative community includes experts in lighting, set, and production design, as well as fabrication and test facilities to build and deliver shows with meaning. Notable clients include The Jezabels, The Rubens, and Amy Shark.
I first encountered the Portman Custom Lights P2 Hexaline when TLC Global’s Davey Taylor brought them to us for evaluation not long after they were released. I’ve always liked the warmth of a real tungsten light source, as it gives a great, clean, Rock’n’Roll look.
I was intrigued by the design possibilities of the P2, as you can curve them, matrix them, or have them free standing. In my design for the Amy Shark tour (CX Magazine Nov 2018) I wanted a clean downstage look for the quintessential gig “pit shot”; the photo that every photographer gets in the first three songs shooting from the front of the pit up to the stage.
I arranged the P2s in a curve around downstage centre to give that shot more character, and it made the stage feel bigger. They sat in front of the Amy Shark set piece and helped frame that up, running six either side in a big, warm line.
We were aiming for warm, big impact looks. Most of the show was one person downstage centre, in front of a backing band. I felt I could get a full visual impact if I used the Portman P1s and P2s to frame the artist. Most of our rig was deployed on the floor, filling in upstage spaces and bringing focus back down onto the principal.
Overhead rigging was going to be difficult for some venues, so we kept it to a minimum, with only eight fixtures flown; I’ve always found you get cleaner looks when you don’t have too many lights flown. The design was about having one or two really important lights that give the whole show shape. It also helped in touring that having most fixtures on the floor made getting in and out again quite fast.
We first deployed the fixtures while filming a couple of clips for TV. They gave us a great look for film due to the colour temperature, and the diffusion from their reflectors; they come up really well on camera.
The CTI you get out of the halogen warms up your frames a lot. The fittings became a cornerstone of the show and principal light. As their colour temperature is 2.9K, we could use colder gels and colours from the flown and beam fixtures on Amy, and the Portmans warmed her up. We were able to use a heavy blue correction in our key light, and we used a full stop or L203 because the warmth provided by the P2 and P1 back light made the principal look natural on stage.
All of Portman’s fixtures have great build quality. The P2s are easy to lock together in a matrix, or simply lock the floor stand into the standard spigot. The P1s are similar – we were using Manfrotto stands. Sitting them on stage provided a classic ‘set lighting’ feel, but it would have been just as easy to hang them.
In terms of handling, the only issue we had in nine shows was when one fixture got knocked around in transport and we had to tighten up a cell fitting. We did tour a spare fixture for both the P1 and P2, but didn’t need either. As the dimming curves are so gentle, we didn’t blow a single lamp.
Effects and Dimming
I was running the show from a ChamSys MQ500, which made it really simple to create centre-out effects on the P1s and P2s, as you would with old-school Zip Strips or Mini Strips. I was also running block chases.
The dimming curve on both models is quite responsive, and present through all the effects. You get really good range through all intensity effects, both up and down the curve. I would drop the P1s and P2s back to the centre cell only in the ‘stops’, and there were lots of dynamic moments where we would bring the whole stage down and have just Amy lit and framed, before expanding back out to the whole stage in the bigger parts of the songs.
Because the Portman fixtures are so visually striking, they become part of the set, the P2s especially, with their ability to bend and shape around your stage. We have a couple of designs for future tours where we are using the P2s in a matrix that surrounds the players in a warm wall of light.
They’re just beautifully made fittings, and the aesthetic, while ‘retro’, is actually quite contemporary and different.
Our initial design work for Amy had us looking for retro fixtures, but nothing else really fitted that brief while achieving what the Portmans can.
There is an on-board screen with control and set-options, which we didn’t need. The menu system on screen is simple – you can turn the fixture if you’re using them statically on a photo shoot, and dial up an intensity. There’s also some demo effects, or set them to run on their DMX channels.
We found their hire price reasonable, and if you consider that we covered a whole stage with six fittings, quite cost effective. Their on-board dimming means you don’t have to hire dimmers, and it that sense, it’s like having 36 lights for the price of six.
Sometimes simplicity is better than complexity, and we had other toys in the rig for that. A simple fixture harking back to the classics, while doing its job well, is a good cornerstone for any design.