Total Production


9 February 2008

(UK) - Kinesys and XL Video are united on the set of the latest Strictly Come Dancing live tour, which will be sweeping through the UK following the popularity of the BBC television hit.

A 6-way Kinesys variable speed motor automation system is in action on the current Phil McIntyre “Strictly Come Dancing” tour - the first ’live’ version of the BBC’s mega hit TV series.

The system is being used for the smooth movement of 6 custom built chandeliers which fly in low over the dancefloor at the start of the second half of the show during a waltz performed by all the show’s competing dance couples. The chandeliers were designed and built by prop maker David Shakarian, each containing 10 special Teflon coated bulbs. Although not especially heavy, they do require some careful handling, both in transit and once they are flown.

The four minute waltz sequence also involves the chandeliers engaging in some waltzing of their own ….. and a key element of this was that the movement had to be as fluid as that of the dancers. “It was the system we all thought offered the best and most seamless operation – and that’s what we needed” says production manager Andy Gibbs, who contacted Kinesys direct to hire the system.

The motors are six Kinesys Liftket chain hoists, capable of lifting 500kg at speeds up to 24m/min. These work with the Kinesys Elevation 1 controller and were supplied together with Kinesys’ proprietary Vector control software.

The system has been programmed and is being run by tour rigger Jim Milne-Davidson, who set it up with production rigger Phil Broad.


XL Video is supplying the full video production and display package, including PPU, cameras and 11 crew the tour.

XL was brought onboard by production manager Andy Gibbs. He and XL's project manager Malcolm Mellows have worked together on many previous projects.

The tour, presented by Kate Thornton, replicates the 'televisual' look and feel of the hugely successful BBC series as closely as possible …. albeit in a touring context. The set was designed by Patrick Doherty, with lighting by Mark Kenyon, both of whom were also creative forces for the TV show.

Video and digital lighting is central to the aesthetics as it is in many contemporary LE shows, and it plays a big part on the tour. At the back of the stage behind the orchestra and judges are 5 scenic ‘fingers’, covered in screen material fanning outwards. Flanking both sides of the fifties-styled dancehall pros arch is a pair of asymmetric side screens, different in both size and shape, both of them are wider along the top edges, tapering in towards the bottom and flown raked.

XL is supplying 6 Barco FLM R18 projectors, flown as 3 pairs. Four machines feed the left and right screens, and the third pair the centre stage fan, which is treated as a single screen surface area.

The side screens primarily receive IMAG from 7 cameras, 6 of which are strategically positioned around the dance floor with four 86mmx and two 70mmx long-throw lenses, plus a roaming wide-angled hand-held. These are directed by Andy Bramley. He runs to a tightly scripted show involving over 700 cues which was developed with TV series director Nicky Parsons during production rehearsals.

This is very different methodology for Bramley, whose recent live direction credits include George Michael, Coldplay and the Bill Bailey “Tinselworm” arena tour. It works well and produces a slick, choreographed camera show with ultimate continuity. “It’s essentially as close as you can get to taking a TV show on the road” explains Bramley, adding “It’s a real pleasure and a nice change to work like this on tour.”

The side screens also receive VT play ins and footage introducing the performers which is stored on XL’s Doremi hard drives.

XL's PPU is based around Bramley's GV Kayak Mixer. DVE machines are used to mask and fit the camera shots to the off-beat shaped side screens, and the system is engineered by Ray Gwilliams.

The centre fingers which also provide the primary set architecture are fed with content and ambient video effects from a Catalyst digital media server, with all necessary masking and shaping programmed and operated by Ian Galloway.

The XL team, crew chiefed by Stuart Heaney, is also working closely with Mark Waas, who is operating the custom graphics and scoring software, written specially for the tour by Simon Latus. Results, scoreboards, numbers to call and vote for your favourite dancers, strap lines and other graphics info are fed from this into XL's system and output to the side screens via the Kayak.

Sound and lighting is being supplied by Sonalyst, the set was fabricated by Total Solutions and Transam are providing the tour’s 13 trucks.


Fineline’s fabrication department has had a busy start to the year, building and illuminating specialist elements of the spectacular “Strictly Come Dancing Live” set designed by Patrick Doherty for main set builders Total Solutions.

Total’s Mervyn Thomas asked Fineline to supply 500 Luxeon LEDs, which are mounted in custom-machined wooden strips and fitted to the stair noses of the set’s lower staircase between the dancefloor and the stage – adding a flourish of glamour and a sense of occasion!

The Bristol-based company also supplied 50 two metre long low level, hollow barriers fabricated from aluminium composite di-bond material for the tour. These are matt black on the audience side and silver-mirrored on the dance floor side, positioned around the edge of the dance floor.

In addition to this, Fineline also supplied and fitted RGB LEDs along the front of the judges’ desk.

The Luxeon stair-nose strips were designed to be robust enough to tour and require minimal attention during rigging and get-ins. They were made in sections that are permanently fixed to the rise of each of the main steps. The white LED’s are wired on three channels, so the LEDs can be chased. With all the steps being different lengths, each strip is numbered and wired with different first and last channels, and the whole construction has to slot together in giant jigsaw fashion.

The LED’s are mounted onto 3mm di-bond strips, which are engraved for easy placement of the LEDs and to ensure equidistance between them all. The main body of the strip was made from 12mm thick fire retardant MDF, with 25mm holes for the light to exit. The rear of the strips were rebated on Fineline’s 3-axis router, and the LED/di-bond assembly then fitted into and flush with the main body, so the final unit is a neat 12mm thick self-contained strip. Eighteen 3-channel constant current DMX power supplies were also supplied, which are simply fixed to the underside of the steps.

The judges’ desk LEDs are also Luxeon. They needed to be colour mixing, so 36 RGB boards were supplied, together with 3 power supplies. The LEDs are permanently installed into the desk, and the power supplies concealed underneath.

The barriers are constructed from di-bond, a two layered composite of aluminium with acrylic. The beauty of this material is that with the aid of the flatbed router and the correct cutter, fold lines can be engraved in the material which can then easily be formed into solid shapes like boxes or - in this case – barriers with flat sides and a triangulated top. The barriers were made in two halves as the specification was for black on one side and mirrored on the other, both of which are standard di-bond finishes. Once completed, the two sets of halves were folded into shape and riveted together.

The barriers are hollow inside, with cable-ways cut in the sides allowing cables from the Clay Paky StageColor 300 fixtures encircling the dance floor to be concealed and fed all around the perimeter of the dancefloor and back to their PD units.

The barriers were supplied as fifty 2 metre and two 1 metre sections, plus 4 corner pieces – offering a flexible configuration to deal with slight size variations in the dance floors at different venues.


Related Articles