The liquid light show that accompanie­s the Saucers


LIGHTING technician Rachel Axton has worked with plenty of big acts – in the last year alone she’s toured with Nick Cave, 50 Cent and Maroon 5. But her most specialist gig is with Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets, where one of her jobs is to create the spectacula­r liquid light shows that are projected behind the band.

“I’m not aware of any other lighting technician­s who do this nowadays,” she says. “But it really suits the music and adds to the vibe.” The basics are the same as might have been used at the UFO club in 1967. “It’s about mixing different coloured oil and water-based inks on a clear surface and projecting those images around the stage. Oil and water don’t mix, of course, so when you use a coloured oil and a different coloured ink they create odd shapes.

“Back in the day, this was done on overhead projectors, which got hot, and the heat would agitate the oils and create pretty patterns. We use a camera above the oil and water discs – we mix them on concave glass, like the inside of a clock face – and project the images over the band using laser projectors, so I have to manipulate those pretty patterns by hand. I’m located at the back of the theatre, so I can see how the light show sprawls around the entire venue and edit the images in real time.”

The light shows are mixed with other projected images – like footage of a young Mason drumming with Pink Floyd – but using a camera and a laser projector also allows Axton to create other liquid effects. “We also add Alka-seltzer to fizz up a bowl of water and add coloured oil to create these amazing, bubbly effects.”

The three-person lighting crew, along with the rest of the tech personnel, all collaborat­e with the band to integrate the music and the visuals. “For instance, with ‘Set The Controls…’, we try to create the image of a sun, using yellow oil and black printer ink. The images follow the mood of the improvisat­ion. It’s different every time.”

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