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Robe Pointe fixtures feature in the Spanish ‘jukebox musical’ Hoy No Me Puedo Levantar Musical in Madrid


What are the current trends affecting the choice and operation of luminaires and control equipment in theatres? Steve Montgomery investigates

STAGE LIGHTING in the theatre can make or break a performance: the wrong level or hue can destroy the artistic and emotional effect that is conveyed to the audience. Lighting directors strive to build the atmosphere on stage and for that they need to have reliable equipment that can deliver the effects they need. As in other industries, manufacturers continually develop their products to keep abreast of the demands by theatres and introduce new technologies and features. The introduction of high-

power, controllable LED luminaires in this industry has had great effect and enabled radical changes in the way that theatres operate and deliver shows. “The attitude to how shows are lit is changing, largely because of the flexibility and capability of LED and the effects that can be produced,” says Phil Yeomans, Carnival UK’s entertainment sound and light manager. “In addition, the extended lamp life of

LED, reduction in power and weight are a massive boon to the cruise entertainment sector: we have to carry all our spares, produce our own power and cannot easily access fixtures at high levels while at sea, so anything that addresses those is a major advantage; even if the capital cost is slightly higher.” However while this technology may have

LED has radically affected the theatre lighting market over the past two to three years

Lighting designers still demand tungsten characteristics from LED

‘LED is being incorporated more and more into venues and shows’

Mark Ravenhill, GLP

revolutionised the industry it has not, yet, completely taken over. “The large touring shows we put on in our theatres will arrive with their own stage lighting rig which is often hired-in and will be LED- based predominantly: moving heads, scenery washes and special effects,” explains Stuart Graham, assistant head of technical services for the Ambassador Theatre Group. “We will provide the front-of-house equipment – profiles etc, which are generally tungsten based. At the moment the group is not investing in LED for this area of application, although it is a topic of constant discussion. It is not the right time. What we have works, and there are no LED alternatives that are cost-effective in the 750W to 1,000W range that can deliver the brightness and white light that is so typical of live theatre. We are still installing dimmers, but are also laying in data cables during renovation in preparation for LED luminaires that use electronic dimming and integral control.”

A single LED luminaire can replace several dedicated tungsten units and additional effects

With the introduction of 16-bit control and higher refresh rates, LED can be dimmed smoothly and without flicker

Matt Armendariz-Kerr,

ETC’s entertainment market manager, points out: “ETC’s Source Four LED Series 2 luminaires match or surpass the output of the 575W incandescent ones, for many colours; particularly on medium-saturated colours. The gap with 750W versions is closing and we are currently focusing on sustaining useful output across the spectrum of colours that users need, rather than maximising one particular one to achieve peak brightness.” “Traditionally tungsten

sources have been the mainstay of theatrical lighting, which have great dimming curves and a colour rendering index of 100, so any other lamp source has a lot to live up to in performance terms, so it’s a gradual transition,” explains Mark Ravenhill, president of GLP, German Light Products Inc.

“LED is being incorporated

more and more into venues and shows. However, there is still room for

There are currently no alternatives to the workhorse 750W tungsten profile luminaire

Remote device management (RDM) extends the DMX protocol to provide remote management and monitoring of luminaires

improvement and we will see developments, particularly in regard to colour rendering and brightness as the technology becomes even better. We have lots of wash lights and some spot- based fixtures, but there are still fixtures in use in a theatre that don’t have LED alternatives.”

QUICK CHANGE The move to LED on stage has occurred recently and penetration is rapid. “LED cyclorama lights started to gain a foothold around two and a half years ago, but it has only really been in the last year to 18 months that moving head units have emerged with the quality of white light and colour consistency between units that the industry demands,” says Adrian Searle, head of technical and hire at Stage Electrics. “The market is moving fast, new generations appear a year or so apart; a wide range of techniques is being introduced that is providing enormous benefit to the industry.”

June 2014 49

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