Tools are out there that you just don’t know you need – because you haven’t heard of them. Once you do, you’ll wonder just how you ever survived without them. Here are four such devices…
At some point, everyone lighting a show needs a tiny light, usually to hide away in or around a piece of scenery. This has long been the role filled by the birdie, a ‘one-under-Par’ miniature light taking low-voltage M16 lamps.
They’re great – but a bit ‘monochromatic’ in the ever-more-versatile world of LED lighting. But finding a replacement that matches the key criteria – small, rugged, bright, cheap – has been a challenge.
Gantom started making tiny lights to be hidden away in rides at theme parks, so its products come pretty close. Its range includes tiny – smaller than birdies – DMX-controlled spot and wash fixtures, in either dual-white or RGB-W versions, both offering a good, rich light, plus a really cute, tiny, white-LED DMX-controlled gobo spot with a 25 to 40-degree zoom. All have a single, fixed cable that splits into a 12V DC power connector and a 3.5mm jack for DMX input via a suitable adaptor, or which can be plugged into the headphone socket of your phone to address or even control the light.
No, they’re not as cheap as birdies, but they are very well made with a good output. You will find a use for them.
The ubiquity of Sennheiser’s infra-red assistive hearing systems is amazing. They seem to exist in every theatre in the country. They work well, but require some management in terms of getting headsets out to patrons before a show, getting them all back afterwards, and keeping them all serviced and charged between-times.
Sennheiser now has an alternative: MobileConnect. It’s an assistive listening system that does not requires distribution or a collection of headsets. Instead, people use their own smartphones. The MobileConnect box distributes low-latency audio via Wi-Fi; users pick it up by running the MobileConnect app on their phone or tablet.
Issues may arise the first time a patron encounters this and doesn’t have the app downloaded. Your venue had also better have Wi-Fi available to let them get it. And there will be those patrons who still don’t have a suitable device. But there are advantages. For a start, managing the listening device is no longer your problem…
The process of planning a show is hard, a jumble of information about so many people, places and things. Sometimes it just seems to happen on a wing and a prayer backed up by files in Excel, Word and even scribbled on old-fashioned paper.
Theatron is a computer system that hopes to change all that – indeed, has already changed all that at the Finnish National Theatre and Finnish National Opera, the two companies for which it was originally developed more than a decade ago. It’s since been adopted in other countries, such as at the National Theatre of Iceland; now it’s aiming to help those who make shows in the UK.
The claim is that it consolidates all of the show-planning activities in one central, online location, allowing intelligent collaboration between those working on the planning and the system itself, which can warn of clashes in scheduling and even be integrated into payroll systems to manage working hours and payments. A touring version expands the capabilities beyond an organisation’s home base to theatres in visits on the road.
Anything that makes any part of this easier sounds like a dream come true; if this is your life, this certainly sounds worth investigating.
There are few jobs in showbiz more antisocial than the truss followspot operator – the person you see climbing up to the truss before the gig, and who you just might not see again.
Last year, U2’s production team asked themselves whether they still wanted their crew to have to do this every night, or whether technology might provide an alternative solution.
There have been attempts at automated followspots before, moving lights following transponders hidden on performers. Generally they just proved that the real skill of a good spot op isn’t aim, it’s anticipation – knowing where the star is going to go next, not just where she or he is now.
This version, PRG’s GroundControl, keeps the human, but relocates her or him to the ground. The operator handles a fake followspot, roughly the size, shape and balance of a real one but with a screen at the front, showing an image from a camera mounted on the PRG Bad Boy moving light this device controls. Move the fake spot and the real light moves. The operator can manage the other parameters – level, size, colour – or the console can.
It works remarkably well, far better than you might imagine reading this. It’s still one operator per light, but now you can hide that light away anywhere without worrying about space or access for a person; they can be anywhere.