Important new features of the Strand NEO lighting control platform, along with the new Vari-Lite VLZ luminaires, have been put through their paces on stage in Martin Searancke’s lighting design for a production of Blood Brothers in Auckland, New Zealand.
Searancke, a well-known local lighting designer, was approached by The Centrestage Theatre in Orewa, Auckland, to light the production, which was directed by Michael Sanders. For Searancke, who also happens to be the primary software developer behind the NEO lighting control platform, this was an unmissable opportunity to test out the latest features developed for the NEO platform, due for release this summer in NEO software version 3.8.0.
Searancke says, “I have always believed that it is important for a software developer to use their own product in the real world. For this show, we were particularly interested in testing the next version of NEO in which we’ve done a lot of work to improve the multi-user functionality.”
This was the first time that this latest functionality had been tested in a live show environment. The lighting team employed a full-sized NEO console for programming, plus a rack-mounted NEO playback device with an attached playback wing, used by the show’s operator. All the control data was run over an Ethernet network, distributed via the new Lighting Node 8, the 8-port Ethernet-to-DMX device.
Searancke says, “The new functions give us the ability to have the operator running rehearsals while the programmer made adjustments to the live show. The programmer didn’t have to worry about following the show to hit cues, and could focus on making changes during the run.”
He adds, “Another new feature that I used extensively on this show is the new Unified Paletting System, which allows any palette to be applied to any lighting fixture, regardless of there being information stored. The software is able to calculate a best match from what it knows about the palette, and apply it to any selected fixture.”
As well as providing a valuable real-world testing ground for the latest NEO control software, the production also gave Searancke an opportunity to try out new LED-based VLZ luminaires, introduced to the market in May this year. These formed part of a lighting rig which also included Showline LED SLBars and Vari-Lite VL3000 and VL3500 luminaires.
“My fixture selection was very much about beam looks,” he says. “Having moving lights with a good zoom range and good optics in this area is important. You can have a light that does a lot of things, but if it doesn’t get the basics right, then it’s not much use. When it comes to the use of LEDs, it’s about the subtleness of that first 1%. In particular, I liked the color I was able to get out of them. It felt like there was absolutely no compromise with them being an LED fixture, in terms of brightness, color and features.”
Searancke was also impressed by the performance of the new LED moving heads when paired with fixtures in the rig which use discharge lamp sources. “I was pairing them with the VL3000s and VL3500s over the stage and the combination was fantastic,” he comments.
BLOOD BROTHERS - Book, Music and Lyrics by WILLY RUSSELL. AN AMATEUR PRODUCTION BY ARRANGEMENT WITH ORiGiN™ THEATRICAL ON BEHALF OF SAMUEL FRENCH LTD. Photo © John Ferguson Photography www.jafpix.com