Jands Staging Get Technical With The State Theatre Centre of Western Australia

Posted on Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Located on the corner of Roe and William Streets in Northbridge, the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia features the 575 seat Heath Ledger Theatre and the flexible performance space, Studio Underground, capable of seating 200+. Also included in The Centre is The Courtyard, a multi-purpose outdoor events space, two rehearsal rooms and two flexible use private suites.

Designed by award-winning Kerry Hill Architects, the design delivers a building which not only provides a functional and inspiring venue for performers and their audiences, but is also a defining architectural landmark for Perth.

Jands supplied and commissioned all the technical equipment throughout the venue except for the in-house audio installation, which was supplied by Jands, but installed by Perth-based Vizcom Technologies.

 The Heath Ledger Theatre is a traditional proscenium arch stage, measuring 12m wide and 9m high although this space can be minimised with a false proscenium and borders. The stage measures 25m from wall-to-wall and 18m from the back wall to the front edge of the forestage. There are extra wing spaces due mostly to the lack of any manual flying system at stage level.

Above the stage, the fifty four (54) onstage fly-lines and four full-length panorama bars are suspended on Jands electric drum hoists controlled by a Stage Technologies Nomad system that allows complete programming and automation of fly cues. The Nomad includes a proprietary console and display using Windows-based software. A 3D image of the stage and a colour-coded graphic of the flybar positions is a straightforward interface and by simply pressing command keys you can easily control the fly lines and bars. Two camera feeds of the stage area use infra-red to keep the flying system visible during black-outs.

“The simplest way to describe the Nomad is that it is an amazing interface,” remarked Boyd Midgley, Head Flyman at the State Theatre Centre. “It’s a fantastic platform for making shows clean cut, in fact the Nomad is a Flyman’s dream – perfect every time. Through the Nomad’s technology shows can have more versatility within the State Theatre Centre plus the ability to move multiple bars safely and effectively is a great attribute within shows.”

Twenty metres overhead, ranged either side of the grid in separate winch rooms, are two banks of Jands SP650 hoists. A hyper-sensitive lanyard offers instant shutdown of the system should anything untoward happen in this area.

“The hoists have been working really well since their installation and we’ve had no issues at all with them,” commented Graham Piper, Technical Manager at the State Theatre Centre. “They really do everything that they should be doing and they do it well and quietly!”

Lighting for the main stage comes from three FOH bridges and additional circuits on the circle rail and in the perches. Overhead the lighting bars are made up of twenty four (24) Jands JLX PRO bars – these are 3.5m long sections with a dozen dimmer outlets on each and while a standard lighting rig is always in place, the JLX PRO allow for much more flexibility.

“We really like the JLX PRO bars as it’s great to have a rated round pipe set up which we can actually hang the lights off as everything is rectangular tubing in a modern theatre!” added Graham. “The JLX PRO offers us flexibility with circuiting and being only 3.5m long it means we’re not swinging a sixteen (16) metre long lighting bar around the stage.”

The theatre has 360 channels of Jands 2.5kW HPC12 dimmers and 48 channels of Jands 5kW HPD6 dimmers configured in a ‘dimmer per outlet’ setup eliminating a load patch. Graham admits that the HPC dimmers have been very popular and he describes the pure air gap contactor system as a wonderful feature.

“It allows us to make any circuit in the building a straight mains feed rather than a chopped mains feed,” he elaborated. “There’s no RF noise from them at all and the Jands back up service for them has been amazing.”

A Pathway Pathport DMX-over-Ethernet network handles DMX512 distribution, protocol conversion, merging and routing.

“Pathport allows us almost unlimited DMX flexibility within the building,” said Graham. “We can effectively control all of our performance spaces from either bio box in either space. We can send any DMX universe to any output anywhere in the building as opposed to a wired DMX system where you are limited with being able to send universes to a group of outputs.”

The lighting console chosen for the Heath Ledger Theatre was an ETC EOS 5000 which Graham thinks is a fantastic console.

“We’re still finding things that it is capable of which amaze us!” he declared. “It really is an amazing theatre console. It has a very intuitive programming set up and it’s got a very good moving light control interface which is unusual in a theatre board as usually the moving lights are an after thought. It’s just a really flexible and intuitive console.”

The profile spots in the lighting rig consist of eighty (80) 15°-30°and twenty (20) 25°-50° ETC 750W Source Fours as well as seventy (70) ETC 750W Source Four PARs.

“The ETC Source Fours were chosen partly because they are an industry standard and partly because they are energy efficient,” explained Graham. “The 750w fixtures give you pretty much the same output as other 1200w fixtures.”

Moving lights consists of a six (6) Vair*Lite VL3500Q and six (6) VLX LED wash lights with the VLX chosen not only for its energy efficiency but also because of the long life offered the LED light sources.

“They have an amazing colour mix ability which a lot of LED fixtures lack especially with pastel colours which the VLX do nicely,” said Graham. “We’ve had nothing but positive response from the designers who have used them. The VL3500Q is pretty much the theatre standard moving head profile and when you’ve got them it’s easy to see why. There really isn’t anything else there that does what they do. You get a huge light output from a 1200w short arc source. They’re incredible, quiet and the shuttering in them is phenomenal.”

The main L/R FOH speakers in the Heath Ledger Theatre are the first installation in WA of the new JBL VerTec 4886 array speakers, complete with a 4883 subwoofer on each side.

“The JBL VerTec was chosen over the system that was originally specified as is many ways it out-performed it,” commented Graham. “It was also more cost effective. It has performed better than a lot of people had expected it to in fact everyone who has heard agrees that it was a good choice. There’s been nothing but a positive response to the JBL VerTec.”

The Studio is also home to the first ever installation of Slingco’s CableNet system in Australia. CableNet is a wire grid ‘virtual floor’ that provides standing access to your lighting fixtures above. It’s like a very tight, wire-mesh trampoline constructed from 3mm wire at 70mm centres.

The whole point of CableNet is to provide a work environment for lighting riggers high over the stage that doesn’t require ladders or scissor-lifts, yet under recommended conditions, the mesh has only a negligible effect on the focus or intensity of the lights shining through it.

“The CableNet is a lighting technicians dream to be able to walk around to focus lights without having to go up ladders!” Graham said. “It saves us so much time during focusing and also set up time. It’s an incredible time saving and personnel safety device.”

Lighting fixtures in the Studio are rigged to either the handrails of the walkways or to sections of square truss spanning between them. Two (2) more lengths of square truss are suspended from four intelligent ASM chain hoists.

The dimmers here are 180 channels of the 2.5kW Jands HPC12 and the lighting console is an ETC ION1500 which Graham again describes as a really intuitive console.

Photos: Eva Fernandez

www.jands.com.au