‘The low latency of the Macula system impressed’
UK - Chichester Festival Theatre has recently upgraded its follow-spot solution with a pair of new Macula remote follow-spot systems, combined with a pair of Martin MAC Ultras, all supplied by White Light (WL).
Macula is a brand-agnostic system in terms of the moving heads it can control, with a combination of software and hardware delivering class-leading user-experience It is the brainchild of Danish production company, Lite Com, and was initially a system built for their in-house use only. However, its features and capabilities meant it was soon being deployed on numerous productions and shows – including the 2016 Eurovision – after which, it continued to be further developed and refined. It now finds itself being utilised at yet another performance venue - Chichester Festival Theatre.
Graham Taylor, head of lighting at Chichester Festival Theatre, explains the background to the upgrade: “We found ourselves in a position where we were unable to put the follow spotters in the roof of our 300-seat studio, the Minerva Theatre, due to access limitations and health and safety. We needed to find a solution to still have follow spots in the theatre that removed the need to have operators working at height in confined positions. We produce a couple of musicals a year in the Minerva and have hires and events over the winter that often needs follow spot provision.”
In conducting their search, Taylor knew human input remained crucial to the solution. “At no point were we looking to remove the role of the follow spot operator.” he said. “The system also needed to be turn on and go - when we have one off events and hires we don’t have the time or resource to programme in automated following systems. We needed a system that an operator can simply turn on and respond on-the-fly to the choreography of the performers.”
The Chichester team visited PLASA Focus Leeds in May to look at a few systems side-by-side and it was here that the Macula system “immediately impressed”. An on-site demo was organised jointly with WL and UK distributor Sound Technology so the venue could see first-hand how it would work with the real throw distances in the Minerva Theatre.
“We liked how intuitive it felt to use and the fact it is possible to use it with different moving lights which give us wider options should a lighting designer in the future want to use something specific.” continued Taylor. “It’s important to us that lighting designers have the best tools to do their jobs- so the fact that the Macular system allows that was really valuable.”
The low latency of the Macula system also impressed. “We have previously looked at some other competitors systems-and we were also impressed at Macula’s very, very low latency. We are a small venue where throws are short, and therefore we need a swift response to movement- and the Macula system really shone in this respect.”
Macula allows dual control via a lighting console, and with Chichester running through an ETC network, they have the ability to choose colour and set dimmer levels through the Gio. “This has been very valuable on the first show we are using it on, Rock Follies.” explained Taylor. “LD Paule Constable was able to totally amalgamate the Macula system into their design with colour and intensity matching, whilst still retaining operator control as required.”
Laura Hackett, one of the operators on the show, praised the easy navigation and simple controls, describing the system as in many ways easier to control than a regular follow spot. “Also, the blackout button paired with being able to see during a blackout [thanks to Macula’s Infra-Red Mode] is a godsend!” she enthused.
The additional benefit of the remote solution allowing greater accessibility, Taylor describes as a key win. “CFT is committed to making theatre accessible to everyone, so one of the key benefits of this new system is its now viable for someone who isn’t fully able bodied to followspot a show.” he said. “We also have regular hires of the venue in winter months by youth groups, schools and colleges, and we always want to try and get young people engaged with shows behind the scenes as well as on stage. The fact the system is at ground level in an entirely safe environment means we can now offer young people the opportunity to follow spot their shows which is fantastic.”
In terms of the choice of moving head itself, the Martin MAC Ultra became an obvious choice. “We already have a rig of MAC Encores so wanted a similar and brighter unit to match but also cut through the rest of the rig; which meant the Ultra was the sensible choice to integrate into our moving light eco system. It’s also incredibly bright and quiet which is crucial to us in an exposed grid.”

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