Sunnyvale technician Gerald Spotts shows off the ETC iRFR app during Sunnyvale Theatre's open house
USA - Not every theatre can go all LED, but Sunnyvale Theatre in California has made the bold choice to do so. Thanks to a lot of careful research, the right conditions and the advanced features of ETC's LED luminaires, the theatre's new LED-only lighting system has been a major success.

The venue's previous lighting system was installed in 1992, but after 20 years of service, the theatre had trouble with its control desk, transformers needed replacement, and the power supply in its 140 dimmers no longer worked and couldn't be serviced. Staff began looking at new solutions, and considered three different systems: conventional (tungsten) only; hybrid (both tungsten and LEDs); or all-LED.

They worked with ETC dealer Musson Theatrical, got support from ETC representative Wunder Lighting and Controls, did cost analyses, tried out a lot of different equipment and assessed the needs of their theatre, in order to weigh the three systems against each other. They took the first step toward a new system by purchasing an ETC Ion® lighting control desk, knowing it could handle any fixtures they chose.

After being impressed by a Source Four LED demonstration run by Musson, Sunnyvale Theatre technical coordinator Bill Rupel convinced the city's management and purchasing office to release extra funds to buy five Source Four LED units so his staff could experiment with them in typical production situations. "We worked them hard," describes Rupel. "We used them as specials, for colour and black and white patterns, and we were popping lenses in them." The staff had them set up side by side with conventional fixtures and saw that the ETC LED luminaires could be used all over the stage and in any position.

"We wanted to show the theatre staff that this technology was going to be bright enough and versatile enough," says Dinna Myers, Musson's director of sales and marketing, "and that it had the kind of longevity they needed for this kind of investment."

In the end, the staff at Sunnyvale decided that the LED system was a viable option for their lighting upgrade, choosing to install Source Four LEDs and Selador Desire D60 Lustr+ luminaires for front of house and on stage lighting, and 40 Selador Classic LED battens to illuminate the cyclorama from above and below. They also added ETC Sensor3 power control racks with ThruPower, which have both dimmer modules and relay modules. That way, if a visiting lighting designer wanted to use the conventional Source Four fixtures that the theatre keeps in stock, they could power both the tungsten and LED luminaires.

The previous connectors across the building were swapped for Edison connectors, to ensure that the fixtures would be plugged into the right circuits. Says Rupel,"The benefits have far outweighed any downside. With this system, the possibilities are huge."

The theatre's staff were so pleased with how the ETC luminaires have performed, that they held an open house to show them off. The presentation included sample performances of the types of shows that the theatre hosts - a dance performance, a singer, a scene from a play, and a rock n' roll band - in order to demonstrate the luminaires' vast capabilities. After the show, the rig was lowered and guests were invited to go on stage and see the luminaires up close. They were even allowed to control the lighting themselves, using the ETC iRFR app on an iPad.

"We used the installation to show the local entertainment technology community what they can do with ETC LEDs," says Myers. "ETC LED fixtures really can dim like the traditional theatrical sources we're used to. Designers will be satisfied with the colour shift, they won't sacrifice intensity, and their lights are not going to flicker. This technology works in this application, and it's time to embrace it."

(Jim Evans)

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