A theater needs chameleons

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Oddly enough, a theater does not need luminaires, but chameleons. Have I completely lost my mind? I don’t  think I have yet, but I’ll leave that for you to decide. But before you jump to conclusions, please allow me a few paragraphs to explain, ok?

If you love theater and opera, you probably love the colors, textures and hues. If you like dance or any other scenic discipline, I’m sure you must have fallen in love with those subtle atmospheres that envelope the performers, with the little details enriching every dramatic staging, with the sublime backgrounds flavored by all the artisans behind the designs, setups and masterpieces. I know, because I also fell in love with their work behind the scenes. I learned the importance of side lights and I copied their techniques to cut and diffuse the beams, and I got used to cycloramas as a way of life. There are so many things to enjoy inside a theater that time simply flies by, and when you leave the venue, it is like waking up from a beautiful dream. Fortunately, you can come back to it the next day.

But everything changed when LED appeared. While our rock ’n’ roll colleagues welcomed the new prevailing technology, the old-school artisans from theaters preferred to keep using tungsten. They had their reasons. There was never any doubt that LED luminaires are the future due to their low energy consumptions and the elimination of color gels, but the theatrical crews were not prepared to abandon conventional lights – after spending years studying conventional color mixing techniques. At the time, I myself also thought that any light without filament and filter simply would not be good enough for my shows. Although LED lights had proved themselves worthy, none of them seemed very good when it came to colors: “Too LED for my taste”, we used to say.

We already felt let down by discharge-lamps. They needed so much ventilation that using them on stage often killed performers’ voices. And the horrible colors! How could we accept those in our cycloramas? It was impossible to create an even effect, and colors changed with the lifetime of the bulb. Clearly unacceptable, considering what you could find elsewhere with Plano-Convex projectors and a bunch of profiles with blades or lifelong Fresnels.

However, we were going nowhere thinking that way. Who are we, the guys from theater, but chameleons? We have always been those dudes who were able to transform any space – even without resources. We had created, after more than one century of trial-and-error, the magic of color the audience identified with feelings, memories, hope. We merged with colors, like chameleons. Colors became a part of us. We wanted to continue to illuminate the way we always had been doing, but then we realized how absurd it was to keep drawing tons of cable to keep using those giant dimmers – not to mention dealing with constant maintenance and cleaning the fixtures. The theater managers got tired of us and they didn’t want to pay for filters anymore – even if the old ones were burnt. And when we needed lamps, theater managers looked as if we had asked for gold.

Yes, we were chameleons, and we demanded the same from our luminaires. We wanted our lights to achieve those night blues of a 183 (“Moonlight blue”), the dramatic reds of a 27 (“Medium red”) or those warm pastels that you can only get from a 147 (“Apricot”) at half dimmer. And when we started to see RGBW LED fixtures like P-5 in our stages, we had no choice but to applaud them: P-5 colors are truly excellent. We cannot only emulate those old-style filtered moods, but also new colors have been added to our palette. Those swampy turquoises, for instance. For the very first time, we can cover the whole stage in deep metallic blues with just a few lights. A P-5 does not need an external dimmer, but changes the color with the same smoothness. If we don’t like the curve, we can modify it. And it does not want you to change your illumination style when illuminating. If you want to cut the beam, you have barndoors, and if you want to add some diffusion, you can use its frame. Since the P-5 comes with a plate, you don’t need an extra stand to place it on the floor. You can plug in four P-5 units where you used to plug in just one 2K. And what about the cyc? Well, you have the Q-7 for that. Pure magic in short distances, maximum aperture, even RGBW mixing and wireless DMX. In addition, both P-5 and Q-7 use the same size for filters and the same barndoors with different accessories. And best of all, you don’t need to clean them  – ever.

So suddenly you realize that devices like P-5 and Q-7 are chameleons – LED chameleons. And that is precisely what a theater needs; new chameleons adapting themselves to our beloved traditional profession.

Q 7 Rig

Copyright Production Resource Group AG www.prg.com de, Photographer: Detlev Klockow (PRG)

SGM Light A/S · Sommervej 23 · 8210 Aarhus V · Denmark · Phone: +45 70 20 74 00 · E·mail: info@sgmlight.com