When Radio City sent its famed Christmas show on the road this year grandMA went with it. One tour playing Providence, RI and Boston and another playing Ft. Meyers and Jacksonville, Florida and Austin, Texas have converted to grandMA for control of all their moving and conventional lights. A.C.T. Lighting is the exclusively distributor of grandMA in North America.
"The tours used to run two consoles each: one for moving lights and one for conventionals," reports programmer Paul J. Sonnleitner. "In July we converted all the current desk information into grandMA so one system would control all the lighting fixtures for each tour."
Lighting designer David Agress says that grandMA has been used on the Radio City New York Christmas Show and has "over 1,000 flawless performances" to its credit. "It's extremely reliable," he notes. "The tours are less elaborate with fewer fixtures, although they fill 20 trucks and are very theatrical. They're very committed to moving lights."
Because the lights have a lot of focus positions, grandMA's xyz positioning is very important, Agress says. "There are 13 scenes in two hours and nothing repeats, so the xyz system is essential to us. It's flawless and easy to use - it's the best out there. You can almost do the whole show with xyz; it saves us a lot of time on the road."
Since the Radio City shows feature the iconic dancing Rockettes, xyz positioning is a particularly useful tool. "The Rockettes are always in a line, and it helps us pan the lights across the girls quickly," Sonnleitner explains. "Instead of using a pan-and-tilt effect, I can use an x-y effect and the console does all the calculating for me. It's really cool; I don't have to tweak it. I just say, 'go from 30 feet stage left to 30 feet stage right' and I'm done."
He emphasizes that grandMA "basically thinks in three dimensions. With our previous desk we had to focus all the lights on four points on the stage and then have the desk calibrate it. Since grandMA is aware of three dimensions, instead of spending three hours in each city focusing all the lights on four spots, we measure all the trims on the electrics when they go out and put this info into grandMA's 3D engine and that's all the calibration that's necessary. It's so accurate - from 100 feet away I can light someone with a pinspot on his chest."
Both Agress and Sonnleitner find grandMA very user-friendly. "The electricians running the console had no experience but were able to jump right in," says Agress. "Paul created a universal interface, and the learning curve was so easy. It does effects really well and fast, and the time code on the board is fantastic - easy and accurate."
Sonnleitner adds that "we use our iPhones to access moving and conventional channels on the same console; that allows the designers to see all the lighting info at the same time."
According to Agress, the tour with the grandMAs is "going very well and exceeding expectations." Sonnleitner calls grandMA "a much cleaner and more modern system. It's upgradable, and we don't have to keep our fingers crossed that it won't crash as we have with other systems. It does everything we need."
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