For over 30 years, Centre In The Square in Ontario, Canada, has showcased international, national and local performing arts and artists. As the region’s largest performing arts venue, they stage more than 180 events per year inside their state-of-the-art main stage and smaller studio performance space. At the lighting controls for both venues is Terry Hynes, Head of Lighting, and at his fingertips helping control the lighting for all the productions are Light Palette Live and Palette VL16 control consoles, plus a Rack Palette tracking backup, all from Philips Strand Lighting.
“I worked my first call at Centre In The Square in 1983 and I have been working full-time since 1985,” began Hynes. “Previously we had been using a Strand 550i console and when we received government funding to purchase a new moving light package for our main theatre, we needed to upgrade our console as well to be able to conveniently and effectively handle the control, so we installed the Light Palette Live. Being a 550i user it was fairly easy for me to transition to the Light Palette Live and while I had looked at some other boards from other manufacturers, I have always found the Strand boards to be the most user-friendly with fewer keystrokes needed to make things happen.”
In an extremely busy production house, Hynes was not only concerned about the ease of use from his new console, but he also needed to make sure the console was reliable and would be able to handle the over-sized workload.
“Another one of the key factors that drove the purchase of the Light Palette Live was that it was the most stable board that I looked at. At one time while I was looking at various consoles we had a brown-out at the theater and the Strand board just sailed right through it so that impressed me very much. In all the years I have been using Strand boards I have never had one crash on me so we have never lost a show or part of a show due to console failure. In this venue, with this production schedule, the reliability of my Strand consoles is invaluable.”
Along with the production schedule in the main stage, Hynes and his team now have the added responsibility of the smaller studio space as well. When it came time for Hynes to choose the console for this space, he decision was an easy one.
He explains, “We also have a smaller studio venue as well and when we received another round of government funding to outfit this space we installed motorized trussing, a small moving light package which included VL1100 luminaires, and then a Palette VL16 console which was an easy choice because it’s the ideal console for this type of performance venue. Besides the user-friendly Strand interface and reliability, another reason I went with the Palette VL16 was so that I could use it as a portable console or as a remote for the Light Palette Live in the larger theatre. Every year we produce a series called ‘The Onstage’ where we build a Cabaret-style smaller stage on our large stage with tables and risers to create a seating capacity of about 350 people. When we do this, it is extremely easy for me to roll our Palette VL16 in from the studio and then either use it as a stand-alone console or use it as a remote for the Light Palette Live to run the shows from the stage.”
During the full season at Centre In The Square, Hynes and his team do not have the luxury of time as it relates to turning the venues from one production to the next. So it’s during these changeovers that the Light Palette Live and Palette VL16 demonstrate even further their power and convenience.
“At Centre In The Square we do a real variety of events including everything from rock concerts, to symphony orchestras, stand-up comedy showcases, graduation ceremonies, and even corporate events,” Hynes continued. “It’s truly a different set up almost every day but the venue works very well for this because we can change from one set up to the next very quickly and we have a reliable control system in place with the Light Palette Live and Palette VL16 to handle everything we might need. Plus, with these consoles we have so many shows stored in our libraries that most of our production programming starts from the saved design of a previous show and then we edit as needed. We typically store one library per year with all the shows from that season and I don’t very often have to build shows from scratch because we can store so many libraries in the Strand consoles with backups giving us many previous productions to choose from.”
Increasingly impressed with the performance of the Light Palette Live and Palette VL16 consoles, as Hynes looked to solidify his lighting control system even further with additional layers of security, he knew he didn’t have to look very far. To bolster the tracking backup of the system at Centre In The Square, Hynes added yet another Strand console, the Rack Palette.
“In a venue this size of over 2000 seats with a very busy year-around season it just didn’t seem right for us not to have a redundant backup so we now have a third Strand console in the building, the Rack Palette. While it has currently never had to come into play, and hopefully it never will, it is there if we need it and it’s nice to have that extra layer of security.”
With all his control needs met, and as the season continues to roll on at Centre In The Square, Hynes is quick to highlight all the advantages of the Light Palette Live and Palette VL16 control consoles, specifically their power and user-friendly interfaces for all lighting technologies.
Hynes concluded, “The one thing that stands out most in my mind about the Strand consoles is that they do moving and LED light programming extremely really well. Most people today are looking for easy ways to program moving lights and LED luminaires and the Strand consoles do just that. The Strand consoles are very intuitive so I don’t necessarily have to think real hard to make things happen. I also find the Strand boards to be really fast compared to others on the market where in the programming world other consoles can’t show me anything I can’t do with my Strand boards, but with my boards I can do it faster. With our extremely busy season we don’t have a lot of time and we are always working on the fly so my boards have to be fast, powerful and user-friendly which the Light Palette Live and Palette VL16 definitely are.”
Philips Strand Lighting and Philips Selecon offer the world's most comprehensive and competitive range of luminaires, dimming equipment, control systems and software to answer the creative needs of lighting designers working in theatre, television, film, themed environments and sophisticated architectural applications. www.strandlighting.com. www.seleconlight.com