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Over 260 Chauvet Professional Fixtures Create Eco Friendly Lighting Upgrade at The Michael Fowler Centre
New Zealand – At their best, cultural institutions do more than provide an engaging setting where people can enjoy the performing arts. They also serve as reassuring landmarks, standing out from their surroundings to remind all who gaze upon them of a community’s shared ideals and values.
The winner of multiple architectural awards, The Michael Fowler Centre is in keeping with this tradition. Helping to define the Wellington skyline with its three-level glass façade and towering concrete columns, which are often adorned in colourful light, the almost-four-decade-old building embodies the city’s commitment to culture.
Recently, the 2,200-capacity venue, which is the home of the New Zealand Symphony and Orchestra Wellington, reflected another core value of its home town: a commitment to protecting the environment, when it received a lighting upgrade that replaced tungsten fixtures with a collection of 268 Chauvet Professional Ovation LED units supplied by MDR Sound & Lighting.
The three-year process began in 2019, when the Wellington City Council, the building’s owner, approached preferred technical supplier NW Group to source a lighting solution for the heat and light related issues experienced on stage by performers. After evaluating different LED options,16 Ovation F-265WW LED Fresnels were chosen and fitted to the circular acoustic reflector which sits over the stage at nine-metres.
Replacing the 30 tungsten 575W fixtures that had been in the reflector, the F-265WW were addressed individually and set to two-channel intensity/zoom mode, reducing the need for height access equipment.
The installation of the F-265WW fixtures were only the first step in upgrading the lighting rig within the venue. In early 2020, the venue purchased 24 additional F-265WW fixtures and had them replace the existing tungsten units located around the perimeter of the auditorium at height to provide an even wash of performance light.
Replacing the tungsten units with the LED Fresnel fixtures significantly reduced heat generation and energy consumption. The ability to run the F-265WW in silent fan mode, made it well-suited for performances such as orchestral recordings sessions when a silent setting is required.
The next step in the upgrade programme called for PAR 38 lighting fixtures be replaced in the venue’s Renouf Foyer, a spacious multi-use space with floor-to-ceiling window on the ground floor level. House lights in the foyer were to be replaced in their entirety, whilst a partial replacement was scheduled for the main auditorium. (With the roughly 300 PAR 38 fixtures in the auditorium running up to 12 hours a day during a hire, the energy consumption was high, as was maintenance activity, as bulbs needed frequent replacement.)
Lighting designer John Adams, who had overseen the installation and operation of the F-265WW in 2019, was approached by Wellington City Council to look at a replacement option for the PAR 38 fixtures located within the Renouf Foyer and in the main auditorium, specifically the pendant lights located between the venue’s iconic timber acoustic sails.
Adams, having been impressed with the operation and performance of the F-265WW, opted to continue with the Chauvet Professional. A lighting design was thus developed integrating the Ovation H-55WW and Ovation H-55FC into the existing house light system.
Electrical contractor, Thompson Electrical Services and New Zealand Chauvet agents MDR Sound and Lighting working together, successfully won the tender contract. This resulted in 140 Ovation H-55WW being specified for the auditorium and 88 Ovation H-55FC units for the Renouf foyer. The control gear was replaced in both of these areas.
In December 2021, the Michael Fowler Centre closed for remedial works including the house light upgrade re-opening to clients in mid-February 2022 During this time, Brendan Thompson with his team from Thompson Electrical, worked for three weeks in a full body harness removing the original fittings from the acoustic sails and pre-installing the DMX cable runs. At the same time, Adrian Dittmer from MDR worked with his crew preconfiguring DMX addresses and fitting the specified correct beam angle lenses in preparation to be delivered to the venue.
The H-55FC were installed first, with the Renouf foyer being the easier space to work in, the fixture being small, compact and fan-less easily slotted into the space previously occupied by the PAR 38s.
Each H-55FC fixture is individually DMX addressed and set to 10 channel mode, this mode allowing direct access to the colour temperature pallet and the finer 16-bit intensity dimming feature. Having five base colours spread across 88 units has opened a whole new range of possibilities for creating different room effects for clients and guests alike.
In the auditorium, Thompsons worked through installing and connecting the H-55WW units.
One of the key requirements of the new technology was the look of the fixture, having to remain as consistent as possible between the old and the new, a goal that has been realised.
Due to the different heights of the sail sections, there has been wide use of the available lens beam angle options resulting in good seamless coverage over the seating areas.
Once the new units were up and running and integrated into the overall system, they were set at 30% to match the remaining units when audiences are in the house and provide even light throughout the auditorium.
Other Chauvet products, being Net X-II and RDM Splitter eight DMX splitters were included within the install, being easily integrated into the existing house Pathport network. The additional feature of having RDM onboard in each product, made remote access to set adjustments or check run time hours in each fixture possible.
Overall, both Thompsons Electrical and MDR have achieved a much, much better outcome than expected and delivered exactly what Wellington City Council were aiming for. The result is on point, befitting to one of the top concert halls across New Zealand.
31st March 2022
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