Renovation is typically a word used for any adjustment or alteration to an existing theater space. What occurred at Chandler Center for the Arts in 2018, can be more attributed as the final stages of a revolution in the way that this performing arts center operates its lighting system that began 10 years previously.
I first met the team at Chandler Center for the Arts in January 2008 while the theater began a renovation of the existing dimming and motorized hoist system. During the construction of that project, I got to know the leadership team that ran the space, experience their love of Theater and Music and form a friendship that extended long outside of the construction timeline. The following years were filled with visits, small adjustments to the ETC control & dimming system over time and a constant discussion of the future phases that the previous renovation had paved the way for: a transition from the world of dimmers and incandescent lighting to an integrated network of state of the art LED fixtures.
Fast forward to winter of 2017 when a call came in from Bill Lorentz at Chandler Center for the Arts and the phrase “it is time to get this happening” was uttered to everyone's relief. The 10 years since it’s previous renovation had been hard on the theater schedule and it was pretty evident that the 300 incandescent fixtures were no longer the best solution for a venue that produced 200+ productions a year. “Turn & Burn” is a phrase that this road house exhibits day-in and out and they needed an integrated solution that was flexible and designed for their specific needs. We quickly turned immediately to the funnest part of the process: demonstration & evaluation.
After an initial discussion with the Resident Lighting Designer about what he was looking for, we made up a short list of requirements:
We wanted the best fixture for the job regardless of brand name. (No one brand fits all here!)
We wanted flexibility between all three of the venue’s spaces. (Fixtures needed to match and work with each other’s color palettes wherever deployed)
Flexibility was key to the success of this roadhouse (We needed enough fixtures to encounter every situation when possible).
So, with these requirements in mind, we began to demo many different fixtures over the next 6-8 months. We evaluated LED profiles, fresnels, pars and moving light units from ETC, Altman, Elation, Chauvet, Robe and the like. We even performed a shoot-out test between 4 different manufacturer’s LED profiles against a baseline ETC Source Four ellipsoidal to determine which fixtures would be utilized for front wash, high side breakup patterns and sidelight dance fills. At the end of this exhaustive demo process, we nailed down the list of fixtures to the following units:
Altman Spectra Cyc 200-Watt LED wash
Altman Spectra Cyc 100-Watt LED wash
Altman Chalice 50W LED Downlights – Recessed RGBW
Altman Phoenix 150W LED RGBA Profiles
Altman Phoenix 250W LED RGBA Profiles
Elation FUZE WASH Z350
Elation FUZE PAR Z175
ETC SOURCE 4WRDs
ETC S4 LED Series 2 Lustr w/shutter barrel
ETC LED Color Source Spots
ETC LED Color Source Pars
Chauvet Freedom PAR Hex-4
Chauvet Freedom PAR Charging Case
Ovation Ellipsoidal HD Lens Tube 19°
Ovation Ellipsoidal HD Lens Tube 26°
Ovation Ellipsoidal HD Lens Tube 36°
Ovation Ellipsoidal HD Lens Tube 50°
The Altman LED Cyc 200’s and 100’s were selected as the most efficient LED cyc’s we tested to cover the 30’ H x 60’ W cyc on the mainstage as well as the smaller Bogle Theater and recital hall. We did extensive shootouts between LED Profiles and determined that there wasn’t one clear all-around winner. We found that each of the profiles excelled differently which led us to design each LED fixture into an area that best utilized its strength.
The ETC S4 Lustr 2’s were utilized as front wash due to their extended color system that gave us great color control and an even wash for the main theater space. For our high side break up patterns we needed a tremendous amount of output to “cut-through” the stage wash which led us to selecting Altman’s Phoenix 250W LED Profile. For general wash applications that didn’t require critical color mixing, we deployed ETC Colorsource spots and in the recital hall where silent operation is a must, we designed Altman Phoenix 150’s because of their convention cooling system. For the remaining utility rig, we implemented ETC’s Source 4WRDs to retrofit the existing incandescent ellipsoidals to an energy efficient LED source. An assortment of Chauvet Ovation HD Lens tubes were added to the inventory as we discovered that the output of the Chauvet optics was the best of any lens tube tested in our trials.
For toplight, washlight and par specials, we knew we needed to design around the defined strength of each unit relative to the 8” Strand Fresnel lights that the space had been using the past 20 years. Bill, our resident LD, required that the toplight look like a fresnel with soft edge fall off, singular shadows and the ability to mechanically or electrically zoom. We tested a number of LED fresnels and Pars with motorized zooms and immediately fell in love with the Elation Fuze Par 120’s. The optics, color and control these single chip LED fixtures offered was exactly what the theater was searching for in a top light fixture. Unfortunately, the output of the 120 left something to be desired until Elation released the Fuze 175 unit in the fall of 2017. After a quick evaluation of a demo unit from Elation, we had our workhorse LED top light.
In the smaller recital hall and Bogle Theater, the colorsource par was selected for toplight as its output worked for the lower ceiling height and the LED color chips matched the colorsource spots used for front key/fill lighting in that space. The final specialty lighting decisions centered around the selection of recessed Altman Chalice RGBW downlights to be retrofitted into the theatrical “eyebrow” above the stage apron to create a top light color wash position where none existed while still retaining the ability to mix to white when acting as a “curtain warmer” prior to the start of a show. The Elation Fuze Z350 Wash movers were added to the overall lighting rig for added flexibility to the already flexible lighting system.
While picking the right LED fixtures was a lengthy and involved process, updating the control system of the space to handle the additional 4 universes of DMX channels was an easier task. The current console for the theater space was an ETC ION 1000 which the LD, Bill Lorentz, adored. ETC had just debuted the ION Xe earlier that year as the ION 1000’s replacement. 5 Words Media worked with the city to replace the existing console with a new ION Xe along with an additional (14) 4 Port ETC Gateways to handle the distribution of the sACN networked signal throughout all three spaces. Then, ETC R20AF modules were supplied to handle replacing the existing D20 modules in the Sensor dimming system for relay on/off control at the circuit level.
Working on the final phase of Chandler Center for the Arts lighting system has been a truly lengthy endeavor that has spanned almost a decade of planning and preparation for both myself and Bill Lorentz. Through all of the planning, demos & evaluations we envisioned the finished product as a flexible and energy energy efficient solution that helped the staff at Chandler Center raise the bar on what a “road house” theater can be. With the integrated systems across multiple brands, we have selected the best of the best from each manufacturer’s product line creating a final product that is a joy to design with. Thank you to all of the manufacturers who helped us with the design and thank you to Bill and the team at Chandler Center for your trust and partnership!
“Through all of the planning, demos & evaluations we envisioned the finished product as a flexible and energy energy efficient solution that helped the staff at Chandler Center raise the bar on what a “road house” theater can be.”
- Daniel Gourley
Owner, 5 Words Media
“Daniel and his team at 5 Words Media have provided me with bi-weekly check-ins, energy ROI calculations & the occasional last-minute fixture demos through our LED design & renovation process. He has been a great resource for me in this endeavor and I am thankful for his help.”
- Bill Lorentz
Resident Lighting Designer, Chandler Center for the Arts