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Theater Bamberg updates its lighting system with ETC

Musical Wizard of Oz

Founded in 1802, the E.T.A. Hoffmann Theater in Bamberg, Germany, recently underwent a large-scale modernisation of its stage lighting system – its first major refurbishment for 15 years. The project was made possible with the aid of EU subsidies; funding from national, regional local government agencies; and support from Stadtwerke Bamberg. The new state-of-the-art lighting solution incorporates Source Four® Series 2 LED fixtures, multiple lighting control consoles and network technology from ETC, to provide an energy-efficient and future-proof system for the venue’s four performance stages.

The possibility of renewing the theatre’s lighting technology came to the fore in 2014. “We had the opportunity to tender for funding from the EU, and central, state and regional government organisations and agencies, to convert almost all of the theatre’s lighting to energy saving, modern LED technology,” explains Matthias Schäflein, lighting designer at the ETA Hoffmann Theater Bamberg. "The subsidies covered around 75 percent of the investment sum. It should be possible to recoup the remaining 25 percent through power savings over the next seven years.”

The lighting solution was specified by Josef Resch from Thomann Audio Professionell, together with Volker Nitschke, head of lighting at the E.T.A. Hoffmann Theater Bamberg. Nitschke and his team were impressed by the light intensity of the ETC fixtures during a visit to the Prolight+Sound tradeshow in Frankfurt last year. Their positive first impressions were reinforced by a subsequent comparison test at the theatre, resulting in the purchase and installation of a total of 171 ETC Source Four LED Series 2 fixtures across four stages. The luminaires include a combination of Source Four LED Series 2 Tungsten HD and Lustr® arrays, with Zoom, Fresnel and CYC adapters, split across the main house (402 seats), the studio (about 100 seats), the vault (about 50 seats) and the open-air stage in the old courtyard (600 seats).

Musical Wizard of Oz

"A Source Four Tungsten HD replaces a 2 kW halogen profile with no problems; and the Lustr offers very good colour saturation and mixing, with high light intensity – especially in dark colours,” says Schäflein. “Another plus is the fact that all of the lights are colour-calibrated, meaning there are no colour differences between the fixtures, and no variance in colour temperature can be seen in a direct comparison with a conventional spotlight.”

Another attribute that attracted the venue to the Source Four LED fixtures is their dimming ability. "Not only do they have absolutely clean dimming behaviour from 0 to 100 percent, they can imitate both a blackout and the usual afterglow of a halogen light. This makes it possible to combine LED and halogen lamps without problems," says Schäflein. This feature is particularly beneficial for the studio stage, where only every second luminaire has been replaced by an LED model.

For the control of the lighting system, the theatre opted for the Eos® family of consoles from ETC. Both the main house and the studio are each equipped with a Gio® together with an Ion for backup. One Element console for the vault, and another for the Calderón Festspiele Bamberg in the open-air theatre, completes the new console setup. The price/performance ratio and ease of use were among the reasons Gio was chosen for the primary consoles.

"Our board operators were able to use the desks in no time, even without training – they simply 'fell in love' with the consoles. With the Gio, both the programming of a theatre production and live operation is very easy,” says Schäflein. For example, the two touchscreen monitors enable quick selection of the fixtures, individually or as a group, it is also possible to store presets and pallets, and create Magic Sheets. “The Magic Sheet function allows individual design of the user interface, so that each operator can adjust their desk to work quickly and effectively,” says Michael Rübig, from the venue’s lighting team.

Musical Wizard of Oz

Lighting director Markus Göppner adds: "The Source Four LED fixtures require seven DMX channels per luminaire. In order to efficiently control new LED fixtures like this, a structured lighting network is very important. With a classic DMX cabling, as we had in our theatre before, we quickly reached our limits. For example, in the main house, two DMX lines, i.e. 1024 parameters, were possible. Of this, our dimmer system alone required 450, and so the number of usable DMX circuits was very limited."

Following the necessary retrofitting to new Ethernet technology, the venue now has "almost infinite possibilities" to distribute DMX wherever needed. Using 25 Ethernet DMX Gateways for distribution, the various venues and individual devices can be controlled centrally. The result is increased efficiency. “Gateways and lighting fixtures can be easily configured over the network utilising ETCs Concert software. This is helpful as it can often be difficult to access the fixtures in a rig because once the stage is set up they cannot always be lowered to floor level," says one of the venue’s experienced lighting professionals.

The lighting team at the Bamberg theatre concludes: "Although the conversion took place quite recently, we have only had positive experiences so far. Electricity consumption has been significantly reduced. Already, the directors and stage designers are making use of the advantages of the new fixtures, like the fast and clean colour changes. Such features were especially important for our recent fairy tale production, where they were put to full use."

Photos © Theater Bamberg, Martin Kaufhold.