Cobalt and ETCnomad bring out the human side of music with HEARTFELT

Date Posted: 11/11/2015


It is a common saying that musicians put their heart on stage with every performance. The performance group Tactile and the Sacconi String Quartet recently combined forces to create HEARTFELT, a unique and immersive musical experience to the tune of Beethoven's String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132, controlled by Cobalt® software on ETC's Gadget and ETCnomad™ controllers.

Before the show, audience members are given a small wooden 'heart' -- each with one performer's name engraved on it -- to hold during the performance. And each musician is outfitted with a heartrate monitor that delivers live data to Cobalt. "Our system uses custom Java software to grab the heartrate data over Wi-Fi and send it out as a series of master level commands to ETCnomad using UDP [User Datagram Protocol] strings." explains lighting designer Ziggy Jacobs-Wyburn. "The cues throughout the show are macro triggers that remap the individual masters to different effect playbacks." The result is that dozens of pendant lights hanging above the performance space dim, flicker, and brighten according to the live heartbeat data. This creates an incredibly humanizing and immersive experience where the audience becomes part of the performance, literally hearing and seeing the heartbeats of the performers on stage. 


In June and July 2015, HEARTFELT began its UK tour, which meant the show needed a powerful and portable lighting control solution. Jacobs-Wyburn instantly knew that ETCnomad would be the best fit. "It couldn't be any more perfect for what we're doing," she explains. "It's compact and great for touring. It's nice to just plug it in and go." Its compact and easy-to-setup nature makes ETCnomad ideal for touring shows. "The specialization of the program is key. It's completely made for this kind of application, and it shows," raves Jacobs-Wyburn. "It's especially great, because often you get to a new venue and you have no idea what kind of console they're working with." 

With such a technologically complex show that handles countless triggers and effects, ease of use and flexibility were crucial in their chosen lighting control system. ETCnomad plugs into any computer and unleashes the power of either the Cobalt or Eos®/Element™ software platforms. "It's like having two consoles in my pocket," she describes. When she's not in performance spaces, she takes ETCnomad with her and programs at home or in hotel rooms. "It's great to have everything I need with me all the time. It saves so much hassle in terms of space, time and money. It's a dream!"


Gadget connects ETCnomad directly to a network using a USB-to-DMX interface, making programming and running shows on the go easy as can be. Jacobs-Wyburn especially loved the ability to integrate with third-party software. She boasts: "It was easy running our Java software with Cobalt software on our ETCnomad. I love that I can write my own software, and it integrates perfectly within the platform itself." 

She elaborates: "Since everything runs on the same network, there have been zero communication lags. It was incredibly easy to set up and change, and really easy to do changes on the fly. I feel like Cobalt software is capable of doing anything at any moment because it's not reliant on a single cue structure. You can choose your effects, what they are, and what they're connected to and their scale at execution. It's great."


The complexity of HEARTFELT is why Jacobs-Wyburn felt that ETCnomad and Cobalt were the right match for the show. "Not having to worry about technical problems or communication issues between platforms allows me to concentrate totally on the creative element of the show," she explains. She is confident not only that she'll continue to use her current ETC equipment in the field, but that ETC will continue to innovate and provide support for every product. "I'm all about pushing the boundaries of technology, and ETC is always willing to help push those boundaries with me. They're happy to talk to you anytime, anywhere on how to make your show work. Their friendliness and support is invaluable." 

HEARTFELT: Robotics. Interactive Lighting. Beethoven. from Ana Tiquia on Vimeo .

Photo credits: © Sacconi Quartet / Rusty Squid