Knight Concert Hall Upgrade Propels SolaFrame Theatre Creation

Date Posted: 11/3/2021

Set in downtown Miami, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts renovated their lighting system in Knight Concert Hall with a wide assortment of High End Systems lighting fixtures, including 81 SolaFrame Theatre, 16 SolaFrame 3000s, eight QUADs and eight TurboRays from SEAL-FLA. The journey started with the need to upgrade the concert hall’s automated incandescent fixtures with a modern LED solution, but ultimately led to the development of SolaFrame Theatre, High End Systems’ first silent LED fixture.

Key members of the Knight renovation team included Curtis V. Hodge (former Arsht Director of Production), Knight Concert Hall Head Electrician/Lighting Designer Tony Tur, and SEAL’s Steve Welsh. Also heavily involved in this project were Fred Schwendel (Arsht KCH Head Carpenter/Steward), Michael Matthews (Arsht ZBOH Head Electrician), Quankiqua Bryant (former Arsht CST Head Electrician), Herman Montero (former Arsht Production Manager), Peter Nolle (Arsht Technical Director) and multiple IATSE stagehand.

SEAL’s Steve Welsh comments, “The previous lighting units were incandescent fixtures, and had been in use since the theatre opened in 2006. However, since day one, using those lights was a struggle because they had no shutters, irises, or zoom features. After 15 years, they were viewed as barebone lights, and most touring stagehands found them difficult to work with. They were struggling to make basic effects happen without the resources most present day moving lights would have.”

Tony Tur points out, “It was a deficit from the beginning and people were searching for future replacements as the years went on. While these units usually had a lifespan of eight years, our units lasted well over that. This was because we never moved the lights, so they sat stationary on our canopies and house boxes. These units were very well taken care of and were fanless fixtures that allowed use on non-amplified shows like symphonies. 

Although the venue is named the Knight Concert Hall, it has grown to host much more than just concerts and symphonies. Knight has hosted dance shows, gospel and hip-hop concerts, weddings, political debates, and more. Peter Nolle says, “Our hall is now being viewed by visiting acts as a multifunctional space with unlimited possibilities. Our automated lighting Rep plot plays a major part in this variety and flexibility. Having this plot allows for us to load in, run through technical rehearsals and performances all on the same day. The new lighting units are hung from three acoustical canopies and at two front of house box positions. There are no linesets or other rigging capabilities in this space.”

The process took years of conversation, re-designs, and demos to finally reach fruition. One of our former Technical Directors, Herman Montero, met with High End Systems’ Bobby Hale, about the struggles of finding a replacement fanless automated lighting fixture. This conversation led to a formal design process for the SolaFrame Theatre.”

Tur helped design and install the systems throughout the entire campus upon construction. He’s worked as a designer, stagehand, vendor, and more for the Arsht, and therefore was very involved in the facility’s growth and push for upgrades, and could help establish a coherent plan for what was required. He comments, “Since day one we knew we’d need to uninstall these lights to replace them in a few years! Every year it was just waiting to see when it would finally happen, and when the budget and timeline would be approved. It was hard finding the right amount of time where the space was completely dark with no events or shows, so we could do this install properly.”

Welsh says the Knight Concert Hall has expanded far beyond the initial intention the Arsht had for the space. “It’s not just copy-and-paste concerts or orchestras anymore. Because of that increase in events and the type of events that were being hosted, the Arsht needed to expand their capabilities.

Tur adds, “You can’t load in and out of the building in a traditional sense, due to the lack of a rigging system. Completely upgrading the lights seemed the best and most direct route to go in order to make the best out of future events.”

High End Systems collaborated with the Arsht Center over multiple years to create these fixtures, due to their specific needs in the Concert Hall. Welsh elaborates, “Miami Stagecraft worked with Tur to help development of this new High End product. Stagecraft helped to install the original VL1000s when the building first opened and has continued to work with the Center on new upgrades, like the new ETC Paradigm system installed this summer in the Concert Hall and the Center’s other two main venues, the Ziff Ballet Opera House and Carnival Studio Theater. Stagecraft is now a part of the company Seal/ProSound, a Solotech company, and we have been involved in the building from the start.”

Tur says, “The SolaFrame Theatre was created with noise cancellation in mind, designed to not disrupt the listening experience for symphonic and non-amplified performances. But we still needed high capabilities for amplified concerts and dance shows. The SolaFrames seemed to be the best balance of quiet and power. They checked all the boxes and were worth the cost.”

Peter Nolle points out that they do not allow road shows to change their repertory plot. “In order for us to tell a national headlining artist they have to leave their lighting on the truck, we needed to have the state-of-the-art lighting fixtures with all the latest features and technology. These lights are hung a under a sound resonating surface. Can you imagine the sound generated by 100 plus automated fixtures with multiple fans each under this acoustical canopy? The sound would be deafening to symphony orchestra.” 

The Arsht Center is also heavily invested in ETC gear; between their major venues they have an inventory of 890 ETC lighting fixtures.  They also purchased new ETC Gio lighting consoles, and Ion Console plus accessories this summer. With the dark time created by Covid they were able to fast track a few capital projects.