Philips Selecon shines a green light on Germany’s biggest theatre - ‘Eco-friendly, user-friendly and opera-friendly’

Let's get one thing clear: Nicole Berry, industry respected head of lighting at the Nationaltheater in Mannheim, Germany, knows her stuff.

Berry joined the Nationaltheater in 1992, and worked her way up the lighting ladder to become head of department in 2009. She is now in charge of a 31-strong lighting team who not only take care of the 1200-seat opera house but also the 634-seat playhouse and the smaller studio theatre.

Since taking charge Berry, along with her team of experienced technicians, has embarked on a renewal programme that will see the theatre's old lighting stock completely replaced. Much of this equipment has served the theatre very well for many years and the lighting team is keen that the next investment last just as long.

To ensure they made the right investment decision - both in terms of meeting the high standards expected from visiting international lighting designers, and buying kit that will survive the rigours of a demanding repertory programme for years to come - the team meticulously tested a number of fixtures from a number of industry respected manufacturers. They incorporated various luminaires into their working rig and, for an extended period of time, noted what they liked or disliked about each.

The lighting department had a checklist that said that the fixtures had to be robust, easy to operate, efficient and feature long lamp life, Berry stresses: "Key to our buying decision were factors such as light output, ease of use, flexibility, efficiency in terms of energy and labour, and of course safety. After testing the various fixtures, Philips Selecon luminaires were absolutely my first choice. Sales manager for Philips Entertainment, Rainer Weggen, made it easy for us to field-test the Rama Fresnels, Pacific Ellipsoidals and more recently the SPX Ellipsoidals in a real working situation. We are delighted with the outcome."

Rainer Weggen, Wolfgang Schade, Daniel Scheunemann and Robby Schumann with Philips Selecon dealer Wolfram Dosch

Last summer the department ordered its first batch of Philips Selecon fixtures. A number of Philips Selecon Rama HP175 1.2kW Fresnels and some Pacific 12°-28° 80V/1200W Zoomspots. "We arranged the Ramas in tens on each side of the gallery and the Pacifics in four groups on the left and right side FOH positions in the auditorium," explains Wolfgang Schade, deputy lighting manger for the Nationaltheater. "Both fixtures have been very reliable, easy to maintain and simple to focus. They also provide total flexibility and the modular design of the Pacific allows for a quick change from halogen to MSR-lamp! We now expect to completely replace our existing worn out stock with the Selecon range, across all our venues."

In fact so delighted were Berry and her team with their purchase of the Rama and Pacific luminaires that as soon as Philip Selecon launched its latest tungsten Ellipsoidal Zoomspot range – the SPX - they insisted Rainer Weggen returned to the theatre to demonstrate them.

"We work to a very demanding schedule," continues Schade. "Effectiveness, reliability and simplicity in all technical equipment is essential. Today we are getting so much more for our money in terms of increased light output for less energy used, reduced time in maintenance, reduced effort in focus and show set up. The upshot of this is happier lighting designers, who have more time to spend lighting a show, and happier lighting techs who can crack through a focus more effectively."

Much of this has to do with the fact that the SPX fixtures manage the power and heat brilliantly, giving longer lamp life and reducing down time in maintenance. The 'crisp' white light and the variety of variable and fixed beam angle ranges offer consistency and flexibility and the modular design means lighting techs can interchange between different beam angle (15°-35°, 25°-50° and 14°, 19°, 26°, 36° and 50°) lens tubes as required. Another important factor is that technicians have intuitive control of the Peak:Flat light distribution, which means they can quickly alter the field from smooth and flat for gobo projection to high intensity peak for stage washes.

Managing a busy repertory well relies on speedy set up and change-overs. Sometimes there's no time to focus lighting fixtures to every piece of set and lighting techs have to find alternative ways to document and record a fixture's focus. Weggen points out that this is made a great deal easier by the number of focus reference scales on the SPX.

Robby Schumann and Wolfgang Schade taking delivery of the new SPXs

Also characteristic of a busy rep is that, no matter how careful you are, fixtures can get accidentally knocked. To prevent catastrophic damage to a focus a unique integral shutter clamp system which secures all four shutters after focusing and a precise tilt lock-off reduces the frustration of 'focus slippage' from vibration or knocks. Also vital for that ubiquitous true theatre blackout, the SPX features a fully enclosed front accessory holder and gate accessory mount slot cover, to ensure no unwanted light spill.

But that's not all. The Philips Selecon fixtures deal with another equally pressing consideration for lighting departments worldwide - the imperative to reduce energy consumption in the stage areas. Schade elaborates: "By replacing our old lighting stock with Philips Selecon fixtures we have achieved an overall energy saving of at least 50% in the stage lighting area. This has been accomplished by swapping out our old 2.0kW Fresnels for the 1.2kW Rama Fresnels; by replacing the 240V 1.2kW profiles with the 80V, 1.2kW Pacifics - which incidentally give equal or better light output than traditional 220-240V 2.0/2.5kW luminaires and offer higher colour temperature - and by replacing the old 1.2kW and 2.0kW profiles with the 800W SPXs. Because the SPX and Pacific luminaries also utilise Cool Touch Technology, the fixtures stay much cooler than many other manufacturers' products. This has had a direct impact on our day to day operational costs in terms of air conditioning etc."

Weggen continues: "The SPX lamps deliver up to 63% more light than an equivalent fixture from our competitors, with up to 27% more efficiency. Selecon's Cool Touch Technology - where the plastic on the front and back stays cool – ensures the luminaires are easy for technicians to handle and reset without getting burned. This is essential for an opera house where technicians change over from a show rehearsal in the morning to a performance in the evening then back again, over night, for the rehearsal the next day."

The SPX range is also the first entertainment ellipsoidal to be double insulated, removing the need for earth testing. And, the mains power supply is automatically disconnected when removing the lamp module to change the lamp, adding a further level of safety for the end user.

And what is more – in addition to the huge enhancements the new kit will bring to the Mannheim team - there's no need for the Nationaltheater's technicians to throw away existing consumables as the theatre's previous 'third-party' ones are cross-compatible. The move to SPX lanterns has therefore been about as simple as it could be.

As Berry so rightly points out: "It's a totally carefree package deal."


Credits

Let's get one thing clear

Nicole Berry, industry respected head of lighting at the Nationaltheater in Mannheim, Germany, knows her stuff.

Berry joined the Nationaltheater in 1992, and worked her way up the lighting ladder to become head of department in 2009. She is now in charge of a 31-strong lighting team who not only take care of the 1200-seat opera house but also the 634-seat playhouse and the smaller studio theatre.

Since taking charge Berry, along with her team of experienced te


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