Houston Helps Busy Studio PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 02 March 2009 00:00

In 2007, TCN9 Sydney upgraded their dimming installation for Studio 2 from the dim dark days of last century to LSC Lighting’s wall mount dimming workhorse, the EKO, installing 24 racks, each of 24 channels x 20 Amps. To fit all 576 dimmer channels and their cabling and power reticulation into a room 3 metres wide x 5 metres long and 2.2 metres high is no mean feat. It brings to mind dingy holes with endless octopuses of orange cabling creeping out of the floors and ceilings, and across the walls. Neat and presentable aren’t words that come to mind when you start talking dimmer rooms. However as the pictures show, this dimmer room sets new standards for cleanliness, neatness, safety and cabling reticulation. And much of it is down to the physical design of EKO where an installation frame is installed with the cable rough in, allowing terminations of the entire load and control wiring before the electronics is brought to site. Builders, plasterers and painters don’t have to bypass the area and the quality of finish is excellent.

Recent updates have seen implementation of new developments in LSC’s Houston software for monitoring, reporting and backing up of the system. As with most dimmer rooms, the one in TCN9s Studio 2 is out of the way. With staff in the control room 100 metres away and other staff busy on the Studio Floor, the delays experienced when something “appears abnormal” amongst the 576 dimmer channels in the lighting rig can bring the entire Studio to an expensive halt. And some of the output from Studio 2 is “Live to Air” so solutions that provide the information NOW are sought out. Houston does this by providing a live display for each dimmer of channel status and their patches, IP addresses, alarm status, phase status, DMX signal status, control configuration, their up time (time operational since last reset), temperature and fan speed.

The latest version of Houston was enhanced specifically to answer requests from Andrew Veitch, Lighting Director for TCN 9 Sydney and these innovations are now incorporated into the standard release of Houston.  These developments allow recording of each channel’s DMX Patch, maximum and minimum dimmer levels, fade curve, Non-Dim or 110v output selections. These are downloaded into the monitoring PC in the Studio Control room and archived.

The Studio produces many of their shows on a cyclical basis, where some shows return on regular, but varied intervals. The Footy Show goes live to air weekly during the NRL season, whereas Funniest Home Videos returns to put 13 episodes in the can every ten weeks but overall there is a pattern where shows revisit the Studio regularly.

As the sets for each show are rolled back into the Studio, the Houston configuration files are downloaded back into the dimmers and the patching and non-dim allocations in the Studio go straight back to their previous state, saving hours of expensive Studio time reconfiguring the rig.

These special new features of Houston are likely to suit regional and community theatres where there is often a requirement for the technical installation to be returned to a Square One rig (a standard configuration) to allow the house staff to quickly address the needs of venue hirers who need only minimal production, without the need for an additional crew call.
Houston doesn’t rehang the lights for you (yet!) but it does do the patch and reconfigure the settings of each dimmer channel.

Sounds like there IS time for another coffee…. Mines white and two.



The Houston display as seen on the local monitor in the control room.



Part of the EKO Installation at TCN 9 in Sydney Australia





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