About eighteen months ago Gearhouse South Africa’s Ofer Lapid (Founder and Joint Managing Director) and Tim Dunn (Design and Concept) accompanied Bruce Schwartz (Entertainment Lighting Manager of Electrosonic SA) on a trip to Arhus, Denmark. 

Arhus is Denmark’s second biggest city and home to 1.25 million people; it’s also home to one of the world’s top automated lighting and control manufacturers - Martin Professional. Their mission was to check out Martin’s new range of automated fixtures. After eight years of faithful service Gearhouse SA’s ever-reliable Martin MAC 2000s were starting to take strain. 

The intrepid three were fortified against the Scandinavian winter chill with plenty of tasty food, and good wine. But merrymaking was not the main purpose of the trip: there was serious work to be done. Peter Skytte and Peter Dahlin from Martin Professional treated Ofer, Tim and Bruce to a sneak preview of the Viper series. Back then there were only two early prototypes – and these units were still some way from completion; the two Peters had to be careful not to damage the fragile mockup on the bench. The preview was a success, and Ofer and Tim were delighted that they’d found a worthy replacement for their treasured ‘2ks’. 

The only problem for Ofer and Tim was that they would have to wait out the field tests, and the spec’ing of the units on international riders before the Vipers could go into commercial production. So they used the trip as an opportunity to get a bit of TLC for the 2ks. A spreadsheet was compiled in which each and every MAC 2k in Gearhouse’s inventory was recorded and the necessary spares applied. The Danes also helped out by hastily assembling some emergency spare parts. 

By the time January 2013 rolled around, Gearhouse’s Durban branch was in dire need of larger format fixtures. Ofer, and Dbn Branch Manager Ashley Singh, took this as an opportunity to trial run the Vipers in sunny South Africa – and so they invested in twelve Martin MAC Viper Profiles and some Martin M-Series Desks. Like its venomous namesake, the Vipers showed that they are as comfortable in Africa as they are in other parts of the world. Many South African LDs (Lighting Designers) got the chance to work with the Vipers, and they were mightily impressed. The comments followed a familiar theme: “Vipers are a winner”. LDs consistently praised them; using terms like: ‘bright’, ‘compact’, ‘versatile’, ‘amazingly simple workhorses’. 

In March 2013 the range of Viper Fixtures was up to 6 variations (Profile, Wash, Wash with Internal Barndoors, Air FX, Air FX with Quadray) and it was clear that Martin Vipers were establishing themselves on many international riders. The Prolight + Sound International Trade Fair in Frankfurt in April 2013 proved a good time for the South Africans to lock down some deals with Martin Professional. The audio and infotainment group, Harman, had acquired Martin Professional in late 2012. But this was no obstacle to some fruitful negotiations a few months later, where Electrosonic SA and Gearhouse SA (represented by joint Managing Directors, Ofer Lapid and Nasser Abbas) met with the Martin team. A deal was struck, and the Vipers started to make their way to South Africa. 

Gearhouse SA now has 72 Viper Profiles in its inventory with plans for more units. Gearhouse are currently the sole member in Africa of the growing MGAP (Martin Global Alliance Partner). This partnership has many benefits for both members and non-members who are looking for a trusted, accredited and up-to-date rental house to supply fixtures and staff on world tours. By networking with other MGAP members, Gearhouse is in a unique position to leverage knowledge and also share its vast knowledge gained over the years, the company says.

The new Gearhouse Vipers barely touched the ground before they were checked and deployed on their first job, The Bidvest Annual Chairman’s Awards at the Sandton Convention Centre.

Story reprinted from Lighting and Sound International. Photo Electrosonic

Sep 10, 2013

The Gearhouse Group of Companies