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SPLITBEAM TURNS TECHNOLOGY INTO ART

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The use of clever technology for ‘I See You’ greatly enhanced the viewing experience of the play and emphasised the notion that technology can be art in itself.

The beauty of the ‘I See You’ production, a collaboration between local writer Mongiwekhaya, the Market Theatre in Johannesburg and the Royal Court Theatre in London, was its clever use of technology. It was also the debut of Mongiwekhaya.

The play is based on a real encounter of the writer and was developed by him during the Royal Court’s new writing project in South Africa, which began in 2013.

According to Helen Surgeson, Key Account Manager of Gearhouse Splitbeam, due to budget constraints, much of the equipment used for the production was older models. But this did not affect the production in any negative way.

“What really stood out for me with this production was how cleverly the technology available was used,” Surgeson said. “It is so easy to overuse technology – technology for technology’s sake – but it was used very subtly for ‘I See You’.”

Sound designer Giles Thomas made use of, what Surgeson refers to as “good old-fashioned, clever design”, with point sourced sound.

“When someone entered stage left while their cell phone rang, the sound only came through the left speaker and for the part where we had a DJ booth, the sound was coming from top centre,” she said.

Everything was clearly plotted and planned, which made the sound design very effective, including a lot of smaller speakers, specifically because of the point source design.

“I do believe that this sound design enhanced the production, that it was on a whole new level,” she said.

The sound kit included an EV Q1212 Amplifier, two EV Q99 Amplifiers, EV SX300 12'' Full-Range Loudspeakers, EV S40 Ultra Compact 5.25'' Full-Range Loudspeakers, EV S40 Ultra Compact 5.25'' Full-Range Loudspeakers and RCF ART 322A Full Range Loudspeakers.

The real gem of the production, however, was the dimmable fluorescent lights used throughout and incorporated in different, unique ways for every different scene.

‘I See You’ takes place in three main settings, namely a night club, a police interrogation room and a parking lot and the dimmable fluorescent lights, which were used in all these scenes, emphasised the deference of these spaces and their moods.

“For the night club scene, the fluorescents were subtle, allowing for more colour in general,” Surgeson said. “The police interrogation scene had the lights on fully, creating a harsh light and for the parking lot part, a few then created a bright pool of light, to create the effect of a street light.”

According to Surgeson, the dimmable fluorescent lights were originally bought for ‘Last Attitude’, a ballet commissioned by the Dance Forum, but they worked brilliantly for ‘I See You’.

Oliver Hauser, who worked on the lighting design for ‘Last Attitude’ spoke about what dimmable fluorescent lights bring to the design table.

“The idea was to create a bare environment with soft but harsh white light for the dancers, but we also needed a fixture that allowed for full control for smooth crossfades and blackouts in between scenes,” he said. “LED "fluorescent" alternatives were too pricey for this project. We needed something else that could dim without much change in colour temperature. A fluorescent lamp colour tends to stay balanced over a reasonable operating range (100% to 75%), but the spectral distribution will change slightly as the lamp is dimmed. So there is a slight colour change but not one the eye can quickly recognise.”

By using CW 4ft T8 fluorescent tubes with dimmable ballasts hung on either side of the stage Hauser was able to achieve the required effect.

The lighting kit included ETC Source 4 36Degrees, ETC Source 4 PAR NSP, ETC Source 4 PAR MFL and an ETC Ion.

According to Surgeson, it was remarkable to do so much with the budget they had for the production and that the clever use of technology available, as opposed to using the latest equipment on the market, made for an unforgettable production.

“Our Managing Director, Alistair Kilbee has a saying that new isn’t always better,” Surgeson said. “The simple appreciation for technology and use of it in clever ways, as seen with ‘I See You’ is art in itself.”

Story reprinted courtesy Pro-Systems News, Photo Splitbeam

May 26, 2016

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