Wellington‘s Michael Fowler Centre (MFC) is a world-renowned concert hall known for its architecture and superb acoustics. Since its opening in 1984, it has hosted a wide range of events, including classical concerts, rock concerts, conferences, live television broadcasts, and university graduations.
The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) took up residence in 2000 and utilise the 2200 seat MFC as their main rehearsal and performance venue throughout the year. Since its opening, the main performance spaces have utilised tungsten technology as their primary light source.
In 2019, Wellington City Council, the building’s owners, approached preferred technical supplier NW Group to source a lighting solution for heat and light related issues experienced on stage by performers. After trialling several different LED fixtures, 16 Chauvet Ovation F-265WW LED Fresnels were chosen and fitted to the circular acoustic reflector which sits over the stage at 9 metres, replacing 30 tungsten 575w fixtures. The F-265WW are addressed individually and set to two channel intensity/zoom mode reducing the need for height access equipment. This was the first step to upgrading the lights within the venue.
In early 2020, a further 24 F-265WW were purchased, replacing the existing tungsten fixtures located around the perimeter of the auditorium to provide an even wash of performance light. Since replacing the tungsten with Chauvet LED, there has been a significant reduction in generated heat and energy consumption. The ability to run the F-265WW in silent fan mode means these units are perfectly suited for use while orchestral recordings are being made.
As part of the 2021 upgrade program for the venue, the Renouf house lights were to be replaced in their entirety, with a partial replacement within the main auditorium. Both these hireable areas utilised traditional Par 38 fixtures. With the Par 38 fixtures in the auditorium (approx 300) running up to 12 hours a day during a hire, this caused both significant energy consumption and increased maintenance activity due to regular bulb failures and ageing fittings.
Lighting Designer John Adams, who had overseen the installation and operation of the F-265WW in 2019, was approached by Wellington City Council to look at a replacement option for the Par38 fixtures located within the Renouf Foyer and in the main auditorium, specifically the pendant lights located between the timber acoustic sails. Adams, having been impressed and very happy with the operation and performance of the F-265WW, opted to continue with the Chauvet brand.
In 2021, a lighting design was developed to integrate the Chauvet Ovation H-55WW and Chauvet Ovation H-55FC into the existing house light system. Electrical contractor Thompson Electrical Services and New Zealand Chauvet agents MDR Sound and Lighting working together, successfully won the tender contract. 140 Chauvet Ovation H-55WW were ordered for the auditorium and 88 Chauvet Ovation H-55FC were ordered for the Renouf foyer. The control gear was replaced in both of these areas.
In December 2021, the Michael Fowler Centre closed for remedial works including the house light upgrade, re-opening to clients in mid-February 2022. During this time, Brendan Thompson and his team from Thompson Electrical worked for three weeks in a full body harnesses removing the original fittings from the acoustic sails and preinstalling the DMX cable runs. At the same time, Adrian Dittmer from MDR worked with his crew preconfiguring DMX addresses and fitting the specified correct beam angle lenses in preparation to be delivered to the venue.
The H-55FC were installed first, with the Renouf foyer being the easier space to work in. The compact and fanless H-55FCs easily slotted into the space previously occupied by the Par38s.
Each H-55FC fixture is individually DMX addressed and set to 10 channel mode, allowing direct access to the colour temperature pallet and the finer 16-bit intensity dimming feature. Having five base colours spread across 88 units has opened a whole new range of possibilities for creating different room effects for clients and guests.
In the auditorium, Thompsons worked through installing and connecting the H-55WW units. One of the key requirements of the new technology was the look of the fixture, remaining as consistent as possible from the old to the new. This has been well and truly achieved.
Due to the different heights of the sail sections, there has been wide use of the available lens beam angle options resulting in seamless coverage over the seating areas.
Once the new units were up and running and integrated into the overall system, they were set at 30% to match the remaining units, ensuring even light throughout the auditorium when audiences are in the house.
Other Chauvet products including Net X-II and RDM Splitter 8 DMX splitters were included within the install, being easily integrated into the existing house Pathport network. Having RDM onboard in each product made remote access to set adjustments or check run time hours in each fixture possible. Both Thompsons Electrical and MDR have achieved a much better outcome than expected and delivered exactly what Wellington City Council were aiming for. The result is befitting one of the top concert halls in New Zealand.
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