7 Jul 2021

MECC Invests in Robe FORTEs

(L to R – Dan Grace, Mark Blake and Allyssa Tonks)

Head of lighting Dan Grace and his team are delighted to be amongst the first in Australia to have Robe’s new high power FORTE LED luminaires in the house, with a purchase of twelve of the fixtures plus twelve new Robe Spiider LED wash beams, with more of both types of moving light to follow once the season ramps up again!

The decision to buy FORTEs was underlined by MECC’s previous experiences with Robe, with nearly 100 fixtures already, including 30 DL7s, a mix of profiles and fresnels, which directly replaced 36 hot and power-hungry 2K fresnels in the main theatre in 2019.


The last batch of these DL7s arrived together with three RoboSpot systems and BMFL FollowSpots, a move that was driven by MECC’s head of AV, Mark Blake.

Mark and Dan are part of an MECC technical team of 18. They were both instrumental in persuading the local government officials who oversee MECC’s operation that the time was right to convert the theatre to a full LED stage lighting rig.

Moving forward, LED is now a prerequisite for any new lighting investments and “it made sense to keep brand consistency throughout the venue and we enjoy a great relationship with our supplier Kennedy Amplifier Hire Service and Australian distributor Jands,” confirmed Dan.

The new FORTEs and Spiiders will mainly be utilised in the Convention Centre halls as part of the main production lighting rig. The other eight FORTEs and six Spiiders on order are destined for the main auditorium, however all these newest fixtures will be interchangeable according to requirements in the different venues.

Dan’s ultimate goal was to have a lighting rig that could offer multiple possibilities from one standard design, which would suit all events from a conference one day to a concert for 1500 people the next. Features like framing shutters, the large zoom range, the deep saturated colours, and low noise all played a part in the decision to choose FORTE. The ability of the Spiider to be a wash or a beam due to the zoom, and its excellent array of colours made it an easy choice as a replacement for their LEDWash 600s.

When it came to the FORTEs, initially they had been thinking in terms of a BMFL for power and versatility, but as the time approached to make this particular investment, so did the requirement for it to be an LED source, so first they looked at Robe’s ESPRITE. This was the first Robe product to offer the manufacturer’s proprietary cutting edge TRANSFERABLE ENGINE (TETM) technology with a unique replaceable LED light source.

They then got wind during 2020 of Robe releasing a powerful LED BMFL type with loads of power and features, and decided to wait until this was available to make their final decision. Dan received the FORTE spec sheet and was “super impressed”, especially by the two rotating gobo wheels, the shuttering system and the 1000W LED. “I knew without even seeing it that this was the perfect luminaire for our venue, and one that would last us well into the future,” he enthused.

The decision was made, and the PO signed!

In a normal year, MECC would stage a vibrant mix of around 350 diverse events across all venues, halls, and spaces. In March 2020 with a busy year ahead, everything stopped as countries worldwide grappled with their first waves of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mackay’s local council retained staff and kept everyone working, with time meaningfully utilised in updating safety management systems, venue cleaning, purging old and unused kit and various other stuff, installing new cable runs and generally creating and refining infrastructure to make life in the production fast lane easier long-term.

In August 2020, the Mackay Festivals team produced “Festival Sessions”, a small run of live streamed events featuring two-hour performances by a wealth of local talent from the Mackay region; DJs, bands, soloists, comedians, canvas painters and even some dance schools, all of which were hugely popular with the live entertainment starved public!
After August, things slowly started picking back up and all the usual events like concerts, dance school season, and school awards nights started reappearing on the schedule. The next six months are looking like all action as they will be delivering a regular calendar of shows to the usual high-quality production standards as well as plugging any gaps with the demand for events, conferences and shows that could not happen in 2020!


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