Wicked UK Tour - Defying Gravity (and) Cables WorldwideTheatre
UK – Sell out musical sensation Wicked has hit the UK and Ireland touring circuit a sleeker and altogether more agile show with the help of wireless DMX products from RC4 Wireless and Lumen Radio.
The Wicked UK and Ireland tour is one of the biggest tours of its kind. Crucially, the brief was to retain the same production values and scale as the West End show, while scenically and technically making it easy to transport and more robust than ever before.
Part of this particular design process has been to replace the complex cabling that fed moving scenic elements with a range of powerfully compact wireless DMX products from RC4 Wireless. Utilizing state-of-the-art LumenRadio CRMX rf technology, these products include RC4 LumenDim4 4-channel low voltage dimmers, RC4 LumenData receivers and SuperNova software from Lumen Radio.
Production Scenic Lighting Electrician, Mike Ward, has been responsible for technically realising the creative concept of Wicked, touring and venue based, for some years now: “I’ve worked on more than nine Wicked productions,” Ward explains. “In that time we’ve transitioned from a fully hardwired system, used for the permanent house productions, to a predominantly wireless one for touring.”
The transition became necessary when the depth of the stage had to be reduced for the US tour, rendering the original hardwired deck and set wiring impossible.
After working in close collaboration with Wicked’s associate designers, Edward Pierce and Nick Francone, and having previously used RC4Magic and RC5 wireless systems in other Wicked tours with resounding success, Ward specified RC4 LumenDim4 4-channel low voltage dimmers and RC4 LumenData receivers to gain DMX control of many of the more complex moving set and set lighting elements.
“I contacted RC4 Wireless founder and chief product designer, James Smith, to discuss the show and he was extremely accommodating,” Ward explains. “For most scenarios we created a number of powerful and flexible systems that were small enough to fit into small spaces yet also robust and easy to use. The system has been totally stable from day one.”
Ward chose the RC4 Wireless LumenDim4 – a low-voltage DC four-channel wireless dimmer that utilises Lumen Radio’s CRMX wireless DMX receiver. “The unit can fit almost anywhere in the set,” RC4’s Smith explains. “This has enabled Mike to use wireless dimming on everything from battery-powered lamps, motors, relays, solenoids and hand-held props to moving sets pieces, and other hard-to-reach locations, all of which are in abundance on Wicked!”
Another advantage of using LumenDim and LumenData devices is compatibility with Lumen Radio’s award-winning SuperNova control software – a full RDM suite that enables the addressing and monitoring of the system remotely.
“This is one of the first times that RDM has been utilized on a major production in the UK,” Smith notes. “The team can address set electrics in a matter of seconds using SuperNova software to visualise and manage all the CRMX, RDM, and Art-Net compliant devices involved. Colour coded lines and icons indicate the health of the system and they can monitor signal strength, DMX information and device sensors. Alarms and warnings can be sent out through e-mail, push notifications to smart phones or even saved in an SQL database!”
And, Ward adds, “Most importantly, of course, the wireless link has been stable since day one – rock solid.”
For Ward the system has definitely improved the efficiency of the build process and efficacy of the show’s moving and scenic elements as he explains: “Upstage a four piece travelling wall, featuring numerous individual points of green LED was originally controlled by hardwired DMX and power fed from a cable retractor. This would get jammed. We tried other manufacturer’s wireless DMX receivers, however they didn’t work out as any interruptions in the power supply would require a manual re-set of the whole system. The advantage of the RC4 system is it resets itself automatically and the signal is never corrupted by power interruptions.”
For the UK tour Ward went one-step further and, wherever possible, replaced onstage effects and prop power with battery power: “Every LED on this show can be operated by battery,” says Ward. “However LD Ken Posner wanted to maintain the consistency of the incandescent lighting so we went back to cable power on the Oz Lab truck. It’s regularly un-plugged and re-plugged. However, as I said before, the RC4 wireless system ensures a constant signal, no matter where the truck is on stage and how many times it is disconnected from power.”
And for RC4’s founder, James Smith, Lumen Radio products are the product of choice: “When a project like this comes up, CRMX technology is a great solution for us,” he says. “The specification on Wicked asked for a robust, wireless solution with full RDM support that is reliable and would travel well on the road. Lumen Radio offers exactly those kind of products with excellent back up support, so that if any issues should ever arise most can be solved immediately.”
Wicked, which prefaces the story of the Wizard of Oz, continues to be a global hit since it first opened in New York. The show has won multiple Tony and Olivier awards for resident productions in New York and London. The Wicked tour plays in Dublin until 18th January, then moves on to Milton Keynes and then around the UK with dates announced until May 2015.