Robe moving lights - over 120 fixtures - including DigitalSpot 7000DTs have been installed into 4 primary entertainment centres aboard P&O Cruises' newest state-of-the-art cruise liner, the 290 metre long, 14 deck, 115,000 tonne, 3500 capacity Azura.
The lighting was specified by Carnival UK's Entertainment Sound & Lighting manager Philip Yeomans, and the package was delivered via Robe UK with Blackburn, UK, based HSL undertaking the installation and providing the ongoing technical support.
The project has seen close collaboration between Yeomans, Mick Hannaford from Robe UK and Simon Stuart from HSL.
A key element for Yeomans was forging a direct relationship with a manufacturer - he wanted a reliable, cost effective brand and needed several customisations. He also required excellent technical support. He has used Robe products for some time now, and has also worked with HSL before and been impressed by their work and attitude.
He is a "big fan" of the kit and knew that both companies could deliver the standards of excellence required for providing lighting and support in this demanding environment, where all areas of the ship are in constant use.
Robe lighting has been installed into 4 areas of Azura - The 800 capacity pros arch Playhouse Theatre, the Manhattan and Malabar lounges, and the open deck area by the Forward Pool.
In the Playhouse, they needed a dynamic and flexible house lighting system that would be able to light a diversity of different entertainment - from drama, cabaret, musicals to comedy and rock bands. Currently there are 7 full production Playhouse shows taking place over the standard 14 day cruise period, all produced by Steve Bee for in-house company, Headliners.
Yeomans worked with Bill Haven of Nautilus Entertainment Design on the technical design for the venue, and lighting design for the different shows is created by a combination of their in house team and external theatre designers.
Robe's ColorSpot and ColorWash 700E AT Series proved to be the ideal choice for the venue in terms of brightness and size, with 40 ColorSpots and 35 washes spec'd to cover all areas of the stage which is 14 metres wide. These are hung on overhead trusses and FOH lighting bars.
In addition to these, there are 6 ColorSpot 575E ATs and 12 ColorSpot 1200E ATs, plus 6 of the new and highly popular Robe ROBIN 300 Beams.
The ColorSpot 575E ATs are attached to side stage ladders in the stage wings, their compact size is ideal for the space and their punchy output is excellent for cross stage lighting at all levels.
The ROBIN 300 Beams are in funky chrome housings and built into the set. They are used for various production numbers like Pinball Wizard, with their tight mega-bright beams making a real impact. Says Yeomans, "The tight beam and the output is incredible, it cuts right through everything else in the air". As well as for razzmatazz moments like Pinball, they are also used for the more decorous Swing show, where their effect is completely different.
Projection is an extensive feature of most of the shows staged in the Playhouse, so Robe's DigitalSpot 7000 DT was an ideal instrument to provide flexible front and back projection, and also for projection onto moving screens and scenery pieces. This is currently a feature of the all-action James Bond section of the current house show.
All the lighting - including lots of generics - is run from a grandMA full size console, together with content for the DT7000s, which has been produced by Mark Anand of DMI.
This lounge is to the aft of the ship and is used for disco/club nights in the evening as well as for cabaret shows, presentations and lectures, so the lighting has to cover all types of events.
The lighting rig consists of 6 Robe ClubSpot 250 CTs, 4 Scan 250 XTs and 4 ColorSpot 170 ATs. It's designed as a small club rig that offers plenty of latitude for dancefloor effects and creating a lively ambience, which can also be used for cabarets and other stage presentations.
The 300 capacity Manhattan often features tribute bands and has a 4-piece house band. The ceiling height is low, so the lighting units had to be small, unobtrusive and aesthetically pleasing in their own right. There is an MA ultra light console for control.
This is an intimate space featuring a range of events from classical piano recitals to party nights, complete with a 7 piece house band, so again the need was for a diverse system with lots of creative scope.
Yeomans spec'd an almost identical rig to that of Manhattan, together with a large generic rig.
Once again, there is very low headroom, so the smaller sized fixtures are a perfect fit. Everything is in the air apart from 2 of the ClubSpot 250 CTs which are on the floor at the back of the stage, perfectly placed for some beam-work effects.
Several shows are staged up on the top deck by the pools while Azura is cruising through warm climates, for which additional lighting equipment is required, and this comes in the form of 4 x ColorSpot 700E ATs and 4 x ColorWash 700E ATs.
Yeomans spoke to Robe about their special requirements for follow spots, to which Robe came back with a specially customised version of their powerful ColorSpot 2500 unit, complete with grab-handles at the back and a small control/playback desk for the operator to use to select colour and iris and which disconnects the pan and tilt. These fixtures are also DMX controlled so the desk operator can do the on/offs and blackouts if desired.
"I spoke to both Robe and HSL about what was needed here," explains Yeomans, "And they came back with a solution which is now also available as a production model".
Other general customisations undertaken by Robe included changing the gaps in the prisms on the ClubSpot 250 CTs. They also tweaked the dimmer curves on some of the fixtures, and many bespoke gobos were produced for all the installation areas. "Robe listened to what we needed and wanted," says Yeomans, "They were a pleasure to deal with on all levels".
Nine companies initially tendered for the supply of moving lights on Azura, This was narrowed down to 3 main contenders from which Robe was chosen - so the contract was won against stiff competition.
"I am really happy with the reliability of the products, and the 3 year guarantee is a big attraction, plus superb technical support and the fact that they listened to us," explains Yeomans.
The project underlines an already strong relationship between leading UK rental company HSL and Robe. HSL's Simon Stuart nurtured this which included arranging numerous demos so Yeomans could see the kit in action in situ before he committed to purchasing.
HSL will be undertaking all the Azura' guarantee technical support for Robe, and they installed all the Robe elements onto the ship with a site team of 5 led by Ryan Hopkins. HSL's project manager Mike Oates was also integral to formulating the tech support package.
"HSL have been amazing and I can't speak highly enough about them on this," enthuses Yeomans, adding that the installation - for which HSL worked alongside his house technicians - was the quickest he has "ever" seen, taking just 3 days out of the scheduled 5!
There were several reasons for this, one of which was the amount of planning and preparation that HSL put in beforehand to ensure that as much detail as possible was covered by the time the install team arrived at the Fincantieri Shipyard, Monfalcone, Italy.
Hopkins visited Azura for a week a month before the installation date to check that all the rigging points and fixings that they were expecting to be available were actually there, and in the right locations, etc. He took a comprehensive set of photos, and fed all this back to Mike Oates and Rupert Reynolds in the office, who then drew up final versions of the lighting plot to incorporate any modifications, giving the site crew accurate and current information to work with.
This helped the onboard operation to go as smoothly and efficiently as it did, even though they were working in demanding conditions, hustling for space - and seizing windows of opportunity - amidst a myriad of other trades and contractors all scrumming to finish their elements of the fit out!
They had to change the voltage of the fixtures from 240 to 120 in one of the bars, for which Robe sent out the necessary components the next day from the factory, neither fazing anyone or decelerating the pace of the operation.
HSL has worked on previous cruise ship installation projects before, but this is the largest, most comprehensive and highest profile to date.
Communication has been vital in the smooth running of this operation and for Robe, HSL and Carnival UK working together so successfully, with Mick Hannaford the hub of communications between Robe's factory in the Czech Republic and Yeomans, leading the discussions to ensure that the customisation requests were understood and the solutions thoroughly explored and undertaken correctly.
Azura is based in Southampton between April and October, offering holidays of between 2 and 16 nights in the Mediterranean, Baltic and Canary Isles, with fly-cruise holidays from Barbados throughout the winter months.
For more press info. on Robe Lighting or HSL, please contact Louise Stickland on +44 (0)1865 202679/+44 (0)7831 329888 or Email [email protected]'. For more product and general info on Robe, check www.robe.cz or call + 420 571 751 510. To contact HSL direct, call +44 (0)1254 698808, [email protected]' or check www.hslgroup.com.