Based on the film A Private Function, and starring a remarkable pig called Betty, Betty Blue Eyes is produced by Cameron Mackintosh, directed by Richard Eyre with musical staging by Stephen Mear and designs by Tim Hatley. The show's lighting is by Neil Austin, Tony and Drama Desk-award winner last year for Red on Broadway, and Olivier-award winner this year for The White Guard at the National Theatre.
Left with little room for lighting by the scenery, Austin designed a versatile rig based around a core of moving lights: 11 Vari-Lite VL3500Q framing spotlights, 24 ETC Revolution tungsten framing spots, 13 VL2500 Wash washlights, and ten DHA Digital Light Curtains. Though these lights are complemented by a color-changing wash from Par cans with scrollers and an assortment of specials, the moving lights do most of the work of lighting the show - general washes, washes to specific scenic set-ups and many tight, often shuttered, specials. This meant that creating a precise record of the lighting to allow the crew to maintain it over the run of the show was vital.
To achieve this the designer and his programmer, Rob Halliday, turned to FocusTrack - unsurprisingly, perhaps, given that FocusTrack is Halliday's creation! "We took the showfile from our ETC Eos console, put it into FocusTrack and immediately had confirmed just how hard the moving light were working in the show," Halliday comments. FocusTrack listed 1143 lamp focuses for the moving lights, an average of 20 positions per fixture, plus a further nineteen positions for projected images from the show's media servers.
"We then had to document those focuses; to do this we used FocusTrack's Photo Loop mode: FocusTrack connected to the console and turned on each light in each position in turn then took a photo. Once we'd done the moving lights we did the same for the conventionals - about 155 lights. The entire process, including getting each scenic setup on stage, took just under five hours - a great pace!"
FocusTrack then consolidated the photos into the right place, collected other information about the rig from production electrician Steve Reeve's Lightwright file. Critical details were noted with written descriptions. The result is that the theatre crew led by chief electrician Oovis now have a searchable, sortable record of every use of every light in every cue in the show, easy to refer to when swapping fixtures out, rehearsing scenes or just running the show. While the lighting designer has the record and the ability to quickly check which colours or gobos are used in moving lights or scrollers for the next production of the show.
Neil Austin's assistant, Rachael A Smith, made use of FocusTrack's companion software, SpotTrack, to create and update the cue sheets for the show's four followspots. Smith roughed in a cue structure in advance; SpotTrack then let her edit and refine the cues quickly and easily as the tech progressed.
As part of the process, a new feature was added to SpotTrack - the ability to print cue sheets with an extra blank line after each cue, giving the spot ops space to add their own notes during tech. That feature is now available to all in the current release version of SpotTrack. As always, SpotTrack supports two fine lighting charities - Light Relief in the UK and the Esta Foundation's Behind the Scenes in North America.
Betty Blue Eyes is now playing at London's Novello Theatre. The show joins the many other productions currently using FocusTrack and SpotTrack around the world, these including Billy Elliot and Love Never Dies in London, Billy Elliot, Sister Act and The Addams Family in New York, Billy Elliot, Hair, Next to Normal, Les Miserables and Spring Awakening on tour around the USA, Matthew Bourne's Cinderella and We Will Rock You touring the UK as well as at the National Theatre and English National Opera in London.