The mighty MAC 600: Taking the Martin unit on the road


Since April, The Obie Company has been using the MAC 600 fresnel washlights from Martin Professional. From April to mid-July, I was the operator/technician for the instruments on the North American leg of No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom tour, which marked their debut in the domestic market. Earlier this fall I took them abroad for the European portion of the tour.

The tour's lighting designer, Luc Lafortune, was impressed with the units' great output. Our system consisted of 24 MACs mounted on moving trusses pointed directly at the first 10 rows of seats in each venue, with an additional 14 scattered about on the floor. With another 20 hard-edge instruments as part of the tour, this made for quite a large package for a fairly small crew.

I was introduced to the MACs one by one as they showed up at Obie as we geared up. Having had a positive experience with Martin's PAL 1200s on Reba McEntire's 1996 tour, I was excited to take the company's latest light on the road. Martin is great with their new gear; I got phone calls almost every day from them asking me how well the units were performing. If parts were needed, they were never more than a day or two away. Martin even sent me a PC to do software uploads, saving me valuable hard disk space on my laptop.

To say they were perfect right out of the gate would be incorrect. Luc was quite concerned about how durable their shutter mechanisms would be--he loved their ability to perform incredibly fast strobe effects, but how well would they hold up? In our first round with the instruments, our programmer, Arnold Serame, brought to our attention the actual tolerances needed in a real-world situation.

For instance, with a high-energy band such as No Doubt, Arnold found that the initial setup on the color-mixing system was too slow. Fortunately for us, a new software upgrade and Martin sending us a great tech solved most of our problems. Fifty brand-new instruments (with upgraded hardware and software) that we swapped out for our initial batch of lights midway through the tour solved the rest. After the switchover, the MACs had no problems cutting through the hard-edge Coemar NAT TM 1200s and MM 2500s, and the PAL 1200s, which we were also using on the tour.

The MAC feature that most impressed me was its 380 degrees of pan movement, which allows you to hang the light with very little concern about the mechanical stop in their rotation. This lets you get right in there and start creating preset focuses without having to think too much about where the stops are. For a show as elaborate with movement as No Doubt, there was relatively little trouble dealing with limited movement and lights hitting their stops. From a design standpoint, because of this extended pan, Luc and Arnold were able to program transitions between cues that, instead of moving straight from one performer to another, were able to spiral up and over in a very planned, circular movement. This gave them a wider spectrum of movement transitions to draw from, aside from the over-used "flip all of the moving lights" cue.

Also, the MAC 600s' closed-loop positioning worked well on our system, where the lights were constantly being jarred on our moving trusses, and, occasionally, were kicked when on the ground. When the lamp is on and pan and tilt are physically moved around by outside forces, it "remembers" its proper position and returns there.

Being able to upload new software right through the data lines turned out to be a lifesaver; it's relatively easy and only takes a few minutes. The shutter effect is my favorite parameter of the light. The ability to put the lights into an instant, random shutter chase makes programming this effect quite easy. The colors are different on the new lamps--they seem richer, more saturated. Also, since the upgrade, they have been sped up, so color bumps happen very quickly.

An often overlooked feature of the MAC 600 is the wide beam spread. A band like No Doubt really relies on the lighting to get the audience on their feet and into the show. A traditional rock show relies on a great many 8- and 9-lighters for those wide, even audience washes and bump-and-flash cues. But the band's initial concept for the show was not to give the production design a rock-show feel, but instead, more of a theatrical presentation. This meant that trusses had to have clean, unobtrusive lines, which the presence of too many 8-lighters might break up.

The wide beam spread of the MACs assumed the role that an 8-lighter would have traditionally filled. With most other washlights, we would have had to take all 24 of our MACs on our moving trusses to cover all of the stage area the band runs around in. The wide beam spread let Luc and Arnold use half the lights in a wash to cover the band, and the other half to continue the look up and out into the audience and into the mosh pit when they wanted to. This helped to connect the band and the audience at key points and really added to the feel that the audience is part of the show. One of my favorite cues was near the top of the show, where all 24 MACs were preset to blitz the audience with one huge, bright, daylight color temperature blast of light on the first big crash. Try that with 24 of most other lights and you'll miss most of your audience.

The only modification we had to make on the MAC 600s was with the clamp. Due to expensive powder coating on the truss, C clamps just wouldn't work, so we added a cheeseborough clamp to the existing clamps. We called them "Block Burroughs" and they worked quite well, even on the curved trusses.

Being on No Doubt meant that we played a few alternative markets, and the MACs allowed me the extra time needed for those particular situations. The crew we had on the tour was a big help, too. Sam Raphael is a real "working" LD who helped hang and did a little tech work on the MACs when needed. Donald "Jaco" Jacobelly, our crew chief, is a very moving light-oriented electrician, and Mike "Mo" Gregos is an all-around, do-everything type of tech. Everyone at one time or another had a hand inside the MACs, and I think we all agree that the new ones were a wonderful improvement over the first batch.

I've worked at The Obie Company for almost six years, and have seen many different moving lights, starting with the Cameleon Telescans. I've always been an operator/technician, and last year took on programming as well. With the new technology this task gets easier every year--but, unfortunately, this usually means that lighting rigs get bigger and more complex. The MACs allowed me to work with more gear and less manpower.

All in all, I'm very happy to have them in Obie's inventory. Seeing them develop has made for an interesting year. Martin is headed in the right direction and I hope to see more new gear from them in the future.

Arnold Serame contributed to this review.