Since the new, smaller-scale tour of the legendary Cameron Mackintosh musical Miss Saigon opened at the UK’s Theatre Royal Plymouth in mid-2004, it has played countless venues throughout the UK, one in Portugal, four in Korea, one in South America, and three in Australia. Through all of that, one tool has been the key to keeping the lighting on top form: FocusTrack.
Designed for shows that have to be maintained across long runs, through touring venues, or even across countries or continents, FocusTrack is a system for precisely documenting the lighting of entertainment productions, in order to allow it to be accurately maintained or re-created.
For Miss Saigon, that means managing information about a rig of around 70 moving lights (VL2000s, VL3000s, Revolutions, Digital Light Curtains, Alpha Halo Washlights), one hundred or so dimmers, color scrollers, a Catalyst media server and more. Designed by Jenny Kagan and David Hersey, the show was programmed by Rob Halliday on a Strand 500-series console; the show data from the console was imported into FocusTrack to automatically generate a complete record of which focus positions were used by which lights in which cues. FocusTrack was then used to control the console while photographs were taken to document the position of each light in each preset focus—a total of around 1,145 photographs, or an average of around 16 positions per light during the show, with FocusTrack allowing all of these positions to be photographed in just a few hours.
The lighting for the Korean, South American, and Australian productions is now overseen by Richard Pacholski and his team, including programmer Hugh Hamilton and production electrician Paul Mulcahy. FocusTrack ensures that information about the focus of the rig and the look of cues is available as new teams of people take over the running of the show. It also gives the team a record of how the lighting is meant to look even when the rig has to undergo quite drastic changes.
“For the Sao Paulo production, still playing at the Teatro Abrill, we had to use Mac2000 Washes in place of VL3000Q Washes and VL2500 Spots instead of VL2000 Spots,” Pacholski notes. “But having a record of what things were meant to look like enabled us to focus the new lights and get the show looking right again in just one day.”
For the show’s current Australian tour—now in Sydney, having already played Melbourne and Brisbane—with Adelaide and Perth still to come, Pacholski notes, “We are 1000km and six days show to show. We get about seven hours to do 1,200 moving light focuses; that’s something that we can only manage with FocusTrack.”