Howard Eaton Lighting Ltd, better known as HELL, is a British company which designs, manufactures and supplies innovative responses to unique staging problems in the entertainment industry. The company works closely with Lighting and Scenic designers to produce automated mechanical effects, DMX/RDM data distribution, radio controlled and special lighting effects for stage, such as the West End production of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ to television productions including The Muppets.
HELL faces a diverse range of issues when supporting the staging of major theatrical presentation, requiring bespoke product and systems be specifically designed and built for productions at short notice. These include small scale ‘hero’ props which incorporate special effects, through to full stage lighting control. The complexity of major shows, such as those staged in London’s West End, will often preclude the use of cabled connections for reasons of access, safety and cost, necessitating a wireless implementation. Modern large scale productions, which are intended to be long running, will employ heavy duty scenery containing large amounts of steel work which impedes wireless signals, especially in the popular 2.4 GHz range. This is a particular problem for HELL as it is critical for a show that the effects are guaranteed to work on the night, every night.
HELL works with wireless specialist Wood & Douglas, utilising its SX500 transceivers and SR500 receivers to support remote controlled lighting on scenic pieces for UK productions.
SX500s and SR500s are designed to be low-risk, cost-effective building block modules for applications requiring radio connection. Operating at 868MHz the SX500 has more than enough power for short to medium range theatre applications at a frequency low enough to penetrate scenery.
These compact, resilient modules are deployed by HELL across its range of radio control transmitters (RCTs) which accept DMX512 control signals and offer battery operated receiver/dimmers. The SR/SX500s provide the RF telemetry for the remote control system on the receiver/dimmer module. They do not carry the necessary bandwidth for the DMX control, which is driven by a separate box. The largest of these receiver/dimmer units is a battery powered three receiver dimmer which simultaneously operates the 12v or 24v stage lamps.
Packing Wood & Douglas’ small receiver module with the power control enables HELL to reduce the control unit size considerably, with a mid range 150w receiver dimmer measuring just 115x80x45mm, and HELL’s smallest, a 50w dimmer, measuring just 115x65x45mm. Such a small form factor becomes critical when integrating the controller into stage props which require a special lighting effect. In the recent West End production of ‘The King’s Speech’ the smallest HELL controller was used to trigger the ‘on air’ light on the BBC microphone for the play’s finale. A small, but crucial element of the production, the prop needed to be portable, quickly installed on stage and be enabled on cue by a flip of a switch in the wings.
- Compact transceiver/receiver for short to mid range applications
- Lower frequency operation offers greater penetration in complex environments
- Cost effective and highly flexible