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  •   A.C. Provides Studio Technical Facilities for B6 Sixth Form College in Hackney

A.C. Provides Studio Technical Facilities for B6 Sixth Form College in Hackney

4th October 2004

A.C. Lighting's Special Projects division have provided the £200k supply and installation of all technical facilities for a state-of-the-art theatre studio and other teaching rooms at the B6 Sixth Form College in Hackney, London.

The College is the first of its kind for London in ten years and runs a wide range of further education courses for students in the borough, including Performing Arts vocational courses in Technical Theatre, Acting and Dance. The College also runs courses in Drama and Film Studies.

When the College was granted funding to build new teaching rooms for the Creative Arts and Media department, they commissioned Theatre Consultant Crin Claxton to produce a detailed specification of the technical facilities required for a new theatre studio, dance studio and film screening room. The theatre would be used to host multiple types of student and guest artist performances, and provide teaching space for the various production and performing arts courses.

Theatrical equipment specialists A.C. Lighting were then commissioned to complete the design for the technical facilities for the new teaching rooms. Due to the very practical nature of the Technical Theatre and Drama courses, which aim to prepare students for lighting, sound and video production roles in the industry, it was essential that the studio's technical facilities be designed to the same specification as a small to medium size professional theatre. As a result, the College has one of the country's most well equipped theatres for teaching performing arts at sixth form level.

This presented A.C. Project Manager Ceri Barraclough with the challenge of meeting all aspects of the technical specification when re-quoting for the project following several budgetary changes.

Because the theatre studio was to be designed from the ground floor up in an existing two storey College building, this also presented a number of technical challenges for the specification design.

After voiding the building's 1st floor and most of the space inside, the dimension restrictions imposed a maximum fly gallery height of 4.5m. Also, the building's ceiling only allowed for a fly height of 7.5m, which was not quite high enough for flying scenery. However, the height was still sufficient to provide fly demonstrations for teaching purposes. Due to this restriction, winch sets and rope sets were also used as these could be dropped down to the floor for teaching rigging as safely as possible.

Another important factor of the design was to specify theatre equipment that can be operated by a very small crew of students and staff, and which would provide the most use to students' learning - hence popular theatre lighting and live digital sound desks by Strand and Soundcraft were specified for the control room.

Theatre multi-media facilities were provided by a 4,100 lumen projector and screen mounted on one of the winch sets. Numerous tie lines and a patching system have enabled a portable AV rack for computer and video presentations and monitors to be located anywhere in the studio.

As the theatre studio would be used for a diverse range of dance, drama and musical performances, the facilities panels needed to accommodate a sizeable music set-up. Dance performances needed sufficient floor lighting dips and wheeled portable booms for dance side lighting. Retractable seating also allowed for a mixing desk to be used in the control room or plugged in at the top of the seating, and to set up a still desk at floor level if the room was used for a club style music event. A Nexo speaker system was supplied with a flexible patch system to cater for the different configurations. Another requirement for the audio systems was an assistive hearing induction loop for technicians and performers as well as the audience.

A comprehensive Stage Management system was designed and installed, including a custom designed full height Stage Manager's desk with facilities for portable paging, intercom, cue light and show timing, as well as ample space for future expansion, storage, and of course the prompt copy.

Most of the time the performance space would be used front-on open stage, but it could also be used traverse and promenade side. Abundant internally wired lighting bars were used for rigging along with track and loose curtains to make a backstage crossover, tabs, borders, legs and a false proscenium.

The main requirements for the dance studio included supplementing the studio's existing sound equipment with a new speaker and projector installation and AV equipment rack, lighting bars, Quartets and a portable dimmer rack on wheels. This was to enable the studio to put on small dance performances at the same time as the theatre, and without needing to borrow any equipment.

For the Film & Media Studies facilities, A.C. installed a high output projector, high gain screen, speakers for 7.1 surround sound, and a Chroma-key green curtain.

In total the project involved supplying and installing over 700 separate parts for the theatre studio, dance studio and film screening room. The extensive equipment list included stage suspension winch and rope sets, stage drapes, tracks, equipment and hardware, lighting control equipment, lighting bars, lighting fixtures, portable truss, rigging positions, effects and video/data projection equipment, sound equipment and a complete stage management communications system linking the theatre control room with all behind-the-scenes facilities, with designs considered at all times with respect to disabled access requirements.

Crin Claxton commented "A.C. were very helpful and efficient and used their knowledge of theatre installs well to provide facilities to spec."

A.C.'s Special Projects Division has a history of working with performance venues in Hackney, having previously supplied lighting and audio equipment to the Ocean and recently restored Hackney Empire.