MELBOURNE, FL – Located adjacent to Florida Institute of Technology’s beautiful Joy and Gordon Patterson Botanical Garden, the Gleason Performing Arts Center is among the first places students go during orientation. As the site of graduation ceremonies, it is also one of their last touchpoints with the school before heading out into the world.
In between, students will visit the modern, 483-seat facility numerous times for classes, guest lectures, and recitals, as well as productions by Florida Tech’s theatre department and outside performers. Not surprisingly, given the many ways that the facility serves the Florida Tech community, “versatility” was a watchword when the school upgraded its lighting to an all LED CHAUVET Professional system in early 2020.
“We placed a premium on selecting fixtures that could do a lot of different things, because of the wide range of roles we play,” said Jeffrey Richardson, manager at the center. “Being a totally student-run facility, we also wanted a lighting system that would be safe and user-friendly, while still able to provide the flexibility we needed.”
The Gleason Performing Arts Center team found what they were looking for with an all-CHAUVET Professional rig featuring 120 LED fixtures run on a ChamSys MagicQ MQ 80 console. “Prior to this upgrade, all we had were traditional incandescents, with no moving fixtures and no real ability to change lighting positions,” said Richardson. “We ran our entire system off a 400-amp dimmer pack. That system greatly limited what we were able to accomplish.”
Replacing the old system is a rig anchored by 10 Maverick MK2 Profile and 10 Maverick MK2 Wash fixtures, as well as 80 Ovation units. Used for stage and house lighting, the Ovation fixtures include 30 E-930 VW, 24 E-910FC ellipsoidals, 10 C-805FC cyc lights and 16 H 605FC house lights.
Florida Tech invested $200,000 in its new lighting system and an additional $50,000 in the video wall. Richardson is confident that the school will recover this investment through savings in power, gels and dimmers. “The efficiency of LED technology really allows it to pay for itself,” he observed.
On a creative level, the new system greatly expands design possibilities for students working at the proscenium theatre. “The new system puts much more power at our students’ fingertips,” said Richardson. “They can do things like change the focus positions for half the lights here at the push of a button. They can also create seamless color changes throughout the theatre. A big benefit of having all the lights from CHAUVET Professional is that we can have a consistent color palette throughout the building.”
The creative power unleashed by the new system is particularly evident during theatrical productions when student lighting designers are able to draw on the color rendering capabilities of the Ovation E-910FC and Ovation C-805 cyc fixtures to create a mix of mood evoking hues on stage. A variety of lens tubes are used on the rig’s ellipsoidal units to allow different coverage areas for key lighting.
Adding to the evocative color-scape are the washes from the RGBW Maverick MK2 Wash and the CMY + CTO color mixing from the Maverick MK2 Profile. Rotating and static gobos from the profile fixtures add an extra dimension to looks, while defining space on the 1,100 square foot stage.
One thing the Maverick fixtures will not do is distract from performances with noise. Richardson notes that the quiet studio mode of the fixtures was a key factor in them being selected for the Gleason Center. “We have a lot of productions and events here that call for a quiet intimate environment,” he said. “With the Mavericks, we can get a lot of visual excitement without the noise.”
Being made up of advanced LED fixtures, the new CHAUVET Professional rig provides students with an opportunity to be exposed to new technology. Exploring and learning from new technology is in Florida Tech’s heritage, after all. The university was founded in 1958 to provide higher education to the growing cadre of workers at what would soon become Kennedy Space Center, a cornerstone of NASA.
Like the rockets that launch just a few miles away, the Gleason Center will now transport its guests to another word, if only for a few moments, thanks to the magic of an immersive new lighting system.