Spool Post Production, part of the Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies, have recently relocated to new premises. Their core clients are the independent film companies, and they have hosted work for majors such as Universal Pictures and Pathé. With an established music background they have also worked on DVDs for groups such as the Arctic Monkeys.
The Spool team was given the luxurious blank canvas of a large basement beneath the Antenna Media and Business Services development in the centre of Nottingham. The relocated and rejuvenated Spool now boasts a state of the art Dolby Digital EX approved film dubbing and mixing theatre, a stereo mixing suite, a voiceover booth and Foley studio, as well as three additional editing suites (Foley being an art-form for recording sound effects to picture). They were aided in establishing the building/acoustics by WhiteMark Acoustics, the world-renowned studio acoustic architects.
In such an exacting technical environment the lighting is very important and Alan Cundel, Technical Director of WhiteMark, recommended Multiload Technology products to Greg Marshall, the Technical Director of Spool. Multiload visited Spool in February 2009 to demonstrate Multiload’s new analogue lighting control system, the MoodMaker, and the VoltMaster ‘Intelligent Transformer’ for remotely powering the low voltage lighting (12V). An order soon followed.
A control system was required for the main dubbing theatre where MR11 lamps and fittings were used and where several predetermined balances between light levels were required. Greg Marshall was delighted to find a scene-set system, the MoodMaker, which was not digital and did not require the regular attendance of software engineers for re-programming or troubleshooting. The benefit was a system easy to install and programme and, importantly, requiring no programming input whatsoever from Multiload. By allowing the sound engineers to programme the brightness levels, subtle adjustments to the lighting scheme could be effected over a few weeks to achieve the optimum result. Although Multiload offered a complimentary site visit to troubleshoot the installation, Spool’s in-house electrician understood the installation and cabling requirements and a visit was considered unnecessary.
The key features which encouraged Greg to use the MoodMaker were the ability to set six moods (four pre-settable scenes, full ON and OFF), on six channels of lighting. The wall plate has a solid tactile feel: the use of an encoder without end-stop ensures that it cannot be over-stressed or over-rotated when switching between levels. The mood selected at a particular time is indicated on the wall plate by the illumination of its specific coloured LED. Although up to four wall plates are possible, the installation required only one wall plate positioned within the theatre, directly behind the mixing desk and within reach of the engineer in their seat. The wall plate is wired in 8-core signal cable to the Set-up Unit, which was installed alongside the VoltMasters in the adjacent equipment room. The Set-up Unit also has LED indicators to replicate the mood selected on the wall plate, and has a dedicated finger-turn adjuster for each scene on each channel, making it easy to readjust light levels when required.
Spool designated Scene 1 as the ‘review mode’ (light at the back and dark at the front so that the screen is fully viewable); Scene 2 for automated dialogue replacement (where a couple of lights at the front were lit to allow the actors to read their scripts without washing out the screen); Scene 3 as an intermediate scene for general conversational purposes; and Scene 4 as the general working environment. The majority of the switching is thus between Scenes 3 and 4.
The Voice-over and Foley room and the three editing rooms each had two channels of lighting which required simple ‘dimmer’ brightness control: two rotary push-on/off analogue rotary dimmers from Multiload’s RPS series were installed in each room to control a number of VoltMaster ‘Intelligent Transformers’. The light levels can be controlled by the dimmers to ensure that, for instance, the screen can be seen during the production of the sound effects, such as a walk in a wood or on cobblestones.
It was essential in this installation, as it is in all film sound and recording studios (where low voltage lighting is by far the favoured light source) to eliminate transformer hum or buzz, as well as to keep any electrical noise to the barest minimum. The VoltMaster is perfect for this purpose as it can be mounted great distances from the light source (up to 50 metres or more) giving a stabilised output voltage, irrespective of mains supply or loading variations; VoltMaster also produces extremely low levels of RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) and incidentally gives four times the lamp life available with other transformer types.
Spool had already looked at the alternatives to VoltMaster for low voltage lighting: remotely sited multiple outlet wire-wound transformers or high frequency electronic transformers placed close to the light fittings. The problem in installing multiple outlet wire-wound transformers with long cable runs to the lamps is that significant volt drops appear across the cable; furthermore this volt drop changes when lamps fail or loading changes, so that these simple transformers, designed for a certain loading will, if the loading is reduced over-volt the lamps, leading to premature failure. High frequency electronic transformers need to be placed near the lamps causing audible noise in the sensitive environment and producing high levels of RFI. It should be noted that the standards for RFI suppression, which all electrical equipment must conform to, is given in absolute values for each unit of product. This means that a 50W HF electronic transformer is permitted to produce the same RFI as a higher wattage VoltMaster, so that eight HF electronic transformers running the same load as a 400W VoltMaster can produce eight times the RFI. In addition, since VoltMaster produces only a third of the RFI allowed by the standard, the eight HF electronic transformers could be producing twenty four times the RFI.
Multiload has given an optimum solution for recording and sound dubbing studios, which has fulfilled Spool’s expectations. Greg Marshall says “Multiload have created a reliable and user-friendly lighting control which is in keeping with the exacting technical requirements of a Dolby EX installation. We are delighted with the result.”