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New stage management system for Europe’s biggest show palace

The stage management system at Europe's biggest and most modern show venue has been updated by Amptown System Company.

The stage management system at Europe’s biggest and most modern show venue has been updated by Amptown System Company. The system includes a BroaMan fibre network, InspiControl stage management desks, a Clear-Com intercom, Crestron controllers and Panasonic cameras.

At Friedrichstadt-Palast, which keeps alive Berlin’s great tradition of revue entertainment, the decision was taken to renew the stage management system and its central control station while the alarm system in the theatre hall and foyer areas was being repaired. Dr Reiner Chemnitius was responsible for technical planning and site management, Amptown System Company Berlin won the public tender for the procurement, installation, and commissioning of the new stage management equipment.

This venue’s history goes back to 1919, it was renamed as Friedrichstadt-Palast in 1947 and rebuilt 31 years ago. After the fall of the Wall, the Palast succeeded in establishing itself as the foremost venue for lavish and spectacular shows in reunified Germany. Following millions of euros of investment it remains the biggest and most modern show palace in Europe. Every year, including guest performances and festivals, more than 700,000 guests visit Germany’s favourite stage. Its current production, THE WYLD, features over 100 artists performing on the world’s biggest stage and a production budget of over €10 million, making it the most extravagant show outside Las Vegas.

Franz Münzebrock, technical director at Friedrichstadt-Palast, explained: “With its control unit and peripheral equipment, the stage management system forms an important element in coordinating show operations, switching calls and light signals, and controlling the alarm system and complex media components such as lighting, monitors, cameras, sound effects, and so on. We had already worked closely with the ASC team on sound, lighting and projection systems, so we knew and trusted each other. At the Palast we discussed things with our stage team while planning the system with Dr Chemnitius’ office, and in the end we settled on a configuration based on the Stage Manager System at Komische Oper Berlin.”

Dr Chemnitius carried out the technical planning of the system, having previously designed the sound production system, intercom system and video equipment at Friedrichstadt-Palast. ASC project managers Tony Hundt and Patrick Boeer were responsible for renewing the stage management system during the break in performances in August 2015.

Münzebrock continued: “A communication system based entirely on digital technology now controls the technical aspects of our lavish show program, allowing our stage managers to comfortably and cleanly coordinate things on and behind the stage, long term. Dr Reiner Chemnitius and his office designed it to be as flexible as possible, and it is modular and scalable.”

Chemnitius added: “Everyone is satisfied with the outcome. ASC were highly collaborative in the way they worked and always stayed focused on our aims. Now stage managers can work comfortably and effectively as they handle the special demands of shows at Friedrichstadt-Palast.”

Central equipment racks were pre-installed in ASC’s workshop, and the existing cable routes at the Palast were carefully documented before installing and connecting to the new stage management system. New cable routes were added in the Palast for a 100V alarm system and its cable network. Every input signal can be sent to one or more outputs within the network using integrated software-based signal routing. Four Panasonic AW-HE60SE Full-HD pan-tilt cameras with pivoting and tilting heads and HD-SDI ports were integrated into the system, and wired up to the intercom system.

As users of the installation, Friedrichstadt-Palast’s stage manager Steffen Liebsch and three of his colleagues were involved in the work throughout: “Friedrichstadt-Palast now has two new InspiControl stage management desks. One of them is installed permanently near to the stage and another is for mobile use. The mobile desk supports the main management station at the big desk. Patrick and Tony specially pre-programmed all of the button panels in the positions and with the features we wanted. You can operate them easily now, whether you’re left or right handed. We really appreciated this service as well as ASC’s support throughout the new system’s commissioning and during the first shows.“

A Crestron Pro 3 media controller controls the button panels via an integrated Ethernet port. Signals are transmitted via a fibre network in Friedrichstadt-Palast; this is a BroaMan real-time media network which enables almost zero-latency transmission of uncompressed HD-SDI video, audio, Ethernet and intercom signals. This means stage managers have access to all of the media signals in the network in full bandwidth. When intercom communication takes place between stage managers and stage workers, the FOH engineer and sound technicians, a digital Clear-Com Eclipse-HX intercom matrix in the background provides connections between individual users and groups.

The Palast is situated on Berlin’s entertainment strip near to numerous theatre and cultural venues, which means UHF frequency bandwidths are very full. Because of this, a modern DECT-based system in the form of a full-duplex wireless intercom is used to cover almost the entire building. Using this modern technology precludes a further shortage of UHF bandwidth.

Amptown System Company