Opera Garnier has renovated its dimmer cabinets with ADB EURODIM TwinTech. Garnier’s previous dimmers were also ADB and functioned with perfect reliability for 20 years!
The refurbishment work was carried out by Masselin company who adapted the existing wiring system based on a design by the ADB project design team. The result is a tremendous achievement!
Strolling backstage in this prestigious and unique opera house, accompanied by Joel Brieuc, ADB sales manager, we interviewed Jacques Giovanangeli, Head of Lighting at Opera Garnier, and his deputy Michel Susini, to talk about this impressive renovation project
After an 8-month design period followed by tough tender proceedings, the on-site work was carried out this summer over 3 and a half weeks (plus an additional week for testing), and the dimmer cabinets with TwinTech technology were installed in the Opera technical bays.
The 884 circuits can be used direct (relay) or as a dimmer with no minimum load. By using specially designed software, patch, dimmer laws or other parameters and operations can be monitored and any eventual malfunction can be diagnosed all from the control room and all in real time.
So out with the old and in with the new for Palais Garnier, with a rectangular modular main fly tower grid, including mobile lighting bridges for visiting lighting directors as well as an impressive stock of luminaires which are constantly updated.
For Jacques Giovanangeli and Michel Susini the keyword is modernity so the complete optical fiber data network has been updated with LUMINEX nodes Ethernet-DMX8 MKII and RDM hub/boosters.
With RDM, ArtNet, automated luminaires, intelligent lights and, coming soon, LED sources, it’s clear that Paris’ big theaters are very eager to embrace new technologies ?
SLU : What was Masselin’s mission ?
Joël Brieuc : was responsible for dismantling all the old dimmer cabinets, identifying the circuits, and installing the new power distribution system and dimmer cabinets. The challenge was to leave the existing wiring system in place. To do this we had to build cabinets which fitted exactly into the space left by the old ones which had been removed.
In addition, since there are more circuits per new dimmer cabinet, we had to slightly reposition the dimmer cabinets to avoid shortening the cable lengths. In the end, very few existing cable lengths needed to be changed, thanks to Henri Maréchal – , head of ADB’s project design office – who designed this concept. In any case, replacement of the existing cabling was NOT an option.
Jacques Giovanangeli : That would have closed the Opera for several months! Luckily, the existing cabling, which dates from 1995, didn’t need replacing.
SLU : What power capacity arrives in each dimmer room ?
Jacques Giovanangeli : « We have two distribution cabinets of 1250A each under the stage and 2 distribution cabinets of 800A each under the roof. Another distribution cabinet of 320A feeds the direct circuits and 63A tri-phase circuits in the stage tower.
There are 4 distributed dimmer rooms to optimize the cable lengths installed.
We made this choice back in 1995 to save on the cabling so we re-used the same installation, replacing only the dimmer cabinets stage left and stage right, located on two different levels. In this way the cable lengths are short as the dimmer cabinets are positioned just one level below and all the wiring for the stage tower is situated 40m above the stage under the roof and as close to the dimmer cabinets as possible.
SLU : And before 1995 ?
Jacques Giovanangeli : the previous dimmer cabinets were all situated in the understage left and right. These were also ADB – Clemençon !
SLU : How much time did you need to define the project ?
Jacques Giovanangeli : We started the project in October 2014 and finalized in July 2015. Everything was done within 8 months, tendering for the project, visiting the different suppliers, evaluating and choosing the manufacturer, finalizing the budget, etc. And because our previous dimmers were ADB and had been extremely reliable, this motivated us to choose the EURODIM TwinTech.
SLU : Since the previous dimmers had functioned so well for 20 years, didn’t you envisage simply replacing components of the same model.
Joël Brieuc : No, because some components are no longer available, and this would have meant no back-up after-sales service.
Jacques Giovanangeli : That’s the reason we were allocated a budget for total replacement. If we weren’t able to get hold of replacement components we would have risked losing circuits.
SLU : So, all in all, how many lighting circuits are available in Opera Garnier ?
Joël Brieuc : There are 13 cabinets in 4 dimmer rooms. Altogether we have 249 circuits of 3kW, 482 circuits of 5kW, 101 circuits of 10kW and 52 circuits ‘fluo’ of 2.5kW: in total 884 lighting circuits.
SLU : And what was the total cost of renovation ?
Jacques Giovanangeli : 650,000 euros including VAT. This covered installation of the system, the dimmers, transport and handling, and the replacement of a few cables.
Michel Susini : We also renovated the ArtNet data network.
Jacques Giovanangeli : The data network which dates from 2007 uses the Luminex nodes from that time. But as we had sufficient budget we wanted to install the latest generation of nodes, the MKII DMX8 with RDM. This was important since our new ADB dimmers are compatible with RDM. So we took this opportunity to change our old Luminex nodes which were ageing anyway. We also plan to change the control desks, probably within a year.
SLU : Which control desks do you have at the moment ?
Jacques Giovanangeli : ADB PHOENIX 10 desks which are rapidly becoming outdated. New ones will be chosen in consultation with the Opera’s in-house board operators. We won’t be consulting with visiting lighting directors as they all use their own board operator and have different individual preferences. The new desks need to be adapted to our requirements here at the Opera – basically lighting effects with cues and times, even with automated luminaires.
SLU : Coming back to the Luminex data Network, is there a back-up ?
Jacques Giovanangeli : No, we have one single fibre ring without back-up which has worked fine for several years.»
SLU : How many access points to the Network do you have ?
Michel Susini, Jacques Giovanangeli : One in each dimmer room, giving 4 Ethernet outputs plus one in the control room. Little by little we add network output lines closer to the luminaires. Nodes are positioned on all our lighting bridges. We have programmed I node per bridge. What we’re doing is preparing for the future.
This is a very large space so we need to anticipate and add more Network output lines from the “ring” to the places where there is limited access. So, in total, we have 22 nodes MKII DMX 4 and DMX8, of which 8 are in the dimmer rooms and we will add another 2 in the lighting bridges. We are very pleased with the LUMINEX products.
SLU : What about your current monitoring systems. Can they monitor with Artnet ?
Joël Brieuc : Yes, at ADB we took this decision in 1999 and now all our desks are RDM, ArtNet and sACN.
SLU : Let’s talk about the light sources. It’s amazing to see so many automated luminaires in these technical zones where silence is essential. Which luminaires did you choose ?
Michel Susini : « Clay Paky Alpha1200, as well as 1500 and 800. These motorized yokes are extremely reliable. We have had the 1200’s since 2007, serviced every year of course, but honestly, they run all the time, their robustness is amazing. And since these units are only repositioned once a year, they don’t suffer from being moved around. We also have motorized 2kW ADB Fresnel spotlights in a Nova motorized yoke, 4 kW motorized ARRI fresnels, and so on.
SLU : Does the noise and movement disturb the performers ?
Jacques Giovanangeli : Not really. Near the front of stage, the noise might disturb the conductor, but the dancers and singers hear nothing as the luminaires are fixed quite high up, more than 12m, and we have never had any problems. We didn’t need to make any changes on the automated luminaires, either. They are all in a standard setting. Nowadays manufacturers are developing products which make less and less noise and generate hardly more than 35 dB at 1 m.
SLU : So we should stop saying that automated luminaires are not suitable for theatres ?
Jacques Giovanangeli : Absolutely. They certainly are suitable, particularly for big stages like here. Like many large theatres we have opted for a fixed lighting plot with automated units positioned in the fly tower, coupled-up with generic ones (4 halogen units and 4 HMI units), but, and this is where we do things differently, we have kept open spaces where lighting directors can choose to add other automated spotlights and choose specific angles.
In this way, the lighting bridges are not saturated with spotlights. They are organized like a chess board, with occupied and vacant areas. We are one of the rare opera houses to operate in this way. In all other venues, the mobile lighting bridges are saturated. I decided to do it this way with my predecessor and Michel. We really wanted to give lighting directors the freedom to design their own lightin.
Of course, we have to be highly organized and coordinated when we have performances which alternate every other night and this requires a lot of advance preparation work so that they can run together. In certain places like the fly tower, we try and avoid sending an engineer 12m up to manually adjust a luminaire because it’s dangerous and time-consuming. That’s the main reason for opting for automated luminaires. The advantage of having the DimSwitch circuits is that we can position a halogen or automated spotlight anywhere on a lighting bridge and just plug it in on request, as all arriving circuits can be direct (switch) or dimmed.
Michel Susini : It’s great, and as well as this, there are no inverter dip switches or modules to change. Every circuit commutes with the software over the Network from the control room.
SLU : So could you expand a little more on the technology of the EURODIM TwinTech dimmers ?
Joël Brieuc : Each circuit is controlled over the Network in Direct or Dimmed mode, to all kind of loads: resistive, inductive or capacitive, dimmable or not. The advantage of a static relay to “switch”, means that we can avoid any distortion towards the automated spotlights when commuting.
Every dimmer circuit contains 2 sets of thyristors, one set for the dimming, completed with a choke and one set to do the “relay” direct switching. On all the circuits, like the ones installed here in Opéra Garnier, in Opéra Bastille, in Odéon theatre and others, when in direct mode there is no choke in the line, when in dimmer mode there is a 400 µsec filtering.
Furthermore, there is the diagnostics PCB which measures and monitors a lot of parameters in real time. This allows the lighting engineers from their PC’s or laptops, via the software and network, to know whether a circuit’s MCB has tripped or not, if so where it’s located, in which module, in which dimmer cabinet and so on, thanks to RDM.
Each power board uses 4 independent heat sinks. All circuits in one module are physically separated so that there is no distortion between circuits. And to avoid EMC distortion, the module is completely encased in a metal enclosure which functions as a Faraday cage. And it’s extremely heavy! A module can weigh up to 13kg, but it’s never physically handled !
SLU : How do you manage temperature differences of cold and heat under the roof ?
Michel Susini : It’s true that it can be very hot under the zinc roof during summer when the circuits are functioning. This summer the temperature was 38°C so we installed air conditioning. If the dimmer room temperature rises, the new dimmers have a security function which allows them to reach 20% above 35°C. On the other hand, they are not affected by low temperatures, so there’s no heating in the winter.
SLU : What are the key functions of the software ?
Joël Brieuc : « The real benefit is that we can make a patch and switch a circuit from dimmer to direct mode without leaving the control room. Here in Opera Garnier we have a lot of alternating performances and the software memorizes the circuit status for each performance and can rerun it in an instant when needed. On top of that, the software has extended diagnostic functions: via the Dimmer Manager software we get information about errors, over-temperature, circuit status, DMX signal status … sent all through the Network with RDM.
Michel Susini : And above all, as all the circuits are either dimmer or switch, the number of luminaires can be expanded and updated. Currently we use about 30% of the circuits as direct but with the arrival of more LED spotlights and more automated luminaires, this percentage will increase rapidly. That’s the reason why we have chosen this mix of dimmer channels as it’s the perfect solution to our needs.
SLU : Are all ADB dimmers today on DimSwitch ?
Joël Brieuc : We have developed a technology with static relay using no electro- mechanical relays and thus no mechanical friction. Yes, all our dimmers have been DimSwitch starting with the ones we installed in Opera Bastille in 2010. Whether we install 3kW, 5kW or 10kW, whether they have with low or high grade filtering, whether they’re modular or wall rack dimmers installed in cultural centers, they are all DimSwitch and, I hope, the portable units will soon be too.
SLU : Opera Bastille is also equipped with ADB dimmers. Was that the reason you turned to ADB again this year ?
Michel Susini : Yes, although it was not the decisive reason even though Bastille is very satisfied with their dimmers.
Jacques Giovanangeli : We did not have any say concerning the budget allocation. We submitted technical proposals and it was the financial controllers of the Opera who made the final decision. It was clear that a good relationship with ADB had grown over the years so they were selected for the project as they could garantee the installation work and deliver within the time schedule. In addition, we tend to favour purchasing and supporting French technology.
Michel Susini : But above all, we had the assurance of the DimSwitch. Other manufacturers didn’t offer this. There were a number of 10 kW dimmers that we needed to keep, and ADB had them. ADB replied on time, on spec to our requirements.
And there were additional requirements and constraints as well! The whole project has been a boon for the EURODIM TwinTech dimmers – an ideal opportunity to showcase their technology with DimSwitch capability. And a huge success for ADB who designed and implemented a perfect replacement system.
The lighting team benefits from an intelligent control software through a human interface, which enables them to access the system status, to see eventual errors and above all to allow for remote control and switch-over.
It’s a dream situation also for Luminex products to excel (yet again). Equally at ease in a grand theatre or on a concert stage they ensure a ring Network that is totally reliable, perfectly secure and easy to access.
It’s certainly clear that Jacques Giovanangeli and Michel Susini love their job and carry out their mission with conviction and passion – keen to provide their lighting teams, the technical areas, and the performers with state of the art technologies, determined to reduce technical restraints and vigorously stimulating more creativity. And fostering confidence in their relationships as with ADB. We certainly hope it lasts !
Plus d’infos : site ADB Lighting