It is Edinburgh Fringe Festival time again – the month of August where for almost four action-packed weeks, the Scottish city becomes a maelstrom of innovative, provocative and entertaining new theatre and performance, with works embracing all genres. Over 100 x Zero 88 lighting consoles – including the new award winning FLX range and a variety of legacy products – are working hard across the 300+ venues running in and around the city during the event, and the company has once again been at the forefront of offering comprehensive onsite training and support.
At least 25 of Eaton’s new Zero 88 FLX S range consoles alone are involved, just nine months after the desk – designed for quick and intuitive control of moving lights and LED fixtures for this size and style of shows – was launched. In fact, Eaton is enjoying a bumper Fringe year in the lighting control department, with the Zero 88 brand’s trusty consoles running lighting for a diversity of venues – from the highest profile to the most exclusive and secretive. A myriad of site-specific venues – from the vaguely conventional to the truly idiosyncratic – literally pop-up as show spaces across Edinburgh for the duration, while numerous well-known established theatres and concert halls come alive with the buzz and excitement of the world’s largest arts festival. It is truly a vibrant showcase for some of the best in international creative performance.
Zero 88 consoles and control packages are featuring at some of the busiest and most popular venues, with FLX range products at Assembly, Underbelly, Gilded Balloon, Summerhall and Pleasance, all of which offer multiple performance spaces throughout the Festival, each staging approximately 8 to 10 different shows across the period! There has been a big push for venues to switch to more LED lighting where possible, with all the extra creativity this offers LDs, plus additional powerful parameters like colour mixing that need to be easily controlled!
All of this is perfect for the FLX S range being a control platform of choice. Eaton’s Jon Hole and Edward Smith took to the technical front-line in the run up to the festival opening, giving face-to-face training and support to an estimated 150 technicians and operators during rehearsal and tech periods, right up to the first round of press nights, a programme that included around 25 dedicated console training sessions across the city. The in-situ training is something for which Zero 88 has become renowned. “We all love the Fringe Festival for many reasons including the lively atmosphere together with the ambition and excellence of so many of the works” stated Jon Hole, adding “it’s great to be a part of all that, as well as seeing the consoles pushed to new levels by multiple lighting designers, programmers and operators from all sectors of the industry, and with assorted levels of knowledge and experience”.
At least two major UK rental companies invested in new FLX S consoles to service their Edinburgh shows. Bristol headquartered SLX, who purchased nine FLX S consoles, and Hawthorn, who have bought a mixture of six FLX and FLX S consoles. These will then go into rental stock. For Martin McLachlan, head of lighting at Assembly, it is the “flexibility, ease of use and familiarity for incoming companies” that makes Eaton a go-to console choice for Edinburgh Fringe, coupled with being able to undertake “complex programming without confusing options for less advanced users”. Assembly also hosted a range of performances for the 2018 Edinburgh Jazz Festival immediately prior to the Fringe, for which a Zero FLX console was used in their Picolo venue, including by lighting designer Tarzan Wood for American blues singer Earl Thomas
Brian Hutchison, production manager for Summerhall states that the most important lighting control considerations for Fringe events are “reliability, ease of use and the excellent Eaton customer training and support”. He thinks the Zero 88 consoles are “stable and user friendly” and that the FLX S range has a “powerful feature set and a superior theatre cue stack compared to most others, but more importantly … it’s Eaton’s support and training which is vital for events like Edinburgh Fringe. We have numerous users of various abilities and very little room for error or downtime”. Gilded Balloon used four Zero 88 Jester ML24 consoles and hosted “Skin Deep” a touring show using an FLX.
Dan Last, customer service senior account handler (Hire) for lighting supplier White Light commented, “At a Fringe event you need a product that a wide number of people will be familiar with and that is easy to learn and use for those who aren’t … and of course it has to be cost effective for the venue provider” … Jon Hole observes, “It’s a great testament to the flexibility, power and true user-friendliness of the FLX S range to see them in so many places, and we really pride ourselves on going that proverbial “extra mile” and assisting and advising anyone using our kit how to maximise and get the most out of the tools at their fingertips!” “Every year we’re taken aback by the scale, enthusiasm and creativity shown throughout Edinburgh by designers, performers and technicians. We’re here to make their jobs as easy as possible – and we seem to be succeeding judging by the great feedback and seeing some venues after several years now returning to Zero 88 for their lighting control due to the intuitiveness, feature set and reliability” Jon also points out that ‘assistance and support’ also includes delivering coffee, cake and biscuits for some of those special and inspirational pre-production moments! This year, due to the excessive heat being experienced by the UK … the ‘additional support’ portfolio included ice creams!
Key reasons making Zero 88 consoles a success in Fringe-like environments are the impressive power in an expediently sized and small footprint package; the speed and swiftness of programming – including having all the patented colour information on-board ready to be applied to LED rigs – as well as being exceptionally quick and easy for people to pick up and learn … even if it’s the first time they are using a Zero console! The FLX S is ultimately affordable. It brings great value and makes lighting control very straightforward whether it is an experimental musical, a stand-up comedy routine or a scintillating piece of physical theatre.
So Eaton’s Zero 88 continues to tick multiple Fringe Festival production boxes and embrace a truly world class event with much enthusiasm and zest as well as provide some of the best practical working solutions for lighting control.
The fabulous Earl Thomas pix – at Assembly Picolo – are by Stuart Stott (lighting designer Tarzan Wood)
The moody ‘Skin Deep’ pix – at Gilded Balloon Teviot – are by Jon Hole (lighting designer Richard Lambert)