When the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo came to the Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand in February 2016, production supplier, MJF Lighting, decided the scale of the production warranted new followspots and invested in four Robert Juliat Merlin 2500W HMI followspots specifically for the spectacular show.
“There were no quality 2kW HMI followspots available in New Zealand to match this event, with all previous shows of this scale and high production standards having relied on units out of Australia,” says MJF’s CEO, Michael Farrand. “It was time for a change.”
“The Merlins are beautifully engineered,” Farrand continues. “The design has been thought about and the guys at Robert Juliat have obviously consulted thoroughly with the people who use the product. They’ve thought about everything: the balance of them, where the controls are located and how they go in and out of the roadcases. Every little detail has been thought about.”
The four RJ Merlin followspots were positioned on the roof of the stadium, 26m above the field, in two purpose-built huts that were craned up into position. The installation took a week to complete and included a life-sized replica of Edinburgh Castle as the backdrop to Paul Collison’s lighting design.
Collison was very impressed by how the Merlin followspots performed. “I’ve been a fan of RJ fittings for a long while, particularly their optics, but I was incredibly impressed with the output of the Merlins. They really made lighting the show a pleasure as we could rely on them to compete with hundreds of other fittings even though they (the Merlins) were throwing over 100m at times.”
Comfort for the operators is just as important as for the designers and technicians, so Robert Juliat was happy to hear the feedback from Head Followspot Operator, Katie-Jane Bowen. “There are many features on the Merlins that I found extremely useful,” says Bowen. “One of my favourite features was the dimmer control position and the percentage reading on the display. This enabled me to be able to call my team to match the exact output with ease to balance our pickups perfectly without guesswork. The positions on both the dimmer and the iris are placed so that the operator does not have to shift their weight to access these controls, allowing for smooth and steady operating. From a full body clean shot to a perfectly formed pin spot at the far end of the stadium, the beam is beautiful and the precision in the controls is long awaited for.”
Collison reckons the well-designed features had a beneficial effect on the performance of the spot operators: “Once the operators became accustomed to the RJ way, they executed their cues flawlessly. This was quite a feat, when you consider that the temperatures at show time often dropped below 10°C and wind speeds across the roof averaged 30knots with gusts of over 50knots.”
Merlin’s giant size proved no hindrance to the operators: “I am a small girl, and seeing the size of these units was a little overwhelming in the anticipation of rigging them,” says Bowen. “But the lift points and handles are positioned extremely well for easy lifting and rigging, even within a tight space. With assistance of only one other, I was able to comfortably lift and set these up as desired.
“Operating the RJ Merlin for me was an absolute dream. The movement is incredibly smooth, the balance could be made to be almost perfect for centre stage position, and control was precise and beautifully simple.”
“Katie-Jane’s comments are among the greatest compliments we hope to have at Robert Juliat,” says RJ CEO François Juliat. “Merlin seems to have hit the spot in ruggedness, performance and operability that we had designed it for. We are extremely happy to hear the comments from everyone involved in this production.”