Liverpool Empire Theatre – Lighting Systems Upgrade

Liverpool Empire Theatre

Push The Button (PTB) recently wrapped up an extensive project in collaboration with The Liverpool Empire Theatre, breathing new life into its lighting systems. The historic theatre, opened in 1925, required a significant update to its auditorium, emergency, comfort, and production lighting.

The Auditorium Revival

The Liverpool Empire’s auditorium, boasting the largest two-tier seating in the UK, faced lighting challenges due to outdated infrastructure. The heritage lighting fixtures from the 1960s were originally fitted with 100w or brighter lamps. These became obsolete in 2009 under energy-saving legislation. As these lamps failed, they were replaced with lower wattage alternatives, resulting in a progressively dimmer ambiance.

In response, PTB refreshed the existing fixtures, introducing high-brightness Zico 8w 2700k lamps throughout the auditorium. This transformation included addressing a set of five chandeliers, not only as a source of ambient light but also to highlight the intricately decorated ceiling. The team replaced the original lamp fittings and added extra fittings, effectively doubling the number of lamps. The result was a significant increase in light levels, surpassing those of the original installation. Ornamental plasterwork specialists, Hayles and Howe, were enlisted to skilfully cut holes for new downlights in the front stalls area, allowing PTB to seamlessly integrate a pair of additional fixtures.

New house light dimming, facilitated by six Artistic License Sundial Quad – 4 x 250 Watt Dimmers in custom enclosures, further enhanced the venue’s lighting control.

Comfort and Emergency Enhancement

The comfort and emergency lighting received due attention. PTB revamped the emergency lighting, creating a brighter, safer state using the existing fixtures. The comfort lighting, initially too bright and with the wrong colour temperature, underwent a transformation. PTB replaced fixtures with controllable downlights, adjustable via ETC ArcSystem drivers. This allowed not only safe patron movement but also provided incoming companies the flexibility to fade comfort lighting to absolute zero, a feature lacking in the previous system.

The outdated working light control system, an old AMX, saw an upgrade with the installation of an ETC Unison Paradigm Architectural Control Processor. The integration included contact closure cards from ETC, housed in custom PTB enclosures. By utilising an ETC Unison Contact Interface Board, PTB seamlessly connected button panels around the venue to the ETC Paradigm. Eaton relay modules in the equipment enclosure facilitated the ETC Paradigm’s control over existing working light circuits. The Paradigm system introduced touch screen controls, placing a Paradigm P-TS7-4 7″ wall mounted touch screen downstage left and offering further control by connecting an ETC Paradigm P-TS7-PE 7” portable touch screen via any ethernet connection point in the venue.

Dimmers and Network Infrastructure

In tandem with the auditorium and working light upgrades, PTB replaced the ageing Strand LD90 dimmers with twelve ETC ColourSource ThruPower Dimmers. These modern dimmers support both legacy tungsten fixtures and the latest LED lighting technology. The team collaborated with the venue’s technical team, ensuring existing cabling was sufficient and in good order before connecting the new dimmers.

The dimming room also underwent changes, with obsolete electrical distribution boards replaced by fresh Schnieder mains distribution boards to feed the new dimmers. To enable the use of intelligent fixtures throughout the venue, PTB installed an ethernet data network, adding connections at existing facility panels and introducing new facility panels where required.

Delivery Amidst Theatre’s Busy Schedule

PTB worked strategically alongside in-house technicians, avoiding disruptions to incoming productions. A carefully planned series of two-week schedules, minimising noise and interruptions during incoming company schedules, allowed the project to be completed without closure periods or interruptions.

Push The Button’s extensive project at The Liverpool Empire Theatre showcases a significant technical expertise, ensuring a brighter, safer, and more adaptable lighting experience for both performers and audiences.