Royal Albert Hall
A customized Kinesys motor control system has been installed into the Royal Albert Hall, one of London’s busiest and highest profile entertainment venues
The project was instigated by the Hall’s Rigging Manager, Simon Frost, and was delivered in two phases. With over 360 shows a year staged at the Royal Albert Hall, Frost wanted to introduce additional layers of health & safety and extra flexibility to the rig, which used to work on a conventional up/down motor control system. “I have always liked the design and functionality of Kinesys equipment” he explains.
With the hoists hanging over 130 ft up in the grid, their movement is barely audible even during complete silence, rare when a show is being rigged. The view is obscured from most positions in the Hall, including the main control area, by an aluminium skin cladding the grid
“A tried-and-tested, foolproof system with all the safety features that would stop the rig moving if a motor stopped”
To achieve this requirement, Kinesys first upgraded the Hall’s hardware and software, enabling them to use encoded hoists for accurate and repeated positioning of trusses and hoists.
Kinesys supplied a custom designed cabinet incorporating 20 of their new 4 channel positioning control cards – the same ones that are at the heart of their new Smart 8 controllers. This has an Ethernet connection to the control computer and interconnections into the Royal Albert Hall’s main non-positioning switchgear cabinet that has been controlling the system for the past 8 years.
The new positioner cards receive data from the control computer, send signals to the main switchgear cabinet to initiate movement of the appropriate hoists, and then monitor the position of the hoists via their encoders before stopping the hoist at the correct place. As part of the first phase, Kinesys also expanded the existing switchgear cabinet from 70 to 80 channels of control.
The second phase of the installation involved supplying three Kinesys Smart 8 controllers, expanding the total number of channels to 104. These simply connect to the Ethernet network to receive their data and are also hooked into the upgraded emergency stop system. A 40-way manual system was also installed to offer layers of backup and redundancy to a venue where dark/maintenance days rarely get out of single figures in a year.
The whole system is controlled from a customised version of Kinesys’ Vector software with a new graphical interface designed for use with a touch-screen. The system uses a CAD drawing of the Hall roof as its background and allows hoists to be dragged onto and around the screen so that they accurately represent the layout in real life. The hoists are then simply touched to ‘select’ and then set to run up or down.
This adds a whole new layer of functionality, whilst offering the Royal Albert Hall staff a familiar interface that they have been comfortable operating for several years. The Hall’s hoists are in constant use for moving sound and lighting trusses, acoustic banners, props, cable picks and other elements. They are gradually all being changed to double braked Liftkets.
The major challenge for the Kinesys installation team has been the lack of dark days in the venue. Frost adds “They were fantastically understanding of the situation and worked extremely quickly and efficiently when we found gaps in the schedules for the work to be completed!”
The Kinesys elements have hugely increased the flexibility of the Royal Albert Hall system “Both for visiting productions and those where the technical infrastructure is provided by the house”, Frost concludes.