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Making the Best Atmospheric Effects at Chichester Festival Theatre

Staff Writer

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(L-R): Laura Howells (Lighting Technician), complete with ATMe-coloured sweatshirt, Eden Thornton (Lighting Technician) and Graham Taylor (Deputy Head of Lighting) on the set of Ross (lit by Paul Pyant)

Chichester Festival Theatre invested in two MDG ATMe™ haze generators and two MDG theFAN™ digital units, supplied by leading creative and technical solutions specialists, White Light.

The main driving factor was “the need for greater controllability than the on/off capability offered by our existing AtmosphereAPS units,” says CFT’s Head of Lighting and Technical Manager, Sam Garner-Gibbons. “We have a purpose-built atmosphere generation system that sites the generators and fans above the rear of the audience and ducts CO2 gas through copper pipes to gas canister storage locations back of house.

"The units are placed front of house so the venue’s air handling system pulls the haze across the stage to create the optimum coverage. Because we are a very exposed venue, any fan noise and or excess haze output percolating around the upper audience level could be distracting to the audience,” he added. It was clear that controllability would be paramount when addressing these issues.

Another notable feature of the ATMe haze generator is its controllability. “In addition to the MDG quality haze, you have complete control over the amount, timing, pressure and saturation of the haze. It seemed like a sensible investment and in-house tests gave us positive results, which culminated in the purchase of two ATMe generators and two theFAN units,” said Garner-Gibbons.

The two ATMe units were installed in Festival Theatre where they have been busy since day one. The 2016 season saw lighting designer Paule Constable employ them on the critically-acclaimed production of Half A Sixpence, while they were also used to great effect on the RSC double bill Much Ado About Nothing and Love’s Labour’s Lost lit by Oliver Fenwick, An Enemy of the People lit by Mark Henderson, and Ross lit by Paul Pyant – all of which featured haze heavily.

TheFANs, on the other hand “was to provide back up in case we needed to direct the haze away from those problem areas around the upper audience levels,” explains Garner-Gibbons. “We have adopted them on stage where they are very portable and efficient in pushing around smoke effects! They did a great job in sending ‘smoke’ out of the crocodile’s mouth in this year’s Christmas show, Peter Pan!”

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