Automation for the Theatre

in Buyer's Guides

To download a PDF of the Feb. 2010 PLSN Buyers Guide, CLICK HERE.


Technology is rapidly changing theatre. Just a few years ago it was almost unheard of to use automated lighting in the theatre, but now it's commonplace. Soon afterwards, projection started transforming scenic design. Now automation is spreading through the theatres around the world from middle schools to Broadway.  

Why the sudden change?


Computers have been around for decades, but only recently have they become as powerful, inexpensive and readily available as they are now. And with powerful computers comes powerful design capabilities, including computer-aided design (CAD), computer numerical controlled (CNC) machine tools, rapid prototyping and rapid manufacturing.


In addition, control systems are more easily developed that allow a trained operator to safely program and operate movement cues in an automated system. And as the cost of computers has fallen, their computational abilities have risen to the point where the average computer is capable of running some very powerful software, while a more expensive (but still not terribly expensive) computer can run software to model very complex design and modeling programs.


With all of these tools at their disposal, manufacturers are more apt to use them to design and build more sophisticated products, including theatre automation and control. And with a heightened awareness of safety, it makes good sense to start designing automated systems where manually operated systems, such as counterweight rigging, used to dominate.


This Buyer's Guide takes you through the basic feature sets of some of the newest automated tools used in the theatre. Although it's not comprehensive, it does indicate the breadth of the products available today.