Stage Automation Engineer



run this first cue scenery moving use another Q this Q is going to close the two flippers and bring them back on hi my name is Chuck a Dumanis and I'm a stage automation engineer stage automation involves mechanizing and controlling scenery so that it can run repeatedly identically show to show night after night you know conventionally scenery has either been flown in from above or pushed on from the wings and those were both things that were very easily done manually by stage hands so by being able to automate items we can now use bigger scenery and we can also do things that you just would not have been able to do manually so my job mostly is to really figure out from the creative team what is it that we want to do and then to design the Machine and the controls that allow us to make that scenery do that effect this is a control system for Billy Elliot the first national tour is part of our Hudson scenic automation system that we call HMC systems set up to run all the effects for the show the typical process is we here in the shop will get the system set up basically ready for the operator to use in the feeder because of the complexity of all this equipment we want to be able to do as much of the troubleshooting proving out debugging here in the shop you know we've designed this equipment and we've used it for a long time but for every show there's always going to be subtle different things things we do custom I think one of the biggest challenges for Billy Elliot you know in all of the previous incarnations of that show there were several key scenic elements the kitchen and Billy's house that sort of brought onstage through elevators in the floor so they came up with this idea of having these flip open walls and this pallet to allow that same scenery this mostly that will set a kitchen furniture to get it on and off stage that otherwise would have been coming up in an elevator so this is the down what we call the downstage flipper wall and this is actually the motor and years that caused that wall to be controlled by the automation system so when I actually run queues signals are sent down to this control box and in turn that control box knows how to run this motor which will actually cause this flipping panel to open and close throughout the show and then finally this entire wall can come on and off stage and we do that through the use of tracks on the floor here connected to those tracks are cables that we in turn have connected to a winch that's built into the floor off stage that can actually track that unit on and off certainly I think the origins of all this for me goes back to you know as a kid you know my mom and I actually came up to New York to see Broadway shows like lame is and phantom which would have been some of the first big automated shows and it was always that Wow like how does it all happen like what is going on how do they make it work I always thought I want to be an architect and was studying architecture through school but actually was working part time at the theater then sort of said you know wow look do you hear all these people that are sort of getting to do all the same sort of creative things that I was feeling like we're in architecture they actually got to go do it you know hands-on make it work and that was really interesting so ultimately decided to go back to school to actually study that and went back and got a master's degree in technical theatre at Yale and ultimately at the end it worked out that I was able to come here to Hudson and have since spent my time here you know originally starting down on the floor building parts and systems for shows and then as the years went on ended up in the engineering department actually drawing and now heading up that automation group of people for as many hours as I might spend in front of a computer trying to make that alright there are 10 or 12 people if not a hundred people on the shop floor that are going to work many many more hours than I did to actually construct it put it together make it function and a lot of those people have been doing this for a lot longer than I have so I am dependent and reliant on their skills as craftsmen is just be able to say yeah that idea is ok but can we do it this way certainly Lion King is was a sort of crowning you know moment for Hudson first big automation system we ever did was the original Lion King for New York and you know if Pride Rock doesn't come up out of the stage for Lion King it's not the same show it doesn't really look that complicated at the end of the day and yet when it's in the midst of all these other scenic elements and lit well and has a full costume cast in front of it it's this incredibly magical thing that really does work for the show some of the best automation some of these shows is is used very little it's that one or two big moments without a doubt I'd say the biggest challenge of a project that I've been involved with was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when we did the flying car and so all of the machinery all the wires you know all of this equipment that was under there holding that car up kind of just perfectly melted away and to have so much effort put into this one effect of the car flying out over the audience was pretty remarkable recently the without a doubt the biggest change we've seen in I think theater it certainly it affects all of the scenery is the use of video one of the last big projects we did Dreamgirls that's currently on tour in America you know has we have video panels actually are being moved with automation so that's the big change I think we'll see on automation in the future is that there'll be a much much more desire from all the creative departments be it video or lighting and audio and everybody to integrate those systems so that we can very seamlessly do things that right now we can't do I could certainly be using all the same equipment same skills and everything and be designing an assembly line for a factory or a way a package gets curtain'd up the thing that's wonderful about this is when you actually go to the theater and you get to see one of these things that really still I even I still can go and have these moments of like wow like how does it all work and I know how it works that's what makes this work exciting and fun and worth the long hours and the long days and the late nights because it is exciting and it is sort of live and happening every night you

6 Comments

  • elphbwckd

    April 13, 2019

    I absolutely love this series. It's so insightful and educational as well as entertaining. This channel should have way more subscribers for this series.

    Reply
  • dubdj matt

    April 13, 2019

    Good vid. But his voice is so lo its high pitched. and now my ears hurt. It sounds so fake…

    Reply
  • Major Magic's

    April 13, 2019

    Im looking for a curtain motor that will lift a 9' curtain. Any ideas?

    Reply
  • Disney's Little Einsteins Fan

    April 13, 2019

    In summer of 2016 I saw the 5th Avenue's recreation of Paint Your Wagon and I like it.Since I like it so much I've gave the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle a bigger challenge I asked them to recreate the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Stage Production.  I really hoped that the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle will Recreate the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang stage production.If you look on Wikipedia you can see that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the musical got bad reviews.Hopefully 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle will correct this in the future.I saw Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the Tacoma Musical Theater Playhouse in November of 2015 and I liked it.Since I liked it so much until one year later in summer of 2016 I told the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle all about my visit at the Tacoma Musical Theater Playhouse and I saw Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and I told them I like it and I've ask them if they can recreate the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang stage production by taking the best stuff from the book, movie and original productions from both London and on Broadway.

    Reply
  • Superb Media Content Creator

    April 13, 2019

    Nice piece… well lit and shot… economically edited… nice job…

    Reply
  • AlfieNoakesOhHo

    April 13, 2019

    These people do great work and I appreciate it, but a little bit of me thinks technology in the theatre is akin to putting a microphone on an opera singer and doing some eq on his/her voice. I prefer the magic of the ropes, crew madly pushing things around in the shadows and all that "magic", and just like magicians (illusionists) I don't go around showing people outside of the industry how it's done. That's the wonder of thhe theatre

    Reply

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