Author: Steve Chapman

Get DMX Automation from an EK Starter Pack

Since its introduction a couple of years back, our Basic EK Starter Pack has been pleasingly successful in helping to introduce staging professionals to the benefits, and rock-solid reliability, of Electro Kabuki.

For many of these people, being able to prove the dependability of the EK system before deploying it in anger at a high-profile event was key. And our special Starter Pack pricing means a minimal investment, which makes the whole thing affordable. It’s worth mentioning that a very high percentage of Starter Pack users have gone on to extend their EK systems significantly.

We began to notice an increasing number of EK enquiries asking about DMX control. It’s clear that some people need this automation option from the outset. As it turned out, that proved to be the case in many instances, but there was another motivator…

More than automation

The DMX firing box also adds extra functionality. Yes, you can get automation by connecting it to your DMX lighting panel or control console. But you also get an indicator, right there on the firing box front panel, telling you that the connections you’ve made with the link cables are good. In fact, that’s what the end-of-line indicator is for. As well as that electrical confirmation, there’s a mechanical verification too. Any EK module that has its safety tab in place – perfect for test drops without actually dropping – flashes a bright blue LED on the firing box. That’s an instruction to go and check the modules; each has a blue LED on its underside. Steady-state means all is well: the safety tab is off. The one that’s flashing is the one with its safety tab still in place. Not what you want when you’re about to unleash the big reveal!

So we have now created a DMX/Sensing Starter Pack. Again, it offers discounted pricing to make the journey into the reliable world of EK easy to justify. And the DMX Firing Box is included in the Pack – so automation via the DMX protocol and extra verification features are a reality, even in this modest ‘starter’ system. It’s available from the new EK website now and is already proving popular. Take a look: http://electrokabuki.com/get-a-quote

What’s in the kit?

What do you get in the new Starter Pack? Obviously, a DMX/Sensing Firing Box. Four EK modules, two wired as Circuit 1, the other two as Circuit 2. An end-of-line indicator, which is required for feedback of electrical continuity by the DMX protocol. A power cable. A half-metre cable to link the indicator to the final EK module. Three two-metre link cables to interconnect modules. And a 20-metre link cable to run from the Firing Box to the nearest EK module. Plus, five Manfrotto clamps to make rigging really easy.

Those familiar with the EK system will know that the two types of EK module supplied means that phased two-stage drops, and flop & drop reveals, are achievable. Not bad for an entry-level system. Jump to the EK System Configuration page to find out more about these reveals: http://electrokabuki.com/configuration

Special Starter Pack pricing to get you going

Like the Basic Starter Pack, our special pricing for the DMX Starter Pack represents a significant saving over buying the parts individually. It is priced in the UK at just £2,135.00. So you essentially get the four EK modules for free! It’s the same deal with our Basic Starter Pack: for £1,250 you get the Basic Firing Box, cables and clamps, again meaning no charge for the four EK modules.

Due to this special pricing, our Starter Pack offer is strictly limited to one per company. Bear in mind that these prices are subject to VAT in the UK and taxes where applicable in other regions. We calculate the exchange rate for export shipments at the time of order.

Magnets for Her Majesty

Not every theatrical reveal lends itself perfectly to Electro Kabuki, though most do. But this high-profile event, staged by our very good friends at FE UK Ltd, demanded a perfect reveal for a new war memorial sculpture in London’s Victoria Embankment Gardens to be unveiled by The Queen.

The drape covering the sculpture needed to drop to the ground for the reveal, with the world’s press watching and beneath the gaze of 2500 military veterans. No pressure there, then!

FE UK chose an approach similar to one they used before (on a statue of Ronald Reagan). At that time, they came to us at Magnet Schultz Ltd to source electromagnets and successfully used these to reveal the US President. They came back to us again, because “we’re the boys!”

The magnets we delivered to FE UK are from the same range of units we use inside the Electro Kabuki module. With that engineering pedigree, everyone knows they’re completely reliable and more than fit for purpose. In this installation, the magnets were used to hold the royal blue drape that covered the bronze memorial medallion, itself supported by two monoliths of Portland Stone by renowned sculptor Paul Day. We agree that an Electro Kabuki module would have looked too conspicuous.

The drape duly fell to the ground on command, as Her Majesty pressed the release button mounted on a small wooden podium alongside the towering sculpture. A fine outcome for everyone.

Watch the BBC News footage here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39202897

What exactly does Kabuki mean?

Kabuki is a form of traditional Japanese theatre featuring classical dance-drama, with its roots back in the Edo period early in the seventeenth century. It is an art form rich in showmanship. Kabuki theatre is known for its elaborate costumes, eye-catching make-up and outlandish wigs. Not to mention the exaggerated actions performed by the actors.

Of more relevance to our adoption of the term kabuki, as in Electro Kabuki, is the driving force behind the desire to manifest one frequent theme of kabuki theatre, namely that of the sudden, dramatic revelation or transformation. Kabuki theatre uses dynamic stage sets, such as revolving platforms and trapdoors to allow these rapid changes of scene (or the reveal and disappearance of actors) for which the genre is famed. So now you get the picture. Electro Kabuki does just that, of course. It is used the world over to quickly reveal something or somebody, delivering a rapid scene change.

Gender Switching

Here’s a kabuki fact that has no bearing whatsoever on our Electro Kabuki systems and modules! When it originated, kabuki was acted only by women and was popular mainly among common people. Later during the Japanese Edo Period (1603 to 1867), a restriction was introduced by the ‘Tokugawa Shogunate’ (the last feudal Japanese military government that existed between 1600 and 1868) forbidding women from participating. That edict obviously stuck as, even today, traditional kabuki theatre is performed exclusively by men. Several male kabuki actors are therefore specialists in playing female roles. They are called onnagata or oyama, which loosely translates to ‘female-role’.

Cultural Recognition

Kabuki theatre is now recognised as one of Japan’s three major classical theatres (the others being noh and bunraku). Kabuki was inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists in 2005.

Further Fascinating Kabuki Reading

Our thanks to Wikipedia for providing some of the additional detail above. To find out much more about the fascinating early days and incarnations of kabuki, follow this link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabuki to the Wikipedia page. Read how kabuki was, essentially, an early form of pop culture in Japan that brought together people from a variety of social classes, much to the displeasure of the government. Find out about the link with teahouses that surrounded the theatres and its popularity in the Edo (now Tokyo) red-light district. And how the original ensemble and dance performances by women troupes featured “ribald and suggestive themes” with its appeal further popularised by the fact that the performers were often available for prostitution.

Sounds like quite a night out, doesn’t it? Or perhaps a whole day out, as early kabuki performances ran from morning until sunset. Today, kabuki performances still run during the day and are usually divided into two or three segments from early afternoon into the evening.

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