Seasonal Surprise in Pasadena

Remember our blog in late October about the new EK users at the First Baptist Church of Pasadena?

Now we have some footage of part of this festive season’s famous Singing Christmas Tree extravaganza – an annual event in its 33rd year. Despite more than three decades of history, this was the first time the Church had chosen to conceal, then reveal, the Christmas-tree-shaped stage as it holds 150 people ready to burst into song.

We are delighted to report that the DMX-controlled Electro Kabuki drop worked flawlessly. Take a look at a clip from the video here.

Best of all was the message we received from Brent Shore, Technical Director at FBC Pasadena:

The Electro Kabuki system worked flawlessly as we expected it would and added the grand opening we were looking for to our annual Christmas Production of the ‘Singing Christmas Tree’. The system was easy to install and set up in our configuration to operate. We look forward to using the system for years to come to bring a moment of awe and wonder to all in attendance when our 32-foot-tall Christmas tree with 150 singers standing in it is revealed for the first time in our production.

Legendary Hero Revealed at Asian Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan.

We recently received a tip-off that Electro Kabuki had been used to reveal the centrepiece at the opening ceremony of the 5th Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) held in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. As far as we know, this is the first Electro Kabuki rig in Turkmenistan. (In truth, we had to Google Turkmenistan to find out more about the country. There are some fascinating facts to be uncovered if you have time)!

Information is scarce but we have found a YouTube video, which tells us that the EK reveal worked perfectly, playing its part in flawless fashion.

The video shows the opening ceremony. It’s quite a long video, actually, but if you pay particular attention around the 1 hour 23-minute mark (out of a total length of 2½ hours) you’ll see Electro Kabuki do its stuff. (Or click on the shortened clip in the banner above). Like most opening ceremonies for international games, it was a showy affair and a fine spectacle. And yes, at the indicated time, it was clear to see why a substantial Electro Kabuki rig was needed, along with EK’s absolute dependability, to reveal what can only be described as a giant and impressive inflatable figure.

Some more time on Google turned up information about the centrepiece figure. It is Oğuz Han (or Oghuz Khan or Oghuz Khagan), a legendary and semi-mythological Khan of the Turks. It’s a legend used by some Turkic cultures to describe their ethnic origins and the origin of the system of political clans used by Turkmen, Ottoman, and other Oghuz Turks. (Thanks, Wikipedia).

This inflatable incarnation of Oğuz Han is a striking figure holding a bow and arrows with massive horns emanating from a plinth. It looks to be 60 feet tall. We can see that the EK modules were rigged on a large, circular truss high above the legendary hero.

The perfectly-timed EK reveal worked flawlessly. And, though this was just one part of the prestigious show, we think it was an important part of the staging. It proves that EK users can be totally confident with the system. Kabuki drops once had a chequered reputation; we’d like to think that our engineering expertise has consigned that to history.

Check out this AIMAG video clip for yourself. This is a shortened clip showing the part of the event where EK comes in to play.

Got time to watch the entire AIMAG Opening Ceremony? No problem, knock yourself out by following this link.

Christmas arrives early for EK in Texas

While most of us are still enjoying the last remnants of summer (apologies to our readers in the Southern hemisphere), some members of the Electro Kabuki community are already headlong into Christmas plans.

A new order for Electro Kabuki with DMX control arrived from the First Baptist Church Pasadena recently, and we despatched the system last week. Many churches in the US are avid users of Electro Kabuki.

For this application, the organisers of Christmas festivities at the church tell us that the EK system will be used to reveal the church’s Singing Christmas Tree performance. The Church is famous for this annual event, which has been held for the past 33 years and enjoyed by over 150,000 people in that time. The EK rig will use 11 modules arranged in a 180° arc from the church’s central circular ceiling truss. It will reveal the 32-foot-tall Tree holding 170 singers and decorated with 10,000 lights.

That’s what we know for now, but we really look forward to bringing you the full experience soon after Christmas. This looks to be the first time the church has used a reveal effect, so we hope to get hold of some video. We wish them every success with the festive rigging, rehearsals and performances in the meantime.

The Kooks get silhouetted then revealed thanks to EK

West London-based Electro Kabuki user, Colour Sound Experiment Ltd, deployed its EK system as part of a bespoke touring lighting and effects package built and rigged for ‘alt rockers’ The Kooks, for the band’s recent The Best of… so Far tour. The tour closed with a high-profile gig at London’s Alexandra Palace, which required extra lighting production.

Among the clever bespoke designs for a tourable, quick-rig solution to get their own lights in and up-and-running every day, Colour Sound chose to rig an Electro Kabuki reveal to start the show in style. The EK modules were attached to the house front trusses at ‘Ali Pally’. This rig kept the band dramatically silhouetted by the light from six powerful Robe BMFL spots blasting through from the back truss, then revealed them on cue with the kabuki drop.

Read the whole story in LSi online magazine here.

Colour Sound Experiment is a customer of our EK distributor, AC Entertainment Technologies.

(Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cave @ Loosplat)

Reveal up to 4 Thai Ladyboys with the new EK Firing Box!

A new basic firing box has been added to the EK accessory line-up. The 4-way box is only termed ‘basic’ because it deploys the straightforward push-button firing mechanism of the standard Basic Firing Box – but this new model offers the ability to fire up to four strings of EK modules, one string at a time, so there’s nothing ‘basic’ about that.

With simplicity in mind, the new firing box features a rotary switch to select each of the circuits. Two link cable connectors provide the output signal route to the strings of EK modules – each cable addressing two strings. A three-metre power cable is hard-wired to the box. Riggers simply decide which string of modules to connect to which circuit. Operators select the string to be armed with the rotary switch and hit the Fire button to drop. Then they move on to the next one. Couldn’t be easier!

You could achieve the same effect by running two Basic Firing Boxes in parallel. But the 4-way box gives you the convenience of a single firing button – so there’s absolutely no room for confusion over which fire button to hit next. And it’s priced at around 25% less than the cost of a pair of Basic Firing Boxes.

Even though it’s not something that’s likely to be needed if you specifically choose the new 4-way system, bear in mind the one restriction: you cannot link the strings of modules together and drop them all with a single press. You can do this for the two circuits connected to a Basic Firing Box, and of course on the DMX/Sensing Firing Box.

The Headline Act

So why the ‘ladyboy’ headline? There were two initial enquiries that led us to recognise a need and develop the 4-way box. The first was from a staging company wanting to release four consecutive balloon net drops for a New Year’s Eve party in Macau. But by far the more intriguing request, received a few weeks later was, was from one of our EK Distributors, AC Entertainment, for a project based in Thailand. We’re told that this is for a Ladyboy Show, where the goal is to expose each individual artiste one at a time. In this context, perhaps the word ‘expose’ is not the most sensitive. Then again, this curious use of Electro Kabuki does give an imaginative new meaning to the term ‘theatrical reveal’.

The curious case of Electro Kabuki enquiries

Casting our eyes over the enquiry log for Electro Kabuki creates a sense of wonder at the diversity of the system’s geographic appeal – and generates more than a little curiosity about the kinds of organisations looking to deploy staged reveals. We despatch EK systems to the four corners of the globe. A quick glance at the enquiry log for the last couple of months alone shows the US, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, the UAE, Mexico, France, Germany and Iceland amongst others.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve fielded enquiries for single cables, flight cases and a Firing Box to sophisticated multi-drop systems comprising 60 EK modules. And loads of requests for Starter Packs – both the basic and new DMX versions. That’s hardly surprising as they offer an easy and affordable route into flawless reveals through EK ownership. Some new customers are already taking advantage of the DMX Starter Pack discount and adding extra EK modules from the outset: one customer wanted eight additional modules, another wanted 20! We’re okay with that.

But back to the diversity. It’s not only the geographic spread of enquiries but the different types of organisation that illustrate Electro Kabuki’s broad appeal. A school in Dorset is considering a Starter Pack; how cool will that school production be? There are TV production companies, theatres, a show choir, event organisers, professional contract staging crews (obviously) and dance companies. And our good friends at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio (they needed an extra 20-metre cable, presumably to rig the live EK drop in their outdoor summer show).

From the scale of enquiries and orders, Electro Kabuki clearly captures the imagination of anyone looking to make a visual impact – from school plays to high-profile product launches, it would seem. For the old hands in the rigging and staging business, we think the dependability we meticulously engineer into every part of the EK system puts the spectre and embarrassment of failed reveals to bed. Finally, it’s an effect they can trust.

Let us know how you’re using you EK system – or how you plan to use it. We may feature it here. And yes, photos and videos are always welcome.

(Acknowledgement: world map graphic created by Freepik)

Now you see it, now you don’t! Rigging EK live in a dance show.

News just in from one of our Electro Kabuki users in the US. Our friends at Cedar Point, a top amusement park in Ohio (and known as the roller coaster capital of the world) sent us a cool video showing how they use an EK drop in the middle of a live pyrotechnic and laser-filled music and dance performance. And it all takes place outdoors! That’s no problem for the EK system – it’s fully weatherproof.

What’s unusual about this EK implementation is that the crew rigs the drape on the stage floor, just behind the main live action, almost as part of the show. Then they hoist it aloft and project onto it, before finishing with a perfectly timed drop. It’s a great stage effect. And it’s perfect proof of just how easy is it to rig Electro Kabuki – this staging crew can do it live, in real time.

Run the video clip above on the EK YouTube Channel. It was shot during the final Cedar Point dress rehearsal.

Or watch the whole rehearsal clip here – The EK rigging starts around the 15-minute mark.

Our sincere thanks to Charles Bradshaw at Cedar Point for thinking to send this to us. It looks like a great show!


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:

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:

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 electro-permanent magnets and successfully used these to reveal the US President. They came back to us again, because “we’re the boys!”

The electro-permanent 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:

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 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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