Sydney Opera House lights up with wireless

Von Rodney Gedda

With Sydney"s famous Opera House realizing the benefits of deploying a wireless network for control of sound and lighting, the company"s director of finance and systems Vicki Gillespie now welcomes the opportunity to deploy wireless wherever appropriate.

Gillespie, who is also the Opera House"s IT director, told a gathering of IT leaders in Sydney last week that although "there are some practical challenges", namely the concrete in the building being a problem for reception, "it would be nice to offer wireless access to all delegates". Wireless Internet terminals for visitors are also a possibility, she said.

Gillespie said if it is right to go with wireless then it will but if it is not, alternatives will be considered.

A wireless network for lighting and sound was implemented by the Opera House"s technology partner, HP, which allows technicians to control the lighting systems from anywhere in the theatre. The iPaq pocket PCs use software from Strand Lighting which turns them into "virtual control panels" that are used to manage the lighting desks.

"In the past, lighting required a team of specialists," Gillespie said. "Now we control lighting via wireless."

The solution is in each of the Opera House"s theatres and Gillespie described it as "music to the IT director"s ears".

"Sound can be recalled quickly and with six iPaqs and six access points at around A$1,000 (US$772) per item it"s an inexpensive instrument," she said.

In addition to the computer-controlled lighting, the Opera House sound department is using HP tablet PCs to streamline the previously manual process of adjusting speakers.

This is part of a long-term strategy to improve the sound of the venue, particularly in the main concert hall.

Using Lake Controller software, sound operators can sit in the "zone" of speakers and adjust them while listening in real time.

Gillespie said operators previously had to adjust the sound systems physically from the roof of the theatre which was time-consuming and dangerous.