Almost an acre of fabric drapes the Zed Stage. It will all be drawn down through the main lift in seconds by the two "Vortex" winches.
For Cirque du Soleil’s first permanent installation in Japan, they wanted the very best in automation equipment, but also required a single control system capable of operating every piece of machinery in the theater. To meet this challenge, Fisher Technical Services, Inc. provided all of the standard and acrobatic automation hardware as well their proprietary Navigator control system that could tie together the machinery from FTSI with equipment from other contributing vendors.
The Zed Theater, named after its permanent show “Zed”, is a 2,170 seat venue built on the site of a former parking lot across the street from Tokyo Disneyland. Passengers alighting from the Tokyo Metro line at Maihama Station can walk to the entrance of Disneyland or to the Zed Theater. Both attractions are on property owned by the Oriental Land Company.
After a fierce international bidding process -- including a physical technological shoot out at the Cirque du Soleil headquarters in Montreal -- FTSI was awarded the entire automation machinery and controls contract for the theater, including the specialized acrobatic, special effects, and performance winch equipment.
« The Morihei lifts - fast moving, precise, and over twenty feet in diameter - are positioned to within 1.5mm by FTSI’s D-Series Integrated Motor Controllers and Navigator software.
» The engine of the Zed automation system is the FTSI D-Series Integrated Motor Controller. These units are available in five horsepower ranges. They are built with the motion control electronics in a quick swap tray to allow for rapid installation and service procedures. D-Series controllers run all of the theater automation equipment including gear built both by FTSI and Morihei with equal ease and capabilities.
« These G-Series winches are fitted with optional servo motors (replacing the standard AC motors) and dual brakes. Customization of standard equipment is never a problem at FTSI.
» All gear, including the pictured "Net" winch, was carefully tested for strength, reliability and performance in Las Vegas before being disassembled and shipped to Japan for installation. This testing ensured a trouble free installation.
Morihei Butai Kiko, the general contractor for the theater rigging systems, built the stage lift system. These precision lifts have a beautiful and elegant “missile door” system to expose the main lift platform, as well as two concentric revolves. Morhei built the lift machinery and left the connection and control of the motors and safety systems to FTSI and Navigator. FTSI provided encoders and interface enclosures to allow FTSI’s standard D-Series Integrated Motor Controllers to easily connect to and control Morihei’s lift machinery. This integration process was seamless and quick, and resulted in a fully integrated automation control system for the theater.
FTSI provided a mix of off the shelf components and custom designed equipment to meet the Cirque du Soleil performance requests and requirements. Navigator Pro3D software and the D-Series motor controllers are used to control all electrical motors in the theater.
FTSI has a broad catalog of standard winches. Cirque du Soleil selected ten of the FTSI Q-Series zero fleet counterweight assist winches to control a variety of scenery and performer pieces from the linesets. The Japanese versions of these winches are built to incorporate a dual control line system for increased safety. Augmenting the lineset winches, FTSI installed four standard single line G-Series winches. These are used for positioning trapeze elements precisely and quickly into place.
To meet the artistic demands of the show, FTSI designed, built, and installed a wide range of high performance specialty machines and winches.
« The primary control console for Zed, an FTSI 'Momentum' console with Navigator Pro3D software.
» FTSI's attention to detail allows for custom integration pieces to look and perform as well as off-the-shelf FTSI components. These cabinets contain the lift integration electronics to allow FTSI's D-Series Integrated Motor Controllers to manage Morihei lift equipment.
« Navigator speaks your language — including Japanese. Navigator Pro3D is a very sophisticated software system, and allowing new operators to work in their native tongue facilitates rapid training and turnover. Operators can flip the screen from English to Japanese and back again at the click of a mouse.
» A custom Navigator status panel allows a user to see the position of the Morhei lifts and the status of the hydraulic tensioning system for the hire wire act. Through its built-in "Panel Forms" tool, Navigator allows for easy end-user construction of custom panels as well as customization of the user interface and display to match the operator's needs throughout a show.
Modified versions of FTSI G-Series winches were specially fitted with servo motors (instead of the standard AC motors) to decrease the weight of the machinery and increase the acceleration performance of the winches. Fitting servos to the standard G-Series frames was an easy swap, and provided an economical means of achieving Cirque’s high performance acrobatic requirements.
A pair of “Vortex” winches provides the motion for the breathtaking opening curtain effect where the billowing fabric disappears into a ‘vortex’ in the center of the state. The “Vortex” winches are 25 hp motors coupled with huge drums that are over eight feet in length and four feet in diameter. At over 25 linear feet per second, the drums collect almost an acre of fabric in the blink of an eye as they unveil the stage for the opening of the show.
The “Basket” winch is a custom ten horsepower counterweight assist winch. While based on a G-Series design, the primary custom aspect of the winch is the massive braking system which provides the means for rigidly securing a four ton piece of scenic and acrobatic equipment through an enormous range of loading conditions.
The “Net” winches are used to deploy and tension a safety net system for the overhead trapeze acts. It is a two stage machine, with the first stage rotating a large drum to pull the stage width net into its initial slack position. After engaging a huge ratchet backstop on the first stage, the second stage drives a large ball screw to pull the entire winch system backward (riding on heavy duty FTSI Fastrack) to put over 7 tons of tension on the net.
« The "Net" winch installed in the Zed Theater in Tokyo.
» The Zed Emergency Stop and safety system uses FTSI's integrated rack-mount Estop controllers, providing a plug-and-play and, fully configurable, system. Physically, it interconnects equipment controllers, hand held and wall stations, and the operator interface devices. The Navigator software allows for fast and reliable programming and troubleshooting of the Estop system. All equipment was labeled in both English and Japanese.
FTSI’s controls and software work equally well on hydraulic systems as well as electrical. Cirque du Soleil required a high torque, high precision hydraulic winch to provide tensioning of the walking wire for a high wire act. In addition to providing the required torque, Navigator software dynamically tensions the wire using load cell feedback to not only set the performance tension for the wire, but to actually dynamically change the tension on the wire for different maneuvers during the performance.
« FTSI's equipment exists on a common network allowing for portable handheld Velocity controllers to be used for local control and preset of acrobatic acts. These consoles are just as powerful as the desktop consoles and allow for flexibility and mobility in the theater.
Choreographing a theater’s worth of automation gear is no small task, but FTSI makes it simple by providing the easy and configurable operation environment of Navigator. Although all the equipment could be controlled by a single operator, the complexity of the Zed show requires local control of equipment in multiple locations for various presets and acts. In Zed, three FTSI consoles were installed: a Momentum console in the control booth, and Kinetic consoles in both the grid area and the trap room.
The rapid installation and exceptional reliability and flexibility of the new FTSI modular automation system components facilitated an efficient and liberating creative process, providing the means to move machinery and controls to different locations in the theater as the creative vision for the show evolved simply by moving the D-Series controllers to different racks and plugging in the winches. Rehearsals and show development proceeded uninhibited by limitations or downtime from the automation system.
Zed opened on schedule on October 1, 2008 to rave reviews.
For more about Zed please see http://www.zed.co.jp/