Blue Box Technical Services

Technical Theatre Consultants based in Manchester, UK and covering the North West and North Wales regions. Specialising in new-build projects and refurbishments, we offer a range of services and friendly independent specialist advice to Schools, Churches, and Entertainment Venues...

Portfolio → Schools & Education

The Blue Box Theatre

Chorlton High School, Manchester
BBTS staff wrote the Technical Specification and tender documentation for The Blue Box Theatre, a 300-seat new-build theatre forming part of larger new-build project - the entire school itself!. BBTS staff then oversaw the entire tendering process for the Theatre's lighting, sound, AV, systems as well as seating, and produced detailed comparison reports of all the tender returns together with recommendations. Once companies had been chosen to supply and install the infrastructure and equipment, BBTS staff project managed the associated installs from start to finish, including the inevitable "snagging" phase at the end of any such project. Training was also provided to both staff and students alike on the capabilities and use of the new equipment and infrastructure. When the Blue Box opened in 2003, it was without a doubt the most technologically advanced school theatre of it's kind anywhere in the North West. This was due to BBTS staff's commitment to ensuring that the state-of-the-art new school building had quality, industry standard, state-of-the-art performance systems to match, at a price that could be afforded by the school/LEA

Equipment List:
ETC Express 48/96 console
ETC Emphasis 3D Server
ETC SmartPack Dimmers (60 circuits configured for 48 dimming + 12 non-dims)
x120 Sockets around Theatre Space (x102 on LX Grid / x18 Low-Level)
x11 DMX Outlets around Theatre Space (x7 on LX Grid / x4 Low-Level)
Lighting control from Control Room or from within Theatre Space

Lantern Stock:
x8 ETC Source 4 PAR's (750w)
x48 Strand Quartet F's (650w)
x12 Strand Prelude F's (650w)
x12 Selecon Axial 24-44degs (600w)
x6 Strand Prelude 28/40's (650w)
x4 Thomas PAR 64 Cans (1kw)
x6 Thomas PAR 64 Floor Cans (S model) (1kw)
x5 Strand Nocturn 1000's (1kw)
x10 Strand Coda 500's (500w)
x4 Martin MAC250 Entour's (MSD 250)
x8 Rainbow 6" Scrollers (For Source 4 PARS)
Soundcraft K1 24:4:2 Channel mixing console
Soundcraft Sprit E12 12:2 Channel mixing console
x4 Mackie Vision PA151 Speakers (Flown)
x2 Mackie Vision PA180SW Speakers
x2 Crest CA6 Amplifier (Mid-Highs)
x1 Crest CA9 Amplifier (Subs)
x4 Peavey EuroSys 15PM 15 Inch Powered Monitor (150w)
Sound control from Control Room or from within Theatre Space

x2 Tascam CD-A500 CD/Tape Deck
x2 Sony MiniDisc Player MDS-SE10 Pro
x1 Tascam MD-350 MiniDisc Player
x2 Lexicon MPX550 FX Processor
x1 TC Electronic M300 FX Processor
x1 DigiTech Studio Quad v4 FX Processor
x4 Alesis 3630 Dual Compressor/Limiter/Gate
x1 Behringer UltraCurve PRO DSP8024 Dual 31-Band EQ/RTA
x1 Behringer UltraGraph PRO FBQ6200 Dual 31-Band EQ with Feedback Detection
x2 Shure SM58
x2 Shure SM57
x4 AKG C1000s
x4 AKG C418
x1 AKG D112
x4 AudioTechnica MB1000L
x4 Sennheisher Evolution ew100 UHF Tie-Clip Radio Mics
x3 AudioTechnica 200 Series Freeway VHF Tie-Clip Radio Mics
x5 Passive DI Boxes

Stonewood Intercom system with A & B loops and x8 single muff headsets & belt packs.
Can be used throughout the Theatre Space, Backstage, Control Room, and Dressing Rooms.
Show Relay, with paging facilities, in all dressing rooms

The Maurice Gibb Recording Studios

Chorlton High School, Manchester
In 2002, BBTS staff were tasked with designing an install a recording studio to a current professional standard at a secondary school in Greater Manchester. The main use of the studio was to be three fold:
  • As a teaching resource to help deliver the GCSE music and NCFE Music Technology courses
  • As a recording facility that students can "book out" and use to record their own work
  • As a commercial/community studio that external clients can "hire out" to record their own material

    The studio needed to accommodate a variety of different sized groups from soloists, bands, to large choirs and orchestras, and needed to come in at under £20,000. BBTS staff soon realised that the music practise room that had been designated for the recording studio would not be big enough to accommodate larger groups and choirs. After highlighting this, BBTS were able to also utilize two smaller rooms adjacent to the main recording studio that could serve as vocal booths, or drum rooms, etc, and that were cabled back to the main studio giving a very versatile setup. As the recording studios were being built at the same time as the school's brand new 300-seat theatre, BBTS staff also suggested that the Theatre's audio infrastructure be linkable in both directions with the recording studio to enable the recording of large choirs or concerts in the Theatre, as well as enabling the recording studios to be used to inject live material (voice overs, sound effects, etc) into live Theatre productions!

    The school approached the Bee Gees to tell them about the new studio. This was not long after Maurice Gibb passed away. The school wanted to pay tribute to Maurice and asked the two remaining Bee Gees, Barry and Robin, if they could name the studio in memory of their brother. Barry and Robin were only too happy to be involved, and attended the opening of the new "Maurice Gibb Recording Studios" on Wednesday 12th May 2004

    Equipment List:
    x1 Mackie Series 8 24/8 Studio Console
    x1 Mackie HDR24-96 Hard Disc Recorder
    x1 Tascam MD350 Minidisc Recorder
    x1 Philips CDR775 Audio CD Recorder

    Intel P4, 1GB RAM, ATI Radeon VE Dual Head Graphics Card,
    x3 Seagate 80GB 7200RPM Hard Drives,
    M-Audio Delta1010LT Soundcard (8-in, 8-out),
    x2 52xCDRW Drives with LiteScribe,
    Yamaha PSR-295 Keyboard
    Software: Win XP Pro, Cubase SL, Reason, Adobe Audition
    x1 Lexicon MPX550 Multi Effects Unit
    x1 TC Electronic M300 Multi Effects Unit
    x1 DigiTech Quad v4 Multi Effects Unit
    x1 Behringer UltraVoice Digital VX2496 Vocal Channel
    x4 Alesis 3630 dual-channel compressor/gate/limiter
    x4 Signex 48-way Balanced Patchbays
    x2 12u 19" racks
    x2 4u Lockable Rack Draws
    x3 Shure SM58's
    x2 Shure SM57's
    x4 AKG c1000s
    x1 AKG D112
    x4 AKG C418
    x1 Behringer B2 Pro
    x10 Quiklok Boom Stands
    x3 EMO Systems passive DI box

    x2 Tannoy Reveal 5A near field monitors
    x1 Samson Servo 260 amplifier
    x1 Samson S Phone Headphone Preamp
    x4 Behringer DT100 Headphones

    St Thomas Aquinas RC High School

    Chorlton, Manchester
    Blue Box Technical Service's staff were invited into St Thomas RC High School in Chorlton, South Manchester to have a look at the stage lighting system in their main hall. Their lighting system had suffered years of neglect, and hadn't worked for as long as anyone their could remember. The school was undergoing building improvements in other areas, but they also wanted to use the hall for hosting public performances, rather than solely using it for daily assemblies as it had been used previously. The hall had been given a new floor and fresh coat of paint, however the school did not have the budget to replace the lighting system with all new equipment. Blue Box Technical Service's staff were approached to see if they was anything that could be done to salvage and make use of the existing stage lighting system, and get it into a safe and usable state again, in the hope that the school could get a more few years usage out of it.

    Blue Box Technical Services staff, upon arrival, undertook a detailed inventory of all stage lighting equipment and infrastructure, as well as a safety inspection of the current setup.
    BBTS then undertook the following work at the school:

  • All stage lanterns thoroughly cleaned, visually inspected, and operationally checked
  • Patchbays, dimmer, and cabling cleaned
  • Re-wiring of patchbay (x5 cables missing plugs)
  • Testing of fuses in all 3 dimmer packs, replacement of x8 10-amp fuses, and x8 missing fuse holders - All 3 dimmers brought into full operation
  • Testing that every socket on lighting grid and low-level sockets work
  • Labelling of Dimmers, low-level sockets, and dimmer power supply (previously nothing was labelled)
  • Safety chains replaced on a number of Lanterns
  • Incorrectly rigged lanterns rigged correctly
  • Exposed cables were made safe
  • A new versatile "standard rig" for the lighting was designed, and rigged to meet the school's needs
  • The new "standard rig" was generated in CAD for the school, along with a detailed grid/socket layout
  • Old brittle coloured filters replaced with new ones
  • A list of missing items and their typical replacement costs was produced

    Finally, a detailed written report was written for the school on the work undertaken. The report also made additional safety recommendations (for example, regular PAT testing and the installation of luminous tape around edges of access ladders, etc) BBTS also advised on the possible future technical development for the main hall the school may like to consider. These suggestions were broken down into Short, Medium, and Long Term Developments, and associated costs

    Gatley Primary School

    Blue Box Technical Service's staff were invited into Gatley Primary School to advise the school on a new lighting system for the school hall.

    The school had never had a permanent lighting rig, having previously relied on a few lights on stands. BBTS were given a brief by the school on how much they wanted to spend, and what their requirements were. They wanted a permanent light rig, but noted that sometimes they had a stage at one end of the rectangular hall, and at other times they'd have a stage down one side instead. As such the location that any lights were to be installed had to be suitable for illuminating a stage in either of these two hall configurations. The school were also keen that control of the lighting system should be simple enough for students to be able to control lighting themselves for school plays.

    Keeping within the budget the school had set aside for the project, BBTS staff draw up a specification for the equipment, cabling, power, and location of lighting bars, which the school were excited about. BBTS were also able to suggest suitable specialist companies to carry out the installation work at the school.

    The small school hall now boasts a simple 12-channel dimming system, two lighting bars that run the width of the hall, 18 lanterns (a mixture of Fresnels and Zoom Profiles), and a 12-channel, 2-scene preset desk, that teachers and students alike can use without training!

    St John Fisher & St Thomas More Catholic Primary School

    Wythenshawe, Manchester
    BBTS staff were invited to consult on lighting a school production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". The ambitious production would take place in the school hall, but with audience on two sides, and stages at each end of the hall. The hall had no permanent stage lighting installed, and no access to power larger than 13amp sockets. Therefore, all lighting would have to be via temporary systems running off two 13amp ring mains.

    BBTS staff worked closely with the production's director over a number of weeks before the week long run of shows, to realise his vision for how it should look. BBTS staff designed a simple, but effective ground-based rig to light the performance area from all sides, whilst creating forest like atmospheres through the creative use of gobos, coloured filters and haze... and best of all, the whole rig ran from normal 13amp sockets!

    University of Sheffield, Ranmoor House

    Ranmoor House is Sheffield University's largest halls of residence, with over a thousand students, the hall features large conference and event facilities, dining areas, a bar. The hall is also the most popular at the University, primarily for it's very active social life and regular large-scale events. BBTS staff have been privileged to be involved in putting on some of their most memorable events there...

    Most large universities put on Christmas and Summer Balls, as well as a whole host of events during "Fresher's week" for new students in late September each year. Ranmoor House is no exception, but when Ranmoor put on events, they don't do it small, and they like to do it in style!

    Their larger events are multi-room events, and can last in excess of 12 hours! - These factors make putting on such events a challenge for the Hall's student union. This is where BBTS staff have been invited in. Working with existing staff of the union, and a team of willing student volunteers, BBTS have ensured that these events have all run smoothly.

    From being involved in the early planning stages of each event, and then by spending time on-site several days prior to each event, BBTS staff were able to build a very good working relationship with the event organisers.

    In the build-up to each event, BBTS staff helped arranged and co-ordinate technical equipment, belonging to the university, BBTS, and external hire companies. BBTS staff have designed lighting and sound rigs, then oversaw the rigging operation of this equipment in the various venues, training and guiding enthusiastic student volunteers throughout the process. In order to minimise disruption to the day-to-day running of the hall, some of this rigging took place overnight

    During the events themselves, BBTS staff have performed a variety of tasks, including operating lighting, sound, and AV equipment, as well as event management - troubleshooting, and coordinating staff, artists, as well as liasing with security between the various venues.

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