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Behind the scenes with award-winning lighting designer Sarah Jane Shiels on her recent project "Sketches."

Sarah Jane Shiels, Lighting Designer

In the world of live performance, artists are constantly exploring innovative ways to captivate their audience, with technology playing a crucial role in this pursuit. Join us as we step into the spotlight with Sarah Jane Shiels, SJ, the award-winning lighting designer behind the ISPD Scenofest 2024 Symposium "Sketches" performance, which took place in the Project Arts Centre in Dublin earlier this year.

Curated by Peter Power, "Sketches" provided audiences with a rare glimpse into the dynamic process of design creation during a two-hour improvised performance, showcasing the seamless synergy between technology and creative expression.  

Follow-Me Tracking Solutions

When discussing the technology utilised during the performance, SJ remarked, "The addition of the Follow-Me 3D system, supplied by Entedi, was particularly exciting due to the dynamic movement by dancer Robyn Byrne. Using Follow-Me in a rig with 4 moving heads and a generic top wash, we were able to respond live to Robyn’s improvisations while still using the units for other elements of the performance.” 


“I initially thought the system could only be used with moving lights, but being able to control the generic rig created a live design dynamic that I am definitely interested in using in the future." "The system worked especially well in the medium-sized venue of Project Arts Centre, where there is no traditional follow spot position. The system was set up in a few hours on the day. The calibration done earlier outside the venue was extremely close, so only small alterations had to be done on-site.”   

During the performance, SJ communicated with Follow-Me Technician Nate Lennon to employ the Follow-Me 3D system, based on Robyn’s movements. Nate praised the intuitive Follow-Me system, which seamlessly integrated all dimensions of SJ's design across the network, combining Touch Designer, ETC Ion, and Follow-Me. 

Nate elaborated, “A single operator managed the Follow-Me system with four separate targets toggling control between design elements. Follow-Me's NEW Proximity feature was used to light up overhead fresnels when the Robyn moved within range. Meanwhile SJ had full control over moving head fixture parameters via the Ion console for colour, intensity, gobo effects, etc It was really a fun gig and very cool to see so much design talent and cutting-edge tech brought together in this way.” 

Looking ahead, SJ is excited about the prospects of incorporating the Follow-Me system into future projects. "Follow-Me allows designers to include a follow spot element in their work, with multiple lighting units operating simultaneously, without the need for an operator in a potentially unsafe or uncomfortable position. The ability to switch seamlessly between the system and the lighting desk opens up a vast array of design possibilities." 

Barry Conway, Business Development Manager at Entedi, praised SJ's innovative use of Follow-Me, stating,  "SJ has masterfully showcased the potential of integrating automated follow spot technology into a live performance, creating a responsive and immersive environment.” The beauty of the Follow-Me system is its versatility, as it can be used with any fixture type of any brand."

Barry continues, "Follow-Me 3D also scales up to a fully automated system in Follow-Me Track-iT, which provides 3D automated performer tracking, following discreet tags worn by performers on the ground or in the air. Track- it merges seamlessly with 3D so you can use manual and automatic control simultaneously!" 

As more designers follow SJ's lead and adopt automated follow spot technology, the future of live entertainment is poised for a thrilling transformation. Audiences can anticipate increasingly dynamic and awe-inspiring experiences as the industry continues to push the limits of what is possible on stage. 



About SJ, Lighting Designer 

SJ began designing lighting in Dublin Youth Theatre, completing an M.Sc in Interactive Digital Media 2021, a BA in Drama and Theatre Studies 2006 (Trinity), and the Rough Magic Seeds3 programme 2006 - 2008. From 2010 – 2017, she was co-artistic director of WillFredd Theatre.

Recent work includes Children of the Sun (Rough Magic, Abbey Theatre), Little Women (Lyric Theatre), Bellow (Brokentalkers), Faust, Werther (Irish National Opera), Party Scene, Conversations After Sex (This Is Pop Baby), Not a Word (Brú Theatre), Gold in the Water (One Thousand Pieces). 


About Nate Lennon, Follow-Me Technician  

Nate Lennon is a seasoned professional in the live events industry who recently relocated to Ireland.  Nate has collaborated with top Broadway designers throughout his career and recently showcased his skills as the Follow-Me Technician for Ne-Yo at the 3Arena, marking Sofft Productions' debut of Follow-Me technology.  Nate qualified as a Follow-Me Technician through training hosted by Entedi.



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