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Warwick Centre for the Arts

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Warwick Centre for the Arts
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Now and then, an icon captures the industry’s imagination. Since the Christie M Series was first introduced in 2009, it has been affectionately referred to as the Swiss Army Knife of projection for its sheer versatility and workhorse capabilities. Many clients have used them for well over a decade. Now, reimagined and upgraded with multiple benefits and pure laser rather than xenon illumination, Warwick Arts Centre is one of the first users to switch over from the original series to the new laser Christie M 4K25 RGB. And the verdict is good, says Mark Smith, chief electrician at the centre. While Smith found the original M Series “Perfect ”, the new M 4K25 he declared to be “Better – better in everything.”

Warwick Arts Centre is a multi-venue arts complex at the University of Warwick in Coventry, a city in the heart of England, famous for its contemporary cathedral. The centre attracts around 300,000 visitors annually to all types of theatre and performance, contemporary and classical music, dance, comedy, visual art, films, talks and family events, with the original M Series projectors being used in these multiple spaces.

This ranged from a 100-seat space to a 1,300-seat hall, with a vast variety of uses, from backdrops in theatre shows, to projections on performers themselves, such as contemporary dance as they moved across the stage, and several other applications including conferencing.

Although a single venue, the projectors are used similarly to a rental stager and moved around as needed in flight cases and cradles. The versatility of the projectors was ideally suited to purpose. The centre only upgraded to the new Christie M 4K25 RGB projectors, says Smith, because there was a demand from external production companies in particular to increase projection requirements to a 24K lumen minimum.

The original M Series at its best

"We would still be using the original projectors otherwise as they have been little workhorses, really fantastic and did everything we needed, which is one of the reasons we looked to replace them with Christie,” Smith explained. “The old M Series was incredibly reliable with no breakdowns in the five years we had them. We loved the input types and quantity they took, and the 3D Reform where keystone adjustments were made much easier as we don’t necessarily get ideal placement.”

They were ideal, not too heavy, and Christie made all the cradles so we can hang them sideways or invert them,” he continued. “We use and move the projectors a great deal, so they need to be robust, which is another reason for sticking with Christie, as we know how rugged they are.”

Added to those considerations, Smith found that their lens suite could be migrated. “We approached GMAV, the university’s chosen supplier for AV, when we needed to upgrade brightness and discussed Christie with them. When I looked at Christie’s website and saw we could still use our lenses, it was the clinching factor. Finally, a manufacturer that realised when you have a suite of lenses, you want to keep them. It saved us around £40,000 ($48,600 US) as we have 10 or 12 – probably all the lenses, because of the needs of our venue we use and move the projectors in so many ways and places,” said Smith.

The decision was made, and three M 4K25 projectors were supplied by AVM. “We confirmed to GVAV that the in-situ lens suite was compatible,” shared Danielle Williams, commercial manager at AVM. “The M series has been an absolute workhorse for Christie clients and is still one of the best projectors around, but the laser-based M 4K25 blows everything away.

The new M 4K25 added several benefits

Smith’s experience means he is well-placed to comment on the new features of the M 4K25. “The user interface, connectivity and 3D Reform are improved and intuitive. We like that we can see all the connections pictorially and know what is connected to the projector,” he explained. ”We have also tinkered with the DMX input which enables the lighting desk in the theatre to control everything, including the M 4K25, so when the lights go down, the projector blacks out automatically.”

“The new projectors fit all the old cradles and are even cooler because they are laser,” he continued. “Being laser, we also have no lamp changes, and they are bright and give us very sharp images, even across the whole screen. Noise levels have dropped considerably. The fans make so little noise we can now place them closer to the audience without disturbance.

The projectors also have an intelligent lens system. “We just plug in the lens, and it is automatically configured, which is handy and saves time,” shared Smith.

Finally, laser illumination has brought many advantages. “The brightness means we can often use just one projector where we may have had to use two previously,” Smith concluded.” They are so much quieter, too. We can put them in different places nearer to the audience, such as in the back row or hanging overhead. The M 4K25 gives us even more flexibility than before.”