The lighting system at the Sydney Opera House was completely overhauled involving an extensive upgrade of lighting control consoles.  

Sydney Opera House is a World Heritage listed site and one of the busiest tourist and cultural precincts in Australia, welcoming around 7.4 million visitors every year. With approximately 1,700 paid performances per year, restaurants, bars, retail outlets and guided tours, the building operates 24 hours a day, 363 days a year.

The Sydney Opera House incorporates a wide range of venues and facilities including the Concert Hall, the Opera Theatre, the Drama Theatre, the Playhouse and the Studio.

As Head of Lighting at the Sydney Opera House since 2008, Toby Sewell has steadily been overhauling the lighting department of this famous venue.

A student of WAAPA where he studied stage management, Toby secured a job with the Australian Opera in Sydney, staying with them for over 15 years.  

The Opera was a brilliant training ground for Toby as a technician due to the number of shows conducted at the venue. Toby gained invaluable experience as a designer as the core role of the job was sitting next to lighting designers learning how to recreate their shows. In the process, he got to work with many great lighting designers, directors and set designers, and to tour Australia as well as internationally.

Adapting shows to go into another venue taught Toby a lot about lighting positions and a variety of lighting fixtures, which was all invaluable training for his current position at the Sydney Opera House.

Though his previous stint at the Opera Company gave him a fairly good understanding of the SOH and the staff, he was actually aware of less than half of the house’s overall output. Keen to introduce some new blood into the team, he recruited three new Lighting Supervisors within the first six months to extend their existing knowledge base.  

The Sydney Opera House employs 18 permanent full time lighting staff, a dozen almost permanent casuals and a pool of around ten casuals on top.  

Controlling the House  

Following a comprehensive evaluation of current control surfaces at the Sydney Opera House, the lighting team has extensively upgraded the lighting control consoles with the purchase of three ETC ION2000 consoles, two ETC EOS12000 consoles and two ETC EOS8000 consoles.  

Every venue in the SOH has a control room console featuring either an ETC ION or EOS to replace the aging Strand 500 series lighting consoles. The switchover has been fairly easy for the operators as the logic and syntax is very similar between the two lighting control systems.  

Toby explains that they decided to go with the ETC lighting consoles as most of their clients and theatre designers were more comfortable with ETC control room consoles. 

Toby adds that the ETC lighting consoles are much more intuitive in how they use moving lights than the Strand consoles and the team has been receiving positive feedback from their operators on both the EOS and ION platforms.  

ETC lighting consoles are available from Jands , a leading Australian distributor of professional lighting systems as well as sound and staging equipment.