Tom Willis is a lighting designer for theatre and live performance, based in Melbourne, and he is a big fan of MA Lighting International MA onPC. Not only does he own a number of onPC systems and devices, he also offers sales and support of the platform to his clients. In fact, he has just sold two MA onPC command wings to a client!
A graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts, Tom works across a wide range of mediums including theatre, dance, cabaret and live events. After beginning professional life as a freelancer, Tom has slowly built up an inventory of equipment and a small network of employees and collaborators, all based out of his design studio located in Cheltenham, Victoria. And after many years of working with different consoles, MA2 is now very much his go-to platform.
“I do every show I can on MA,” he stated. “I’ve lit some pretty elaborate projects using my MA onPC command wing. Most of these projects have very tight time frames and the MA2 software has the best set of tools to be able to build and refine complex designs quickly. I work across a couple of different industries, mixing professional shows with a lot of school production work, but all of them need me to do my work in limited timeframes.
“MA is a complete platform and that’s what I love about it. It’s massively powerful but scalable and very cost effective. I still own an original onPC 2-port node. It was the first piece of control gear that I ever purchased. Its eight years old and I still use it all the time on smaller shows.”
Recently Tom has set up a dedicated MA 3D visualisation studio to provide additional support for his clients.
“For example, I had a client from a large school who was doing an event at The Plenary Theatre @ MCEC,” explained Tom. “The proposed schedule was for a 4 am load in, with rehearsals on stage at 8 am and the event starting at midday. Using the pre-vis studio, we were able to discuss and develop design concepts and build a framework of the entire show days before actually getting in to the venue. It made the day itself go very smoothly with no stress and the show looked great.”
This year Tom did his first work for The Flying Fruit Fly Circus, who recently played at the Sydney Opera House using the in-house MA2 light console. The show is about to transfer to The Playhouse at the Arts Centre using a slightly different rig.
“We’ll use the pre-vis studio to reconfigure the show file for the new fixtures and check that everything will work properly before we actually get into the theatre,” added Tom. “Once again, it’s a very tight time frame with only four hours to focus and four hours to plot in a very different space”
Photographed is Tom’s custom MA onPC command wing unit currently out on a job. The setup includes a Dell Inspiron with 23 inch touchscreen, an MA onPC command wing, Wireless DMX W-DMX f2 transmitter and a custom Design Quintessence case with inbuilt height adjustable legs.
Tom plans on expanding his MA2 inventory in the coming months as demand for equipment increases.
“I’ve got plans to build a number of different sized systems that’ll cater to the needs of specific shows. The beauty of every system will be that it’s the same software regardless of whether I’m in a tiny 40 seat theatre or a 5000 seat arena. That’s what I love about MA2. The concepts don’t change, just like the concepts of good lighting don’t change. It doesn’t matter the size or scale of a project, the requirements are always the same. We need to be consistently supporting and empowering the performers on stage. That means working quickly and being reliable.”

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MA onPC Command Wing

The MA onPC command wing paves the way for mobile use of the highly flexible and powerful grandMA2 control system. In combination with the free of charge grandMA2 onPC software, the MA onPC command wing is a portable 2,048 parameter control solution that can be used in nearly any location – and all for an affordable price! It offers two built-in DMX ports as well as the possibility to send two additional DMX universes via Ethernet protocols with grandMA2 onPC.

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