- by Jacob Coakley
Advances in fixtures, control systems and infrastructure highlighted at the annual lighting fest.
Approximately 8,000 people were expected at this year’s LDI show, held Oct. 19-21 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and approximately that many products were debuted, previewed and now, reviewed.
There was no dominant new release at this year’s show, but plenty of trends that showed where our industry is headed. Hybrid rigs were on everyone’s mind, as several companies released products that handle power in new ways for the new needs of systems that rely more and more on automated fixtures and LEDs. Lex Products, SSRC, Leprecon and others all released products to help manage power to the rig, and keep the savings theatres gain by using LEDs.
Computing power was also big this year. Cast Software showed off their BlackTrax tracking system—a hybrid system of LEDs, cameras, and visualization interface which lets actors and objects onstage interact with lighting, sound and video in new and precise ways. And J.R. Clancy released their most advanced rigging control system ever, which allows them to control performer flying.
The benefits of a lack of power required by LEDs was also highlighted, too, as both Apollo and Rosco released new lines of printable gobos designed especially for LED fixtures and their lower heat output.
With great power comes great responsibility, but with the low heat output of LED fixtures comes great new ways to create gobos. Apollo has developed a patent-pending printing process that enables them to make their new PrintScenic gobos for LED units. The new gobos come on plastic and glass, and have the full saturation of their ColorScenic line, but are much less expensive. A full-color ColorScenic gobo will cost around $295, but the same gobo on plastic from their PrintScenic line will only set you back $13.25, or $59 if you want it on glass. These gobos won’t last as long as a traditional gobo (70-80 hours for the plastics, 300-400 hours for glass), but they will last for your show, and they will look great.
Black Tank makes small LED fixtures that really outperform their weight size. They have custom heat-sink technology that lets them drive the LEDs harder than other manufacturers. You can get even more power thanks to their wide array of mounting options that let you gang the units together in multiple configurations. The other thing they did for more power this year was partner with Rosco, giving them a much greater distribution reach, and more resources to develop new gear. At LDI they released the Quad Miro Cube 4C, a RGBW fixture; the Quad Miro UV which puts out ultraviolet light; and the Quad Miro WNC, which has tuneable color temp between 2,800k-6500k.
Blacktrax is Cast Software’s realtime tracking solution for people or objects in a 3D space. It’s accurate right now down to less than ¼” of accuracy in an area with a radius of 20 meters. The system uses a interplay of cameras, infrared LEDs and a hardware unit to provide six degrees of tracking: three dimensional space, plus the yaw, pitch and roll of any object as well. Why would you want to do this? Well, once you’re tracking an object and plugging all that info into Cast’s wysiwyg platform, you can have that object interact—in realtime—with a whole host of options. Volume pans can follow the actor, lights can automatically follow a piece of scenery around the stage, and most spectacularly, anything tracked can interact with a video server. Combine them all and you can create incredibly media-rich interaction situations. Check out the video for a bit of the demo on how it can work in application.
Chauvet Professional launched a bunch of products at LDI this year (as they always do) but the ones most relevant to theatre are their new Ovation line of luminaires. The Ovation fixtures include the Fresnel-style F-165WW; the C-1280FC cyc light; and their addition to the LED ellipsoidal market, the E-190WW. The E-190WW is powered by 19 10-watt LEDs and delivers more than 2,600 lux at 5 meters. (Almost the equivalent of a 750W tungsten fixture.) The 19 LEDs mean the light is averaged better in the unit, which means a greater consistency across all units. It works as a standard ellipsoidal with beam-shaping shutters, a gobo/effect slot and lens barrels that are interchangeable with other ERS fixtures. The Ovation F-165WW—the line’s Fresnel-style fixture—delivers more than 1,500 lux at 5 meters, has an easily adjustable motorized zoom and works well with barn doors to aid in glare reduction and beam shaping. Both fixtures feature a color temperature of 3100K, and they’ve done a good job with the 16-bit dimming curve, it has a smooth fade throughout the curve, even at the end. The Ovation C-1280FC is their cyclorama light, and its 128 2-watt RGBWA LEDs deliver 237 lux at 5 meters. Color temperature ranges from 3,200K to 10,000K.
City Theatrical showed off their Vero and Vero Net transceivers. The Vero family take City Theatrical’s lauded Show DMX Neo engine and place it in a NEMA 4/IP66 rated enclosure. The Vero Net accepts sACN, Art-Net, Kinet, and Pathport, while the Vero accepts DMX input only. They both have high data fidelity and only 7ms latency, ensuring that wired and wireless DMX sources will appear exactly the same. They come with Show DMX’s Neo Adaptive Mode that will select only open radio channels to broadcast on, with no user intervention needed. Show DMX Vero Net includes an RDM controller provided with the Transceiver which allows anyone to monitor RDM devices from a remote computer anywhere in the world, perform all radio setup functions, and to check RDM responder functions. Show DMX Vero Net and Vero serve as both RDM responders and proxies and will discover and control any RDM equipment on the system. Also new at the show was Moving Light Assistant, a new moving light documentation software program by designer and moving light programmer Andrew Voller.
In rigging, Daktronics showed off their Pro Series Controller. Part of what makes the system so safe is its distributed intelligence—each piece of the rigging system has its own intelligent monitoring system, so each piece can be responsible for its own safe operation, and not rely on a central unit that might be taken offline.
Dazian’s booth was as bling as always. This year they introduced a new Spangle Mesh fabric, a black background with silver bits overlaid. It had a beautiful shimmer to it. They also were promoting their Dynamic Graphics backdrops, which combined large-format digital prints with LEDs and fiber optics for added pizzazz.
Doug Fleenor Designs
Doug Fleenor Designs recently became the world largest manufacturer of DMX splitters. To celebrate, DMX guru and widget maker extraordinaire Doug Fleenor unveiled the world’s largest DMX splitter—a 4-foot-diameter behemoth that definitely showed DMX who’s boss. They also had a few more practical things, too. Their Node 4 is a four-universe DMX-to-Ethernet converter (or vice versa) that lets you assign DMX in or our via an LCD menu on the front. You can configure it any way you like via knock-outs on the front or back of the unit. Their Node 1 is a single gang will box (or truss-mountable) DMX-to-Ethernet translator that can be setup via a web browser.
The DMX must flow. And if it doesn’t, you’d better find out why. Dove Systems’ new Dove Master is a battery-operated DMX tester that will let you test individual channels, send on any channel or record cues for testing or backup operation. And of course, it can also test a DMX cable.
ETC transformed their booth into a theatre this year, and gave demonstrations of their lighting and rigging technology every half hour. Also introduced at these sessions were their new Source Four Dimmer and their Prodigy Exo Hoist. The Source Four Dimmer is their solution for distributed dimming, and lets users place a dimmer where they need it. It’s a yoke-mounted unit that lives on the fixture and uses “electronic silent dimming”—a special combination of dimming that’s neither phase control or sine wave dimming, but has the benefits of both. It’s measured at 0db at 2 feet distance, and it doesn’t get louder as it warms up. It has DMX in and pass-through, so it will play nice in a rig full of LED units.
ETC also unveiled their new Prodigy EXO hoist. The hoist is designed to fit into more spaces and more configurations than their original ETC compression tube rigging, and help with spaces that already have a rigging system installed, but wish to upgrade to automated rigging. The Prodigy EXO hoist allows the Powerhead to be mounted upright, underhung or vertically, and allows denser placement of linesets, as close as 8 inches on center.
GAM Products didn’t release anything new at LDI, but that didn’t stop me from admiring their Flickermaster DMX 8, which gives a realistic flicker feel to incandescent, LED and even CFL fixtures.
The J.R. Clancy booth was a mixture of high-tech and nuts-and-bolts. Their new SureStop system is an ingenious way to prevent run-away linesets. It’s essentially a centrifugal brake, with doglegs kicking out once the drum has achieved a certain rotational speed. The legs run up against a rachet system which stops the rotation of the drum (and the downward motion of the lineset). Once the situation that led to the runaway has been corrected, and the motion of the lineset reversed, the brake releases and the system can operate normally. J.R. Clancy was also showing off their new high-tech SceneControl 5000 system. The series of control consoles will offer multi-level cueing, sub-master control, free and locked groups, and unlimited numbers of axes in a system. It also offers the ability to control performer flying, a first for Clancy and SceneControl.
The Watson power management solution from Leprecon mounts near fixtures in your rig that need constant power, and can send power to your LED units (and other fixtures that need constant power). It has an automatic mode, so that if it senses the presence of DMX it automatically turns the relay on, and if it senses no DMX it will automatically turn the relay off—saving you from having to remember to send the signal. And don’t worry, there’s a delay built in to the unit so you can tell it to wait 1-99 seconds after it’s lost DMX before turning off—that way if you have to power cycle your desk in the middle of a performance you won’t lose your lights. You can also delay it when it turns on, so you can power on your fixtures in waves, and not hit your grid all at once. Each DMX is isolated, so you only lose one fixture should something happen, not everything downstream, too. It comes with powercon in/out or Edison, a second form factor that has 12 Edison outs, and a raceway option that can support up to six fixtures and is completely code compliant. Wireless DMX is an option as well. Leprecon also showed off their new Architectural Preset Control Panels, which are DMX-controlled wall stations. The panel accepts DMX over Ethernet, and when it senses DMX locks users from changing the lights via the panel, letting the desk take precedence. If there’s no DMX, the panel operates as normal.
Power gurus Lex Products are also thinking about hybrid rigs. What do you do if you need 120V dimmable power at one outlet, 220V double relay at another, and 120V single pole relay at another? They were giving private demos of their new Lighting Control Solutions power control system, capable of handling all three loads in a single solution. The LCS system is modular, so it can be configured how you need it, has software monitoring and uses a mixture of fans and a chimney design to vent hot air. The system is currently only a prototype (they were taking suggestions and questions from some very smart designers, architects and installers throughout the LDI weekend), but it is scheduled to be released in the first quarter of 2013.
New this year for The Light Source was their LED House Lights, in recessed or pendant models. The Recessed House Light is a 100W LED fixture that produces 5000-6000 lumens and has an 83° beam. It comes in Tungsten or Daylight colors. The Pendant House Lights are the same specs, but they come with 85° or 60° beams. They released a stronger Mega-Slim Coupler that can carry up to 600 pounds. They also released a new Low-Profile MAC 200 hanger—it leaves only 3/8” between truss and fixture.
Many new things were introduced at the new tech breakfasts at LDI, but the only product that got a round of applause was the Tiny S fogger from Look Solutions. The Tiny S is the world’s first all-in-in tiny fogger. It’s a handheld unit that contains a pump, battery and haze fluid all in one unit. In demos it puts out a thick field of fog for its size. The fog juice comes in a little syringe that inserts into the side of the unit. There’s enough fog juice in it to last for three minutes of constant use, and the battery on the unit lasts for up to 10 minutes. This is a compact, sleek unit for special effects on performers.
Luminex offers RDM/DMX/Ethernet splitters/distributors/switches with granular control of all aspects of the switcher, so you can make them do some seriously cool stuff with your data. At LDI they introduced their latest products, the Gigacore gigabit ethernet switches. The switches are built to take a true production environment into account, which means they are durable, but they also have a couple neat features to bring redundancy into your network to ensure that even if something happens in a show, data still gets routed. They also have a silent running mode, so the data gets there without the audience hearing the whir of fans.
Followspot maker Lycian introduced their Zot line at USITT, but they weren’t finished. They added the new Zot 7 at LDI, a 700-watt addition to the line. It uses a Philips Fast-fit source and has a “huge” zoom to spot ratio. It sure looked good cutting through the show’s lights. They also released their newest model, the 1239 Super Clubspot. It’s brighter than the previous Clubspot fixtures, extending the throw to more than 100 feet. It’s powered by a 750W tungsten source and features.
With all the light onstage, Osram Sylvania took a different tack, and focused instead on backstage lighting. They released their Headline Kreios FL, an LED work light for theatres with an output equivalent to a 300W halogen fixture—but it uses 80% less power, according to manufacturer testing. It has an estimated lamp life of 40,000 hours, meaning it will save money in replacement lamp and labor costs as well. It outputs 3,300 lumens with a CRI of 85. It has a black “stealth” body color and silent cooling feature to ensure a low profile during use. They also released the HTI 1000W/PS (Power Series) Lok-it! Lamp, the latest in the popular Lok-it! family of compact, high-performance lamps. The HTI 1000W/PS Lok-it! metal halide lamp emits 85,000 lumens with a color temperature of 6000K and a high CRI greater than 85. Like all Lok-it! lamps, the HTI 1000W/PS also features an innovative rear insertion design that allows for easier, faster and safer lamp replacements.
Pathway previewed their Cognito control console at USITT last spring, but they refined a few things before debuting it at LDI this fall. The Cognito console is designed for small- or medium-sized venues and offers a simple but powerful approach to programming and controlling lights that uses an interface everyone is used to (faders, encoder wheels), but jettisons a lot of the arcane programming language inherent in programming in favor of a color-coded, icon-driven interface that’s well thought out and guides the user through the process. A lot of thought went into the user interface, so that the console feels like an extension of the Neato app, which lets users program lights on an iPad or iPhone.
Philips, with all of its sub-brands it has acquired (Strand Lighting, Selecon, Vari-Lite), is one of the larger lighting companies out there, taking up a large amount of booth space right at the front of the hall. Appropriately, they had a lot of new products to show off. Most pertinent for us though, were the PL4 fixtures from Philips Strand, their new Showline brand of LED fixtures and their prototypes for the PLCyc2 and the 250ML console. (And yes, they had more—including the newest concert lighting behemoth VL3015LT Spot, which was fast, smooth and blinding—but for theatre, let’s focus on these.)
Actual products first. The PL line of fixtures from Philips Selecon has a few new fixtures. The PL1 and the PL4 are profile spot units, and the numbers in their name refer to the number of LED sources in their housing. The PL1 has one and the PL4, four. The PL4 uses proprietary tech to combine the LED sources so the light still behaves as if it’s coming from one point, and has enough energy for a good 50-foot throw. Both have good beam control and sharp shutter cuts, and project a gobo well. The PL Fresnel is the general wash light of the group, offers and uses an actual traditional Fresnel lens. It has a 6°-60° zoom, and has multi-color LEDs.
Their Showline product line made their debut at LDI, too. The Showline Bar units are 6 foot (SL Bar 660) and 4 foot (SL Bar 640) linear wash fixtures. They have RGBW LEDs with in a 60° lens, and each LED cell can be individually controlled for maximum flexibility. The SL Par 150 gives off 3,500 lumens and has a 10°-52° motorized zoom.
Also on exhibit was the PLCyc2, the upgrade to their PLCyc1, which offers two beam sources instead of just one, but it isn’t just stronger. The housing directs one light low and another high, to give an even wash of light over a 34-foot throw. Rounding out their booth was a prototype of their Strand ML250 console. It’s designed for smaller venues running hybrid rigs, and features four encoders and an LCD display screen. Philips is taking the feedback on the desk from the show to make some final tweaks before an official release early 2013.
You might not think about using video curtains in the theatre, but PixelFlex wants to change all of that. Their latest curtain, an LED matrix with an 18mm pitch embedded in a black velour-like curtain that can fold up into a normal curtain hamper. Because it’s a curtain it’s available in more than just rigid 4-foot-by-8-foot sections. It can be ordered in any custom size, and will act just like a curtain, too, bending in all directions. It comes in three different pixel pitches: 30 mm, 20 mm and their new 18 mm.
PRG makes powerful consoles, and their price has always reflected that. With the V276 On Mac console PRG has created a smaller and less expensive console for small installs that’s no less powerful than their main rigs, but at a price point much more attractive to theatres that don’t have the budget of a touring rock ‘n’ roll show. The V276 is a console, but the software running it lives on the user’s Mac computer. This lets PRG offer a compact console (no monitor—you’ll use the one on your mac) with all the power of their larger models. It comes with six encoders and 10 submasters and generates four universes of DMX and eight universes of Art-Net direct from the console. It also has a DMX in so it can act as a fader wing on another console. PRG also released a software-only version of their popular MBox media server, MBox Studio. MBox Studio also lives on a users computer, which means users can run a console and a media server from their own computer. Powerful stuff.
Prism Projection revealed their new Studio UV blacklight fixture, a fully-dimmable Fresnel fixture that emits true dark UV—no purple glow. More practically they also intro’d their Studio 3 Fresnel-style fixture, which is zoomable from 10°-90° and has a 2800k-6500K tunable color temperature. It uses an actual Fresnel lens, which means it takes nice sharp cuts from its barn doors. It has approximately the same output as a 2000W tungsten fixture but uses only 180 watts. Their Profile Jr. is their first ellipsoidal spot with the same form factor as other ERS fixtures. It outputs 10,153 lumens while only using 284 watts and uses industry standard barrels. It also has a variable color temperature from 2800k-6500k, shutters and a b-sized gobo slot.
Stationed at the front of the hall, Robert Juliat showed off their new Tibo and Zep LED ellipsoidals. The 75W Tibo has a 15°-45° zoom capability and comes in three color temperatures (3000k, 4000k, 6500k). It comes with RJ’s famed optic system and has locking shutters, rotatable barrel and accepts M-sized gobos. It also has a small form factor so it fits well in tight quarters. It has a separate control box with feed-thru power and DMX. The Zep is Tibo’s big brother, with a 150W LED light source.
In addition to their new partnership with Black Tank that resulted in their new Miro Cube product line, Rosco has a few things to help designers out with color, gobos and projection. Color fanatics have a lot to cheer about thanks to Rosco’s new MyColor webpage (www.rosco.com/mycolor). This powerful site lets designers search every single color and line of gel Rosco makes by keyword, name or number. You can refine your search by color family, or from as specific library. The website is full of little extras too to make your life easier: hover-over fields that auto-populate with color data, production photos to see the color in action, and a “Show Builder” feature that suggests colors. Users can build palettes of their favorite colors, create swatch books, add design notes and more. It’s a website now, but will soon be an app on iOS and Android devices.
They also have a new Cool Ink line of plastic and glass gobos for LEDs. The gobos have metal bezels to keep them flat so the focus plane doesn’t shift because the plastic won’t bend, and a “black plate” (not ink) covers any opaque areas of the gobo, which lends a crispness to edges. They’re also available in glass.
Lastly, they’re transforming their gobos for use in projection as well. Their new Pixel Patterns line of video content are video transparency masks taken from the Rosco gobo library that video designers can place on layers in their video file to add break up and movement in a video file.
A lot of people were drawn to the Rose Brand booth this year thanks to the Petzl personal rigging gear display set up prominently in one corner of the booth. Rose Brand now distributes the safety gear for riggers. They also debuted a new modular Kabuki drop system. Available in 5-foot sections, the system consists of two rods that rotate, dropping the curtain off its pins. Because it uses adjustable pins the system can be used on standard curtains. Each section can support up to 70 pounds of curtains, and the system can be activated via DMX, so it can be tied right into the light board. It can also be activated by a pendant control system or manually. In other curtain news, they released their S-Drive Motor, a compact, friction drive motor for rope track curtains to add a smooth open to track curtains. Rose Brand also released a new cheeky expendable that everyone will want: NFG tape. A bright fushcia-colored gaff tape with “NFG” written in large print on it—perfect for labeling that malfunctioning unit.
Whatever light source SeaChanger uses (Tungsten, LiFi, HMI) the focus has always been on their color engine—driven by their dichroic CYM color-mixing system. Their new SC LED continues that tradition, pairing a 4,250 lumen LED engine with their color system. The SC LED puts out 25 lumens per watt, and is compatible with any Source Four lens package.
LEDs can save you energy—but only if you turn them off. Because power is never dimmed to the fixtures, they’re always on—unless you go through your rig and turn them off each night individually. SSRC has one solution for that, the Switchbrick. The Switchbrick is a DMX controlled relay switch that accepts 20A in and two 10A out. It will turn off power via a DMX signal, and it has options for wired and wireless DMX communications. It can also pass DMX through the device.
UltraTec used LDI to release their Nitrogen Low Fog machine, a powerful new low-lying fog unit that produces a ton of fog. Many venues don’t like using CO2 anymore for lots of fog because of the health hazards present in pumping lots of CO2 into a room. Nitrogen gets around that issue. The Nitrogen Low Fog machine has internal fan speed control and “pressure boost” for longer distribution runs. It requires a supply of 230 PSI liquid nitrogen and outputs to a 10-inch hose.