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The Technical Evolution of Automated Lighting – High End Systems’ Intellaspot XT-1 and PRG’s Bad Boy

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about technical evolution – perhaps it’s just a desire to slimline my life and conglomerate all of the technology I use into some kind of a tight suite of autonomous gadgets that all speak some common language.  Or not.  Who knows.

Something I find interesting is the progression of automated lighting technology over the last decade.  If you look at the progression of fixtures and systems over that period, you might notice that comparatively there is not a lot of major evolution that has taken place in the last ten years.  A lot of people will probably disagree with that statement, and that’s fine (as I welcome it), but the general functioning of the moving light hasn’t really changed.  There has been a very significant amount of improvements and enhancements over the last bunch of years – motors have improved, speed has increased, output has grown in strength, and zoom optics have improved, and we’ve also had some technological advances in power supplies.  We haven’t really revolutionized the way that moving lights work.  Am I forgetting some things, or omitting them?  Probably.  It’s not the point, though.

I’ve talked a lot with my buddy Rick from InLight Gobos about the evolution of automated lighting (being that he was one of the original engineers of moving lights) and I’ve had a few conversations with Jim Bornhorst from PRG (and recipient of the 2010 Parnelli Lighting Visionary Award) about the history of automated fixtures.  It is excellent to hear from the sources of the history you’re writing about regarding the very thing in question.  My conclusion is that the renaissance of moving lights was with them, in their day, when developing the fixtures was important.  Nowadays it seems like most companies drive themselves to develop and research just to increase the bottom line.

I think there are two very large exceptions to this statement:  High End Systems’ Intellaspot XT-1, and PRG’s Bad Boy luminaire.  I think that these two fixtures are my two favorites that came out of the last handful of years.  More than anything, I feel that these two fixtures are on the top of the research and development ladder – something that I am a HUGE proponent of, especially when it comes to advancing the way that our industry revolves and breathes.

Let’s look at the Intellaspot XT-1:

The unit has some interesting features – two wheels of rotating dichroic gobos is a big plus, as is the prism effect that splits the beam into two functioning beams.  Oh, and let’s not forget the 850W lamp that puts out 20,000 lumens on 120V.  I mean, it is an impressive fixture, both functionally and aesthetically.  What blows my mind about the unit is the increase in usability that Richard Belliveau and his team of awesome geeks have put into the Intellaspot XT-1.  USABILITY.  Say it with me, everybody:

USABILITY!

What the hell am I talking about here with the Intellaspot XT-1 and usability?  Well, for starters, the fixture is BALANCED.  When you go grab it off of a lighting position and get ready to stick it in the case, it is amazingly easy to manipulate.  Richard Belliveau and I had a great session before the fixture was released where we just took the unit out of the case and put it back in several times.  It was exhilarating.    There are a LOT of major market fixtures that are a NIGHTMARE to get in and out of their cases.  Not the Intellaspot XT-1.

IT’S MODULAR!  Power supply go bad?  You pull it out and replace it.  Color wheel stop working?  You take the bulkhead out and replace it.  MODULAR.  Screws in the fixture lids are captive, so that when you’re dangling by your bunk sock on a piece of truss trying to repair a fixture, and inevitably every unit goes down, you can do so without bouncing screws and hardware off of the stage floor.  There are bumpers on the front of the head so that when a stagehand or electrician drags the fixture across the floor, the lens and optics don’t get all screwed up.  The handles on the sides are comfortable and not shaped like hand breakers that just smash your phalanges when you put the weight of the unit on your hand.

Doesn’t it seem like all of this stuff should be a great idea?  High End thinks so.

Let’s look at PRG’s Bad Boy:

PRG’s Bad Boy is my other favorite fixture right now – besides the 48,000 lumens coming from its 1200W lamp, it’s a massive bright beast that is fast, steady, has some amazing – no, stunning – features (like split beamgobo morphing and tri-split colors).  If you’ve seen it, you know how beautiful its photons really are.

What tickles me about the fixture is again in the realm of usability.  Bad Boy’s lenses (all eleventeen of them) have a subroutine in the brain of the unit that opens up the lens train, lens at a time, so that they can be cleaned.  GO FIGURE.  The fixture has a big ol’ bright LED that tells you whether the unit has communication (green LED) or no data (red LED).  Have you seen the interface for the unit?  It’s like HAL from 2001 – I’m sorry Dave, but YES THE FIXTURE CAN REMEMBER WHAT WENT WRONG.  Reports, error logs, test sequences, and all kinds of other user-driven tidbits come from PRG’s excellent user experience.  I know the kinds of folks working over at PRG – one of the guys I know and am fond of, Adam DeWitt, is a smart freaking cookie – when you have people like that working on a fixture, then it gets done right.

Research and Development time and money is worth it, lighting companies across the world.  Please believe me.  Stop putting out crap when you could put out something respectable like the two units above.

I think this is a general message for the future of moving light technology in general.  Lighting companies – when you make something, make it so that it is usable.  Not just usable to designers, but usable to the people who keep the show looking as amazing as you envisioned it when you first developed the cool visual features that the fixture can make.  Follow Richard Belliveau and Jim Bornhorst’s leads when you’re in the research room – the people who work on your gear want it to be an awesome experience.

PRG at LDI 2010

I had a chance to get up-close and personal with the Bad Boy CMY at LDI 2010 this year, having the demo from Chris Conti with PRG.  I’m a big fan of the Bad Boy fixture, and I have been for quite some time – I posted about it from the last LDI, in Orlando in 2009.  They’ve added the element of CMY mixing to the Bad Boy – I’m a fan of the quantum color mixing, but CMY is also very important to have available for a moving head for the obvious reasons.

Check out some images, I’ve got video coming soon!

The actual PRG booth – a replica of the 438 grid panels they installed into the National Convention Center in Qatar.

Big beautiful beams from the Bad Boy luminaire.

One of my favorite gobos, InLight Gobos‘ “Rubber Band Ball,” that comes standard with the Bad Boy!

Check out a gallery of PRG/Bad Boy images – click on one image and a viewer will open up for your convenience!

Bad Boy, Chris Conti, and PRG at LDI 2009

I had the pleasure of meeting and getting a Bad Boy demo from Chris Conti, product manager at PRG this year at LDI 2009.  Chris gave us the rundown on all of the features of Bad Boy – from optics and color to servos and touchscreens.  I am working on another interview with Chris for some more in-depth information on the fixture.

Have I mentioned I really like this hoss of a moving light?  That thing is designed all the way down to the smell!

I broke the demo video up into three parts, and I have embedded them below.  You can also check out the JimOnLight.com Youtube Channel, where all three are listed.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Thanks to Justin from iSquint for the second camera view!  I added this earlier, but it needed adding again.

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PRG’s Bad Boy Is Hitting the Road with U2

u2 bad boy prg

Willie Williams is going to be rocking a hundred and ninety six of PRG’s Bad Boy fixture!  I just got a press release from Anne over at PRG – check it out!

Media Contact:
Anne Johnston
845-567-5871
ajohnston@prg.com
PRG’s Bad Boy surrounds U2

New Windsor, NY—July 10, 2009—Immediately upon entering the venue, audiences attending U2’s 360° Tour will realize that they are about to experience a truly unique event. “The goal always for me is when the fans come into the stadium they see something the like of which they have never seen before,” explained Willie Williams, Show Designer & Director. Working closely with Architect Mark Fisher and Production Director Jake Berry, Williams has realized that goal and created a structure that is the largest ever designed for a concert tour. The sheer size of the set created a challenge, in that the fixture positions were a significant distance from the stage. So, Williams turned to the PRG Bad Boy™.

“The throw distances that we are dealing with are much longer then you would normally ever deal with for all the lighting positions, never mind the lights around the stadium,” said Williams. “Even the closest lights to the stage are an 80-foot throw and the ones on the legs are nearer a 100-foot throw. There is no way you could use old school moving lights, plus I needed a light that would not just reach and wash but would be able to have texture.”

In December, PRG arranged a fixture demonstration at Wembley Stadium so that Williams could evaluate the Bad Boy and other lights in a real world environment. “What I found interesting about the light is that PRG started with the application in their fixture design, which was to create a light for large scale shows, arenas, stadiums,” said Williams. “That has been their master stroke, to start with what the light is intended to do and really work towards that particular goal. When you are at the back of Wembley Stadium, you need a light with the gas to get to the stage.”

Williams decided to use the Bad Boy as his only automated light for illumination, with his final design calling for 196 fixtures. The Bad Boy easily handles distances from 80-feet to 400-feet. It was a bold choice to base an entire design around only the Bad Boy and Williams had to wait until the lighting system was powered up for the first time at the Barcelona rehearsal venue to know for certain that his idea would work. “Even when I got here, we still had a few days before the system was turned on where I was biding my time. I was a little antsy waiting to see what these things would do under show conditions. I think it is fair to say they are absolutely remarkable.”

Lighting Director Ethan Weber understood Williams’ initial concern. “There is nothing else—spot, wash lights—everything you do is with the Bad Boy and coming into rehearsals it was a light none of us had ever used before,” said Weber. “When we turned them on it was pretty obvious it was the right way to go. We have all been very impressed. Many of the fixtures are a few hundred feet from the stage and not only are they very bright but their zoom allow us to go from pinspotting the band to lighting a stadium audience with relatively few fixtures. I don’t know of any other light that can do this. So far they’ve been very reliable—impressive, considering we’ve had them on for long hours in the Barcelona sun.”

Williams’ lighting design is fairly straightforward, considering the complexity of the overall production design. While Weber handles all the automated fixtures, lighting associate Alex Murphy calls all the followspot cues for the 25 spots, and controls the LEDs in the set with the PRG Mbox™ Extreme Media Server. PRG’s Concert Touring group supplied the entire lighting package for the tour, which also included the PRG Series 400™ Power and Data Distribution System. The S400 combines power, DMX and Ethernet data through a single custom-designed trunk cable. The data system includes Ethernet switches with the ability to route any DMX universe to any DMX output connector in the system, along with complete electrical isolation. As a result, lighting systems can better accommodate the growing need for data and use less cable and technicians can re-route signals from the user menus without making physical changes to the system.

The power and data system for the U2 Tour was designed by System Crew Chief Craig Hancock, who worked closely with Jeremy Lloyd and Nick Evans of Fisher’s Stufish studio integrating the lighting system into the actual structural system. Chris Conti, PRG product manager, also worked closely with Hancock on the layout. Conti explained, “All together we have a total of 24 universes of DMX. We have S400 racks at the bottom of each leg of the structure, which are in custom dimmer carts that Craig designed. They also contain S400 main breaker racks, dimmer and relay racks, strobe distribution racks, communications, etc. There are two carts of S400 and two dimmer carts up on catwalks in the roof structure that handle the power and data for the pylon.”

That balance between complexity and simplicity is the key to Williams’ sophisticated designs success. To maintain that balance, everyone needed to be on the same page, working towards the same result. Tim Murch, PRG account executive, noted, “They really have brought together wonderfully qualified people, starting with the incredible Jake Berry and of course Willie and Mark. It is incredibly well organized; thanks in large part to them. It is a very heads up situation with coordination between every single department.”

Williams is very pleased with PRGs efforts on behalf of the tour. “At the end of the day it is about people and if you don’t have the right people it is just not going to happen,” he stated. “I am absolutely delighted. They have been really good. Both Tim Murch and Robin Wain (PRG account executive) have been fantastic. You can’t do this by second guessing; I just have to have complete faith that people are doing what they are supposed to be doing. You really have to trust.”

For more information on PRG, please visit www.prg.com.

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PRG’s Bad Boy is Rocking Eurovision

Joan Lyman Melzig

I just got a press release from PRG – Bad Boy is rocking the crap out of the Eurovision Song Contest 2009.  Check out the press release:

PRG Bad BoyTM boasts biggest show to date on Eurovision Song Contest 2009

New Windsor, New York – May 16, 2009 – The annual Eurovision Song Contest, now in its 54th year, is one of the most-watched television productions in the world, with estimates of some 200 million viewers. The format began simply enough back in 1954 – a live broadcast of the members of the European Broadcast Union competing to win the title of Best Song in Europe, with the winner bestowed the honor of hosting the contest the next year in their home country. The production has since reached astounding proportions, now with 42 countries competing in three live broadcasts – two Semi-Finals and one Final.

When Russia won Eurovision in Belgrade, Serbia last year, Russian show producers were immediately driven to make the 2009 production in Moscow the biggest and most breathtaking in Eurovision history. The live broadcasts for the Semi-Finals were held on May 12 and 14 and the Finals on May 16, with viewer numbers skyrocketing to new heights, thanks to a live feed online via www.eurovision.tv.

The equipment list is impressive to say the least, with an astounding 2,000 square meters of LED, but the real talk of the show has been the 72 PRG Bad BoyTM luminaires. Since the fixture hit the shelves at the beginning of this year, it has been seen on major tours from Oasis to Britney Spears and on television productions such as the Grammy Awards and The Celebrity Apprentice.

The fixtures are installed around the entire rig and positioned directly over the stage. Rich Gorrod, lighting gaffer, who has been on-site in Moscow since March 31 said, “They’re absolutely spectacular. They’re bright as hell, giving the Syncrolites a run for their money, with lightning snap color and gobo change. Plus the zoom is unbelievable, from pencil beam to super wide, and most of all they’re incredibly reliable. They’ve been running 18 hours a day for the last four weeks – which says a lot for such a new light. They just do everything that it says on the tin – fantastically well. We’ve brought two techs to Moscow just for the Bad Boys and they’ve been bored to tears!”

Lighting Designer Al Gurdon (MTV Europe Awards, Robbie Williams) is equally as pleased, citing, “They’re simply a dream come true. We have loads of LED, and these still stand out with no problem whatsoever. They look amazing on camera and deliver these vibrant, saturated colors that I want with incredibly smooth and fast precision. A show of this magnitude demands quite a lot from its equipment, and the Bad Boy has proven itself to be a champion.”

The Bad Boy is a hybrid luminaire that combines the qualities of a traditional automated fixture light with a large-venue fixture.  “It was one of the first things specified for this production,” said Eruovision Production Manager Ola Melzig.  “I first saw it at PLASA last year, and I could immediately tell that it was designed with today’s shows, which often involve high-brightness LED screens, in mind.”

The Bad Boy is definitely standing out on the Eurovision stage, with a powerful 48,000 lumens.  Its high definition optics work perfectly for television – yet another reason they were specified.  In addition to the optical clarity that comes with using high-quality lenses, the Bad Boy features also include smooth, fluid control of focus, zoom range of 8:1 (7° to 56°), and imaging thanks to high-speed servo motors and full-field 0 to 100% dimming.  The Quantum Color® system utilizes individual color filters providing variation in both saturation and hue, resulting in a much broader and vibrant range of saturated colors.  Plus, the Bad Boy was designed with energy efficiency and carbon footprint standards in mind.

“We at PRG are very pleased to play a supporting role for the Eurovision Song Contest,” says Anne Johnston, Vice President of Marketing for PRG.   “It is exciting to see this many Bad Boys on such a grand stage with a worldwide audience. We were thrilled to see the Bad Boy was enjoying so many rave reviews from the hard working crew and designers. The production is a massive undertaking and we are proud to play a role.”

For more information on PRG, please visit www.prg.com.

Oh, isn’t it beautiful?  BASQUE IN IT!


Bad Boy Debuts with Oasis

YEAH!  I wrote about PRG’s Bad Boy a few weeks before I saw it at LDI, but when I laid hands on it, I was hooked.  Bad Boy is bad ass.  I normally keep lowball swearing out of my blog, but I thought that was appropriate.

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Oasis Debuts Bad Boy to the World

New Windsor, New York-April 23, 2009- Production Resource Group, LLC, (PRG) celebrated the debut of its Bad BoyTM luminaire on the recently completed first leg of the Oasis Dig Out Your Soul tour. Of his fixture choice, lighting designer Rob Gawler said, “The Bad Boy was just what I had been looking for-a big bright large-format luminaire, that could be used as a narrow washlight with a couple of gobos as a bonus.”

From a Roman amphitheatre in Vienne near Lyon, France to stadiums in South America, with sold-out dates throughout Asia, Mexico, Western Europe, the US and the UK, Oasis has been literally touring the world with production support from PRG’s Concert Touring group. Oasis’ Dig Out Your Soul tour marks the largest tour the band has ever embarked on with stops in several countries for the first time, including dates in Lima, Peru and Taipei City, Taiwan. Gawler turned to PRG’s Concert Touring group knowing it could effectively handle the global aspect of the support as well as the wide range of venue types.

Providing 48,000 lumens with precision speed and control over color and gobo changing as well as spot to flood zoom and full-field dimming, the PRG Bad Boy was exactly the unit Gawler wanted. “The units worked great ‘out of the case’ and I was pleasantly surprised at how many different beam looks I could really get out of the unit. I was initially a bit unsure about the fixed color mixing but it is working out fine, in fact it is nice to see all eight lamps the same color rather than the three or four hues that you get with some of the ‘true’ color mixers.”

In addition to the accurately matched colors, several of the Bad Boy’s other features, including optical clarity and smooth fluid control of focus, zoom, dimming and imaging-thanks to high quality lenses and high-speed servo motors-have been ideal for Gawler’s Oasis design. “I wanted a design that would fit into a number of different venue formats and scale between them well, without compromising the overall look. I knew I wanted to use a selection of contemporary fixtures but to create a look that is reminiscent of a more progressive, psychedelic period.”

Gawler also points out, “I like that it’s relatively simple to hang and once it’s up there it is going to work. I especially like being able to zoom it down to an almost parallel intense spot beam, or when I drop a gobo in and zoom it out, it just keeps going, until you have a sharp image covering a surprisingly large area of stage, cyc, or even the back of the house. It may seem a bit big in the road case but the power consumption is reasonable.  And the status display on the fixture is intuitive to use, as well as informative. While the units we have out on Oasis have proven very reliable, it is clear that maintenance has been carefully considered.”

Gawler is enjoying the tour and working on the next leg. “The challenge is to put on a consistently good show, without being dependent on rigging capacity, load-in time and specific production elements. It has been an exciting design challenge and PRG’s Concert Touring group has been fantastic to work with-they have provided good kit, fantastic crew and great support.”

For more information on PRG, please visit www.prg.com.

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Barco’s DML-1200

Okay.  If I wanted to make my blog look like a cheap R-rated piece of crap, I would be saying HOLY SH%&, SONOFAB&%$, MOTHERF%$#*&^%^$%, and few other choice phrases about what I just read and saw.  Amazing.  I am so freaking thrilled right now, becauseI have always wanted the kind of lumen magic that a Catalyst provides when hooked into something like a Christie X-10, but then throw it on a yoke.

This is what I read.  It’s the product page on the Barco DML-1200.  It’s a 12,000 lumen digital light.  You have to see the specs:

The DML-1200 is the first moving digital luminaire which can truly be used as both a super bright, moving light source and a high quality video projector.

In light mode, the DML-1200 produces a perfectly circular light beam with a light output equivalent to that of a 1200W hard edged moving light – 12.000 field lumens and the brightest digital light on the market today.

In video mode, the DML-1200 features a fully sealed DLP engine which delivers full color DLP quality video with SXGA+ (1400 x 1050 pixel) resolution. With a light output of 10,000 center lumens, the DML-1200 is the brightest digital light on the market today.

An internal optical dimming mechanism ensures smooth, accurate intensity control from 0 to 100% ensuring that that your fade to black is a true black, not video black (grey).

Being digital, lighting designers are no longer limited to static, pre-selected patterns and colors. Any image, static or animated can be created and projected. All images are generated by the onboard media player, controlled by DMX512 or artnet protocol, from the lighting console.

With its brightness, unlimited image selection and the ability to seamlessly switch between video projection and light mode, cue by cue, the DML-1200 provides designers pure creativity at their fingertips delivering a truly unique show for every event, client and purpose.

The DL2, awesome.  It’s 6500 lumens.  The DL1?  I’ve used it a bunch, not a lot, but it’s 5500 lumens.  We’re talking twice a DL1.  It makes me wonder how all of the concert goer experiences I had in the early part of the 21st century would have been with 10,000 lumens of video.  Wow.

That’s pretty awesome, Barco.  So now my imaginary dream rig has some of these and some Bad Boys.

Go check out some video on this monster.

LDI Pics: PRG’s Bad Boy

I was able to get some (what I feel are) good shots of the new Bad Boy from PRG in Vegas this last week.  Check them out!