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Philips, Strand, and Vari*Lite at LDI 2012

Philips/Strand/Vari*Lite (so many names!) always has some serious presence over the last five or six trade shows I’ve done, from LDI to ProLight + Sound in Frankfurt. Their booth always looks wicked cool, and I’m always happy to post pictures of what my buddy Brad Schiller is coming up with nowadays. It’s amazing to see where the industry is heading, and it’s always formatted by the guys out there like Brad.

Check out some awesome shots from Philips at LDI 2012!

You can also check out all of the images via the Gallery Method!

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.

Intellaspot XT-1 from High End Systems. Whoa! Where? How – When?

Where was I a month ago when this was sneaked?!  I am so excited about this, I’m posting at 10pm.

Check this out – meet the Intellaspot XT-1:

So, okay – High End Systems and everybody’s favorite lighting maker Richard Belliveau have created, with a summer release date, a new moving head.  20,000 lumens from an 850W short arc lamp, large aperture, and a whole ton of features.  I was watching the video that Barco posted about the new fixture  that Richard has developed with High End Systems, and frankly it’s pretty freaking awesome.

A few features I pulled from the video about the Intellaspot XT-1:

  • the unit runs on 100-240VAC.  Um, that’s pretty awesome.  So you can plug one of these in without having to set up a distro.
  • the optics in the fixture and the lamp give the fixture a 20,000 lumen output – but it’s using an 850W lamp.  That compares to fixtures using a 1500W lamp, which is also pretty amazing.
  • 5:1 zoom ratio, about 11 degrees to 55 degrees.
  • 14 rotating gobos, Richard’s selections (which are always a hell of a lot of fantastic) include lots of colorful stuff, aerial gobos, and he makes sure to say that the breakups and foliage are in there too!
  • Animation, prisms, CMY mixing, the variable electronic strobe that High End is known for, and some other good stuff

The look of the Intellaspot XT-1 is also something of note.  High End Systems fixtures always have that smooth, “alien” design as Richard refers to it – the Studio Spot and Color lines, X-Spot – you know, the sleek design that those fixtures are known for having.  The Intellaspot XT-1 has a pretty interesting “military” design (again Richard’s reference) that just looks pretty cool.  The Color Command was like that too – High End Systems’ dichroic washlight.  Very edged, mechanized-looking, a unique feel to the Color Commands:

The Intellaspot XT-1 has a very similar look:

Richard, you and your High End Systems folks never, ever cease to amaze me, man.  I can’t wait to see the Intellaspot XT-1!

Studio Color Quick Reference Card – Blast from the Past!

This is so totally random – but yesterday I was sorting through some old lighting stuff in my toolbox, and I ran across this Studio Color reference guide!  Those of us who used the living craps out of Studio Colors know this guide!

I have also made a PDF for convenient printing, in case anyone really wants a copy of this pamphlet.  I just thought it was cool to reminisce!

Vari*Lite Videos from the 1980’s – Pure Rock and Roll!

I have a special place in my heart for Vari*Lite fixtures.  My first experiences with automated lighting was with the Vari*Lite Artisan and Mini-Artisan consoles, and the very awesome Vari*Lite VL2C and VL6 spots, and the VL5 wash.  I love the VL2C – it’s like a big ol’ square truck that has great optics and color.  It blew my mind when I got programmer training and teachnician training on the fixture.  Taking a VL2C apart was like performing surgery for me!

Derek Heckler sent me a great video from the 1980s from Vari*Lite – it’s like a promo/sales video, and it’s pretty excellent – I kept expecting to see Genesis show up onstage!  I found part two of the video as well – both are embedded below.  Thanks Derek!

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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LDI 2009: Elation Lighting’s Booth

One of my favorite booths this year, as in several previous years, has been the Elation Lighting booth.  It’s always ridiculously energetic, and it’s always in prime real estate at each show.  How did you guys get that spot?  Right up front?  I mean, you could not physically not see your booth if you were walking onto the show floor.  Crazy!

I love Elation’s work on their LDI booths.  Good work, folks.  Also, I loved the Impression and Impression XL – I saw them in use on Chris Kuroda’s rig for Phish in Hamptop, VA back in March 2009.  They’re a pretty cool set of fixtures.

Check out Elation’s booth pics:

The Impression – pretty cool.

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Love it!  It’s like WE ARE ELATION LIGHTING WELCOME TO LDI ENJOY YOUR STAY YEEEEAAAAAAHHHH!

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