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DIY Geekery: Circuit Board Lights!

So I was wandering around Camden Town when I stumbled across Cyberdog. First off, this store is futuristic flamboyant and flat-out fabulous. If you’re in London, and looking for a scene Japanese Street Fashion, or are a fan of neon colors, reflective fabrics, the Jetsons, UV, electronics, or kinky alien high priestess bustiers, this is the place for you:

While wandering, I came across some wicked cool light fixtures! They were selling rectangular prism lantern-style fixtures made out of repurposed circuit boards. Not only were they really awesome, they looked quite easy to make! Taking apart old electronics is already an exciting hobby, and I’m always coming up with new projects to reuse the “waste” on.  Here’s a small gallery of the lamps I saw in Camden, and a quick google shows there are lots of other cool ones on the internet as well! For example here and here.

If you decide to make your own, I’d love to see what you’re working on!

Thank you for the Cyberdog store images.

Cars With Fricken Laser Beams

Ok, so maybe not quite.

However, this is still neat: The BMW Group has been developing laser headlights for vehicles. With intensity a thousand times, a fuel consumption at less than half even their current LEDs, and a size one hundred times smaller, the desire to develop this technology is quite self-explanatory.

This opens up all sorts of new possibilities when integrating the light source into the vehicle. The BMW engineers have no plans to radically reduce the size of the headlights however, although that would be theoretically possible. Instead, the thinking is that the headlights would retain their conventional surface area dimensions and so continue to play an important role in the styling of a BMW, while the size advantages could be used to reduce the depth of the headlight unit, and so open up new possibilities for headlight positioning and body styling.

The laser diodes used originally emit blue, but through interacting with a fluorescent phosphor is converted to a “pure white light.” BMW highlights the safety of the lasers for all road users profusely in their press release. The laser headlight technology would be compatible with BMW’s LED “Dynamic Light Spot” which is an intelligent, targeted illumination of obstacles.

Further knowledge: For design geeks, the film Objectified is a fantastic documentary, in which Chris Bangle of the BMW group speaks on industrial design. As if that’s not enough, Apple’s stud muffin Sir Jonathan Ive talks about robust aluminium.

Unnnff.

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.

Horrifying Statistics About Our United States Classroom Experiences

This is barely lighting related, but in my current state of mind, I had to share this with you.  Please join me in making this horrifying group of statistics go away.  Does it surprise you that American students rank among the lowest in the world?

This makes me want to f%$#ing puke.  If you imagine this is the case for general education, can you imagine what these stats must be for lighting education?  Holy crap.

Ugh.  Make it better.

RSC’s Lightlock – Stop Moving Lights from Moving Everything Else

rsc-lightlock

Have you seen this device or heard anything about it?  You’re looking at the RSC Lightlock – a device that uses physics to stop moving lights from wiggling the heck out of whatever they’re attached to – truss, battens, etc.  The Lightlock was developed with the intent of slowing the swing of trapeze-style hangers, and boy does it work – check out this test video of the Lightlock in action, and then it gets powered off.  Watch the difference:

Amazing.  From the RSC Lightlock website:

The main benefits of RSC Lightlock, the RSC’s lighting invention, are:

Creativity
The device enables the creative benefits of moving lights to be used in a broader variety of theatre, TV and film situations as it removes the need for heavy duty mounting infrastructure.

Flexibility
Use of lightweight rigging means that the moving light can be situated virtually anywhere and the halting of movement ensures that there are no ‘out of action’ moving lights.

Quiet Operation
The RSC Lightlock emits low noise levels, which allows its use during live performances.

Health and Safety
The RSC Lightlock reduces the need for bridges or trusses and therefore reduces the need for working at height when maintaining or adjusting a light.

Cost efficiency
Moving lights can be maintained at ground level by lowering the rig to where staff can safely maintain or adjust them. Avoiding working at height results in significant time savings for the entertainment industry.

Environmental
A lighting designer can choose to create the same design with a smaller rig, resulting in a cost saving and environmental benefit.

There’s a decent FAQ on the Lightlock website – I recommend checking it out if you want more information about the device. iSquint tells that Total Structures/Total Solutions will be manufacturing the device, which won a PLASA 2008 Award for Innovation. It’s not surprising that it was recognized for innovating – that thing is amazing.

As a special treat, here’s Patrick Stewart to present the Lightlock:

Thanks Erich and iSquint!