Just another LED-based color wash fixture in a market that’s already saturated with competition? I think not. In The Black Tank’s Brickblaster Pro series of LED units, we finally see a fantastic amalgamation of features that are both unique and plentiful.
First, let’s go over the basics. The series consists of four units: the RGBW, WWCW, WNC, and Custom LED Combination. For the most part, the model acronyms are fairly self-explanatory. The RGBW gives you a four-color LED combo of red, green, blue, and white. The WWCW provides you with both warm and cool white LEDs. The WNC is another all-white output unit providing warm and cool white LEDs with the addition of a neutral white temperature Cree XM-L LED sources that ultimately give you variable color temperatures from 2,700K to 6,500K with a CRI of 79 @ 4,529K. Last but certainly not least, the Custom LED Combination allows you to order specifically configured LED boards directly from the manufacturer for applications that may require less color combination requirements but more output. For instance, an all-blue LED unit could be ordered thus giving three times the amount of LED output in a blue-only unit.
So what makes these units stand out? The company offers truly simple accessories. These things are like the Legos of LED units and allow the user to create truly bespoke lighting instruments.
The first option offered is a set of diffusing films. These filters are basically the equivalent of glass lens options in the form factor of pre-cut gel paper. Each pack of three diffusers contains a 20-degree, 40-degree, and 60-degree holographic filter that is easily attached to the front clear lens of each BrickBlaster Pro. The concept, although not revolutionary in its design, is extremely straightforward and usable.
Second are the brackets, threaded rod, and trunions. As standard accessories, the manufacturer offers both single and double bracket assemblies. This means that you can connect two units onto a single bracket, each with the capability of being tilted individually. They also offer floor-standing style trunions and longer threaded rod to allow for multiple units to connect together to create battens of LED as desired, the standard largest of which is a six-brick array offering 7,200 lumens of output. The manufacturer also offers several other little advertised connection products to allow for other unique configurations such as 4-lite blinder arrays.
The third and potentially most notable option is the fact that the physical LED modules within the unit’s housings can be easily swapped out for changes and/or upgrades over the course of the unit’s life. This equates to several rental advantages, not the least of which is that ordering custom LED configurations for specific projects doesn’t necessarily mean making a capital investment toward completely new instruments when existing stock can be quickly converted by swapping out the units internal LED modules. For instance, a television studio with an existing stock of WNC white BrickBlaster Pros could simply have some extra RGBW LED modules to swap out when a bit of extra color is needed on special shoots as opposed to having to invest in entirely separate BrickBlaster units for a few rare occasions when they were needed. This is not to mention the fact that, by nature, most fixture housings outlast the life of their internal electronics, so if The Black Tank, Inc. keeps its LED modules updated throughout the course of the next decade or so, we could conceivably see the same housings used as seemingly brand new fixtures through the upgrading of the LED modules themselves.
Last, but not least, is the option of track lighting adapters that allow the BrickBlaster Pros to attach directly to existing architectural track lighting from manufacturers like Juno, Halo, Liteolier, and LSI. This is a very attractive option in situations that call for a light source that wouldn’t necessarily find itself in that type of application.
Once again, the concepts of LED units being 4-lite blinders, battens, or used as different types of light quality are not necessarily revolutionary. However, the concept of a single, compact LED unit having the capability to natively join and interchange with other units very quickly and easily is quite revolutionary, not to mention a value additive option to have in a rental stock.
The BrickBlaster’s charms don’t end in its physical options. It has some native digital functions that are both smart and practical. There are internal dimmer fade curves that allow the LED modules to mimic the fading up and down of incandescent lamps.
A master/slave option allows the user to set a static lighting state on a single BrickBlaster Pro and send that DMX signal down the chain to other BrickBlasters that are slaved to it. What’s particularly worth noting in this instance is that the BrickBlaster units perform this function truly via DMX-512 output from the master unit. That means the user can also set the DMX levels of other manufacturer’s LED fixtures that match the BrickBlaster’s DMX profile. What’s more is the optional setting of sending another 512 channels of output through the master BrickBlaster Pro on the XLR output’s pins 5 and 6. Through the use of a custom configured DMX adapter, this allows control of 1,024 DMX channels worth of units from a single fixture.
Of course this use of actually using an XLR’s unused pins 5 and 6, according to the wickedly outdated ESTA standard, is controversial among the DMX data purists but actually shows some forward innovation in utilizing the available equipment for the use in which it was originally intended.
Overall, the BrickBlaster Pro units are very well designed and forward-thinking products. Even their delivery method is well thought-out. You can order individual units or packs of two or eight that can be delivered in custom configured, Pelican-style cases that are officially “ruggedized” for taking a proper production/shipping beating, water tight, and rolling. What a concept! It's basically a carry-on suitcase with eight extremely capable and versatile wash lights packed inside for rapid deployment. Somewhat brilliant, if you ask me.