Late last year High End Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Barco, brought forth its latest offering to the moving light world, and, at least in my eyes, it was a product launch that certainly didn't bring on the acclaim that it deserves. Let's face it: In the eyes of the industry majority, this was just another moving light trying to compete in an already saturated market. I fear that attitude is what kept the Intellaspot release from being more than it should have been. I, for one, have been very much looking forward to taking Richard Bellevue's latest creation out for a spin but, unfortunately, just didn't have a specific application to do so until recently.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of beating the ever-loving snot out of these units when I was invited to take on lighting direction duties for one of the stages at Miami's Ultra Music Festival. Lighting and production designer Steve Lieberman of SJ Lighting had integrated them into the famous Carl Cox Stage at the event, and not only were we able to put the XT-1s through their paces, but we were able to do so in some truly brutal conditions, namely what basically boiled down to an outdoor 72-hour rave, non-stop flash-and-trash where the units virtually got no break whatsoever and were subjected to dirt, dust, and tons of fog fluid and second-hand smoke. Admittedly, I entered the project desperately wanting to like these units, and I'm happy to report that they survived the festival with flying color flags intact!
Without question, the most striking feature of the Intellaspot is the sheer amount of photonic output that it produces. This is due in no small part to the fixture's large aperture and lensing. Its raw industrial design lends itself to letting as much light out of its huge lenses as possible, and the result is rather stunning for a unit that's fitted with an 800W lamp. In all honesty, we had a rig outfitted with nothing less than 1,200W lamps in all the other moving lights, but all the other fixtures, despite several having been recently fitted with new lamps, were hard pressed to keep up with the output of these lower wattage units.
There's a lot more to the unit than meets the discerning eye. At first glance, the fixture is intriguing merely from an industrial design perspective. Its Battlestar Gallactica-esque body styling is reminiscent of the trapezoidal lines originally found on Light & Sound Design's legendary Icon units, but diving deeper into the construction of this unit unveils a design theory that, up until now, has not been fully realized in an automated luminaire. It has been engineered with the stage electrician in mind as much as the designer.
At this last LDI 2010, I had the unusual pleasure of actually getting my hands dirty for a change in manhandling, disassembling, and reassembling an XT-1 alongside Bellevue, all of which was accomplished in under six minutes, and that was taking into account breaks for explanation along the way. Simply put, the unit is engineered to be torn apart, repaired, and slapped back together in record time, so that it's ready to rejoin the theatrical fight.
Furthermore, it's perfectly balanced, which lends itself to far better ergonomic handling in the field when dealing with the awkward human body positions that naturally come with hanging a rig.
So is it all praise and positive vibes for this unsung hero? Well, not entirely. Compromise is the name of the game here. I'll be blunt: the boys ain't slim! For a unit in the sub-1,200W category, the XT-1 takes up just as much room on the truss as its larger competition, and at 115 lbs, well, let's just tell it like it is. It's like duct-taping two Justin Biebers together and hanging them on 28" centers. Much of that heft comes from all that beautiful glass lensing and, in the end, forces the unit to move much slower than many of its counterparts. It's certainly not the only fixture on the market suffering from this, but it could very well be the slowest in the sub-1,200W class.
The unit also suffers from disco-gobo syndrome. Truth be told, it's an even split between patterns that would be considered theatrically viable versus ones that are truly stylistic, the most egregious being a lithograph skull which I personally consider to just be an irresponsible choice as a stock pattern, particularly in a financial climate that doesn't lend itself well to going out of your way to get custom gobo budgets approved. Even for an electronic music festival, I kept finding myself gravitating to the same group of templates.
Those are really the only aspects of the unit that I found less than desirable. The rest of my experience with them was incredibly positive. The feature set is typical of what we've come to expect from High End Systems; multiple control parameters built into the unit's software provide a lot of useable shortcuts such as random strobing, gobo rotation stuttering, etc. The color flags produce some fantastic saturations, and I'm happy to report that this may very well be the closest "true red" color-mixing system ever produced, to the point of rendering the dichroic static wheel red an almost unnecessary placeholder in the XT-1. Of course there are other reasons to have a true red static dichro, but when compared side-by-side, the brilliance of the flag-created reds were indistinguishable from the R26-like static dichros. The difficulty of that engineering has been legendary in the moving light industry, and this achievement is not one to be taken lightly.
Overall, the Intellaspot XT-1 is a great fixture, and I'm particularly interested in seeing it in theatre touring, an environment where I feel that it could be a particularly shining star.