Apollo's Smart line of products, including four gobo rotators and three color scrollers, is just that — very smart. The four rotator models include the standard Smart Move® with simple local control, Smart Move DMX with DMX512 control, and Smart Move Jr. for use in M-size gates. The Smart Color™ scrollers are available in 10", 7.25", and 5.25" versions with various mounting plates available, including the particularly slick universal plate.
The Smart Move has to be just about the best rotator on the market at the moment. Incredibly quiet, smooth movement at all speeds (from a remarkable 0 to 21 RPM), ease of use, and extraordinary capability all give the Smart Move the leg up. Physically, the Smart Move is simple: an audio jack power connection, speed potentiometer knob, and two rotary mode selection wheels. The one model easily slipped into the test Strand SL and Selecon Pacific, although, if firmly seated, the B-size aperture does seem to overshoot the center of the Pacific's A-size gate lens tubes by a fraction. The rotators accommodate two B-size, metal or glass gobos (or M-size in the case of the Jr. model), while the “Simple Single” is just that — simply a single gobo. The audio jack for power is a fine solution, but powering the AC/DC power supply before plugging the 1/4" audio jack will give you a fun little spark. The motor cover is a square housing held on by six small screws, and heat does not build up over time.
When first powered on, the unit has to find its home position. This could be an issue if the user doesn't allow for calibration before a cue with intensity occurs.
Even though it is possible to control the speed of the Smart Move via dimmer, it is not entirely recommended by Apollo, and there is little need, given the superior result gained by using the potentiometer on the rotator. The dial control has a white dot indicating the position of the knob but no graphic reference scale to accurately sync up multiple rotators' speed. The rotary controls for mode selection are easy to read and set according to the straightforward chart on the backside of the device. Smart Move DMX affords all the same control via DMX512, with the added benefit of indexed positioning and multiple device power supplies. Gobos are easily loaded using a flathead screwdriver — that ships with the device — to remove and set the metal ring that holds each gobo in place.
Apollo emphasizes the built-in effects requiring no controller. While it is great these exist — all 19 of them — I think they may be of limited or very specific standalone use. Bounce forward, backward, rotate 90°, hold, and rotate back are some of the standard effects. When in effect mode, the speed control becomes the overall rate of the effect — smart, even if only somewhat useful.
What makes this rotator superior is the variable speed and how quietly it does it. How many times do designers sit in a theatre with a set of rotators on the balcony rail whirling away and wishing for a step between 1% and 2%? Smart Move answers this overwhelmingly, with 0-21 RPM in the standard unit that is remarkably smooth at the minimal velocity. With belt drive on both gobos and an unobtrusive motor, it could be that Smart Move is the quietest rotator out there.
Turning to the Smart Color scroller, we find a fine package with some advanced design. The aluminum chassis has a single latched front door that opens wide and reveals all of the components making for tool-less scroll changing and easy servicing and cleaning. Two drive motors, one on either spool, provide tension and pretty quick movement without the need for manually tensioning the scroll when loading. The point is proven when one attempts to pull the scroll loose; press test/reset, and the Smart Color quickly takes up the slack and calibrates accurately. DMX addressing is via tiny rotary dials. It is a shame they are not the same type of knobs used on the Smart Move, as these tools-only adjustments are not the best solution here. Adjacent to the rotaries are four dipswitches controlling fan speed, stepped or continuous scroll, power on, reset on/off, and fast or quiet settings. This cluster of controls and white labels, along with a white 2"× 2.5" Apollo logo, reside on the fascia of the scroller and would need to be blacked out for a clean view of the unit. Several standard mounting plates are stocked by Apollo, but the universal plate for the 7.25" model makes a single plate easily adaptable from 6.25" to 10".
What is key to note about the Smart Color, similar to the Smart Move, is how quick yet quiet it is. I left it scrolling end-to-end at a medium speed in my hotel room overnight, never once being awakened by the scroller's noise. Now that is quiet! How quick is it? Apollo states an end-to-end time of two seconds with 16 frames (maximum capacity in the 5.25" and 7.25"; eleven frames in the 10"). In testing, I found that a chase of frame two to frame three and back to two could occur at .48 seconds a step (full frame of color). Motion is fairly smooth at low speeds, but since there is minute motor drive noise even at maximum speed, one is only saving the sound of the plastic gel filter rolling and unrolling. This being said, the difference between “quiet” and “fast” setup is significant, with quiet being exceedingly slow. The only advantage to the motion is the smoothing of the movement where long fades in fast mode result in a bit of jerky transport; quiet mode sees the gel scroll fluidly by comparison. Zero count cue parts for scroll movement would be the way to go in quiet mode.
The scroller is not mechanically without fault, though. My demo unit had a problem with one roller becoming unseated. It was a simple, quick fix, but it could leave the calibration off, requiring more than one test/reset to rectify the problem. Once the calibration took, though, it was completely accurate. Although this cannot be construed as scientific by any means — one demo unit with an unfamiliar user — it was the only serious issue during testing. It should be noted that the registration of frames is optical, and at high speed, a frame is usually overshot and then rolled back slowly. This function is completely agreeable in this situation.
Further implementation of creative software — again as with the Smart Move — is carried over to the scroller. No controller is needed to set it changing colors end-to-end; one can even control the speed of the scroll, though not with any really useful result I could find. All of the self-control is through the DMX address rotaries, with addresses above 512 defining behavior. It is also possible to select specific performance speeds in 15 steps from fast to slow. Fastest is the default, and managing speeds across many scrollers could prove tedious, to say the least; this is why setting the address to 600 and pressing test/reset restores factory defaults quickly. With the step function enabled, the frames become controlled in an indexed fashion. A range of DMX values controls a single frame of color, and although split colors cannot be achieved in step, the utility makes easy work of simply controlling the scroll frame by frame — absolutely keen!
Apollo's Smart range is a winner with the Smart Move standing out as a champion. Especially when price point comes into play, the Smart range moves into a class of its own and deserves consideration by users on all levels of production.