For generations the term “Swiss army knife” has been used metaphorically to describe a single device with malleable functionality. PRG’s choice to use the image of that iconic knife for marketing its new fixture is appropriate for the Best Boy.
I was recently given a sneak peek at PRG’s latest offering prior to its upcoming LDI debut, and it appears that it truly is the Swiss army knife of moving lights.The designers and engineers of Best Boy have crammed an amazing amount of functionality into this unit and have ultimately created the most versatile tool currently available for the modern lighting and projection designer (yes, that’s a very bold statement).
Let’s start with the driving force behind the unit, the lamp and optical train. Best Boy utilizes the MSR-700 lamp purposefully and electronically overdriven to 800W. This combined with the optical train’s total of 14 high-quality lenses produces a very impressive 21,000 lumens of output. What’s particularly notable throughout the entire engineering of this unit is that the design process was obviously a cohesive one in which all the designers seem to have been properly privy to what the others were doing, and all of them had common goals in mind.
For instance, this choice of the MSR-700 lamp in other fixtures natively produces a very green-tinted white light. This is absolutely not the case with Best Boy, where the native open white light output is the cleanest that I have ever witnessed without having to mix minus-green color correction into the beam. This type of forethought really adds up for the LD, particularly in broadcast environments where utilizing automated fixtures for talent keylight is becoming an increasingly popular practice. It’s simple science. The more glass (color mixing dichroics) that you have to mix into the light beam to clean up your white light, the more output you lose. By starting with an extremely clean 21,000 lumens of pure white light, the LD can maintain more output.
All of this clean, hot output needs to pull some power, of course, and that leads us to the next impressive feat from this little guy. With 21,000 lumens of output, this 700W lamp fixture is only pulling a total of 5 amps at 208V, and that’s with every motor inside of it twirling at full boogie.
Let’s compare that to the average 1,200W automated unit that typically puts out approximately 18,000 lumens and pulls up to 10 amps at 208V. What’s more is the Best Boy has auto-sensing voltage acceptance, which, unlike many of its competitors, ranges all the way from 90V-264V. It’s undeniable that this is a very efficient unit when it comes to power draw.
The optical train has an impressive 8:1 zoom/focus track, as well, giving you an 8-degree beam at its most narrow all the way out to 64 degrees at its widest. A native auto-focus tracking feature is engaged by default and does an amazing job of keeping gobo imagery in perfect focus as the zoom lensing slides through its changes gracefully.
Another feature of note is Best Boy’s impressive speed in almost everything that it does. Fast zoom/focus changes happen with a speed that’s normally seen only on a fixture’s iris mechanism. This is true of almost all features and is attributable to the use of servo-motor technology used in lieu of the more traditional mechanical stepper motors that are seen in many automated luminaries. It’s this same servo technology that also allows for such beautifully smooth movement of these same features at extremely slow speeds. Since the motors natively do not have micro-steps as they spin, there is no perceived jitter in their slow speed range.
It’s one of these servo motors that drives Best Boy’s dichroic, grayscale dimmer wheel and strobe shutter, two independent mechanisms. While that smooth movement creates really beautiful slow fades that favor the traditionally problematic bottom end of the dimmer curve, it’s the speed that favors the 360 degree rotating shutter blade. You see, Best Boy had a grandfather in its design lineage. That guy went by the name of the LSD Icon, and those of you who were ever lucky enough to have worked with it will notice some of the genealogy that has been passed down, one trait of which is the infamous 360 degree shutter blade. This style of shutter produced both a wickedly fast strobe as well as a very interesting fan blade effect when rotated at slow speeds, a look unique to this fixture’s heritage.
Another bit of heritage that seems to have been passed down, and then elaborated upon, is optical clarity and, once again, everyone seems to have been talking to each other during the engineering process. Best Boy starts with an incredibly even field. The concept of the traditional “hot spot” in the center is all but nonexistent here. It’s a beautiful place to start, particularly for projection designers who use lighting instruments as part of their quiver. High-resolution gobos look stunningly beautiful from this unit.
Arguably more impressive is the color-mixing system. Sloppy, half-tone color mixing doesn’t live here, and this is particularly notable in the lighter, more pastel color range that will simply elate theatre folks. The color mixing is beautifully smooth and, once again, almost illegally fast. Color bumping between two colors on opposite ends of the spectrum happens at speeds we have only witnessed before with color wheel systems. It simply has to be seen live to be believed, and it is sure to impress the rock 'n' roll set.
For broadcast designers dealing with cameras, a designated color temperature correction wheel defaults to a very interesting state, basically a 50% position. The CT wheel sits with open white at its center with a smooth gradation toward 3,000K on one side (designed to match an ETC Source Four Ellipsoidal, if needed) and 7,500K on the other. However, before moving into either of those ranges, the wheel passes through a graded minus-green filter, allowing for the exact matching of color across a range of lamps with varying hours of life. This is particularly useful in both broadcast and auto show environments. To round off the color features, there is also a “designer color wheel” that comes standard with a set of solid dichroic colors, each swappable for custom made dichroics should they be specified. Standard scrolling and split color gags apply.
Best Boy features two rotating gobo wheels, each with six gobos. The two wheels fall far enough from each other in the optical train to allow for gobo morphing effects that reveal two individual patterns depending on where you focus. For the most part, it’s a pretty standard set, and at the time of this writing, the final choices of the stock gobo patterns are still being chosen, thankfully. That being said, the prototype choices weren’t awful. They included what you’d expect: a nice mix of both aerial beam and projection-style imagery, including the requisite full-color dichroic gobo. In this case, the full-color dichro gobo is reminiscent of a stained glass window. Bottom line is that you’ll either love or hate the gobos, but it’s of little consequence.
What’s of quite a bit more consequence is the last position on each gobo wheel, where PRG has actually done something revolutionary with a gobo rotator. Just when you thought creativity in engineering was dead, along come “moire gobos.” While the concept of kaleidoscopic or “moire” gobo effects are nothing new, the technology of doing so within a single gobo rotator in an automated luminaire is quite refreshing, and Best Boy gives you two of them as stock patterns. I think this is going to be another “love it or hate it,” item but it’s still a very interesting effect and inarguably value additive considering that it’s standard. One of the effects is very kaleidoscopic while the other produces extremely realistic water, fire, and clouds, depending on your choices of focus and color. The latter is very theatrical, and it was really interesting to see these effects produced without the animation wheel traditionally associated with them.
Speaking of theatre, it’s absolutely worth noting the almost complete silence of these fixtures. The reduced acoustical signature of both the overall operation of the unit and its internal mechanisms and fans is truly impressive. This has always been a thorn in the side of Broadway lighting designers, and it would appear as though Best Boy has nailed it.
To aid in more visual trickery, there’s the addition of an independent effects wheel containing several prism lenses. The first prism is a true multiplying prism. “Multiplying” prisms are specifically different from “facet” prisms in that the former produces full instances of the original image as opposed to just several bevels of its edges. For instance, a cone gobo projected through a four-facet prism will produce what looks like a clover, while a four-multiplying prism produces four individual cones, or more importantly, four individually clean logos at a corporate industrial where marketing police might go nuts if you bastardize the holy corporate logo with a facet prism.
The second effects position contains another prism called “Extruder.” This produces a streaky or infinite duplication effect. The third prism is called “Oblong” and creates an almost biological morphing effect. As with most prism effects, combining them with various gobos, focus positions, half colors, etc. produce all sorts of wondrous imagery. All of this is simply done with a bit more quality, given the fact that there was so much forethought put into the optical train and overall image clarity from the start.
Rounding out the effects wheel is a series of graded frost filters producing a range of light-to-heavy frost. There’s not much to really elaborate when it comes to frost. It does exactly what it’s supposed to do. However, there is no flaring or color shift at all with this frost system, and I can’t say that I’ve ever seen one before that performs as well.
In a rather unprecedented move, the designers have chosen to add a four-blade framing system natively to the Best Boy, as opposed to adding a completely separate framing fixture to the product line. In even more of an astounding move, they’ve put a framing system in the unit and kept the traditional iris mechanism. Both are smooth, fast, and quiet.
The framing system allows for +/-60 degrees of rotation, giving the user a total of 120 degrees of rotation, which is downright luxurious. The four independent, two-plane tilt shutter blades can be brought into the light beam at some very unique angles that allow the user to create almost Z-like patterns, arguably most useful for effect purposes, but that unique functionality could certainly lend itself to some tricky theatrical cutting needs, as well. Servo motors propel these blades, and they complete their moves as fast as an operator can physically hit a GO button.
That speed creates an interesting visual effect too. While the moire gobos can create beautifully amorphous and biological effects, the shutter blades changing shapes at full speed look downright digital in nature. These not-so-subtle nuances equate to a very versatile visual toolset, and that same servo quality serves up the shutter blades' incredibly smooth movements during slow fades, as well.
The shutter system falls in line nicely with both the effects wheel and secondary gobo wheel, lending itself to some really interesting effects. Combining it with the prisms and being so close in focal length to the secondary gobo wheel means that you can get a clean edge cut on a focused gobo, as opposed to having to visually compromise a hard-edge focus versus a clean cut on a piece of scenery.
We all know that it’s the little things in life that count, and, as if all of this weren’t enough, a ton of little things go a long way in this fixture, and it appears that the angels are in the details. For instance, the simple reseting of the unit happens with the dimmer being the last thing to restore to its known DMX state upon completion. What’s more is that it will restore with a three-second fade, so you can reset a troubled unit mid-performance and have it rejoin the rest of the rig with a modicum of taste, as opposed to wildly whipping itself into the cue whenever it’s ready. Once again, the unit’s silence comes into play here, as it is almost audibly indiscernible during recalibration.
Each unit features a full-color digital display that offers technicians a plethora of information as well as control functionality, and the displays are battery-operated and can be accessed without connection to full power. Thoughtfully, the displays will dowse themselves after a few seconds by default, so your blackouts are true blackouts and don’t reveal the equivalent of presenting your plot to the audience in a roof full of glowing displays.
These displays offer fast troubleshooting information from the internal electronics that constantly provide feedback with a system of text that is not only color-coded (red text showing errors, green text showing proper operation, etc.) but also time-stamped so technicians can see exactly when issues occurred. This provides the technician with very fast and accurate feedback. A built-in DMX tester screen displays realtime DMX transmission, refresh rates, etc.
From a control standpoint, the Best Boy accepts DMX and Art-Net and even has an extra EtherNet port that acts as a proper EtherNet switch. That port can also be used as a bit of a “get out of jail free” card when you need to add an extra unit in the rig nearby. A simple EtherNet cable extension can be used instead of jockeying around DMX data cables among all of the nearby units.
Auto-locking and unlocking of pan/tilt is another nice feature. Unlocking automatically happens upon power up, so there are no more penalty laps up the ladder for technicians when a member of the crew forgets to hit the button while the rig is on the ground.
The fashionistas out there will be pleased to hear that Gore-Tex is back in fashion this year as Best Boy struts down the runway with specialized Gore-Tex vents. Touted as waterproof and breathable, the venting allows for better weatherizing thus giving Best Boy a better boy’s chance of handling outdoor events. In fact, the unit is sealed up quite nicely in general, with rubberized gaskets and HEPA filters rounding out the house cleaning tools.
Even airflow is managed quite specifically. Airflow through the lamp enclosure is separated from that which flows through the main housing. Housing air is transmitted uni-directionally from one of the unit’s arms, through the main lens and module area housing, and extracted through the opposite arm. Lamp aeration happens with intake coming from the top of the lamp housing and extraction going out through the bottom. This controlled airflow assists in wrangling dust and debris across the various modules and helps deal with various temperature variation throughout the unit.
Modularity is also a key element of the fixture’s overall design. Each of the unit’s physical features, simply put, is truly modular. Everything is built into its own assembly that can be easily removed in a solid piece instead of tiny nuts and bolts flailing all over during field repairs. Add to this the fact that the entire unit can be field-stripped comfortably in under five minutes, and you’ve got one of the most well thought-out assemblies on the market today.
The game’s about to change in a few weeks, and you’re going to want to check this guy out.