I've been thinking a great deal recently about the concept of "reinventing the wheel." In a quest to be new and innovative in design and implementation of rigs, we, as designers, are often limited by the tools available on the market. So it’s obviously very frustrating when a concept or tool is merely being replicated and not expanded upon by manufacturers. One very obvious example of a fixture that’s seen little to no change over the past 10 or more years is our good friend, the strobe light. When Martin Professional introduced the Atomic 3000 Strobe, it really set the standard, and a good one at that, for most "concert-ready" strobe fixtures made by manufacturers since.
It’s a great fixture obviously, and with the color scroller, it’s excellent. So I asked myself, "Color and output--what else do I need from a strobe? Why reinvent the wheel?" Or, more importantly, how do we reinvent the wheel?
I believe it's with this in mind that the folks at TMB set out to create the Solaris LED Flare, one of the Live Design 2012-13 Lighting Products of the Year, and just like our good friends at Michelin and Goodyear, no one reinvented the wheel, but they certainly added to it.
The Solaris LED Flare is ostensibly an RGBW LED strobe. Unbelievably bright (I mean, can't see anything for five minutes after seeing it) and punchy in any color imaginable, the fixture at first glance is obviously a game-changer. It features 96 units of RGBW LEDs all positioned so the fixture has a really nice, tight 36º output from the fixture. Each unit of LED has the four LEDs positioned at 90º in related to each other to enhance side-angle viewing. This seemingly small detail really excited me, as I've often struggled with side-viewing of LED video walls because, when the LEDs aren't arranged 90º from each other, at an angle one of the RGB LEDs is predominant, thus making the wall appear really red or really blue.
Similar to other strobe units, the LED Flare has an effects mode channel that features your normal array of fun strobe effects. If TMB had stopped there, I would have been sold. It's a powerful strobe, it's color mixing, it has great optics, and it's half the power consumption of a normal 3,000W strobe. It's a total package.
Sometimes it’s not about what you need; it's about what you want. TMB was one step ahead of guys like me who always ask what else it can do. TMB has done away with the irritating issue of dip switches, opting for an LCD display that can easily be flipped based on fixture orientation. I found the menu extremely easy to navigate and user-friendly. In the menu, you'll find a plethora of mode options for this fixture. Turns out that there is more than meets the eye with this bad boy. The flare is not only a strobe but also a wash. It's capable of providing a wash while, at the same time, strobing in a different color. I particularly found that having it as a blue wash and then strobing in red provided a really great effect, both on the eye-candy side of looking at the fixture, but also when I used it to wash a surface. I'd imagine a great deal of innovative looks and effects could be generated by just this feature alone.
But there is more. The LED units are broken into rows of eight, allowing you 12 different cells of individual RGBW control. The unit has eight different options for breaking up the rows, giving you flexibility with DMX channel availability. It's important to note that strobing is a universal function of the fixture, not a per row function. In its most expansive mode (56ch), you are given an initial four channels of RGBW that control the color of the strobing aspect of the fixture. The following four channels are your dimmer and strobe functions. Your remaining 48 channels of DMX are the RGBW for each of the 12 rows of wash LEDs in the fixture. I had a really great time playing with various pixel-mapping style scenarios I might encounter in the field. I did find that, if I wanted the real definition and break between colors in individual rows, I was best served turning the intensity down just a bit. While the fixture is excellent in this expanded and versatile mode choice, it also operates easily and effectively in the scaled down modes.
As far as look and feel of the actual instrument, TMB kept it simple. It is about 20" wide by 9" tall by 8" deep, making it similar to other strobe fixtures on the market. At 14lbs, however, it is a good bit heavier than other strobes by about double. It works in a wide range of voltage levels, making it great for international travel and perfect for bouncing around power scenarios of clubs to stadiums. The powerCON connection also enhances the ease of these fixtures for large and small production companies and designers alike. In addition to the full sized Solaris LED Flare, there are also talks of TMB possibly expanding the line to half and quarter sized versions of the unit.
Now if we can only make a strobe that’s not a rectangle, right?