Leaving your lights out in the weather has always been a brave, if not foolhardy, gamble; but never more so than when your fixture is crammed full of electronics and small motors. The robotic luminaire is a device just begging to be used in exterior architectural and production applications, but is far too valuable to be left out in the weather like a cheap PAR can. The 90s saw the weatherproof luminaire housing change from being a utilitarian, custom-built structure to a stylish off-the-shelf equipment accessory that has been variously likened to R2D2 or a Dalek, depending on which science fiction culture you grew up with. Built for permanent installations, these dome-topped structures can withstand gales, tsunami, and global warming, but do not lend themselves well to touring shows or short runs.
To meet its need for a portable weatherproof housing for its own hire and production operations, Impact Evenement in Orly, France, developed an inflatable cylinder that packs down into a small, robust case for transport. The intriguingly named Con'dome (or Bub'ble, if you live in the USA), like so many good ideas, is simple, straightforward, and almost blindingly obvious in concept.
A soft, transparent plastic cylinder is kept inflated by air pressure from an impeller fan in the base. Two small holes in the top of the sleeve allow a controlled amount of air to escape, thereby providing sufficient ventilation to house a 4kW luminaire without overheating. The positive pressure in the cylinder prevents water leaking in through the vent holes or any minor punctures that the cylinder may sustain. The Standard model has a cut-out relay to shut down the power to the enclosed luminaire should the fan fail, while the budget Eco model lacks this feature. The interchangeable sleeve is constructed from UV-stabilized plastic, with an estimated life of 3,700 hours in sunlight (approximately one year of daily exposure) before visible deterioration occurs. The 18 units that spent most of last summer in Australia's blazing sun, perched atop the Sydney Opera House (below), appear none the worse for the experience.
The original Con'dome had a molded black ABS plastic base 700mm (27.5") in diameter which could be fitted with cylinders 400mm (16"), 600mm (2'), 1m (3'4"), 1.2m (4'), 1.4m (4'7"), or 1.6m (5'3") high, and could support a weight up to 100kg (220lb). When not in use, the whole unit is only 270mm (10.6") high and weighs just 15kg (33lb).
Recently, Impact Evenement developed a version that is built into a conventional wheeled road case a mere 365mm (14.3") high, including castors. Known as the Flight'dome, this model is available in base diameters of 500mm (19.6"), 700mm (27.5"), and 900mm (35.4"), and the full range of heights from 400mm to 1.6m. These cover the majority of moving-mirror luminaires and many moving-head robotics now in use, and word is that new models to accommodate larger fixtures are under development.
Applications for the Con'dome/ Bub'ble are not limited to luminaires. Cameras, projectors, video monitors, and speakers have been housed. If only they made a model large enough to hold the lighting console and operator. Now that would be useful.