While the mood at ShowBiz Expo 99, held June 25-27 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, was not exactly grim, there was a slight pall in the air. Production in the motion picture business is down, and one of the causes--runaway production to Canada and elsewhere--was a topic seriously addressed in the show's keynote panel, titled "The American Film Industry: Competing in the New Millennium." Also discussed was the effect of new technologies on the business, an issue which was central to several of the conference sessions, sponsored in part by the Visual Effects Society.

These sessions were held in a makeshift theatre on the show floor, and included demonstrations of greenscreen lighting and a panel on visual effects for high-definition television. There were often long lines for these sessions, and there was no shortage of people wandering the floor. But there were signs of depressed times: Panavision, for example, which has often anchored the show with a huge booth, was not even present this year.

As for new technology, at least two exhibitors have taken advantage of the Internet as a marketing tool. Mole-Richardson has expanded its website at www.Mole.com to include 5,000 products, from lighting kits to T-shirts to even competitors' equipment. The first day of the show, Mole also introduced an auction site, for used or rare equipment.

On June 21, Matthews Studio Group launched ShowbizMart.com, a network of websites that will take the rental company's boast of being a "one-stop shop" online. ShowbizMart will have links to all Matthews companies' inventories, to memorabilia through recent Matthews acquisition E-merchandise, as well as a 17-state production directory, location information, items for auction, and show business news sites.

Following closely on the heels of NAB, new product introduction was somewhat light at ShowBiz Expo. But Mole-Richardson unveiled its 2,000W 18" tungsten version of the Molebeam Projector, along with 575W and 1,200W HMI Molepar kits. LTM introduced the 125/200W S/E Prolight HMI fresnel, along with a 125/200W S/E Cinespace HMI modular light and 125/200W electronic ballast. The company also showed 6/12kW and 12/18kW electronic ballasts, intended for use with the Cinepar 6/12kW and Luxarc 12/18kW, respectively.

Sunray introduced a whole new line of ballasts, from 200W to 18k, power-factor-corrected from 2.5k up. Power Gems introduced a 2kW xenon electronic ballast, a 1,200W ballast for moving lights, electronic igniter for HMI 200-1,200W lights, and location lighting connectors, while Veam Litton showed its Mini-L series of 80A electrical connectors.

Cinemills' new ballast was a 200W DC model, while the company also sneaked a look at the 50kW Silver Bullet Striker-Lite, with low-pressure DC xenon lamp. Space Cannon exhibited its 4,000W xenon set light with built-in power supply. DeSisti Lighting showed its new 1,000W Mini-Renoir, the quartz version of the Mini-Goya. Lightning Strikes! was touting its new 1.1k SoftSun as a car light, and had the company owner's T-bird on display to demonstrate. Also being introduced was the 15k SoftSun, comprising four 3.3k lamps.

Every year at ShowBiz Expo, large sections of the show floor are taken up with big lighting trucks, from companies like Musco Lighting and Night Lights by Bebee. The latter exhibitor introduced a 15x6k rig, featuring a flicker-free ballast and 360-degree rotation of crane. Musco was showing nothing new, but talking up its creation of four mobile lighting units for shipment to England, where they are illuminating cricket matches.

A different type of lighting from above was visible at company booths like Lights Up! and Airstar Lighting Balloons. Lights Up! introduced a net for use on its products, to increase wind tolerance from 25 to 35mph. Airstar exhibited a balloon equipped with a Hardware Xenon projector for pattern and scenery effects.

Underwater lighting was also making its presence known on the show floor. Hydroflex introduced a 4k HMI housing for underwater use, and a focusable 5k tungsten fixture. The company also showed a 2-bank 15" fluorescent fixture, employed on the recent thriller Deep Blue Sea. Also new were waterproof housings for Minolta 1-degree Spot Meter and Auto IV Incident Meter, and for the Spectra Pro IV Incident Meter. With Hydroflex, Preston Cinema Systems has created a Marine Hand Unit for camera focus and iris control underwater. Hydroflex also featured new splash bags for the Panaflex Platinum, and for the Arri 435 Remote Aqua Cam, which will be used on the upcoming feature The Perfect Storm.

Another underwater company, Pace Technologies, introduced the WetLite, a no-shock, water-cooled 4k with optically transparent enclosure, especially well suited for a dry set that becomes flooded. Pace also touted its Seal Status Verification (SSV) system, which gives a gaffer the ability to test the lighting system and housing pressure before getting near water.

For ENG uses, Sachtler introduced the R21D MicroSun, a 21W camera-mounted luminaire that can be powered from the camera battery or on car, bus, truck, or boat supplies. Elsewhere, Ushio showed its full-spectrum line of Colorlite 150W metal-halide, Whitestar 50W 36-degree MR-16, and Ultraline long-life MR-16 lamps. Jem Studio Lighting introduced its Spring Ball, a flame-retardant cloth softlight, adaptable to various HMIs for daytime use, and to strobe lights for still photography. Matthews Studio Equipment exhibited its Soft Cucoloris, in black and white models, plus a Screwless ProBaby Mount, which can hold lights up to 5lb without nails or screws.

Rosco/Entertainment Technology talked up its IGTB-based dimming systems for TV. Lee Filters introduced 70 new patterns, four new filter sets, and 4'x8' acrylic panels which are matched to CTO, neutral density, and combination filters.

Finally, in company news at ShowBiz Expo, one of Production Resource Group's most recent acquisitions was Production Lighting Systems, a Glendale, CA-based supplier. Production Lighting Systems' client roster includes the Academy Awards, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and the new hit series Providence.