Clay Paky has continued to refine the top of its moving-light catalog. The Stage Color 1200 and Stage Zoom 1200 are potentially poised as setting the standard for the no-compromise moving light. If Clay Paky (and its US distributor, Group One) plays its cards right, the Stage Color 1200 and the Stage Zoom 1200 could very well be the Ferraris of the moving lights world, without the Ferrari prices.

The Stage Line System, of which the Stage Color 1200 and the Stage Zoom 1200 are the top-end models, was first introduced in the United States way back at LDI97. The fixtures (especially the Stage Zoom 1200) should have set the lighting world on its ear. Here was the first widely available DMX-capable, hard-edged yoke light with color mixing. But the high purchase price of the fixtures was seen as an impediment from the very start. I remember clearly that when the dust cleared from the exhibition, the consensus on the show floor was, "Amazing lights--amazingly expensive."

However, Clay Paky has continued to work with designers and lighting companies to refine the Stage Color 1200 and Stage Zoom 1200. By far the most important of these refinements for the Stage Line fixtures (pictured) has been price. The company has managed to reduce the selling price to compete favorably against the Martin MAC 600 and 500 and the High End Systems Studio Color(R) and Studio Spot(TM).

Don't misunderstand me--you probably cannot get a 1,200W Clay Paky Stage Zoom for the same price as a 575W High End Studio Spot. But a lighting company can get the Clay Paky 1200s for a certain percentage price more than their 575W competition. As Group One is proud to say, "You pay a little more, you get a lot more."

Everything about the Stage Line fixtures screams that Clay Paky engineered these lights not as individual fixtures but as components of a larger system. The best example of this thinking is the interchangeability of the heads: In a few minutes you can latch either the wash light head (the Stage Color) or the hard-edge head (the Stage Zoom) onto the same basic yoke. The two lights have the same base, the same yoke, and the same lamp housing. The only mechanical difference between the Stage Color and the Stage Zoom is the final snout of automated fixture that the light shoots out of.

I'll be honest. When I first saw this head interchangeability I thought this was a gimmicky feature that would have hardly any real world application. I was wrong.

For rental houses, being able to change the heads means they can keep a smaller variety of spare parts around. You don't need two sets of spares for hard-edge and wash lights. It's also easier to train your technical staff since they only have to learn one system of lights instead of individual model lines. On top of that, if a fixture on a truss has a broken color system, all you have to do is replace the head, not the whole unit.

And rental companies have to love the ultimate flexibility in buying into the system. Say Joe's Regional Lighting Company has X amount of wash lights but they need Y amount of hard-edged units. With the Clay Paky system, Joe's only has to buy enough heads to retrofit its existing stock of yokes from its wash lights. In an age where decreasing capital expenditure while increasing services offered can mean the difference between a company sinking or swimming, this is a powerful tool.

The implications of this setup are potentially astounding. The Stage Line System could form the foundation for future development within the Clay Paky line. If Clay Paky comes up with some remarkable new technology in automated lighting, companies that have already bought into the Stage Line system may only have to buy new heads to fit onto their existing yokes. Without trying to guess at the future of moving lights, the Stage Line system might just turn out to be the best attack the lighting industry has struck against technology obsolescence.

But interchangeability between head types is just the tip of the Stage Line System iceberg. These days, the rental company that can come up with rapid deployment solutions will win out over the competition. The lighting company that can load in the same system faster than the competition reduces its client's labor bill on show day. Single-hanging fixtures on truss and individually cabling automated fixtures can get prohibitively expensive and time-consuming during a load-in. Rapid deployment systems employ a whole range of techniques including pre-loomed cable runs and pre-mounted automated fixtures.

The Stage Color and Stage Zoom 1200 were built from the ground up to pre-mount in truss. They come with a pan and tilt lock feature that prevents the yokes from spinning around and damaging themselves while they ride in the truss from venue to venue. Mount these lights into any of a number of pre-rigged trussing systems and you have a real automated system on your hands that any lighting company can buy. Productions with pre-rigged automated systems don't have to pay stagehands to hang and unhang fixtures with every load-in and load-out. Truck space is reduced since your lights don't take any more freight space than the truss does. Lighting companies don't have to invest nearly as much in road cases for individual automated fixtures. The Stage Zoom and Stage Color 1200 were conceived to be the automated lighting components in this way of thinking.

The first thing I notice when I open up the dimmer on the Stage Color 1200 is the quality of the light. The beam coming out of the fixture is a beautiful white light that reflects the heritage of its 1,200W HMI lamp source (the Stage Zoom 1200 also has a 1,200W HMI lamp.) The light is not brittle as some 575W fixtures can be with older fixtures and/or older lamps. The beam is strong and substantial. In a haze-filled room the beams are almost solid and architectural. On a surface, the light cast is clean, white, and even. It's everything you'd want in a basic beam of light.

Other than the intensity of a 1,200W source, the five-color mixing system of the Stage Color separates the fixture from the rest of the automated lighting herd. The Stage Color has what you'd expect in a CYM color system. The saturated congos and reds are strong. The pastels are nice and even with only minor irregularities in the smoothness of color. Clay Paky has continued to produce great color optics with the Stage Color 1200.

But what separates the Stage Color 1200 is its graduated amber wheel and variable CTO wheel on top of the CYM system. If there's any knock I have with dichroics, it is that at times the color can be too vibrant, too saturated. There are distinct times when you want the feel of incandescent light shooting through a specific gel for a more naturalistic feel (it took me years of working with automated lights to truly appreciate the beautiful quality of light that comes out of a new 5k quartz fresnel).

With the Stage Color 1200, you can introduce the CTO to "dirty up" the color to create those more naturalistic tones. You can introduce the amber to get a more distinct red that may be the closest mix I've seen to a Rosco 26 in an automated light. (I've long given up on getting an R27 out of any automated light through color-mixing.) I love the bastard ambers, steel blues, off-color lavenders, and flesh pinks I was able to get out of the fixtures just by mixing in a bit of CTO and amber. The Stage Color 1200 gives you a fighting chance to try to get decent flesh tones out of a daylight-balanced automated wash light.

The Stage Zoom 1200, meanwhile, has everything you want in a hard-edged yoke light: two gobo wheels, one of which spins and indexes; a rotating, indexing prism wheel; variable frost; remote zoom and focus; and, most importantly, color mixing.

The heritage of the superior Clay Paky optics really shines through on the Stage Zoom 1200. By far its most impressive feature is the quality of light when you project glass gobos through prisms with a hint of color. There is a remarkable jewel-like character to the beam that is hard to achieve with other moving lights. I had seen textured, colored glass gobos behind prisms before I saw these lights, but it wasn't until I saw the effects combinations in the Stage Zoom 1200 that I realized the potential for creating huge sheets of real texture out of a moving light.

Yes, other lights allow you to layer textured, colored glass gobos with prisms, but on a 575W light (and some older 1,200W fixtures), if you throw in too many effects you start to lose punch. Not so with the Stage Zoom 1200. You can layer two or three beam effects, throw in a saturated color, and still get readable texture because the power of that 1,200W HMI lamp still pushes through all that glass.

By the time you read this article, it's inevitable that other manufacturers will have announced color-mixing hard-edge units. Some will be 575W. Perhaps there will be other 1,200W hard-edge, yoked, color-mixing lights. Coemar already has its CF 1200 HE out and working on shows. But the last few years in automated lighting manufacturing has shown that the people making these fixtures are under enormous pressure to pump out next year's models by PLASA and LDI. There isn't a lot of time in the product development cycle for any manufacturer to foresee every technical eventuality. Every manufacturer, in the last few years, after selling the lights to the public, has had to deal with at least minor tweaks and variations to make their new products reliable enough for the mass market.

The Stage Color and the Stage Zoom have already been through this process of winnowing out the weaker aspects. Since the Stage Line fixtures were introduced two years ago, buying a Stage Color or Stage Zoom 1200 now represents buying into a mature platform that's already been through the fire of initial criticism.

All this verbiage distills down to a simple sentiment: I really like these lights. As a designer, not only do I not have any hesitation in spec'ing these lights on any systems of mine, I look forward to the next opportunity to use them. The Stage Color 1200 has everything I expect from a wash light, but add in the five-color mixing system and the Stage Color 1200 gives me a shot at creating more naturalistic color textures that certain other moving lights have a hard time approaching. (Have you ever tried to mix a good CTO out of a CYM dichroic system? Good luck!) And the Stage Zoom 1200 allows me to create textures that stay crisp and clear despite many layers of prisms and patterns.

Most importantly, Clay Paky has designed these lights to be part of an overall system of automated lighting that companies can continue to build on and designers to rely on.

Arnold Serame is a principal lighting designer for Juice Creative, the lighting and production division of exhibit and event company George P. Johnson.

STAGE COLOR 1200 Color-mixing, moving-yoke wash luminaire Fully DMX capable HMI 1,200W lamp source, 5500K color temperature Head interchangeable with Stage Zoom 1200 Pan: 450 degrees, 4 seconds maximum speed over 360-degree rotation Tilt: 252 degrees, 3.2 seconds maximum speed over 252-degree rotation 4-color mixing system: cyan, yellow, magenta, and amber Gradual color temperature correction Beam shaping ovalizer Concentric twin-beam color effect Selectable 8- or 16-bit pan/tilt resolution Automatic pan/tilt feedback repositioning Pan and tilt transport lock 11 + 3 control channels Remote lamp douse with hot restrike 110,000 luminous flux 7- to 14-degree beam angle

STAGE ZOOM 1200 Color-mixing, moving-yoke hard-edged luminaire Fully DMX capable HMI 1,200W lamp source, 5500K color temperature Head interchangeable with Stage Color 1200 Pan: 450 degrees, 4 seconds maximum speed over 360-degree rotation Tilt: 252 degrees, 3.2 seconds maximum speed over 252-degree rotation 3-color mixing system: cyan, yellow, magenta 2 color temperature correction filters Concentric twin-beam color effect Continuously variable frost 4 static gobos 4 spinning, indexing gobos 4 spinning, indexing prisms Variable iris Dimmer and strobe on the same control channel Selectable 8- or 16-bit pan/tilt resolution Automatic pan/tilt feedback repositioning Pan and tilt transport lock 16 + 3 control channels Remote lamp douse with hot restrike 110,000 luminous flux 16- to 25-degree beam angle