I had been looking forward to this year's Professional Light and Sound Association (PLASA) show at Earl's Court in London September 9-12. Having not been to a PLASA show for a number of years (since the days in Hammersmith), I was curious to see what was new from the manufacturers at this year's event. Needless to say, after I returned from lunch at 2pm on Tuesday, September 11, and heard the first news/rumors of what was happening back home, the lighting and audio industries weren't exactly at the top of my priority list. It was somehow not real until I saw Sky TV and CNN later and watched the videos when it really hit home that this was not a bad dream after all.
The PLASA staff, as well as a number of local companies, were great in offering the American companies help and support. A special thank-you to Lori Rubinstein and John McGraw of ESTA, who tirelessly kept us informed and a roof over our heads. It was a frightening and unnerving time for many of us, who only wanted to get in touch with our families and friends to make sure they were all right. Being stuck in London is no hardship, but we only wanted to be back with our loved ones.
Having said that, we still feel a responsibility to report on the event. What follows are highlights from the show as well as the awards presented by PLASA for the best new products and booth designs.
Six new products showcased at the PLASA were awarded the PLASA Show Awards for Product Excellence. The 2001 PLASA show saw a record 56 technical innovations new to the market this year nominated for the awards. All entries were featured in the New Technology Gallery. The awards were presented for design excellence and technical innovation in four categories: lighting; sound; audio-visual, and stage engineering.
In the lighting category, the Award for Design Excellence was presented to Clay Paky for its CP Color Range, a line of color changers designed for the professional and architectural markets. There are four models in the range, including one specifically for outdoor applications. Each model adopts the CMY system and has a uniform mechanical dimmer from 0 to 100%. The range is ideal to color wash theater stages, TV studio sets, and works of art and architectural or interior design features. The judges were impressed by the “versatility of the new range of practical cyc lights,” and commented that it was “good to see investment going into such development in a neglected product area.”
The Lighting Award for Technical Innovation went to Artistic Licence (UK) Ltd. for Down-Link, a wall-mount ethernet-to-DMX512 converter, presented in a two — gang panel that mounts to standard UK wall boxes and converts Art-Net to two universes of DMX512(A). The product is the first of its kind offering DMX512(A) distribution via ethernet using a public domain protocol. The judges felt the product was an “extremely practical and low-cost solution to the current and future problems of interconnectivity in installations wishing to run ethernet systems and DMX.”
In the sound category, the Award for Design Excellence was presented to Outline for its Kanguro Active, a fully active loudspeaker system with integrated digital PWM amplifier modules. The patented design allows the high/mid pack to be stowed in the sub bass for easy transport. The judges labeled the product “a truly unique approach to a specific market niche.”
Yamaha-Kemble Music's AW4416 captured the Sound Award for Technical Innovation. The AW4416 is a 44 — channel, 16 — track hard disk recording system complete with full editing, sampling, and mastering facilities. It boasts true 24 — bit, 48kHz resolution with no compression of any type. All in all, the AW4416 was rewarded for offering an “intelligent combination of new technology with existing ideas all in one compact unit.”
In the audio-visual category, High End Systems swept the board with awards for both Design Excellence and Technical Innovation for the Catalyst, an orbital movement system, like a periscope that mounts to the front of a video projector and allows static images or moving video to be projected anywhere within a 360∞ by 180∞hemisphere of movement. It can mix color, select gobos, iris down, and insert shutters all directly from a DMX lighting console. The judges felt that the Catalyst represented the “next generation of moving lights” and commented that its “well developed design brought video and lighting effects together seamlessly.”
In the stage engineering category, the Visual Act Stage Wagon, a system of remote-controlled wagons for creating movement on and off the stage using modular and reusable components, came up a winner for both the Design Excellence and Technical Innovation awards. The judges felt that the product “took an integrated approach to control motion and feedback with an exciting user interface” and regarded the product as a “clever integration of several different industrial technologies with in-house theater know-how, responsive to the market.”
The final awards of the day were the PLASA Best Booth Awards, presented in four categories. The award for Best Booth up to 50 square meters was presented to Tomcat, supplier of stage support systems including trussing, lifting, and rigging equipment. The award for Best Booth over 50 square meters went to Martin Professional, a supplier of intelligent lighting, including color and pattern-changing luminaries, for the entertainment and architectural and lighting industries. Finally, the awards for Best Overall use of Product on a Booth went to Antari International for a booth under 50 square meters and to High End Systems for a booth over 50 square meters.
Other products and company highlights are as follows.
The first beneficiary of the UK Light Relief program was announced at PLASA, with a copy of Cast Lighting's WYSIWYG software presented by ETC's Mark White to lighting industry member Julian White, who has been unable to work for the past few years due to cancer. The WYSIWYG software will allow him to work at home creating light plots with AutoCAD files. Light Relief is a UK-based fund established to “support lighting designers when the personal going gets rough.”
ADB announced the appointment of Alfons Fahrtmann as its new CEO. Their new products include ISIS software version 1.47 for the company's Modular Vision 10 and Phoenix family of lighting control systems. Eurodim 3, the newest version of ADBs thyristor-based digital dimmers is also now in production. The company also showed its new S2MS central control system for theater and architectural applications.
Antari launched a new low-lying fog machine aimed at the club market that uses ice cubes instead of CO2 to create the fog. Dry ice can also be used in theatrical applications.
Avolites introduced the Art2000-US, a 20A digital dimmer, specifically designed for the American market complete with full mains patching, virtually silent operation, and 100% duty cycle, 20A dimmers. The dimmer rack features a mains patch with four sockets per dimmer channel (total 192) to 162 patch cords connected to 25 Socapex and 12 stagepin outlets. The dimmer rack is supplied with voltage and current metering for all phases and neutral. Other features include noise suppression to studio specifications (240µs), dual DMX input with merge, and full soft-patching capabilities.
Bytecraft came up from Down Under to launch the new Status Motion Control Console for automated stage machinery.
CCT Lighting Ltd displayed its smaller Freedom 2000 DMX dimming system. They have developed last year's radio-controlled dimming into the Freeway Radio Dimming System. This method eliminates the need for multiplex control wiring.
ChainMaster showed a new model VarioLift BGV-D8, a one — ton hoist with 19m/min and the VarioTrolleys with speed up to 40m/min equipped with built-in frequency inverter with path control and synchronization. ChainMaster also had its Rigging Lift Pro II, one of the smallest and lightest one — ton chain hoists with contractor control for the entertainment industry. The weight without the chain is 28kg.
Clay Paky had a number of product introductions in addition to the PLASA Award — winning CP line of color changers. The Stage Profile 1200 SV combines a beam shaper with the versatility of a moving head projector. The Stage Zoom 1200 SV and Stage Color 1200 SV are silent versions of the Stage Line models and are suitable for any application where silent operation is crucial. The Color Cyc is an accessory for the Stage Color range that allows a perfectly uniform diffusion of colour with an aperture of 80∞.
DHA, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, introduced the YoYo+ double gobo holder, which was created specially for the current revival of My Fair Lady in London. The YoYo+ holds one or two effects plates that can be moved either vertically or horizontally to a specific point. This was used in My Fair Lady to create a dramatic opening and closing of window curtains.
E/T/C Audiovisuel showed off the Pigi 2.5kW HMI projector, a more compact unit complete with internal dimmer, dichroic color mixing, and color correction filters. It is available in three versions — single-slide carrier, and single or double scroller.
High End Systems showed off its new Catalyst, a periscopic moving-mirror head designed to fit any large-format video projector. This offers the visual designer the first real opportunity to project and move video in the same manner as automated lighting. The Catalyst turns video projectors into artistic tools allowing fixed, overlaid, and manipulated imported images along with real-time effects. The package is enhanced with a wide range of library images and may be controlled from a conventional DMX console. High End also had a preview of the Wholehog III console, which has undergone a rather extensive redesign. Keep an eye out for the released version coming soon.
iLight (formerly Dynalite UK and a sister company to Zero 88), showed its new Adaptive series of dimmers, which uses a patented circuitry that monitors both current and voltage in real time. This technology enables the unit to determine if the connective load is resistive, inductive, capacitive, or reactive. After determining the load type, it adopts a leading or trailing edge dimming, or in the case of reactive loads, it turns into an electronic switch.
JBL Professional's new Precision Directivity™ (PD) line of speakers uses a full-range, full-bandwidth total system approach, which allows contractors and consultants to design a fully integrated sound system that solves the audio challenges inherent to large installations, including arenas, stadiums, houses of worship, and large performance spaces. JBL PD™ mid/high frequency loudspeakers utilize a new coaxial design, with specific coverage angles that allow the sound to be aimed precisely at individual sections of the audience area for high intelligibility and maximum fidelity.
Lee Filters introduced additions to its 700 Series of Designer Colors. There are 11 new colors that Lee developed with top lighting designers meeting with the R&D department at the company's Andover factory. Designers, including Chris Davey, Chris Ellis, and David Whitehead, spent time this past winter and spring at the factory perfecting colors that were important to them. The additions add into the Designer Colors series that Lee has been developing since 1998.
MA Lighting showed the grandMA ultra-light, a compact moving light controller. Its 1,024 channels can be used for conventional dimmers, moving lights from the built-in library or self-created fixtures of any kind. It comes in a compact housing with all necessary components built in; no external PCs, processor units, or monitors are required. It is already heavily using ethernet technology and communications for transmission of DMX data and for communication with other consoles and PC applications. The grandMA ultra-light is based on an industrial personal computer board, which is integrated in the console's housing. It uses the same future-oriented grandMA software and therefore is fully compatible with show files from all other grandMA consoles and control products.
Martin Audio added further products to its Blackline series of speakers. The Blackline F8 is a versatile, two — way passive system designed for applications where high output is required from an ultra-compact enclosure. The Blackline F10 is a two — way passive system, designed to provide exceptional club sound and stage monitoring from a very compact enclosure. Where extra-low frequency is required with both the F8 and the F10, sub-bass systems such as the Blackline S12, S15, or S18 may be added. With both the F8 and F10, use of a controller is optional. The Blackline S12 is an extremely compact sub-bass system.
Martin Professional had the updated MAC 2000 Forma with an internal framing device and a new sub-gobo rotation wheel, useful for theatrical fire and water effects. Also on display was the MAC 600 NT, with improved color mixing and noiseless operation.
Neutrik introduced a range of ruggedized RJ-45 data connectors for use in the harsh world of theater and touring. The connectors comply with Ethernet Category Five requirements and accept most common RJ-45 plugs. The connectors also feature a diecast shell and a chuck-type strain relief.
Prolyte presented the world premiere of the new Triangular Box corner, which can create two — , three — , four — , five — , or six — way corners with one basic part, giving triangular truss the same flexibility and efficiency as square or rectangular truss.
Pro-Tape had some new products, including gaffer tape finished in forest camouflage colors. Designed for the sports industry, Pro-Tapes sees this product doing well in theme parks and zoos. Another PLASA introduction was fluorescent colored paper tape. This tape is an addition to the cloth tape line, it fluoresces under UV blacklight. It is available in fluorescent green, orange, pink, and yellow.
Selecon introduced the Pacific MSR dowser, an in-line douser for the Pacific MSR ellipsoidal reflector spotlight range. Also shown was the Hi-Port, a recessed beam-shaping fixture that uses either a 70 or 150W CDM lamp for a very nice and very bright pattern. The fixture will work with e-size patterns.
Strand Lighting featured the latest versions of its 300 and 500 series consoles along with the new 2.5 version software, which made its West End debut with My Fair Lady. On the project side, Strand is completing the Egyptian Media Production City Company outside of Cairo. This represents Strand's largest studio project to date.
Turbosound displayed extensions to several of its key loudspeaker series — including a top-of-the-range floor monitor. The TFM-450 is a top of the range bi-amped floor monitor for use for all types of demanding monitoring applications. The TFM-450 utilizes all neodymium components, resulting in an ultra-lightweight product of only 32kg total net weight. The TQ-115 is a front-loaded subwoofer designed for use in a variety of applications It consists of a custom 3" voice coil 15" low frequency driver in a compact vented enclosure, optimally tuned for extended low frequency response.
Visual Act introduced a system of remote-controlled scenery wagons with total freedom to move around the stage. They can be built to fit scenic shapes and moved alone or in combination by a control systems database.
Wembley Loudspeaker celebrated its 30th anniversary during PLASA and showed new 15-400 Pro Cabinets with 800W power handling peak for professional applications.
Wybron introduced two new products: the Moire, a dual-pattern rotator, and the Goboram II, a gobo changer, indexer, and rotator in one unit, which can control up to three patterns.
Zero 88 Lighting Ltd. introduced the Bullfrog, a larger version of its Fat Frog console, complete with monitor outputs, attribute palettes, and two DMX universes as standard. It also has 48 conventional dimmer channels and the ability to control up to 24 automated lights.