What It Does:
The LED300, from Doug Fleenor Design, is a 24V, 300W accessory power supply that distributes DMX data and power to lighting fixtures and accessories. The innovative design is flexible and provides power and data in different formats to suit varying fixture inventories. The LED300 was primarily designed to power and control Color Kinetics ColorBlast® 12 LED luminaires, but it can also drive Color Kinetics iColor® Cove, Altman SpectraPAR™, and similar products, as well as color scrollers, gobo rotators, and other powered DMX-controlled accessories. If you own a rental house that has LED luminaires in inventory, you should take a close look at this product. If you also rent scrollers, gobo rotators, and other accessories that take 24V, you might also want to look at these units, as they will cut down on all of the different power supplies required.
Power and data are provided on six 4-pin female XLR connectors. Power appears on pins 1 and 4, data is provided on pins 2 and 3. Polarity and data are field-adjustable by a service technician. Milton Davis, engineer for Doug Fleenor Design, explains the reasoning behind this choice. “There is always controversy because there is no set standard on what kind of a pin-out the connectors are supposed to have for these kinds of fixtures and it is very easy for the user to change,” he says.
The LED300 also supports both current and legacy methods of control that Color Kinetics fixtures use. “The LED300 will run both versions,” says Davis. “The original ColorBlast 6 and ColorBlast 12 fixtures used traditional DMX signaling levels where there was a data + and a data - signal that were basically 0-5V type signaling. There are a good number of fixtures out there like that. Later Color Kinetics went to a single-ended method so they now use a three-wire cable with a common plus 24V power supply and a data line. That data line is basically DMX in terms of its timing, but it is only a single line and it swings from 0-24Vs. Each of the outputs of the LED300 has an internal switch, so you can select whether the output is differential 5V data with data + and a data - or the single-ended 24V data.”
It might seem that there would be issues with plugging the fixture into the wrong setup, but Fleenor has thought that through as well. “There is an LED on the front of the unit that shows you which mode the unit is switched into,” explains Davis. “There is another LED on the front to clue you in as to which way the power is wired. You can just plug one in and look to see the setup.”
The LED300 features Fleenor's DownShifter technology that shifts incoming DMX data and outputs the desired channels as channels 1, 2, and 3. This allows all fixtures to be set to address “001” with the power supply routing the proper signals to the proper outputs. “So no fixtures are unique, they are all address “001” and then all the addressing takes place on the LED300,” says Davis. “For instance, if you plug six fixtures into the LED300 and have the LED300 set to DMX address ‘001’, then DMX channels 1, 2, and 3 control the first fixture, 4, 5, and 6 control the next fixture, and so forth through 18 channels of control.”
The LED300 can be used to power other accessories, which means that you can condense the number of separate power supplies. “If you use it in the 5V differential data mode, then it works just like a traditional scroller power supply,” explains Davis. “You can set the DMX address on the front of the unit to 000 and that will have the unit pass the data through just like a normal scroller power supply without the DownShifting. It will work for a 24V accessory device: color scrollers, gobo rotators, and things of that nature. It is a real versatile box in that sense.”
The LED300 has some stand-alone modes for those times that you don't need or want a separate controller. There is a mode that allows you to select colors that approximate Roscolux™ colors. “It has a little bit of intelligence and it also has some built-in special effects and some stand-alone functionality,” says Davis. “That was mostly put in to allow you to use the LED300 and some fixtures to go into simple applications, where simple color fades are all that might be needed and you don't want to tie up an extensive console.” The built-in effects include fading and strobing effects that can be run separately or together and have variable fade times and flash rates.
The LED300 is convection-cooled with no fan for silent operation. The supply is provided with a parallel blade with ground connector and it is internally switchable to nominal 115V or 230V operation. Recently, the LED300 was UL listed.
The unit is smaller than it looks in photographs and comes in at 9.25" H × 5.25" D × 9.75" W, 7.5lbs (234.95mm × 133.35mm × 247.65mm, 3.4kg). For mounting, it has two 3/8" holes for half couplers, which can be drilled out to 1/2" for C-clamp mounting and has a handle slot for carrying.
How It Came to Be:
The LED300 got its start as a product like many products do, with a phone call looking for help. “We got a number of phone calls from rental shops that asked, ‘Do you make something that is anything like this?’,” says Davis. “We asked one of the rental houses if they would send us what they use right now and what we got in was this pathetic little box that someone had cobbled together. It was a conglomeration of a Color Kinetics power supply intended for permanent installs that was mounted into an enclosure that was too small, had a lot of funny wiring, and some real reliability problems. This came from a really reputable shop so we thought, ‘Well, if this is the best they can do we might have a niche here.’ So the rental shops were really the impetus for doing it. The design is very much in keeping with all of the Doug Fleenor products, basically very, very rugged, identifying a specific need, and making as simple and as effective a product as we possibly can to fill that niche.
“We actually got a lot of good technical support from Color Kinetics; they wanted this product as well,” says Davis. “We asked them at first if it would annoy them if we made something like this and their response was, ‘We would love it if you made something like this.’ The market for portable gear of this sort is not big enough for them to want to work on, so they were thrilled that someone else was going to do the entertainment side of things. They offered us a lot of support to manufacture our product in terms of properly interfacing to their fixtures.”
According to Davis, the LED300 was developed to become fully complaint with RDM. “One of the primary things that you will notice about it is that most of our products use mechanical push button switches for the DMX address but this one uses a little LED display with a button under each display,” he says. “The main reason that we went that route was to allow us to make the LED300 a fully compliant RDM device. We haven't put that bit of software into it yet, because we are waiting for the RDM standard to be released.”
What End Users Say:
“We own over 200 ColorBlast 12s and a few dozen 6s in our rental inventory,” comments Charlie Malings of Middleman Productions. “Prior to getting the Fleenor LED300s, when we received multiple orders it was a lengthy process to address the fixtures with the [Color Kinetics] PS150 and a [Color Kinetics] Zapi. If the client wanted to re-address, they would have to go through a whole ritual and a Zapi had to ship with every order, and sometimes Zapis did not come back with the order. With the LED300 and the DownShifter technology, it makes addressing fixtures fast and easy. My shop guys love them for their ease of use and the durability.”
James Aitken, principal designer for the design firm Invisible Circus, who uses them in his retail designs, comments, “I think it is a wonderful product. It has always been incredibly reliable, they are plug-and-play technology, so I can hand it off to a visual staff member who doesn't have a lot of experience, and I am able to explain it to them in about two minutes and they pick it right up. I would like to see a little more options for mounting. I was able to recently take the Fleenor box to Edinburgh with me for a theatrical piece and it was seamless; just switch the voltage switches inside it. I plugged it right into the board in Scotland and away it went.”
John Fahnestock, rental agent at Altman Rentals, says, “We have 16 units in rentals; we need a lot more. We use it for the SpectraPARs. It handles the road and rental use really well. The primary reasons for selecting that unit were the Down-Shifting mode and that it has no fan — it is silent. I wish to maintain the LED inventory as silent units. For small spaces, that is really becoming mandatory.”
Ed McEneney, freelance LD, has been using the LED300 with Altman SpectraPAR luminaires in his television design work. “It's great. It is a heck of a lot better than what we had before. I've done shows with iColor Coves and it just took forever. If we had had the Fleenor boxes it would have cut our time by a quarter. It is very easy to address; it is very easy to place and easy to hang. It is a good product, and I'm glad someone came up with it without relying on the old boxes. It is a straightforward unit; it does what it is supposed to do and that is it. I don't really see any shortcomings to it.”
“It's easy to use; it is user-friendly,” says Brenda Shepard, system integrator with Barbizon Light of New England. “I can have fixtures manufactured with Color Kinetics technology and can have them plug right into it. It is an easy solution for a power supply. It has some good bells and whistles and the pre-programmed presets and effects are very nice.”