Despite Tragedy in America, PLASA Carries On

It was a very interesting Professional Lighting and Sound Association 2001 show from my perspective. I had not been to a PLASA show for a number of years (since the days in Hammersmith) and I was looking forward to seeing what was new from the manufacturers this year. Needless to say that after I returned from lunch at 2pm on Tuesday, September 11, and heard the first news/rumors of what was happening back home I did not exactly feel that the lighting and audio industry was at the top of my priority list. It was somehow not real until I saw Sky TV and CNN later and saw the videos that it really hit home, that this was not just 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 with a roof over our heads. It was a frightening and unnerving time for many of us. Being stuck in London is no hardship, but we only wanted to be back home with our loved ones.

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Six new products showcased at PLASA were given Awards for Product Excellence. The 2001 show saw a record 56 technical innovations new to the market this year nominated for Awards, which 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 0-100% uniform mechanical dimmer. The range is ideal for color-washing theatre 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 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. 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, Visual Act's 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 theatre know-how, responsive to the market.”

The Award for Best Booth up to 50 sq. m (555 sq. ft.) was presented to Tomcat; Best Booth over 50 sq. m went to Martin Professional. Awards for Best Overall use of Product on a Booth went to Antari International for a booth under 50 sq. m and to High End Systems for a booth over 50 sq. m.

PRODUCTS AND COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS

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 prevented from working for the past few years due to cancer. The WYSIWYG software will allow him to work at home on his new service of 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. Its new products include ISIS software version 1.47 for the Modular Vision 10 and Phoenix family of lighting control systems. Eurodim 3, the newest version of ADB's thyristor-based digital dimmers is also now in production. The company also showed its new S2MS central control system for theatre and architectural applications.

Antari launched a new low-lying fog machine aimed at the club market; it uses ice cubes instead of CO2 to create 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 (a total of 192) to 162 patch cords connected to 25 Socapex and 12 stage pin 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 launched its new Status motion control console for automated stage machinery.

CCT Lighting Ltd displayed its smaller Freedom 2000 DMX dimming system. The company has developed last year's previously shown 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 a speed of up to 19m (63')/min., and the VarioTrolleys with a speed of up to 40m (132')/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 (62lb).

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 color with an aperture of 80°.

Coemar announced that Tracoman, the South Florida distributor of lighting equipment, would acquire a controlling interest Coemar. The agreement will allow the current management of Coemar to run its operations while Tracoman will provide expertise to enhance the companies' marketing, distribution, and research and development capabilities needed to develop growth. Tracoman is a subsidiary of the Stanton Group.

DHA, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, introduced the YoYo+ double gobo holder, which was created especially 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 Audiovisual showed 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.

F.A.L. srl from Italy had a new fixture, the Three-Sixty Laser, which incorporates all of the features of its Three-Sixty family of automated fixtures with a selection of new effects produced by scanning a high-visibility green solid-state laser. The laser is controlled by a microprocessor with 255 pre-programmed patterns and is DMX-controllable.

High End Systems showed 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 has a wide range of library images and may be controlled from a conventional DMX console. High End also had a preview of the Hog 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 that uses patented circuitry to monitor 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.

Lee Filters introduced new 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 its 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 new additions add to the Designer Colors series that Lee has been developing since 1998.

Le Mark, known for its self-adhesive niche products, announced a strategic alliance and working partnership with SCAPA Tapes. SCAPA is one of the world's largest adhesive tape companies, with 22 production and distribution sites around the globe. Le Mark will work with SCAPA to co-develop, market, and manufacture a specialist range of both plain and printed products for all aspects and areas of the entertainment industry.

MA Lighting announced that it has just signed an exclusive UK distribution agreement with A.C. Lighting Ltd. “With A.C. — one of the largest European distributors — we have not only found a very strong and experienced partner for the English market but were also able to strengthen our leading position in the industry.” The grandMA ultra-light, MA Lighting's compact moving-light controller, was introduced. 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 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 products. The console offers a real theatrical channel and fixture controller with dedicated digital wheel and screen layouts (similar to operating philosophies being used by other manufacturers like Strand, ETC, and ADB). It has new user interfaces (like a hue/saturation/brightness color-picker for color-mixing) all operated by the built-in touch screen.

Martin Professional had the updated MAC 2000 with an internal framing device and a new sub-gobo rotation wheel useful for theatrical fire and water effects. Also shown was the MAC 600 NT with improved color-mixing and noiseless operation.

Neutrik introduced a range of more rugged RJ-45 data connectors for use in the harsh world of theatre and touring. The connectors comply with Category 5 requirements and accept most common RJ-45 plugs. The connectors also feature a die-cast shell and a chuck-type strain relief.

Pani announced the appointment of Thomas Wasshuber as its new managing director.

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-Tapes & Specialties had some new products including gaffer tape in camouflage colors. Designed for the sports industry, Pro-Tapes sees this product doing well in theme parks and zoos. It also introduced at PLASA fluorescent colored paper tape. This tape, an addition to the cloth tape line, fluoresces under UV. It is available in fluorescent green, orange, pink, and yellow. Pro-Tapes also showed its die-cutting abilities with spike corners: precut right angles of its cloth tapes for handy spiking of furniture, props, and the occasional actor.

Pulsar is moving more into the already crowded market of LED fixtures and announced some new additions to its ChromaRange family of LED technology lighting fixtures. To complement its existing LED fixtures, these new products will allow further flexibility for the use of LED fixtures. ChromaBank contains 12 ChromaHearts packaged together in one linear lighting source featuring a total of 960 LEDs. It has a built-in ChromaZone to power and control the unit, offering numerous internal effects and chases that can operate in standalone mode or with an external DMX controller. The ChromaStrip linear light source is housed in either clear (20°) or prismatic (90°) 5.5cm-diameter (2.2") polycarbonate tube available in 900, 600, and 300mm (36", 24", 12") lengths. Each tube features red, green, and blue LEDs allowing infinite color-mixing possibilities. The ChromaFlush is a sister product to the existing ChromaLight, offering all the same exciting features. A flush enclosure makes this product perfect for both ceiling and panel mounting when directional adjustment of the light beam is not required.

Selecon introduced the Pacific MSR douser, 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.

Stage Technologies announced the addition of Ewart Richardson and Matthew Tonks to its team of engineers. Current Stage Technologies projects include My Fair Lady, The Witches of Eastwick, the new musicals Grace and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the UK tours of Beauty and the Beast and Miss Saigon, and the RSC, where a tracking system to move moving lights includes a Juggler console and Maxis MS by Stage Technologies.

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, the company is completing the Egyptian Media Production City Company outside of Cairo. This represents Strand's largest studio project to date.

TMB Associates announced the opening of TMB Beijing. CEO Colin Waters stated, “With customers involved in projects throughout China, local coordination has become essential. This office will add another level of support to our international vendors and customers, with a focus on the growing Chinese market.” Cherry Huang, a Beijing resident who has worked with TMB on a freelance basis for several years, has assumed the role of office manager.

Visual Act introduced the Stage Wagon 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.

Wybron introduced two new products, the Moiré, 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. Zero 88 also presented AC Lighting Inc. with its Overseas Dealer of the Year Award. Graham Eales, the sales and marketing manager for Zero 88 said, “AC Lighting's efforts in the market have resulted in significant growth for Zero 88 in America as well as establishing the US as the largest single market for the Frog family of products.”

Contact the author at meddy@primediabusiness.com.