First let's clear up some confusion about who PixelRange is. You may not be familiar with the company name, but you most likely know its products — the PixelLine 1044, PixelPar 90, and the newer PixelArc range. Most of you know the company that initially brought PixelLine to the market, James Thomas Engineering. In 2006, James Thomas Engineering, Ltd UK, in conjunction with James Thomas Engineering, Inc. in the US, created PixelRange Inc. to deal with the sales, distribution, and support of the complete range of Pixel LED products throughout North and South America. Today, PixelRange is its own company led by industry veterans Dave Thomas as president and Blaine Engle as head of sales. In the UK, PixelRange still comes under the JTE banner. Now, on to the PixelLine 1044.

What It Does

The PixelLine 1044, an LED-based striplight, is made up of 18 modules, each with 18 red, 20 green, and 20 blue high-brightness 5mm LEDs for a total of 1,044 LEDs. The unit has a beam angle of 20°, and there are light-shaping, diffusing lenses available to vary the output. The 1044 is preprogrammed with two overlapping sets of effects, each with 31 patterns, and the unit has multiple resolutions with up to 54 DMX channels of control, with onboard diagnostics that provide data and power information.

The 1044 has a low power draw with a maximum of 150W at full intensity. For power input, there is a 16A CeeForm chassis-mounted plug, and to provide power when connecting adjacent fixtures, there is a 16A receptacle. The power input is auto-setting 100V to 250V AC. For mounting, the 1044 comes with a combination yoke supplied standard for either hanging or for standing on the floor. With this yoke and its length under four feet, one technician can manage the unit.

A lot of people maintain that LEDs produce no heat. Actually, they really do, especially where the circuit board meets the diode. The 1044 has a quiet fan for cooling the electronics and well-planned heat dissipation. The unit has well-engineered metal construction and black powder coating, with other colors available as a custom order. It is IP20 rated and is UL-approved and measures 46.4" (1,179mm) long × 7.1" (181mm) wide × 3.4" (86mm) high, weighing 26.8lbs (12.2kg) with the yoke and 24.2lbs (11kg) without it.

“The 1044 is a significant product in the industry,” comments Dr. James Powell, managing director for JAP Optoelectronic, Ltd, the company behind the electronics and software development of PixelRange products. “When it was launched, we saw it as an effects light, so it is direct-view. We have 18 cells in the unit, which was a first because all the other products had a much lower resolution.” Powell notes that the unit was initially sold as a cyc light as well, but as LED technology developed, the company launched the PixelLine 110 fixture as a more viable option for cyc/wash applications. “The work for the 1044 is really as a visual effects unit,” he adds.

Though brighter and brighter LEDs keep coming to the market, PixelRange has kept the 1044 with the high-brightness 5mm packages. “We have found that, for the majority of applications, especially direct-view, the 5mm LEDs are really sufficient,” says Powell. “In fact, especially in TV, the units are quite bright, and in many instances, neutral density filters are used, and it is even driven at a lower level. People tell us that it is spot on — that it really works great the way it is — so we see no need to change it.”

The 1044 excels as a direct-view effect, especially after it's paired up with media servers and pixel-mapping software that allow video signals to be imported, making the 1044 a low-resolution display device. “PixelDrive was developed out-of-house by Radical Lighting, a company just up the road from us in Manchester,” explains Powell. “They had developed a media server when we met and began working together, resulting in PixelDrive. Radiohead, designed by Andi Watson, was one of the first to make a serious investment in the product; they took 70 or 80 units out on tour.” The combination of the 1044, paired with a media server, started a demand in the creative LED video market. “We sold more 1044s because we had PixelDrive as a programming tool, and vice versa, having the higher resolution LED products allowed the media server and the pixel mapping software to take hold.”

How It Came To Be

Powell was running JAP Optoelectronic, Ltd., an R&D company in Manchester UK, when “about six years ago, LEDs were becoming bright enough to really do something with,” he says. “When we first started to develop the concept, we went to James Thomas Engineering, being one of the top companies in the market for the metal work. They had the mechanical expertise, and I had the software and electronics expertise. We worked to create a very high-powered effects light using the latest LED technology but one that was tourable.”

What's Next

PixelRange has grown in the entertainment market as well as in the architectural market. Recent launches include the PixelArc range, which adds amber to the RGB LEDs for a wider color range, and the more recent PixelArt Batten, which has been in development for about two years. “It is very similar to the 1044,” says Powell. “The 1044 really sparked this product. Although the 1044 is fairly high-power, we have been working to have more control by each LED, which is the PixelArt.” Each batten consists of 6×72 (432 total) tri-color SMD LEDs with a 15mm pitch. “PixelArt is a modular LED video product allowing designers to build their own custom display surface,” adds Powell. PixelArt works with VideoMapper, software that streams a video source out to the fixtures.

What End-Users Have To Say

Production designer Patrick Dierson with Performance Environment Design Group, says, “The 1044 has enjoyed the unique distinction of being the only product of its kind for quite some time now. It's jam-packed with a ton of small LEDs that are still extremely bright. The main reason we often choose this unit is because of its controllability. You can isolate control of the linear array of LEDs by setting the mode to digitally split the entire length of the unit into 18 individual banks of color. This is critical in situations where we're looking to do intense effect chases or pixel-mapping of the banks into our video systems.” Dierson makes particular note of the power efficiency. “You get a lot of light for very little power, and that equates to being able to produce great visuals with more environmental sustainability than ever before,” he says.

There is one thing that Dierson would like to see improved. “It suffers the same issue that every other LED product on the market has: lack of super-smooth dimming at the bottom end of the dimmer curve,” he says. “This is something that they are already working to correct.”

TLS, Inc. (www.tlsinc.com) has a number of 1044s in its rental stock and currently has units out on several tours including Women of Faith and Newsboys. David Milly, president of TLS, likes that the units are bright and work well with video. “We put these in almost every show we do these days,” he says. “We use them for effects, washes, or audience blasting.”

Designer Andi Watson first used the PixelLine 1044s for Radiohead. “When I initially approached the design for the Hail to the Thief tour, I was looking for a solution to the problem of headlining major European festivals,” he says. “I wanted a system that would work in almost any ambient lighting or weather conditions — be flexible enough to meet the needs of differing venues — yet still be very much ‘Radiohead,' with the ability to visually represent the band's sound and dynamic as synaesthetically as possible. I needed to be able to control as many of the pixels as possible and to seamlessly cross-fade from one color to another, all with brightness that would be effective in near daylight. After researching all of the available LED fixtures on the market, it became apparent that only the PixelLine 1044 had the necessary intensity, color space, and control capability to achieve the desired overall visual effect.” Currently, Watson has PixelLines on tour in France, used as sidelights and also cyc uplights. “On a recent tour, I also had them edging a number of moving set pieces and built into risers,” he adds.

As far as improvements, he notes, “I will always believe that there is scope for making the light more controllable.” But Watson particularly likes the unit's brightness and degree of control, as well as the ability to access the fixture without having to use effects parameters for a desired response. “I think that the 1044 is a product that appeared at exactly the right time and, by virtue of its deceptively simple concept and elegant design, became the default hardware choice for designers looking for a front-viewed, multi-cell LED fixture.”

For further information, please see www.pixelrange.com.

Michael S. Eddy writes about design and technology. He can be reached at mseddy2900@hotmail.com.