This LDI marked the biggest product release year that Lycian has ever had, with five new followspots. The M1239 is the new Super Club Spot 7.5. Lycian took two of their previous models and combined the best of both. Looks like it'll be a great little club spot and the price can't be beat. What really grabbed me at the Lycian booth was the new ZOT line of followspots. There's 4 units; Zot 12, Zot 12HP, Zot 7, and the Zot 5. All the units are the same size (the Zot 12HP has a samll external ballast), use the same hardware, and have the same controls placements. The line is designed to be a price competitive option for small to medium venues, and the units themselves are really simple to operate, making them perfect for schools. One control, that at first I was skeptical about but soon realized how nice it was is the "Spot Size Controller". This lever moves the iris and zoom optics together. Hardcore spot ops might not like it, but for occasional users and again schools, it's a great way to simplify spot operation. The Zot 12 is a 1,200w tungsten lamp, the other units use 1,200w, 700w, and 575w Philips fast fit lamps. Perhaps my favorite feature of the Zot line is the forward-leaning yoke. With the Zot's slim body and a yoke moving just slightly forward, it’s easy to operate the spot pointing almost straight down.
I must, must have some of Rose Brand's new NFG tape. That's all I'm going to say about that. Rose Brand has recently begun distributing the entire line of Petzl professional personal fall protection equipment. Working safe is crucial in our business and Rose Brand has made it easier to get the right gear. Sometimes though, some things should fall down. I was really impressed with the Rose Brand Kabuki drop system. It’s smartly made and solid. If dropping fabric is your thing, make sure to check out their Kabuki system.
While catching up with a stagehand from Hollywood, I asked what was the one thing on the floor that excited him the most. He pulled out a tiny little flat wrench from his pocket. Instantly recognizable as another great tool from stagejunk.com, the Mini Flat Tool can grab all the bolts on a C-clamp (even really old ones) with a bottle opener for after work. The wrench is small, but comfortably effective, and substantially built from 1/4" stainless steel. Its not something I'd use as my primary wrench during a call, but for the odd "I need to get out of a jam quick" its awesome. It’s probably going to be my go to stagehand stocking stuffer this year.
A.C.T Lighting has recently begun distributing for Chromlech. Cromlech has made a splash in the past couple years with their boldly simple incandescent panels and now the elidy line of low-resolution video products. There are several video mesh products on the market, like their previous products the elidy is only one color, white. This time LEDs instead of low voltage tungsten lamps. The panels have nice interlocking hardware, and its possible to create magnetic covers (think small business car graphics) to put over the negative space of the "mesh.". Corporate logos, or scenic elements, that can be wonderfully transformed into a dynamic lighting or video element on command. elidy for the lamp(LED) count, you might think they would go for a dimmer, smaller LED, but that’s were the real magic of this product comes out. The individual pixel are super punchy. So much so, that you can create aerial effects from your video panels. The beams from individual pixels are clearly visible in the air. I'm thinking fashion shows, nightclubs, or some very special unexpected built in elements to scenery. Can't wait to see what people do with these.
Lex Products has always had a "keep it simple, build it tough" philosophy with their cable and power distribution products. This year at LDI they showed the new Lex Lighting Control Solution line of dimmers and relays. There's still some work to be done, and Lex is targeting a first quarter launch. At LDI they have a selection of small permanent install dimmer cabinets. Each slot of the cabinet can be populated with wither a dual 10A dimmer, single pole relays, a double pole relay, or a space filling "chimney" module. What doesn't go in the rack is a central processing unit. Each dimmer or relay card is its own control module. By using RDM or ACN you can individually set the address per module. Each module is subtly but clearly labeled and easy to identify what type you are moving around.
The rack construction itself is noteworthy. Simply put its small. Actually 15 modules is the largest rack you can get right now/ There's nothing extraneous about it, and that’s by design. The smaller racks mean it’s easier to cool, making them really quiet. Lex describes the cooling system as assisted convection. Yes there's a fan, but the flow through design of the rack, doesn't make the fan have to work as hard. The racks are super safe too. Even with all the modules removed the back plane is finger safe, no exposed bus bars! I tried to push the Lex team on when we'd see a portable version, mostly because I wanted to know if it will have a little roof. While I couldn't get an answer out of them, we should all keep an eye out.
Brite Box is working hard to make life with a xenon followspot a whole lot easier. They've put together a really well thought out followspot based on years of experience operating, prepping and repairing followspots. The spot is easy to operate, and the controls are where you'd want them. I'd be perfectly happy running one for a couple hours, even having never used one before.
What really blew me away was the lamp. They are using a new Ceramic Xenon package at 1600w that can only be described as awesome. It sure doesn't look like a xenon lamp, encased in heat sinks, the lamp has a really tiny arc distance, and a small envelope. It's also non-explosive. The xenon lamp can travel in the followspot! There's consistent color across all lamps, right around 5400 Kelvin, they have a CRI of 98, and a life expectancy of 750-800 hours. The whole package weighs in at 127 pounds, making transport a bit easier. They've also put in some nice features on the ballasts too, with power factor correction you can worry less about how far away the transformer is. I'm really impressed with the Ceramic Xenon, a bunch of the people I chatted with at LDI were already dreaming up new things to do with this lamp.
If you were at LDI and if you happened to be looking at a lighting unit that didn't use LEDs, it was probably being shown next to an LED unit for comparison. LEDs are everywhere at LDI. There are still some big arc units, and the odd new tungsten unit, but if it’s at all feasible to do it with LEDs, someone is trying it. More than few of the people I chatted with called LEDs a fad, or just a temporary technology until the next big revolutionary light source comes out. Of course it's not just a fad, and given some of those peoples personalities, they may just be trying to be contrarian. However if I had to debate the point, I'd look at what the gel companies are up to:
Lee Filters released a new line of gel specifically for white light LEDs.
Rosco Labs, announced a partnership with The Black Tank and is now selling the Miro Cube product of fixed and color changing LED wash units.
Apollo has been distributing a line of smaller LED units for the past few years.
Watching these three companies is a good barometer for what the industry is going to be focused on for the next little while. Rosco has a hundred years of history in our business, and a really diverse product range centered on plastic filters, but most of the booth, and the largest graphics were supporting the Miro Cubes. In case you've been living under a rock, welcome to the new world of additive color mixing a narrow band emitters.
If you don't know me, this was my first LDI where I wasn't an exhibitor. For the past ten years, I've paid close attention to the quantity and types attendees and exhibitors, to make the best recommendation I could on how much the companies I worked for should invest in the next LDI. Honestly this year felt really good.
The exhibitors I talked to where happy with how many inquisitive smart questions they were getting, and it seemed more than in years past, people were there with real projects in mind to find gear for. There's no doubt the past few years have been an economic hardship on our business, judging by the booths, most exhibitors are still stinging a bit from the last few years. I hope the excitement from the attendees will rub off on the exhibitors, and we can go back to the big LDI’s with even more big innovative booths and products.
Thinking about the products on display this year, I keep going back to a line from a theatre consultant I met for the first time this weekend: "It was an evolutionary, not a revolutionary year." There's a lot of products that we've sort of seen before, but now they are brighter, easier, smaller, safer etc. I don't want to discount the hard work of all the product teams, no doubt that evolution requires innovation, and we can't have a revolution every year.