In many ways, LDI98 fulfilled the promises made at LDI97. The Stage Line of fixtures from Clay Paky, the Coemar CF 1200, the High End Systems Studio Spot(TM), the Martin MAC 500, and the Vari*Lite(R) VL7(TM) all debuted in prototype in 1997, and are now in production. LDI98 was the first time we as an industry could see all of these new fixtures in one place at one time.
But the manufacturers hadn't rested on their laurels. The pervasive new technology advance for 1998 came with the "pocket light": small 250-300W fixtures with the output and features we used to expect of formerly standard 400W automated units. Because of all the recent advances in optics and lamp technology, it's a mistake to think of these new fixtures as being merely 250 or 300W fixtures. These new lights from Clay Paky, High End, and Martin all pack a punch greater than their lamp wattage implies. Look for this class of fixtures to become standard in low-trim applications in all phases of our industry.
The following is a breakdown of each new DMX yoke light shown at LDI98, by category. The accompanying chart depicts some of their features and specifications.
Soft-edged yoke--250-300W * Clay Paky Stage Color 300 * High End Systems Studio Color(R) 250
These two lights are extremely bright for their size and lamp wattage. Indeed, it is misleading to think of these lamps as having the output of other 250 and 300W fixtures--these two soft-edged lights output almost as much light as their bigger brother 575W hard-edged fixtures.
Both lamps support a new feature that will hopefully become standard in all yoke lights in the future: pan/tilt transport locking. With the advent of new automated lighting trussing systems that transport fixtures in the truss, these new locks will become an increasingly indispensable part of any future automated fixture. The Clay Paky locks by pushing two pins manually. The High End 250W fixtures have solenoids that lock on power down. Manually spinning the head into position locks the light for transport. Powering up the fixture automatically unlocks the light.
The Studio Color 250 is a bit more versatile than the Clay Paky fixture because it has beam shaping and a zoom.
Hard-edged yoke--250-300W * Clay Paky Stage Light 300 * High End Systems Studio Spot 250 * Martin Professional MAC 250
The quality of light from the entire Clay Paky line of hard-edged yoke lights is very, very clean; the prisms have a jewel-like clarity you don't often see in other manufacturers' fixtures. The Martin MAC 250 is a solid hard-edged fixture--it doesn't have indexing gobos, but it probably will be the lowest list priced fixture in North America of the bunch. The Studio Spot 250 allows a designer to tap easily into the outstanding line of High End Systems Lithopatterns(R).
Unlike previous years, the probable overwhelming factor in fixture specification in this category will be brand loyalty. A designer or a lighting company already happy with the performance of one manufacturer's lights will more than likely stick with that same manufacturer for its 250 and 300W hard-edged fixtures.
Soft-edged tungsten yoke--500-1,000W * Clay Paky Stage Color 1000 * Coemar CF Zoom al
The Coemar CF Zoom al fixture, although very bright for its 500W lamp, faces stiff competition from the other 1,000 and 1,200W tungsten fixtures: the new Clay Paky Stage Color 1000 and that reliable workhorse, the Vari*Lite VL5(TM). The Stage Color 1000 has everything you expect from a tungsten wash fixture--it probably produces more colors than the VL5 and it has a strobe. But the VL5 is so entrenched in the TV and theatre worlds it would be very hard to displace it in those markets. The Stage Color 1000 could be a fixture well suited to permanent installations that need a tungsten yoke light.
Hard-edged yoke--575-600W * High End Systems Studio Spot * Martin Professional MAC 500 * Vari*Lite VL6B(TM) * Vari*Lite VL7 * Vari*Lite VL7B(TM)
The MAC 500, since its initial release, has had a series of upgrades to make the beam cleaner and brighter. The fixed gobos are now individually replaceable. The Studio Spot is very bright, sharp, and reliable, and can use any gobo from the High End Litho catalog. It also has an amazingly fast frost that can bump in and out as fast as a strobe. The VL7 has a very wide beam angle of 40 degrees; few other lamps can create a pattern wash that is very hard to discern where one pattern begins and another ends.
One feature that helped make the VL7 an award-winning product at LDI98 is its extremely smooth and even CVF(TM) color system. When going from a lighter to a more saturated color, the color seems to crossfade: There isn't that annoying feel that a color flag is moving out of the beam path. The downside to this color system is that it's very difficult to fade from warm to cool colors without going through green or white.
The VL7B takes out the iris and the fixed gobo wheel and puts in four shutters that can be rotated 50 degrees each. The shutters can move all the way in to black out--and can even form a triangle.
The surprise product of the year at the show had to be the VL6B. Imperceptibly, Vari-Lite added a couple of inches to the length of the VL6(TM), to include a 3:1 zoom and rotating, indexing gobos.
Soft-edged yoke--1,200W * Clay Paky Stage Color 1200 * Coemar CF 1200 Spot
The Stage Color 1200 and the CF 1200 are two of the more exciting fixtures to come out of production. The Stage Color 1200 is a very clean and bright fixture with the usual superb optics we've come to expect from Clay Paky. The CF 1200 has a beam that can go from ACL-type beamwidths to something that can light a cyc evenly and brightly.
You can't fail with either fixture. The quality of light is such that for long-throw display options, these fixtures are already making the rounds in high-dollar trade show applications. What remains to be seen is if these fixtures become a standard fixture on shows or a second layer of washlight on top of units like the Studio Color and the MAC 600.
Hard-edged yoke--1,200W * Clay Paky Stage Zoom 1200 * Coemar CF 1200 HE
Most designers are always looking for ways to spin their designs away from the rest of the crowd, and this may translate into increasing demand for that second or third brighter layer of hard-edged fixtures. The Stage Zoom 1200 and the CF 1200 HE play right into this. These two fixtures have excellent optical qualities and fat 24-degree beam angles for coverage. Give the edge to the Clay Paky for quality of light--prism effects that the light was generating in the Group One booth were amazingly jewel-like and crisp. Give the edge to the CF 1200 HE for price and light output.
Arnold Serame is a Los Angeles-based freelance lighting designer and programmer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The fixture formerly known as Medusa was the subject of conjecture for several months. This air of mystery was only underscored when Light & Sound Design chose to unveil the prototype of the Icon Series M in an invitation-only hotel suite across the street from LDI98.
The first technology advance in the series is the new color-mixing system. Instead of mixing cyan, yellow, and magenta flags like most other fixtures, the M uses a high- and a low-pass dichroic wheel. The low-pass wheel blocks any color frequencies higher than thecolor you want; the high-pass wheel blocks the lower colors. Choosing your color is as easy as dialing in the frequency.
But the heart and soul of its innovation is a piece of Texas Instruments technology called DMD, or Digital Mirror Device. Imagine you're in a dark room, flashlight in one hand, square mirror in the other hand. You shine your bright flashlight onto the mirror and the light bounces onto a nearby wall in the square shape of the mirror. Move the mirror away, and that square area is now black. Now, imagine that you could vibrate that mirror faster than your eye could see, say about 30 times a second. If you timed this correctly, you could fool yourself into seeing a square of light on the wall at about half the intensity than if you held the beam of light steady on the wall.
Now imagine that you could shrink that mirror down to microscopic proportions so that you could place a million of these mirrors on a chip smaller than a business card. Imagine that each one of these mirrors is a pixel on a television screen or a computer monitor. Shine a bright light on the chip. If one of the little mirrors is pointing toward a surface, you'll see a white pixel. Point the one little mirror away, you'll see black. Vibrate the mirror at different frequencies and you'll see shades of gray.
This may sound like science fiction, but DMD technology exists in most of the latest video projectors out there. It was only a matter of time until this new technology was adapted for use in a lighting fixture.
The DMD technology of the Icon M promises limitless gobo selections that can be called up instantaneously, and in time the ability to upload images (like drawings and corporate logos) into the fixtures without having to create costly glass and steel gobo orders and to layer several gobos on multiple image planes. Thanks to the DMD chip, strobing was almost unbelievably crisp in the demo. In succeeding generations, the fixture will be able to playback video through the lights, for use on cycs and screens. Look for the first production models of the M series to hit a variety of shows next year, and for additional coverage of the unit in Lighting Dimensions.