Conversation Pieces

It was an interesting LDI from the point of view of new products. The overall buzz from attendees noted the lack of revolutionary developments in favor of incremental steps forward. (Maybe manufacturers are taking the slow and steady path, like the rest of the country.) Everyone seems to be getting more work and business is picking up again, but with the state of the economy and the threat of war, there's a wait-and-see attitude.

Nevertheless, there were many products worth another look. If you missed them at the show, check out company websites, or get demonstrations from your local dealers or manufacturer's representatives.

The opinions that follow are mostly mine with input from the other editors, designers, programmers, technicians, end users, etc. If you agree or disagree, give me your input via e-mail at

Martin Professional Maxxyz Console
Martin ( certainly wins an award for stealth, having developed this console under cover and in a rapid time frame. A number of industry people got a sneak preview of the console last spring, Martin made a number of changes over the summer, then officially launched this console to a good reception at PLASA in London. It made quite a splash at LDI. Look for the automated console wars to heat up as Martin takes on the MA Lighting grandMA, which launched software version 4 at LDI, and a better-late-than-never Flying Pig Systems Wholehog III.

Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® III
As mentioned above, the Flying Pig Systems (, Wholehog III is ready for its debut. It's about time: MA Lighting's grandMA took a big leap forward in fulfilling designers' and programmers' wish lists while the third incarnation of the Hog was still in development hell. The Wholehog family has had a large share of the market and saw some of it erode while the public hungered for the new. The Wholehog III is out with programmers, who are giving the company much-needed feedback. The platform seems stable and Hog loyalists will be well rewarded for their patience. [See the product review, this issue.]

Vari*Lite® VL3000 Series
Vari-Lite ( surprised everyone last year with the launch of the Vari*Lite VL1000 automated ellipsoidal luminaire. This year, the company upped the stakes again by jumping into the crowded 1,200W automated luminaire tussle with its 3000 Series luminaires. The VL3000 spot and wash luminaires suitably impressed lighting designers, who now feel that the new units give Vari-Lite a range that seems complete (at least for now). Also, the VL1000 got an addition of an onboard dimmer built by Entertainment Technology. Apparently, the acquisition of ET by Genlyte has given them a much-needed boost, and they are now playing well in the OEM market with this slim and trim IPS dimmer for the VL1000 tungsten version.

ADB Axis Ellipsoidal
The Axis from ADB ( had a lot of buzz but did not take home a prize. It is a product the awards committee did look long and hard at, but there was something missing that nobody could identify. A number of attendees asked me point-blank why it did not win something. Maybe it is the shock of the new; this could be a product that you would have to get used to. One wag said, “Quick, grab the top shutter and make a cut.” “Which is the top shutter?” The fixture has no shutter handles; rather, it has a series of rings to manipulate the shutters, each in its own plane, which can be rotated 360° as well. There are two zoom versions, each with rings to drive the lenses for focusing. There is an automated version with an automated yoke that automates all of the shutter and focus mechanics as well. Given further development, the Axis could give the ETC Source Four a run for the money.

Pixeon Color Stream
It was not a good show for LED-based products from an awards standpoint, but attendees were treated to more LED products per square inch of trade show than just about any other. One of the strongest buzzes was over the Pixeon (, formerly known as Bright Lighting) Color Stream. The product is a tube of LEDs that will serve as a neon or fiber-optic replacement. Dreamt up by the creative minds of Wynne Willson Gottelier from the UK and headed up by sales and marketing wiz Nils Thorjussen, the Color Stream holds a lot of promise for what LEDs may hold for the future of architectural and effect lighting.

Clay Paky Stage Profile Plus SV
Clay Paky's ( product line has come a long way, but gets little recognition for it. I must say that its line of SV luminaires, the Stage Profile Plus being one of the leaders, is one of the quietest automated luminaires on the market. Designers are also very impressed with the shutters that are four separate planes, so any shape is attainable as well as repeatable. For those who need a quiet automated fixture, I would strongly suggest that you look at, as well as listen to, the SV range from Clay Paky.

MDG Ice Fog Compack
From MDG (, the company that gives you fog and haze in almost any form, now comes the Ice Fog Compack, a smaller version of its Ice Fog system. It comes in two versions of either low- or high-pressure and works in combination with CO2, DMX, and MDG's portable design to provide ultra-quiet and adjustable delivery of low fog.

Columbus McKinnon Pro Commander
The Pro Commander from Columbus McKinnon’s ( Entertainment Division got a lot of buzz for a company that is known for its hoists and now has a computer-controlled, variable-speed hoist motor controller. It features control of up to 127 hoists and variable-speed positioning for those who must be in total control. Lighting & Electronics Black Widow Blacklight Just when you thought “Oh, great, another blacklight!” L&E’s ( Black Widow™ is actually a 150W metal-halide blacklight in a wall wash/cyclight body for an even wash of ultraviolet energy. For all those times you cursed trying to evenly light a wall with a blacklight fresnel, you now have a solution.

Space Cannon Metamorphosis
Jumping onto the LED bandwagon in a very big way is Space Cannon (, with its Metamorphosis LED luminaire. This unit packs a punch with high-brightness RGB plus amber LEDs, DMX control, and interchangeable lenses for a range of punch and distribution. It is designed for indoor or outdoor use and has one of the cleanest designs going, so it will fit in with almost any architectural design.

Continuing Education

Five years ago when the LDInstitute was launched, we imagined it as a boot camp for techies: four days of pre-show training at LDI, a place where people from the industry could come together to learn, network, and socialize. This year was no exception; professional training began Monday, October 14. By the week’s end, several hundred people were involved in learning and having a good time.

The courses ranged from software, including LD Assistant, Vectorworks, and AutoCAD, to automated lighting and console training, with Jim Waits’ popular Basics of Automated Lighting selling out (as always) and followed this year for the first time by an advanced version (also sold out). High End’s instructor extraordinaire, Vickie Claiborne, taught an introduction to the new Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® III console, and Jon Gottlieb came in from Los Angeles to teach a course on the basics of theatrical sound design. One of the best-attended courses covered projection techniques (an indication of the new direction the industry is taking) led by LDs Christina Giannelli and Clifton Taylor, with special guests Anne Johnston of Fourth Phase and projection designer Lisa Cuscuna (Jane Eyre on Broadway). With a mix of lighting, audio, and projection, the LDInstitute reflects three major disciplines of design and technology.

These design disciplines were also seen in action during the Inside Las Vegas tour, which included a sneak preview of the new Celine Dion Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace and the extension of the Fashion Show Mall, where cutting-edge theatre technology finds a retail context. The tour included the motorcycle exhibit at the Guggenheim Las Vegas and the club Rain in the Desert at the Palms. Special thanks to Maurice Rheaume, Tony Kaiser, Traci Klainer, and Adam Wuertz for their help in organizing these tours.

Special events and tours were also part of this year’s conference program with a very informative panel, tour, and lunch at the Jubilee! theatre at Bally’s, where representatives of Bally’s, ETC, 4Wall Entertainment, and Bombard electricians shared their tales about the recent $2 million lighting upgrade in the venue, as participants ate their lunch on the Jubilee! stage surrounded by the sets from the Titanic scene of the show.

Friday night was the icing on the cake, with a group of 150 attending Cirque du Soleil’s spectacular O at Bellagio. Following the performance, the LDI group stayed in the theatre for a special LDI-only panel discussion with sound designer Jonathan Deans, lighting director Jeanette Farmer, and a group of crew chiefs. The panel was followed by a party on an outdoor terrace overlooking the Bellagio lake; the fun continued until 3am! If all continuing education were this much fun, I’d go back to college. Fortunately for the entertainment design and technology community, the LDInstitute fits the bill.