The heat was on at the 22nd edition of the Professional Lighting and Sound Association exhibition--in more ways than one. Besides an array of new or improved gear, and feverish activity to finish off projects tied in with the turn of this century, it was hot under the lights of the show floor. Very hot, as temperatures soared into the 80s under unusually serene skies, giving the not-too-air-conditioned Earls Court Exhibition Center the feel of a Rainforest Cafe (and the look, too, if you happened to stop by the Vari-Lite stand, an award winner for its jungle-themed design).
Held September 5-8, this year's PLASA attracted about 450 exhibitors and an estimated 13,574 visitors, a bit down from 1998's total, though with continued healthy representation from overseas attendees, 24% according to PLASA. There were also a few innovations for guests to partake of. These included a demo area off the main show floor where comparisons could be made among products riding the wave of architectural fixtures from theatrical manufacturers as well as new training workshops and seminars ranging in topic from from "Lighting the Millennium Dome" to a Themed Entertainment Association-Europe session that included US-based lighting designers Michael Finney and Pat Gallegos.
The winners of 12 PLASA Product Excellence Awards and three Stand Awards were announced on the closing day of the show. Freddy Lloyd, who previously worked for Zero 88 and other companies and is now retired, received a special award for his contribution to the industry. The lighting product award winners included the Solo Riggers Remote from Stage Technologies; the Grand MA from MA Lighting Technology; the Auto Yoke from City Theatrical; the Junior DMX Console from Lite Puter; the Illusion 120 console from Zero 88; and the TrackPod automated followspot system from Martin Professional. On the audio side, award winners included the i6AW loudspeaker from Tannoy; the I-CON DP1000 from Allen and Heath; and the Intellivox loudspeaker from Autograph Sales. Besides Vari-Lite, which won the best overall booth design award, Pioneer claimed the best booth award, and Color Kinetics took home the prize for most imaginative use of space. Special mention citations went to two other booths: SCV London and Electrix, and Pulsar/Clay Paky.
Following PLASA, a group of 30 international industry professionals (from countries such as Denmark, Turkey, Russia, Norway, Germany, and Spain) took part in the first annual Theatrical London: Setting the Scene event. Sponsored by PLASA and the World Entertainment Technology Federation, Theatrical London gave participants a backstage look at a variety of London venues, from a video tour and panel discussion of the ongoing renovations at the Royal Opera House to tours of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, the National Theatre, the London Palladium, and the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden. A boat trip on the Thames to see the Millennium Dome rounded out the activities. A similar event is planned for next year, when the Royal Opera House and the Dome will be open for tours as well. A trip to Glyndebourne, and visits to the newly renovated Sadler's Wells and Royal Court theatres are also under consideration.
Matthew Griffith and Sheila Bartholomew of PLASA, Lori Rubinstein, John McGraw and Karl Ruling of ESTA, and Ellen Lampert-Greaux of Entertainment Design and Lighting Dimensions helped with the organization of the event. Speakers at the various venues included Mark White of the Royal Opera House, Mark Jonathan of the Royal National Theatre, Mark Ager of Stage Technologies, Bryan Raven of White Light, and Mark Major of Speirs and Major, among others.
What follows is a selective look at some of this year's exhibitors, with an emphasis on product introductions and project news.
On the lighting front, AC Lighting had the latest developments from Cast Lighting's WYSIWYG factory, including a program that allows designers to loop their WYSIWYG images into a full-motion (with sound) video presentation in PAL, SECAM, or NTSC formats.
Befitting the show floor climate, Avolites UK had a hot booth, complete with flames and flowing fountains of water. A full product line included the new ART2000 touring dimmers, the Sapphire 2000, and the Azure Shadow 2000 console. Avo's touring schedule includes such projects as Marilyn Manson and The Beach Boys using Pearl consoles, while Bruce Springsteen, Steve Miller, Styx, Chicago, Aerosmith, and the Rolling Stones have been traveling with Diamonds.
One of the highlights at the Artistic License booth was the Colour-Fill LED digital luminaire, which the company claims is able to generate over four billion color choices. DMX control allows it to be used with existing distribution equipment. The product is already in use, providing a visual warning system on a helicopter landing pad in the UK. Marketing director Tracey Patterson believes it is the first company to be using four colors (red, blue, green, and yellow) instead of the usual three in this kind of product.
Less a booth than a watering hole, the Bandit Lites stand celebrated the quadrupling of the company's touring clientele over the last 18 months with Guinness for everyone. Celco had a range of new products this year, including the Fusion 0632 dimmer rack, the Fusion DMX units, and its third-generation Pathfinder and Explorer consoles. It is once again an independent company and has moved into new offices at Willow Way in South East London, with Keith Dale and Colin Whittaker still at the helm after 21 years.
Chainmaster introduced its new Vario-Lift, which can change directions without stopping the motor. Columbus McKinnon showed the prototype for its Silentstar, a silent motor hoist for use in theatre, opera, and other applications where the noise of the motors can be disturbing.
City Theatrical was a winner once again, with its Auto Yoke accessory for ETC Source Fours and Strand SLs now in full production and ready for installation at the Royal Opera House, which placed one of the initial orders. White Light, the UK distributor of the product, was at press time still looking to move to a new space, but in the meantime has been busy equipping London musicals such as Saturday Night Fever and opening Colourhouse Technical Presentations, a specialist conference and exhibition lighting company.
Coe-Tech had a lavish waterworld of a booth, from which it introduced Coemar's Panorama Cyc 1800 units, one for touring and one for architectural applications. From its lauded space (right across from the ESTA Pavilion and Intertec Publications), Color Kinetics introduced three new products to the London market: the Track-C series architectural system, the C-200 Security fixture, and the Multi-Synchronizer controller. Its iColor MR and iColor Cove Lights made international debuts.
One of the most interesting new products on the show floor was the prototype of Le Fantome at Decoupe, Robert Juliat's UK distributor. Created for the Royal Opera House (thus the name, as in "Phantom of"), this fixture has a multinational pedigree. The body is a Juliat 2.5kW HMI zoom profile that hails from France, adorned with a moving yoke from transtechnik and a unique orbital head created by Peter Wynne Willson of WWG. The head allows global positioning, and the fixture has remote zoom/focus, iris, framing and scrolling color.
DHA Lighting announced that while founder David Hersey is still sailing around the world on his yacht, DHA gobos are also now available on a worldwide basis, with a fast two-to-three-day turnaround for custom orders. Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC) featured its architectural products, including the Unison dimmers and control, and Irideon AR6 luminaires, the first in that family that can be recessed into walls and ceilings. The Unison installation at the Vienna, Austria, municipal concert hall marks the system's European debut.
At Enliten, the architectural companion to White Light, 1999 was a busy year, with the introduction of new products, including a new range of recessed lights for use in restricted areas with low ceilings. They offer 15-80-degree beam angle as well as low-voltage or metal-halide lamp options. Also using a metal halide lamp is its new Source Four PAR CDM, with up to 15,000-hour lamp life and low power consumption along with a cool beam and ETC's fine optic quality.
F.A.L. has a line of new products inspired by Paul Dodd, including the FAL363 automated luminaire with rotating gobos, automatic focus, and shutters, the Night Color fixture with a 1,200W MSR lamp and 56 color combinations, and the Fiber Lighter, a fiber-optic illuminator with variable speed color-changing and 30 color combinations.
Following its recent merger with High End Systems, Flying Pig Systems surprised many by having its own booth, but this was to reassure the community that the company still maintains its own identity as a manufacturer. To that end, it introduced the Hog 1000 and the Hog 500, which are manufactured by Jands of Australia with Flying Pig software, and replace the Echelon console. High End, meanwhile, introduced a full CYM color-mixing version of its Studio Spot(TM) to complement its color wheel version, and reintroduced the Color Pro(R) series in three units: an HX that has the same proprietary reflector technology and MSD 250/2 lamp as the Technobeam(R), and a new high-efficiency optical design and full CYM subtractive color mixing system; an HXi with the same features, plus an iris; and an FX, a fiber-optic illuminator.
On show at PLASA for the first time at the Gala booth was the Vertilift hybrid-controlled rigging system. The company also announced plans to introduce a new 4.5" Spiralift for lighter loads, to be launched next year.
Besides Avolites, a few other booths were on fire at PLASA. Joe Tawil demonstrated GAM Products' Real Torch Flame, built by Jeff Clayman for the Los Angeles Opera, which self-extinguishes as soon as the safety switch is released. And Howard Eaton and his HELL-ish company are still setting things ablaze, with flame effects in the new production of the Broadway-bound musical Martin Guerre, lit by Howard Harrison.
Ian Kirby, the former managing director of Martin UK, demoed G.E.T.com, a search engine designed specifically to access lighting equipment and personnel. Griven showed its Kaleido MSD575, an ultra-compact, weatherproofed wide coverage flood with full CYM color mixing for exterior architectural use. And Hardware for Xenon crossed the English channel from France in an Airstar balloon--actually, it's a 5,000 or 7,000W xenon projector tucked into the inside of the balloon and projecting a surprisingly crisp, colorful, and undistorted image with a diameter up to 7m (23'). This very clever system allows for 200 slides or a scrolling image or text to be used.
Lee Filters has expanded its 700 Series of products, while Le Maitre bubbled over with the Bubble Dragon (which can cover 15,000 cu. ft. in bubbles) and Newt and Hercules fog machines. Attendees were Mad about that lighting company's AX1S moving yoke system, ITM-1 scanning projector with the MSD 250/2 lamp, and Opti-Colour 2 fiber-optic light source with "twinkle" effect.
CEO Kristian Kolding spoke at a Martin Professional press conference, where its latest gear was showcased as the company highlighted its gains in the marketplace. Products included the Trackpod, the MX-1 scanner, the CX-2 color changer, the MAC 250+, a projection version of the profile spot luminaire, a compact version of the Exterior 600, and the FiberSource QFX150, a DMX-controllable light source for fiber-optic cable. In the UK, Martin has opened a factory at Louth in Lincolnshire, where Jem smoke machines and automated lights will be produced, while in the US, litigation with Vari-Lite will press on through to 2000 barring any settlement. Its elegant booth was designed by Robert Achlimbari.
Optikinetics returned to PLASA with a trio of projectors: the GoBoShow for the display and retail markets, the similarly targeted GoBoPro, which uses an Osram Sylvania HSD 250W lamp instead of the Show's HQI-T 150W, and the Solar 100C, with a 100W, 12V quartz halogen lamp.
The must-see product at PLASA was undoubtedly the public unveiling of Light & Sound Design's Icon Series M, which, with displays of its digital light processing technology, drew crowds to the Production Resource Group booth. Consensus was that the unit was too hot and not quite bright enough, but, after further modifications, the firm will have a true technological breakthrough on its hands. Another intriguing product, demoed at the PCM/Pfaff booth, was the Submersible Lodestar, an electric chain hoist which, as its name implies, can be used underwater.
Pulsar/Clay Paky had another booth that was popular with imbibers, with a special room themed after the Ministry of Sound club. Outside the bar was a gamut of Clay Paky equipment, including StageLine luminaires, and from Pulsar, a DMX-dimmable linear strobe and the Masterpiece 216, which drives 512 DMX channels. The grand finale of the World Light Jockey Contest was held at the Hippodrome in Leicester Square, and won by Chris Shead of the UK.
Rosco was thick on the ground with three fog systems: the Delta 3000, with a choice of three remote controls; Cold Flow, for fast production of low-lying fog; and the Hazemaker II, for controlled fog output to enhance scenic and lighting design. The Gobo X-plorer and Fusion F-X CD-ROMs are also available.
Selecon opened a UK sales office and showed its Pacific Cool Light luminaires, with their 90-degree lens tubes and 800W and 575W MSR lamp modules, while SGM and Space Cannon displayed their ranges of fixtures. Giant daylight screens from Screenco are accompanying The Eurythmics on their reunion tour; the lighting designer is Simon Sidi.
Stage Technologies, one of the companies hardest hit by the demise of Glantre Engineering, was busy finishing up a project for the recently renovated Sadler's Wells Theatre in the Islington section of London. It has also been busy with the Millennium Dome, located along the Thames near Greenwich. Among its new products is the award-winning Solo Riggers Remote, a handheld or wall-mounted system that can be used with Nomad, Arcobat, and Maxis. Stagetec in the UK handles Compulite's range of products, including the new Sparktop control desk, the new Compudim digital dimmers, and the motorized Nova Yoke.
Strand Lighting, with many products specified in numerous theatrical venues in London, highlighted its SL series spotlights, with full 360-degree rotation, and the Quartzcolor HMI, PAR, Studio, and Bambino fixtures for studio and location lighting applications. Among other offerings, Studio Due's booth housed its color-changing CityColor floodlight and Live Pro moving light fixture. At PLASA, Tomcat had IT--Intelligent Truss, with a universal fixture mounting bracket that accommodates intelligent lighting, which made its European debut at the show and will likely play a role in next year's Eurovision song contest.
Edward Pagett has been appointed general manager of VLPS London. Pagett has been with Vari-Lite since 1995, after many years with Strand. The VL6B(TM) and VL7B(TM) spot luminaires and the Virtuoso(TM) console are among the new items in his rental inventory. Verlinde showed the Stagemaker Compact, an electric chain hoist designed for handling stage equipment; its products are distributed in the UK and Far East by Total Fabrications, which touted its design and technical support services.
Besides its Coloram and Forerunner units, Wybron showcased the CXI color-mixing color changer, which uses two color scrolls to create a spectrum of color. Xenotech-Strong International made a "strong" showing at PLASA, highlighted by current spotlights and a glimpse at the Truss Trouper 1.2, a 1,200W HMI unit that is smaller, brighter, and lighter to use as a rock-and-roll truss light or high school or nightclub followspot. Rounding out this year's report is another award winner, the Zero 88 Illusion 120, with 120 channels, 400 memories, and 108 submasters.
Turning to audio, Allen & Heath showed the PLASA 99 Award-winning I-CON DP1000 digital powered mixer, which received its Product Excellence award on the first anniversary of its launch. Turning up at the last minute for Allen & Heath, hot off the production line was the prototype of the company's new flagship sound reinforcement console, the ML5000, a 16-aux, eight-audio group, eight-VCA group mixer, with dual FOH and monitor mixing capability.
Autograph Sales held the world launch of its miniConductor at PLASA 99. This product is a compact, universal control system designed for standalone operation. Autograph Sales was recently appointed sole UK distributor for Dutch manufacturer Duran Audio and were showing that company's products for the first time. Autograph also showed two new self-powered speakers from Meyer Sound, the UPM-1P and the DS-4P.
UK audio distributor Fuzion showed off its newest brand, the highly touted French company InnovaSon, makers of the 48-channel Sentury console. Also on display was Nexo's PS Series of speakers and Crown's IQ PIP-USP2 digital processor. Another UK distributor, HW International, offered range of amps from QSC, including the new CX Series, as well as the new SM Series of mics from Shure.
Several of the products at the Klark Teknik booth were so new that the staff hadn't seen them until they were unpacking the boxes during the show setup. These included the DN1248 active microphone splitter system, which provides no less than 12 channels of signal splitter in just 3RU, and the DN1414 multiple DI module, which is housed in a robust 3RU enclosure and offers 14 separate DI modules.
The booth with the buzz by the final day of PLASA had to be Martin Audio, with its range of new products. Though it was touting a series of speakers aimed at the DJ/cabaret end of the market, the company's new Wavefront Theatre series of speakers, which debuted on the West End production of Soul Train, was the product of most interest to theatre sound designers.
Out Board Electronics showed several new products, including the CM4, CM6, and CM12 chain hoist controllers and automated PAT and Cable Tester. Peavey Electronics showed the new range of MediaMatrix systems using Windows NT and Mware 3. Also on display was the new CobraNet audio distribution system, which utilizes ethernet technology.
Soundcraft showed its Series TWO console, designed for small touring sound companies, theatres, churches, and other fixed installations. The desk is available in three frame sizes, features classic four-band Soundcraft EQ, eight mono auxes, eight group busses, and integral meter bridge with LED input and output. The big excitement at the Sennheiser booth this year was a new addition to the Evolution wireless mic series, the e865/s, a super-cardioid, phantom-powered condenser mic.
Turbosound launched no fewer than 21 new products at PLASA 99, among them the TCS range of speakers, including the TCS-56 and TCS-59, designed for sound reinforcement applications, complemented by the TCS-40 downfill enclosure. Tannoy Professional was launching and demonstrating many new products in its air-conditioned sound booth, including the award-winning i6AW (all-weather loudspeaker), which features a durable polyethylene cabinet and is available in passive or 100V line, or active versions.
XTA Electronics showed its new DP224 speaker management system, which is based on the now industry standard DP226. The system is fully compatible with the newly released AudioCore software control software, which comes with many new features which included the handy Global Overview, a window that simultaneously shows crossover and EQ settings.
PLASA will be held a week later than usual next year, from September 10-13; see www.plasa.org for more information.