Innovative product musings

Product innovation - part art, part science. When done right, it creates leverage, enabling innovations in small teams to shift entire industries.

PLASA - the next day

PLASA is also about sound and video - not just lights. The most unusual devices was this speaker system from Flare Audio

Thick metal plates and 3D printed sides blocks that according to the representative I spoke to "let air pressure out but not sound". I thought that was against the laws of physics but what do I know!

When I asked how much it cost - the answer was "about the same as a supercar".

A Flare of a different kind was to be found on the booth of TMB - outdoor rated version of the mighty bright Solaris Flare.

Good 'ol Avolites was out in full force as usual. Nice booth, great people and fine consoles but I'm still not sold on the white finish of the latest generation consoles.

Bring back the black, engraved panels, oak surrounds and thick leather armrests of the 8100 and QM-generation!


Martin p3 + Hippo = true

Media server experts Green Hippo have teamed up with Martin Professional to integrate the LED video P3 processing inside the V4 Hippotizers. This move follows a similar one from Arkaos who devised and implemented their own Kling-Net protocol a while back.

Martin had their own line of media servers, the Maxxedia range but stopped with those a while back to concentrate their controller side efforts on consoles. Teaming up with Green Hippo will enable V4 Hippotizers to output Martin's proprietary P3 protocol natively. No need for an external P3 processor. This eliminates the video interfacing part altogether and so the P3 inside the Hippo is mainly doing the mapping. Very streamlined and saves on the cost of a separate P3 processor.

Nice piece of innovation!

Since I was intimately involved with the P3 project during my time at Martin, I am pleased to see broader adoption of this robust and effective technology. Of course, unlike Kling-Net, P3 remains a closed and proprietary protocol, only Martin LED devices work on it.

So... maybe this will be step towards wider adoption of P3, at both ends?

Martin licensing P3 technology to other LED video/lighting manufacturers?

"P3 Inside" ?

Is Green Hippo about to become part of the Harman empire? They already own Martin and AMX, having a media server company onboard would make a lot of sense for them.

Time will tell.

The official press release in all its glorious corporate speak is here

LDI 2015 - part two

Doug Fleenor Design has a nifty little pair of devices that enables 10/100 Ethernet to run up to 600m (2000') on a regular BNC/coax cable. Very handy for those Ethernet runs that exceed the typical 90m (300') limit. Yes, you can stick a switch halfway and get another 90m but it seems a lot more solid to use a single cable. And since it is a BNC/Coax the video people usually have plenty of that. True there are existing Ethernet over Coax device on the market but this one seems a bit more "roadworthy".

While on the subject of Ethernet, MA Lighting were showing their new network switch. Again, rack-mounted switches are available for a many others but this one has several handy features that should make networking setup a lot easier. It also has little display to show details of the activity of each port. Maybe this is just eye-candy but it looks very nice I think.

There were some really twisted products on display....

GLP had a new "baby" to show off, the X4 Atom. This non-moving "pinspot" sized RGBW spot has zoom capability, from a narrow, collimated 'pencil' beam to a fairly wide wash. They can attach to each other to create strips or arrays. Alternatively be fitted with a yoke. They run of a separate power supply box and uses regular 4-pin XLR cables (same type as for scrollers). On its own it's not going to light an arena show but its quite punchy for its size and the zoom is very fast.

Automated lighting pioneers High End Systems were stating that they had gone "all about LED" now. Their Solaspot series fixtures look nice and bright but I'm still waiting for them to achieve a decent deep red. A matter of time I guess.

Litec were showing a chain hoist with integrated load cell.

Finally, Aeson Tech had some interesting 3-dimensional LED panels.

LDI 2015 - part one

LDI - the main lighting equipment show for the entertainment industry took place this week in Las Vegas. "Everyone" was there and that's part of the attraction, it's probably the best show worldwide for meeting people and to me at least it feels a lot more contained than say Prolight & Sound in Germany. There's more of a community feel to LDI. It helps that the organisers put in a lot of effort in creating more than just an exhibition. Every day during the show (and the days leading up to it) there are interesting presentations, trainings, technology breakfasts etc. Clearly a lot of hard work and time is spent making this a worthwhile event. Now, if they could just cut the length of the line at the Starbucks....

So here's part one of a few highlights from the showfloor:

I'll begin with my vote for "best in show" - the innovative PRG Ground Control Followspot System. This enables a PRG Bad Boy automated light to function as a followspot with the operator in a different location using a camera tripod like controller, an HD camera on the Bad Boy and a display showing that image to the operator for accurate aiming. No need to go into the details here (read the datasheet) but the impressive thing was how smoothly and accurately the Bad Boy moved when operated remotely. No visible lag och overshoot, very impressive. Not only does this mean that follow spot operators do not need to spend hours up in the truss, it also means that manually operated spots can be placed where before it just wasn't possible due to space of safety constrains.

Innovation of a very different kind could be found on the booth Tomcat, the truss people. They were introducing the EVO space saving truss that according to them enables 45 sections of 3m/10' truss to be stored in the same space as 18 traditional sections. No doubt this works but I'm not totally sold on the idea.

Not everyone was alert at the start of the show:

d3 Technologies were - at long last - debuting their camera calibrated projection mapping. I'm no projection or media mapping expert but this is apparently a very big deal. Certainly the d3 booth was not short on visitors. This and their VFC out cards gives a nice boost to their already very impressive product lineup.

Lasers are seems to be gaining ground - there are several companies showing off their beams, this was on of them:

Beams of a different kind were plentiful at the Ayrton booth. This French company has really taken off in a big way in recent years. In the US they are partnering with the nice people at Morpheus Lights - once pioneers in the field of automated lighting themselves. Their light show was reminiscent of the battle of the light show in the "olden days" (a k a the 1980's) but thankfully not as long and as loud. A very specially thank you to Randy Wade for warning me about the near atomic blast of white light at the end.

Speaking of "olden days" - the venerable Altman company were showing some new LED based Fresnel lights. I've heard great things about Altmans more recent product based on LED technology and it's probable that these Fresnels work very well. But could you maybe put some more effort into the industrial design?

LED displays were a big part of the show. Most of the big names (95% out of Asia) were there. Some looked better than others, some could have looked a lot better if they hade spent a couple of hours tweaking the control side and choosing appropriate video content to show. I'm quite frankly astonished that manufacturers spend serious money on developing product, exhibiting at trade shows like LDI and they shooting themselves in the foot by not making sure their product looks its best. Why???

Thankfully, a few had got it right. By far the best looking screen of the show was 2.6mm from CreateLED (the one on the left on the picture). It was really gorgeous, totally free of visible lines between tiles or modules, perfectly (at least to my eye) uniform in brightness and color. The screen on the left is also from CreateLED and with a sub 2mm pixel pitch but the 2.6mm looked better.

Note, my camera phone picture does not do the screen justice, disregard the vertical lines.

Chicago based rental & trucking company Upstaging has partnered up with Chinese LED display maker Aboutshow to create their own range of creative LED elements, the Sabre range. One of the items is this 8x16 pixel display block that has two 10W RGB 15° inserted between the regular pixels. This is a concept that was introduced by ROE Visual in their Hybrid product a few years back.

And finally (for this part) - Apollo Design - now the worlds biggest producer of gobos - were exhibiting together with their sister company AVID Labs, a independent product development facility. They were showing a range of fixtures that uses LED light bulbs of the more advanced type. One of these is is the S38 from Ketra. This "smart bulb" not only incorporates the necessary driver electronics, it also has closed-loop thermal and optical feedback to maintain the performance of the lamp over it's entire life.

It is wirelessly controlled, high CRI, color tuneable and can dim by a simple triac dimmer down to almost zero brightness. Not yet available for European voltages but coming next year I was told. Cool stuff!

Part two of my LDI report will follow very shortly...

A day at PLASA in London

After my first day at PLASA 2015, there was no denying it - the show is again smaller than previous year. Fewer exhibitors, some major brands like Martin Professional not exhibiting (nor did they in 2014). There was plenty of free space towards the back of the hall. Rumor has it that it will move back in to central London again for 2016, some say to Kensington Olympia where the show once started. The Excel exhibition centre is very nice and functional but oh so inconvenient to reach and in a rather unexciting part of east London, far from the nightlife in the centre.

Still - good show to meet people and there are always some nuggets to be found. Here follows part #1 of a very informal and personal reportage.

Interesting product #1 - the Dalis LED cyc light from Robert Juliat

This is a very innovative and so far unique take on the LED cyc light challenge. The good people at Robert Juliat are for sure not the first to try but it looks like they have really hit the nail on the head with this one.

The Dalis features no less than eight LED colours - red, green, blue, warm-white (2200K), cold white (6500K), amber, cyan and royal blue. These LEDs are combined in a special reflector device, four colours per reflector. Total power draw is 300W for a 1m section. Convection cooled, no fan noise.

And - it really works. The asymmetrical distribution is said to enable up to 8m coverage in height when the Dalis is places some 1.5m from the cyclorama. I saw some pictures from a recent test that seemed to confirm this. Certainly the units on display at the booth of Ambersphere did a very good job lighting up a 5-6m white wall in good way.

Interesting product #2 - the XPD-28 from Swisson

There are plenty of DMX signal splitters on the market. What Swisss company Swisson has done is to combine the splitter with a refresh speed adjustment feature. Certain products misbehave when presented with a DMX signal at full speed. The XPD-28 allows you to set the output refresh rate independent on the input rate. Swisson calls this feature "DMX deaccelerator" - maybe DMX break would have been more straightforward? But hey, they're Swiss! The units works with RDM and each output is individually selectable between 'A' and 'B' input as well as optically isolated.

It takes a village...

Some exhibitors didn't get the memo about the show scaling down - AC Entertainment Technologies being the 'worst offender' with a massive booth, no village, using 110 rigging point and over one kilometer of truss. All joking aside, nice to see someone willing to spend a fortune of making a statement.

Space Force from Chroma-Q

The Chroma-Q brand was well featured in the AC Village. New for this year was the Space Force softlight that is claimed to be equivalent to a 6kW tungsten space light but with a fraction of that power draw. Variable colour temperature and some nifty features should make this a real contender in the highly competitive film & tv lighting market.

They've got balls!

Another major player, WhiteLight, had a very fetching stand with a ceiling of LED spheres.

That's all from my day #1 - more to follow tomorrow.


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