Innovative product musings

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

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...

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

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