The 29th series of the popular TV dance competition “Dancing With The Stars” (DWTS) returned to ABC this month with new host Tyra Banks and 178 x Robe MegaPointes on the lighting plot as part of lighting designer Tom Sutherland’s precision-crafted epic look for the first series performed without a live audience! It is being broadcast until the end of November from CBS Television City, West Hollywood, California.
Tom’s company DX7 Design was initially asked to develop lighting for the 2019 season by executive producer Andrew Llinares. He, Tom, and director Phil Heyes – who has been on DWTS USA for 5 years – have also all previously worked together including a while back on X-Factor in the UK. Tom, who also lights a variety of top music artists, is known for his skillful blending of two very different lighting aesthetics; the drama and thrill of pop and rock with the detail and discipline needed for slick TV lighting. For this, he and DWTS creative director Justin Mabardi discussed several tasks and challenges for lighting including harmoniously working with the numerous digital set elements, and, most importantly, helping recreate the impression of a live audience!
The set including the extensive video elements like a giant LED panel chandelier filled with lights was designed by Florian Wieder. Tom enjoys working with Florian because of the latter’s great eye for how lighting can be integrated into set architecture, as was the case for this production with a series of scenic girders running the length of the performance space which were specifically designed to incorporate lights. This is where a quote of the 168 MegaPointes were rigged.
Robe BMFL WashBeam
Felix Lighting also supplied 16 Robe BMFL WashBeams to the show plus four BMFL Blades which are running with four separate RoboSpot base station systems for remote operation. Additional Robe products are brought in weekly as extras for specific routines, joining around 900 lighting fixtures being utilized by Tom in total, all supplied by Felix Lighting. The absence of a live audience threw up the massive challenge of filling the studio space and evoking the vibrancy and atmosphere of having real people there, a goal that is being achieved with additional lighting and screen elements.
As well as recreating this essential ‘buzz’ in the air, the production is also delivering all the color, razzmatazz, and WOW factors to accompany the chemistry and choreography of the dancefloor action. A large upstage video wall tracks open / closed for host entrances and exits, while a large LED PAR can wall behind it is a nod to classic dance hall style. Downstage of this are some art deco scenic towers which also track on and offstage.
An angled LED pros arch is flanked left and right by slanting video screens covering some of the audience seating, and their shape is mirrored lengthways along the dancefloor by the pairs of angled scenic beams all with MegaPointes rigged to the undersides.
“MegaPointes are the workhorse fixture of the show,” stated Tom who chose them because he needed a dynamic multi-purpose fixture able to deliver a wide and almost endless range of effects needed throughout the series, in which the creative team can imagine over 150 different signature looks for different dance routines, each of which has to be beautiful, appropriate and distinctive.
More MegaPointes are sitting in rows at audience head level along two tiers of balcony rails (for upper and lower levels), with the reminder of the fixtures lined up around the edge of the dancefloor. This layered positioning and the scenic / lighting elements can also assist in forming more intimate looking spaces on camera, so viewers catching the show on TV barely notice that a live audience is absent!
The MegaPointes create those big elegant, structural looks that they are so good at throughout the show, and while nothing can quite replicate the aura of fans enrapt in the performances, this multi-level, carefully thought-through and applied optical ‘magic’ works very well. “The audience is such a fundamental part of the show,” says Tom, admitting that he was nervous to start with, and “delighted” that all the extra lighting “has had the desired impact.”
The BMFL WashBeams are rigged on two vertical towers left and right of the pros arch, ideally placed for assisting in closing the set down for more intimate and dramatic moments. Tom needed a light source that was “Bright, powerful and versatile” to fill these back-of-camera shots. The four RoboSpot controlled BMFL Blades are positioned in the four corners of the dancefloor. They are proving great for adding background effects and gobos on the dancers, especially during 360-degree Steadicam shots.
“It’s much easier using this system to highlight performers with color, a texture or an effect as needed,” Tom comments, adding that while RoboSpots are on the spec for most of his shows, on this one he’s really been able to get imaginative with them! At the control platform, he also has a feed of all the RoboSpot cameras and can keep an eye on exactly where the operators are pointing to ensure they are on target every time.
Tom is working alongside a talented DX7 Design team comprising lighting programmers Joe Holdman and Nate Files, and they are using a grandMA control system, and Hunter Selby is his assistant LD. The lighting gaffer is AJ Taylor, best boy is Danny Vincent, the Felix lighting techs are James Coldicott & Dominic Adame and the account manager at Felix is Nicole Barnes. Working in a Covid-safe environment has been a galvanizing experience for everyone.
The crew are all tested weekly and the studio has been zoned so artists, crew, celebrities and other staff ‘bubbles’ all utilize separate green rooms, eating areas, bathrooms, entrances and exits, etc., and can avoid mixing. Masks are worn at all times and they also rigorously social distance. Show schedules are planned so that large set changes where normally 40 odd stagehands would ‘whoosh’ onto the dancefloor simultaneously to complete a major set / props changeover in a couple of minutes are not necessary to limit physical proximity and the need to get close to one another!
As with every production that is active and working right now, all involved in “Dancing With The Stars” production, crew, creatives, and artists are extremely happy to have the opportunity of being back doing what they love, even if it’s under very altered circumstances. Says Tom, “It’s great to be back in the studio working with the crew again. Thanks to all the production team for their tireless efforts over the past few months on ensuring we are back safely creating a show we love!”
Nicole Barnes from Felix Lighting comments, “We at Felix are blessed to be asked to work with Tom and his team again on DWTS. It has been an honor to support and execute such relevant, fresh designs, especially for such a crucial season. Everything on Tom’s lighting plots translates so well through the directed magic of the camera lens. With the mandatory elimination of a studio audience, there probably was some risk to the effectiveness of the show. Tom’s lighting design, along with very thoughtful scenic and video elements, have captured and preserved that fantastic DWTS excitement and not missed a dance step. Witnessing these shows air, we all remain ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the future of broadcast, production, and live events. All the amazing people who work behind the scenes just want a chance to return to work quickly and safely. We see DWTS as a beacon of hope, bringing us back one cha-cha, foxtrot, and tango at a time!”
With a history in film, TV, VFX and production, Sydney-based Spectre Studios strengthened its virtual production (VP) toolset whilst working on the Hollywood Blockbuster X-Men: Dark Phoenix. The company used real-time engines and virtual production to help visualise complicated stunt and VFX shots for the film, a technique that has been mastered by the team at Proxi and successfully replicated on Triple Frontier.
In the true spirit of creative company collaboration, Spectre Studios joined forces with NEP Studios and Big Picture to create ICVFX: Australia’s first full-service LED virtual production solution for local and international content creators, bringing the future of in-camera VFX under one roof. Brompton Technology’s Tessera SX40 4K LED processor was chosen as the driving power for the studio’s LED virtual production workflow. The facility demonstrates a fully functioning LED wall volume and dynamic 3D environments for VP, as well as motion & facial capture all in one facility, and all with remote access.
“It made sense for us to approach NEP and Big Picture to see where we could help leverage their extensive experience and technical capability to help bring our concepts and research into a reality. NEP had been developing an offering of its own and it seemed like the perfect storm to join forces to see what could come out of this partnership,” says Spectre Studios’ Technical Director, Rick Pearce.
The team decided to fully demonstrate the capabilities of their LED screen by developing a wide range of content from SimTrav [simulated travel], interior and exterior locations, as well as a range of sci-fi environments that they staged in order to demonstrate what shooting a production on LED would be like.
“We were lucky enough to have our friends at Arri and VA Hire provide some great camera and production gear to create a dream combination of concept, tech, production, and talent,” continues Pearce. In their testing of different products, Pearce and the team at Spectre quickly found that the solution that Josh Moffat, Business Development at Big Picture, developed for ICVFX was perfectly aligned with what the team was trying to achieve in terms of production workflow.
The team chose four of Brompton’s cutting-edge 4K Tessera SX40 LED processing system along with eight Tessera XD 10G data distribution units to drive 13.5 by 4.5 metres of ROE Black Onyx 2.8mm HD-LED displays for the wall, as well as 46 square metres of ROE CB5 LED panels for the ceiling, and additional 20 square metres of ROE CB3 panels for ambient lighting and as reflection screens.
“Choosing Brompton was a no-brainer for us,” says Moffat. “The company has been our loyal partner and a perfect LED processing solution for years, with its Tessera processors offering exceptional colour control and comprehensive image manipulation, coupled with quick easy tools like the OSCA seam correction feature. The advanced remote control options have also been a particular benefit to us in this workflow, given the current situation.” The feedback about the virtual production facility has been really positive. “The opportunities for use keep growing each week,” shares Pearce. “ACS (Australian Cinematographers Society) chose to visit us to hold an information session and facilitate a hands-on creative session with some of the country’s best DOP’s to provide them a playground as they explored the edges of what was possible.”
As the team continues to educate Australian production companies and studios looking for solutions in VP, and in a broader COVID production world, Spectre Studios team are having a lot of conversations as to how they can put the technology to use at scale.
“We hope the LED Volume with Brompton processing will have a permanent location here, as we see versions of Virtual Production becoming a mainstay in many film production workflows,” Pearce adds. “With all the many benefits it provides creatively, and the added bonus of being post-pandemic friendly, we’re confident ICVFX will be home of many exciting new projects.” With many projects already in the pipeline, the team knows it would not be possible without the technical capabilities of Brompton’s system and support from the Brompton team. “The high quality of Brompton processing is an integral part of our entire VP [virtual production] workflow,” concludes Pearce. “We are one of Australia’s most prominent studios utilising tools like Unreal Engine 4 for everything from animation, VR development, and now LED Volume virtual production.
The Brompton Tessera SX40 processor is really helping us bring the content to life by offering ultra realistic visual backgrounds that produce astounding results. The fact that the Australian Cinematographers Society wanted to use our facility for its creative session speaks volumes, and that’s in no small part thanks to the amazing visual performance and true-to-life colour accuracy delivered by Brompton processing.”
Where live audience normally sits, LD Tom Sutherland fills space with creative camera eye candy. Tom Sutherland was back on the set of Dancing with the Stars recently, lighting his second season of the American reality dance competition for the ABC network.
Lead designer at DX7 Design, Sutherland, who used Elation lighting on last season’s show, again turned to Elation fixtures to light the myriad of dances while finding a unique visual solution to fill empty audience space.
“There were some challenges this year as there was no audience, which usually plays a big role in the show. Nobody, especially in television, likes black holes,” said Sutherland, stating, “When you have an expensive set that looks like a million dollars, you don’t want to sacrifice that by a few dodgy shots. With HD cameras and 360-degree looks we have to make sure we have all our bases covered.”
Dead space on the set was something Sutherland was especially wary of when lighting this year’s shows. How could he fill the blank space and still achieve the kind of drama you would have with an audience present? “We did that by adding more lighting and extra video screens,” he said, “and a good chunk of that extra lighting was from Elation.”
Filmed at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, the drama and glitz of Dancing with the Stars has kept fans coming back year after year since its debut in 2005. This year’s Season 29 premiered on September 14th with Elation fixtures again a key component, including DARTZ 360 LED moving heads, and new to this year’s set, ZCL 360i and SixBar 1000 luminaires. Lighting vendor for Dancing with the Stars is Felix Lighting.
Sutherland says they started this year’s design work by looking to see how many black hole positions there were to fill in the studio and how they could best do that. “That meant we needed to find fixtures that were going to fill those blank spaces while giving me lots of flexibility through an 11-week season. I needed fixtures I could vary up and produce different looks with, fixtures that could be subtle and pretty if we needed them to be, but also give us the drama and tension in the moments where we needed that.” In other words, the designer needed fixtures that have a lot in them. “We did 150 performances on this stage last year and another 150 performances this year so I’m a great fan of having lights that have a lot in the barrel so to speak.”
Runway of lights
Sutherland looked at filling all of the floor seating space with Elation’s tiny ZCL 360i™, a single beam RGBW moving effect with zoom and continuous 360° rotation. He lined three rows of fixtures along the dancefloor, 90 fixtures total, to create a runway of lights left and right of the stage for nice camera looks.
“Joe Holdman, who programs the show, has done some incredible effects with the 360-degree spin,” he explains. “As we go into a tense judging moment, for example, they all tumble and spin while manipulating the zoom; it looks like a massive cascade running up towards the stage and is really beautiful. Because of the zoom, they can just be a subtle twinkle or we can beam them up with a bit more haze if we want to create a bit more drama. We also found that because it’s a black shiny floor they look great just bouncing off and reflecting off that so it looks like we’ve got double the amount of fixtures. They’ve been a fantastic addition to the rig and everyone loves them.”
On 2019’s Season 28 of Dancing with the Stars, the LD used Elation’s DARTZ 360™ beam/spot LED moving head as a principal luminaire in an immersive 360-degree lighting environment. This year, he upped their number, using 104 in his design for soft looks that blend with the set before coming to life for dance performances.
“Lots of the camera work on the show is done on a Steadicam and is 360 degrees around the dancers,” Sutherland explains. “Of course we’ve got nothing at one end of the room so we use the DARTZ to just completely fill that space. It’s just a wall of light and the director and producers love it. You can’t even see that the cameras are there. The director’s been opening a lot of the shots in a reverse look, pointing to the back of the room so you see the DARTZ as a backdrop because it’s so stunning.”
Sutherland plays with the DARTZ’s two independent rotating prisms and 14 gobos to create some dazzling effects. “Originally we had 80 fixtures because we thought that the added video screens on the bottom of the set would extend up to the top of the lower balcony but there was a gap there and we decided to fit Dartz fixtures there. I talked to account manager Nicole Barnes at Felix Lighting and she was able to get us another 60. We completely filled out the lower balcony with those and I’m so glad we did because it’s made all the difference. It’s so striking, especially on those Steadicam reverse shots and the 360 shots.” The rig also includes other LED and discharge-based moving heads.
Blend of light and screen
Dancing with the Stars is a shiny, sparkly show with an art deco set and lighting that is essential in complementing the look. Another Elation fixture new to this year’s show is the SixBar 1000™ with 110 of the meter-long six-color LED battens used for expanded color and sparkle. The SixBars fill the void where the audience normally sits, frame the judges’ close up shot, and occupy the gaps between the added LED screens, including on the middle balcony where contestants wait.
“It’s a beautiful blend of light and screens that merges really nicely. The SixBars have been fantastic to add a nice subtle twinkle to the set which we’ve blended in with our main host looks and main dances as well,” Sutherland says, adding that they have been a cost effective solution and are great at filling up space. “We extend the content on the screens into the SixBars and blend everything out into the room nicely so they’ve been fantastic for us. Joe programs lovely effects into them and they really come to life on moments when we need them to.”
Dancing with the Stars has been a mainstay of American reality television for 15 years. With changes implemented last year designed to freshen up the format and a new host in Tyra Banks this year, not to mention a host of stunning lighting designs for each performance, ABC’s staple Monday night show has enjoyed renewed energy with its best ratings in years.
Lighting Programmers: Joe Holdman and Nate Files Assistant Lighting Designer: Hunter Selby Gaffer: AJ Taylor Best Boy: Danny Vincent
The Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts in Greensboro, North Carolina is now the home to the largest Meyer Sound Constellation® acoustic system in the United States. The center’s events will be supported by world-class audience amenities and advanced technologies, including variable acoustical environments tailored for each performance.
The project was both boldly ambitious and fiscally conservative. It was ambitious in that the $90 million facility would incorporate the latest technologies for acoustical and staging flexibility, allowing the venue to serve as a concert hall for symphony performances and opera as well as an auditorium for spoken word events and a road house for touring shows from rock concerts to Broadway musicals. It was conservative, however, in that the cost was substantially less than what would be needed to build two separate venues.
“I knew from the outset that the economics would be driven by selling out touring shows, which is why we set 3,000 as our minimum capacity and designed our staging to accommodate tours well into the future,” states Matt Brown, who as managing director of the Greensboro Coliseum Complex now also carries responsibility for the Tanger Center. “Yet following the demolition of the old War Memorial Auditorium, the Greensboro Symphony was in need of a new home. Our goal was to provide an optimum environment for both types of performances without compromising either.”
The challenge was handed to the acoustical consultants for the project, Arup of New York, with acoustical design at various stages guided by Matthew Mahon, Christopher Darland and Ed Arenius. Arup’s recommendation was to design the hall with relatively dry physical acoustics to accommodate spoken word and amplified music with electroacoustic enhancement added as required for most other musical events.
“The symphony would have preferred a 1,600-seat symphonic concert hall, but Guilford College’s Bryan Series and Broadway series were selling double that number,” recalls Brown, “so we needed to acoustically accommodate both. That led to a thorough education on electroacoustic technology culminating in the selection of a Constellation system.”
Also involved early in the process was Cliff Miller, president of SE Systems, eventually selected as the AV systems integrator. Although brought on board primarily to consult on road house requirements, Miller also helped connect key people in Greensboro to the Meyer Sound team in Berkeley. “To a great extent, the choice of Constellation was driven by a push from Dmitry Sitkovetsky, the music director of the symphony,” recalls Miller. “He visited Meyer Sound in Berkeley to hear Constellation early on when other systems were still under consideration. He also consulted with other conductors familiar with the technology before tilting strongly toward Constellation.”
Not only did Sitkovetsky hear Constellation in the audience at Meyer Sound’s Pearson Theatre, he also sat in with a string quartet, playing his Stradivarius violin. In addition, he had previously noted the acoustical improvements at Moscow’s Svetlanov Hall following installation of Constellation there. Also traveling to Berkeley to audition Constellation was Tom Philion, president and CEO of ArtsGreensboro.
The Constellation system as installed by SE Systems comprises a total of 205 small full-range loudspeakers mounted laterally and overhead. Eight different models were deployed, both full-range and subwoofers, all incorporating Meyer Sound’s exclusive IntelligentDC for self-powered systems with simplified cabling requirements.
For ambient acoustical sensing, 57 miniature condenser microphones are arrayed throughout the hall, feeding signals to the 18-module D Mitri® digital audio platform. Five of the modules are D-VRAS processors hosting the patented Virtual Room Acoustic System algorithm. Installation project manager for SE Systems was Sam Trexler.
The Tanger Center schedule for 2021 and beyond features the Greensboro Symphony subscription series highlighting concerts with Kenny G and Sting. Also on tap is the inaugural Broadway season with Wicked, The Lion King, Dear Evan Hansen, Mean Girls and Beautiful – The Carole King Musical. Speakers for the Bryan Series include actress Sally Field and former U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.
“The acoustical toolset we have in Constellation as applied in a 3,000-seat setting affords economic advantages that I believe will be a model for all future performing arts venues of this type, not just here in the United States, but around the world,” summarizes Matt Brown.
It was a disappointment to the arts community in Greensboro, North Carolina when COVID-19 forced cancellation of grand opening festivities for the new Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts only days before the scheduled event. The multi-day celebrations in March 2020 were to include performances by, among others, Josh Groban, Tony Bennett and Jay Leno. A new opening date has not yet been set.
GLP’s new KNV series has been used for the first time in Italy, on two broadcast TV shows. The first of these was Radionorba Vodafone Battiti Live, where DoP Massimo Pascucci, featured a large selection of KNV Cube, KNV Dot and KNV Line in the scenography, working alongside set designer Luigi Maresca and show director, Luigi Antonini.
Photo Francesco Liuzzi
This popular musical show is produced by Radionorba and broadcast by TeleNorba and Mediaset on the Italia 1 channel. Hosted by Alan Palmieri and Elisabetta Gregoraci, it features leading artists and their hits of the summer. Generally, the traditional five episodes are recorded during the months of June and July in five different locations that represent the main cities of Puglia. However, this year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the show would have been cancelled were it not for a supreme production effort and the rapid drop off of infections. Thus a single location was chosen the square immediately in front of the Aragonese Castle of Otranto in order to avoid moving equipment and manpower.
Photo Francesco Liuzzi
All GLP fixtures are imported into Italy by distributor, Alto Lighting, and for this show were supplied by rental company, MOD Srl.
GLP KNV Dot
Massimo Pascucci had no hesitation in using GLP’s solutions after seeing videos of the KNVs in use. Because in this show I had focussed a lot on using the lights graphically, the product seemed perfect to me,” he said.
Thus 12 of the KNV Cubes were accompanied by 25 KNV Dot and 10 KNV Live. Each KNV format can be used independently, or seamlessly combined to form a massive, modular graphic display.
GLP KNV Line
“In truth, the iconography of the show is about the heart, hence the Battiti (beats),” he continued. “So the Cubes were used in the centre of a structure that represented the heart Itself, housed in the central part of the roof. The other GLP devices (Line and Dot) were used around the stage perimeter, giving shape and linearity to the structure.”
Photo Francesco Liuzzi
Bespoke lighting scenes and states were programmed for each of the acts, as Pascucci explained. “For each song a different graphic is produced which is then displayed on huge LED walls, that make up the main scenography. The luminaires have been calibrated to this in order to harmonise with the dedicated mood of each performer, using the pixel mapping facility on the Hog 4 lighting desk.”
He remains in no doubt as to the many ways in which the KNV series marked the scenography and can see endless possibilities for the future. “The extreme brightness and possibility of integration with the existing lighting plot, really enhances the concept and opens up a new way of conceiving television lighting. By this I mean gradually dispensing with the conventional powerful beam movement delivered by automated spots. Instead it is possible to focus more on the stylisation of the scenes by integrating the lighting system with graphics, as far as possible.”
Tim Boot has been appointed Director of Global Marketing, a new position that entails overall responsibility for product management, marketing, communications and education on a worldwide basis. Boot joined Meyer Sound in 2015 and has served in high-level sales, marketing and technology development roles, most recently as Global Brand Manager.
John Mac Mahon
John McMahon has been promoted to Senior Vice President. In his expanded role, McMahon assumes a full range of company-wide executive responsibilities while working closely with Meyer Sound’s executive team and company founders, President and CEO John Meyer and Executive Vice President Helen Meyer.
Marc Chutczer has moved up to the post of Vice President of R&D, assuming coordinated leadership of all Meyer Sound R&D teams working on all technology platforms, including loudspeakers as well as digital systems. His prior position was Vice President of Digital Program Management.
Mike Ulrich has been appointed Meyer Sound’s new Vice President of Operations, taking charge of all aspects of manufacturing, purchasing, quality control and test engineering. With Meyer Sound since 2014, Ulrich has broad experience in both engineering and new product development.
“At Meyer Sound we anticipate that pent-up demand will lead to an industry rebound in the not-too-distant future, and we are developing strategies to leverage the expected growth,” comments Helen Meyer. “These latest promotions and role realignments will position us to meet resurging demand with new technologies and ramped-up production, and always with the high level of support our customers have come to expect.”
Colours of Ostrava is usually the largest multi-genre live music and performance festival in the Czech Republic and one of the most popular events on the European festival calendar, offering 22 stages of diverse and vibrant entertainment across four days in mid-July. It is staged in the stunning raw industrial environment of the former Dolní Vitkovice (DOV) steelworks now tastefully reimagined as an important cultural and heritage centre near Ostrava in the north-east of the country.
This year, like all European festivals, it was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic and rescheduled for 2021. However, with the government allowing gatherings of up to 1000 people after June 22nd, it seemed that compact events could become feasible, and so ‘NeFestival’ (NoFestival) was planned as a much smaller event at the same site to bring the spirit and essence of Colours music, theatre, lighting art vibes, discussion, etc… to a small but enthusiastic audience.
SMART Productions led by Josef ‘Pepa’ Ženíšek coordinated all the technical production as they have done for Colours since 2010, and Robe Lighting was again proud to be a technical partner and collaborator in another landmark event in spite of the unusual circumstances. One stage was constructed on the DOV national heritage area, which is part of the Colours regular site, right under the Bolt Tower that once presided over DOV blast furnace number 1.
The Robe fixtures – 30 x iPointes, 20 x MegaPointes and four BMFL WashBeams were used in a highly symbolic role as ‘light towers’ to denote the areas that would have been occupied by the second stage and the Full Moon stage in the standard festival layout. Pepa needed fixtures that were massively bright and intense for this, and these three types were perfect.
In addition to these, 16 x Robe Divine 160 LED wash fixtures were part of the package, with six used during the special ‘opener’ show created by Cirk La Putyka on the Wednesday, and the other 10 highlighting the Bolt Tower and other imposing industrial elements behind the stage, accentuating a powerful aesthetic for the live streaming.
Robe’s CEO Joseph Valchar commented, “As always we were delighted to work with Pepa and his team on this highly creative production which was much enjoyed and a rare opportunity to catch some outstanding live outdoor performance this summer. This year we feel our support is more important than at any time before, and we are already all looking forward to the 2021 edition of Colours of Ostrava … when the entire heritage site will again be buzzing with people and a great atmosphere.”
The line up over the four days of NeFestival was planned to be Cirk La Putyka followed by Bosnian avant-garde dub rockers Dubioza Kollektiv the next evening, however they were unable to travel at the last moment, so a selection of excellent Czech bands took the stage.
Friday should have been more Czech bands including 123Min, N.O.H.A and headliner thrash rapper Kapitán Demo, with Saturday’s ‘Melting Pot’ forum for theatres, discussions and debates bringing things to a close… But Friday morning things changed dramatically when, without prior warning, the regional health authorities reduced the capacity of gatherings from 1000 to 100, so the event site had to be closed, a decision that has caused some surprise!
This was not before Cirk La Putyka and all Thursday night’s bands had delivered outstanding performances to the delight of everyone present. “It was great like a sort of holiday and carnival atmosphere after a long time without any events all of us and the crews were just so happy to be working and doing what we love in producing world-class shows,” concluded Pepa.
Highlite Touring project managed by Michal Siska supplied lighting equipment for the main stage, and their crew together with Pepa’s SMART Production team rigged the Robes for the light towers. Václav Olšar was the stage lighting designer and LD Jiri “Zewl” Malenak took care of La Putyka’s show. Six days later, the decision to reduce audience capacities to 100 in the area was revised back up to 1000 people, bringing with it the hope of some more potential ‘mini-festival’ events bring staged over the summer … if all goes well!
Ranked the second most popular theme park in France (behind Disneyland Paris) Puy du Fou is spread over 500 hectares at Les Epesses in the heart of Pays de La Loire region.
When it came to specifying a site-wide digital comms upgrade recently, the facility’s long-term head of technology (and resident sound engineer), Samuel Briand, was clear that an expansive Optocore fibre ring solution would best serve the park’s requirements.
He explained that previously they had worked mostly in analog but this has now been replaced with parallel Optocore, Dante and AVB networks. “The first consideration was the vast distance,” he said, explaining the background to the specification. “The park is very large, requiring several hundred kilometers of cable length, and it was essential that we could pass the signals without loss of quality and without length constraints.”
Technical bay with Digico stage rack and DD4MR-FX MADI from Optocore (Philippe Moreau).
The new system itself was conceived at the Park’s in-house design studio, overseen by Briand, with the company DV2 supplying the equipment and technical support. Each of the featured shows has its own control room and runs autonomously, although the existing fiber optic network allows shows to be connected to each other if necessary.
“When we create a show, we connect the audio mixing studio to the show concerned and mix in the attraction by moving the screen, keyboard and mouse from the studio computer. The sound travels in the Optocore environment between the studio and the show, thus saving us from having to carry a big flight case with a ProTools HDX,” Briand explains.
In view of the extensive distance and channel requirements, the redundant Optocore transport is used in all the Park’s main shows, such as La Cinéscénie (a huge outdoor stage for the evening shows), Le Dernier Panache (which follows the destiny of a French naval officer during the American War of Independence), Café de la Madelon (Parisian style cabaret) and El Sueño de Toledo (another historical nocturnal show). To give an idea of scale, La Cinéscénie alone requires 10km of fiber optics.
“We work only with single mode fiber,” the head of tech continues, “and each Optocore converter has redundancy at the power supply (one on mains and one on inverter).” A separate central control point manages the BGM only (which is distributed over a point-to-point network). Samuel Briand has deployed a pair of Optocore DD4MR-FX MADI devices for use with the DiGiCo SD10 consoles, 10 X6R-FX with AES-SRC and Line Outputs for the amplifiers, as well as AES-SRC with Mix Inputs for microphones (and finally, a V3R-FX). All devices have been upgraded with 2Gb singlemode transceivers.
The advantages of the new set-up can be clearly seen in Le Dernier Panache, mixed on DiGiCo. “The Optocore network allows us to compensate all audio channels (around 96) from the A/D converters to the amplifiers and the processor. So via Optocore converters we have a real matrix, boosted by the processing and mixing power of the DiGiCo consoles.”
As for the sound system generally, each show has its own broadcast soundtrack (eg symphonic music with voices and sound effects). Puy du Fou has been working with L-Acoustics for over 20 years and each show has a particular spatialization (L-ISA for Le Dernier Panache, 12 channels for La Cinéscénie, 7.1 for Le Secret de la Lance show etc). For the BGM and general park distribution (shops, restaurants and hotels) mainly Fohhn speakers are used. In addition to DiGiCo SD10 and SD9T, the Park also deploys a range of Yamaha mixing consoles.
The mixing studio (Philippe Moreau)
Samuel Briand is more than satisfied with the upgraded signal transport across the Puy du Fou site. “Fiber optics and an Optocore platform were essential to meet the specifications,” he confirmed.
Peter Canning from Dublin-based lighting and visual design specialist High Res specified 24 x Astera Titan Tube wireless LED fixtures to provide highly atmospheric lighting for an eye-catching video featuring singer Hozier recorded at Croke Park stadium … one of many high points during a special RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann) Comic Relief telethon.
The event united the cream of Irish comedy and entertainment to raise a laugh and much-needed funds for the Irish charity sector on Friday 26th June. In a tribute to all HSE (Ireland’s health service) staff and other key frontline workers, Hozier performed the Simon & Garfunkel classic, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, a highly symbolic song that made significant impact in concluding the fundraiser, for which he was backed by a 16-piece orchestra.
Peter designs and lights numerous television and entertainment shows bringing his own distinctive style, and proposed lighting the video piece during the ‘blue hour’ that magical window at dusk where the sun is falling while the moon is rising and there is still light in the sky for maximum dramatic impact. He suggested starkly illuminating the whole 85,000 capacity stadium to emphasise its vastness and emptiness juxtaposed against Hozier, dominating and dwarfing him and the musicians as they stood isolated and small in the middle of the pitch.
The house lights were turned on to highlight the seating stands and bleachers but to complete the contrast effect with the dipping natural light, Peter needed a soft ephemeral glow behind the band … that would also bring an architectural aspect to the picture.
Enter the Titan Tubes!
With many restrictions on what can go on the pitch or not, to preserve the grass and the ground, cables were out of the question. In addition to “wireless being the only way to go, it was essential to have a lightweight and easily manoeuvrable light source,” explained Peter, who created original mood boards and a camera look based on that elusive residual indirect blue shaded sunlight that is prevalent at twilight. To achieve the precise lighting effect, the quality of the low-level light fill from the Titan Tubes – daylight white in this case – was paramount as well as the brightness. “Astera ticked absolutely all the creative and logistical boxes,” states Peter who was delighted with the finished results.
As well as looking spectacular combined with the fading daylight in the sky evoking the haunting look that Peter wanted, the idea was to light with enough latitude for the footage – shot in S-Log3 – to be graded by Dublin post-house Piranha Bar. Another challenge on site was the tight window of opportunity between 9 and 11 p.m. when the natural light was of the right intensity and texture to highlight the stadium elements and combine perfectly with the artificial light elements both the house lights and the additional Asteras and follow spots utilised for the video shoot.
They only had one opportunity to nail it, and luckily the notoriously erratic Irish weather was on everyone’s side, treating all to a fabulous Dublin summer sunset. The 24 Asteras were supplied in four 8-way packs, complete with all the stands and rigging accessories, and the only other extra lighting on the shoot were three follow spots, all supplied by the Dublin branch of PSI Productions and project managed by Ciaran Tallon. This very compact lighting package fitted neatly into a small van for convenient delivery to Croke Park.
Ciaran comments that the Astera Titan Tubes are one of the most popular and useful items in PSI’s rental stock and are out all the time on film, TV, video, and photography shoots. The shoot involved three cameras and a drone was directed by Alan Byrne and the segment was produced by Páircéir for RTE. Peter’s team included gaffer Terry Mulcahy and chief LX Kate Bermingham.
Konstantinos Vonofakidis has been announced as new Regional Sales Manager by ETC. He will now handle with sales arrangements for key accounts and collaborate with the company’s distributors and dealers to supervise the sales activities in the regions of Greece, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus and Egypt.
Darren Beckley, Sales Manager – ETC Ltd, says: “Konstantinos is a valuable member of the sales team who has built a great rapport with the dealers and customers in his territories. With his strong market knowledge and expertise, I am confident he will continue delivering high levels of service and be successful in his new role.”
Konstantinos previously was Field Project Coordinator for High End Systems in the Southern European, African, Middle Eastern and Indian territories. He started his career as a service engineer operating for High End Systems for 10 years before going on to manage significant lighting projects such as the National Theatre of Greece, Bahrain National Theatre and Onassis Cultural Centre. Konstantinos explains: “I’m excited to build new customer relationships and work more closely with our dealers and distributors in these markets. I look forward to working in this role and growing the business in my regions.”
D5 Systems, specialized in software development and stage lighting control solution, launches its new free LxNetTools monitoring software, Mac and PC compliant.
When you use Ethernet technology to route your stage or architectural lighting control packets within a network, it quickly becomes obvious a monitoring solution is essential.
Why? because we simply want to make sure the packets travel correctly and arrive on time at their destination. So, when our dear console operator colleague launches the famous adage “it doesn’t work, it’s because of the network!”, We want to be able to prove to him that what he is sending from this console that he cherishes so much is incorrect, and it is not sending the right information. Firstly, a good monitoring software will allow us to show him that he’s not sending the right information or that his console is misconfigured, and secondly, this will support our comments when we offer him a less challenging career 😉. Today, it is easy to find a software to monitor Art-Net, sACN, RDM, a plethora of solutions already exist. However, many of them are limited to one task, or to one or two lighting protocols. Some offer more protocols but restrict you to the use of their proprietary hardware to be able to access the monitoring of all protocols. Finally, some of this software is limited as to the operating system they use. However, the performing arts world includes many Mac and PC users.
Based on this, David McCulloch, founder of D5 systems, decided to create LxNetTools. First, David created this software for his own needs because he couldn’t find an all-in-one solution. Secondly, and in his great goodness, he decided to make the software free, thus allowing the whole stage lighting control community to use this software.
The name says it all: Lx = Light, Net = Network, Tools. LxNetTools is Mac and PC compatible and is easy to install. Once installed and launched, the software offers you a rather clear workspace.
The software consists of 5 distinct modules:
– At the very top: the network interface and engine selection menu – Middle left: The node and console display panel – In the center: The universe display panel and the test generator – Middle right: The log file – Bottom: the RDM equipment display panel
The software supports Art-Net and sACN protocols for visualizing and generating lighting channels, and the RDM protocol as well. This is where the second good news comes in: LxNetTools supports Art-RDM (RDM via Art-Net), but RDMNet and LLRP as well, two components of the new RDM over IP standard. This means LxNetTools is ready for the future, now let’s wait for the manufacturers to implement RDMNet in their lighting fixtures or consoles.
Important detail: LxNetTools allows you to select the interface in combination with the protocol of your choice. Basically, the software will allow you to use a network interface for Art-Net, another for sACN, and a third for …. MANet 2!! Yes! this is one of the other major advantages of this software, LxNetTools enables you to see the online GrandMA 2 consoles, as well as the nodes and NPUs of the same system. This protocol interface selection system makes LxNetTools the ideal companion for converged light network monitoring (several types of lighting protocol on the same network).
Les composants ArtNet, sACN, RDM et MANet2 visibles depuis un seul et même logiciel !
I fell in love with a very intelligent feature: in the test generator, the user will be able to generate a range of universes, and each universe will send the universe number assigned to it as a DMX value set to all the channels of this universe. Long story short, you send universes from 1 to 8, and each universe sends all its channels with the value of the universe, which allows you to easily identify a universe with a DMX tester: Brilliant! This feature already is available in some lighting controller, but having this in a monitoring software is a great add-on.
With Art-Net and sACN, the user will be able to visualize the channel values in real time for each discovered universe, and with RDM he will be able to use generic commands such as identify, DMX address settings, mode….
Le panneau de contrôle RDM qui offre les fonctions les plus courantes.
If you do not fancy the night theme, a day theme is available as well, ideal for the sunny festivals that will not take place this year …
Le thème « jour »
The software is in its infancy, and David McCulloch has confirmed to me that other features will be added, such as a patch function to quickly address lighting fixtures via RDM. This kind of initiative is to be congratulated, because in these painful times, the notion of sharing takes on its full meaning, and this software will undoubtedly help many technicians keen on lighting control networks.
Riksteatern, the Swedish National Touring Theatre, was due to take its production of Love Songs on a three month tour of Sweden from early March, with lighting director and designer, Jörgen ‘Hajen’ Haimanas, choosing 6 Ayrton Diablo LED profile luminaires as a major feature of his lighting design, in what would be Diablo’s first national tour of Sweden. Due to the current COVID-19 crisis, the tour was only able to complete the first five dates before it was necessarily postponed by lockdown.
Love Songs is described as a ‘sentimental love bomb’, a musical evening depicting love in all its forms, featuring the musical talents of Arja Saijonmaa, Frida Beckman, Lisa Hu Yu, Robert Hannouch and Peter Järn. Haimanas used his considerable lighting talents, to create an incredible array of looks using the six strategically placed Diablo units in a design crafted to cope with the many sizes and types of venue they would visit on the tour.
“As the National Touring Theatre of Sweden, Riksteatern makes a point of bringing top quality dance and theatre productions to a multitude of unconventional venues as well as traditional theatres, to reach as diverse an audience country-wide as possible,” says Haimanas. “This necessarily entails playing several venues which are not conventional theatres and therefore not equipped to the usual standards and specifications of a theatre.
“Under these circumstances, a fixture’s weight, zoom range and power consumption become even more vital where trussing might not be heavy duty, and available height can be restricted. So I needed a profile fixture that was compact, lightweight, super-flexible and full of features that could handle the many smaller and varied venues on the tour.”
Haimanas admits he was first attracted to Diablo by its name: “It called to me! I looked up the technical specifications and it sounded perfect for our work as a touring company: small, light-weight, powerful and small enough to fit four units into a single flightcase all very important considerations on tour. Then Ayrton’s Linnea Ljungmark brought one for us to test out and I was stunned it had a good dimming curve and an excellent zoom range just what I was looking for. I got my wish!”
The six Diablo were supplied by Stage and EventLight of Stockholm and were the only profile fixtures in Haimanas’ rig: four were rigged overhead and another two mounted at stage level, upstage of the bold, red central set piece. “The dominating set feature is a large scarlet ‘frame’ which is finished in a shiny red surface,” explains Haimanas.
“This was quite a challenge to light without bounce, but the Diablo has an extremely flat field with no hotspots which was a great help in lighting the face of the set and also providing beautiful lighting for the faces of the actors. I also used Diablo’s gobo feature to texture the light across the stage, create mid-air effects that broke out into the audience, and add dramatic backlighting on stage from the two ground-level Diablos.” Haimanas chose to restrict his colour palette, preferring instead to play with the bold colours of the set using a combination of Diablo’s high output, metallic white (7000K) light and haze: “The things you can do with smoke and white light is amazing! It’s a matter of good angles and timing. I wanted to create almost a cartoon-like effect with hard backlight from one Diablo on each performer, and played with the effect of stretching long shadows across the stage.”
Lighting Director and designer Jörgen Hajen Haimanas
“Jorgen was able to create so many different atmospheres and looks for each and every song throughout the show,” says Ljungmark who saw the performance at Riksteatern’s home venue in Stockholm. “It was fabulous to see how super-creative he could be with just six Diablo units, and illustrates just how versatile Diablo is. Shows don’t have to be big-scale to create a big impression, and Ayrton has fixtures to suit all sizes of venue.”
“One of the reasons we looked at Diablo was, of course, its LED source,” says Haimanas. “The environmental benefits are obvious, like its low power consumption and reduced transportation requirements (4 per case). But LED is the way sources are going, and the fact that Ayrton has created such good LED fixtures certainly helps the transition away from conventional source fixtures.
“I like the features and colours of Diablo and it was very easy to program. Diablo’s versatility is a great touring feature and its ability to zoom out wide to cover the whole stage and simultaneously cope with the lower trim heights of some venues, as well the distances involved in a conventional theatre, was invaluable. “But it is the size and weight, with no loss of features or output, that is the most fantastic thing about Diablo. It is much easier to plan ahead with the varying tour venues when you know weight is not an issue. I am very, very happy with our new Diablos. “It is such a shame to see the remainder of the tour unfulfilled but we look forward to resuming in safer times and continuing to bring the work of this much-valued touring company to audiences all over Sweden.”
Love Songs creative team:
Director: Maja Salomonsson Set & costume design: Johanna Mårtensson Light design: Jörgen “Hajen” Haimanas Make up design: Linda Sandberg Sound design: Stefan Johansson
At ISE 2020, Agora audio, designer of the Ghost audiovisual Ethernet switches (Gigabit Host), unveiled the beta version of its Ghost Manager software. The software comes with an intuitive interface, and allows users to configure and monitor Ghost switches in a simple and graphical way.
The beta version of the Ghost Manager software on display at ISE 2020.
Ghost manager offers offline and online modes, which means you can prepare your configuration in advance, without the need to be physically connected to the switches. Once the configuration files have been created via the Ghost manager software (offline), the user will be able to load the files into the switches and to monitor the devices to check the health of the network, or to apply modifications (online).
Ghost switches are meant to create converged audiovisual networks: long story short, they enable the transport of audio, video and lighting data on the same network. However, some of these protocols use a transmission method called Multicast: the end points (console, node, stage box, amplifier …) will request the flow they wish to receive (or subscribe to).
The new IGMP menu in version 188.8.131.52. On the left-hand side, the selected group’s configuration menu, and the button to enable/disable IGMP snooping in this group. On the right-hand side, the IGMP status window for the selected group.
These Multicast streams can be sent to multiple destinations at the same time, allowing the same frame to be used for all destinations, reducing the number of frames sent by the source and the network traffic. For this mechanism to work properly, the switches must support a feature called IGMP Snooping. When this feature is activated, the switches act as air traffic controller, and direct the Multicast flows to the destinations who subscribed to these flows. This feature was sorely lacking in Ghost switches, but here comes the good news: the latest version of the software fixes this problem. This new release also brings the support for DECT timing, sometimes used in some time sensitive intercom application.
In addition to IGMP snooping, Ghost Manager 184.108.40.206 includes support for the Ethernet switch Fast series. For those unfamiliar with this series, the Fast switches have been designed to create primary/secondary networks in a matter of minutes. Primary/secondary networks are very popular in audio and video over IP application, Dante protocol being one of the most representative solution. Many Dante devices offer two Ethernet ports, a primary port and a secondary port.
This system makes it possible to create redundancy at link level, by sending the same data on the primary and secondary networks, in a completely synchronized manner. The result? in the event of a link loss on the primary network, or if one of the primary switches fails, communication will seamlessly continue though the secondary network. To do this, the user will have to use two switches at control room, and ideally two switches on the stage.
A primary/secondary network example
This is where the Ethernet Fast switch series comes into play: The devices have two separate switch PCB (Printed Circuit Board), thus providing PCB redundancy. If the primary PCB of the Fast switch fails, the secondary PCB takes over automatically. The major advantage of this system is that it requires one physical device only, providing the same level of redundancy as two physical switches, but occupying one rack unit only.
The Fast switch’s internal architecture.
This new release of the Ghost Manager software is now available for download on the support page of Ghost Network website
Together with the Freevox team, we brought in one of these new beasts from Dallas, Texas, USA. Freed from its shipping carton, and with its 33 kg hauled up on the test bench with a single heave, the VL10 WashBeam comes across as neat as a glass of bourbon. If we wanted to imagine the neo-retro concept applied to a lighting fixture, it would pretty much look like this VL10.
From afar, it seems to have a simple but brawny line, with large, snug plastic cowlings and the famous Vari-Lite rails for the mounting brackets. For the record, the base of the projector is that of the VLZ and the body is almost identical to that of the VL2600. A nicely crafted lens is fitted at the output, four large and practical transport handles, especially the ones on top of the yoke, and there are two large triangular vents to provide in-line cooling.
The difference is in the small handles set high up, chopper style. The ones at the base are extra-large, for a real road handling. The tilt lock is also impossible to miss, nobody will break it on the first bump.
An unusual nose overhangs the front of the light. Around it, there is an enormous snoot to try to channel this photon cannon.
One of the distinguishing features of this VL10 are its oversized air inlets. Between the base grilles, the air filters and the symmetrical fairing intakes, everything is designed for ventilation.
For decoration, there’s nothing extravagant, just a large Vari-Lite star engraved on the cowls. The fairing, far from the sleek lines of the 3000, plays with curved plastic folds to give character to this VL. The overall impression is one of fusion. With a little imagination, it’s as if the projector is starting to melt!
The unit is quite robust with a bazooka muzzle resting on a very narrow base equipped with a discreet control panel and connectors. The retro aspect is there and the Neo side, too, when you lift it up. With the new plastics and electronics, the fixture has improved in weight and speed. It’s smooth and sporty, like riding a Harley.
Navigating the menus
I throw the big locking levers on the yoke, plug in the PowerCON True1, turn it a quarter turn, and hit the ignition. The screen starts. Though a little bit small for my taste, it’s still legible. It announces its reset procedure. After 90 seconds I access the menu using the four arrows keys, the ESC key and the confirmation key.
A glance at the VL10’s concise display won’t be enough to determine exactly where you are. But a second, closer look reveals that the slightly larger Address menu is the one selected.
Although all the options are clear and intelligible, I find the navigation a bit peculiar. The fault probably lies with the rather sensitive keys without any tactile feedback and the lack of backlighting for menus that look a bit alike. I got a bit lost in the settings. That said, in a few seconds I manage to set the mode and then address it quickly. You set it digit by digit without having to scroll through the 512 possible channels. Quite handy.
Everything is working properly. At the moment the lamp is off, the fixture is in 16-bit extended mode, addressed at 1, and we are sure that we are dealing with a VL10 BeamWash.
In addition to RDM-compatible DMX (this is the good side of Neo), I also find ArtNet, separated into IP class 10.X.X.X or 2.X.X., IP setting, mask and universe are alongside the usual test, manual control, configuration and service menus. The experienced technician will be able to read received DMX packets, recalibrate a whole host of mechanical functions or transfer an update between several VLs.
The software of this VL10 BeamWash is up to date, V1.2.3A, the unit has barely 414 hours of flight time, 306 hours of lamp use. Stéphane Caria, lighting product manager for Freevox, decides to equip it with a new lamp. We’ll see how it goes. The power’s disconnected, the head is locked at 90 degrees, with the rear end facing us. For the lamp cover, three turns of a Phillips-head are enough, on the screws marked A-B-C. The four other ones hold a dust filter located just behind the rear grille. We arrive directly in the lamp housing.
The procedure for changing the lamp is within anyone’s capabilities. Once the backplate is unscrewed, just remove the two red connectors, loosen the screw that holds the metal retaining ring that surrounds the lamp, then remove the lamp by holding it by the ceramic base. Perform this operation in reverse order with a new lamp. The longest part of this operation will be waiting for the components to completely cool down before proceeding.
The source is a discharge lamp manufactured by Philips, based on the 550 W MSD Platinum 25R. Don’t be fooled by the cute little light-blue collar around the ceramic base, this lamp is a powerful concentrated bundle of lumens, the most powerful in its category, capable of delivering 24,500 lumens along a very tight axis.
And it does it with little regard for subtlety or poetry. Covered with thermal paste, it connects with the two power supply connectors and fits into the receptacle using its metal latch to hold it in place. There is no hot-spot setting or adjustment. Once in, it won’t move, and will go about its job throwing photons down-range.
Now that we’ve started the disassembly, we might as well keep going. To remove the fairing from the fixture, we’ll take the easy way out. Two quarter-turn Phillips-head screws and the cowlings are off, the plastic parts are retained by means of a short safety cable.
Seen from the inside, the VL10 consists of a lamp housing topped by a large fan, a color mixing module, another gobo module, followed by the immense optical channel where the effects and the zoom are located.
Inside the cowlings, under the triangular intakes, other dust filters are held in place by four screws. Given the number of fans needed to cool the lamp, I imagine that you have to take care of cleaning them regularly to ensure optimum air circulation. The lamp housing is sandwiched between two large 7-blade fans. I can also see impellers mounted directly on the effect modules.
In the forward section, there are two sets of lenses on a sliding rail. The movement passes through half of the head, with a frontal section for focusing and a rear section for zooming. By varying both, we can obtain a range of 2.3° to 44°, almost twenty times the focus, and with sharpness that almost runs from one extreme to the other. Be careful during disassembly, however, as the system is free and will touch the gobo module at the back. Moreover, to protect the optics, the final lens has two rubber-coated stops that rest on the large exit lens, a 180 mm porthole as smooth as a crystal ball.
Effects are not lacking in the VL10. Starting with the insert arms of the frosts and prisms directly in the optical path between the two lenses. With its clear lens and super-boosted lamp, the BeamWash naturally provides a sharp beam. So, to soften these edges, Vari*Lite has installed two frosted lenses on motorized levers. The first one allows you to slightly blur the image of a gobo, for example, while the second one diffuses the beam much more, transforming the Beam into a Wash.
The frost filters are inserted directly into the optical path, without any real progressiveness. On the other hand, they can be combined, like the prisms. In addition, they have a notched disc that allows them to be indexed or rotated.
On the other side, there is more or less the same system, but with two prisms. The first one is an indispensable 8-faceted radial type, while the second one is a rather tight, 4-slice linear type. What is curious is their location.
Like the frost arms, the prisms flank the optical conduit, most of which is reserved for the sliding zoom carriage. Doubtless, this is the best possible compromise to achieve maximum effect. Of course, when the focal ratio is too high, the lenses will have to be moved back as far as possible. In this case, the frost and prism levers automatically retract from the beam to allow the lenses to pass through.
At the gobo module, just in front of the fan, two pairs of screws on the outer, silver backplate hold two small slats, which themselves secure the entire gobo module. Once they are removed, the whole piece can be taken out upwards without any problem. Finally, don’t forget the two connectors on the bottom.
I remove the snoot around the frontal lens. As with the cowls, it is held in place by four screws and a safety cable. There is not much point in removing this piece, except for some access for maintenance and cleaning, but, in this case, doing so does allow me to see things more clearly. Keeping things moving, let’s get back to the gobo module, which is an electrotechnical mille-feuille.
Usually manufacturers put together several discs filled with colored spots or cut-out patterns called ‘GOes Before Optics’, the GO B O’s. These patterns are typically arranged in a circle and measure a few centimeters.
The famous animation wheel disc is sandwiched between the colors and the tiny standard gobos. The two impellers with their stamped nozzles blast air into the module.
In the VL10, the projection space is so narrow that the gobos of the first and second wheel are barely the size of a penny. And what looks like a third gobo wheel is actually a series of five animation wheels. Only part of the pattern of each one passes through the beam, so when you rotate the discs, it creates a continuous scrolling motion, instead of a simple rotating pattern. Putting five animation wheels on a single disc is an incredible idea, a real innovation!
Continuing our inspection, we examine the numerous micro-stepper motors, springs and cog wheels, which indicate a fairly conventional and reliable construction. More unusual ̶ yet another indicator of the power of the lamp ̶ are the numerous impellers placed as closely as possible to the optical path to continuously cool the mechanical components, which are subjected to an extraordinary amount of heat. It must be really windy inside the fixture!
Vari-Lite VL10 trichromie flags.
The color wheel features brightly colored filters that are glued together without margins in a fairly handcrafted way, using a type of high-temperature silicone. The CMY module is also held in place by four screws on the rail, and two connectors for power and data. Here, we are talking rudimentary stuff, with these half CMY flags sliding in a herringbone pattern. The slats are beveled, slightly angled, and I’m guessing that might make for a gain in uniformity.
We finally come to the first element, the dimming and strobe assembly. Elegance gives way to practicality. A heat-resistant glass is hand-glued in front of the lamp.
A very solid assembly with two rough iron arms, ventilation all around and heat-resistant surfaces. You don’t have to crawl around in Vulcan’s forge.
The dimmer is a dual metal blade that closes like a cigar cutter to cover the beam. The teeth at the edge are covered with a frosted plate to provide a rather coarse gradation, with no finesse or convoluted mechanisms. But Vari-Lite completely embraces this vintage feeling; the VL10 is definitely ready to deliver the goods, and it does it perfectly.
The yoke arms
I continue with the disassembly of the yoke. On one side, there is the tilt motor with its direct belt transmission between two sprockets, and a pair of tensioning springs. In the center is the conduit from the main power supply to the head. And on the other side there is a circuit board, for general control. The pan motor is visible underneath.
The inside of the two yoke arms is as uncluttered as it can possibly be, apart from moving the main motor to the yoke, probably to save space in the base and to compensate for the weight of the two arms.
Inside the base, it’s the same story. It takes turning just a few screws to open the base. We are a little shocked by the emptiness inside: apart from the rotation axis of the yoke, there is just a small power transformer on one side, and the PCB for the control panel, but the Platinum lamp doesn’t require much power.
The absence of the ballast never fails to surprise us, but the Platinum lamp doesn’t require much power. The two large circular openings on either side were probably designed to accommodate fans, which were ultimately not necessary.
The connectors are surrounded with anti-interference shielding and terminate in a PowerCON True1 power connector, two XLR5 DMX In & Out plus the RJ45 port for the network. A fuse completes the package.
Come on, let’s get it all back together, it’s time to take the measurements.
We’ll start with the response times for power-up, lamp ignition and simple movements. So… time to power up the fixture, including reset: 90 seconds. That’s about average. Full rotation in pan: 2.02 seconds. And half a rotation in tilt: 1.29 seconds. We test the zoom from idle: 0.82 seconds. Really not bad for a unit of this size. What’s more, it’s quite responsive, while remaining fluid in its movements. I strike the lamp: 13 seconds of ignition. That’s all right.
The flux starts at the same time as the fan. We go from 31 dB of ambient noise to more than 56 dB with the unit operating, and it’s practically a straight-pipe exhaust. I measure 55 degrees on the rear cowling, at the front it’s not even worth trying. I get the feeling that it’s going to be infernal! Once the illuminance data is collected, I feed it into the computer, which spits it out to me in the form of graphs. I brought the documentation for the platinum lamp for comparison. There are three important things: the first is the compactness of this very short arc lamp. So we have a very thin beam and very little loss. The disadvantage is necessarily a very significant hot spot and greater difficulty in adjusting the focal length.
Then there is the overall luminous flux and consumption. 24,500 lumens for 550 W is a gigantic leap compared to the competition that uses Sirius HRI or Platinum 21R 470 Watt lamps. For 20 percent more power consumption, Philips engineers have managed to achieve an additional 50 percent more luminous flux. I’ve done the math several times, no doubt about it. Finally, the colorimetry of this lamp: we have a really cold light at 7800 K, and a color rendering index of 81, which is quite decent.
Let’s talk about the flux output of the VL10, i.e. the flux actually emitted from the fixture, once it has passed through all the optics and lenses. We repeat the procedure at four different zoom settings, as this factor affects the flux level. But we will also observe the illuminance in the center. For a Beam, this hot spot is what we’ll be looking for to tear the darkness apart, even if it means losing some balance. The attack, in rock, is essential.
Tightest sharp-focus beam setting
Our first measurement: the beam is tightened to its minimum zoom angle. So as not to saturate our light meter and torch our target, we’re moving the VL back to 10 meters.
The impact of the beam on the target at 10 meters measures 20.5 centimeters in radius, or a tight angle of 2.35°, set at a sharp focus, it’s within two fingers of the 2.2° declared by the manufacturer. The flux values obtained are high. With 484,000 lux in the center at 10 m ( 1.936 million lux at a distance of 5 meters) and 21,583 lumens of flux, the VL wins on both counts, aided by an exceptional lamp, whose native angle causes it to lose very little of its intensity in the optical paths of the VL10. Of course, the beam is pretty rough, the light distribution is far from being uniform, but nobody can complain about it.
Widest sharp-focus Spot beam setting
We’re coming back to 5 meters from the target. Our wide-angle measurements, at the maximum zoom aperture, confirm all that raw power. With a beam divergence of 43.4°, we get a reading of 8660 lux in the center at 5 meters, or 22,400 lumens of flux, which is even more impressive. The hot spot is extremely prominent, the beam off-center by a few centimeters, so the choice of Vari-Lite is confirmed. It delivers energy, even if it means having some of it distorted when it gets where it’s going.
20° Beam setting
Still at 5 meters, we go to a 20° zoom, the optimal setting for those who want to compare several models. I bring out from my archives the photometric data of the Beam projectors released in 2017 and 2018, whose 470 W short arc lamps are quite comparable. The VL10 is far ahead, with almost 23,000 lumens of flux ahead of the 15,000 of its predecessors. This power is achieved by using a minimum of optical elements. The VL10’s beam is crisp, marked by a huge, uncompromising hot spot. It doesn’t know what a “flat beam” is.
It’s the same with respect to colorimetry. It is cooler, around 6300 K, with a CRI below 80 and a noticeable absence of a variable CTO, minus-green filter or others. It’s rock and roll, that’s all. The colors are also deeper, with rather high absorption curves.
Even with the Wash frost engaged, the VL10 doesn’t calm its fury. This filter is mainly used to open up to almost 60° in reality, but always with a bulge in the beam and a lot of energy below the curve.
As for the dimmer, linearity is not really its purpose.
A plot of the dimming curve from 0 to 10 %
A plot of the dimming curve from 0 to 100 %
Field condition test
It’s time to get down to business. We’re gonna blow some smoke, plug this beast into a console and have some fun with it. Let’s go! I activate the dimmer and start to push the fader up. Indeed, the intensity tends to take off like a rocket, but the impact is incredible, the impression is like piloting a missile. I push it to its maximum, the focus comes all by itself to make it sharp.
The beam is metallic, cold, with a very prominent spike, which is like an arrow in the middle of the beam. The movements of the yoke, just like the zoom, are fast ̶ really snappy for a fixture of this size ̶ and the VL always remains stable. The wide 180 mm lens gives a lot of substance to the beam, without that sort of hourglass typical of Beam lamps, and I love that. The zoom is incredible, always with a lot of output and a double luminous body. In pure projection, a lot of little flaws appear, like this off-center focus. With such a wide focal range, it will be necessary to make a lot of sharpness presets. I try to find the extremities of use of the zoom/focus combination and I quickly get into ruts, like a careless motorcyclist. On several occasions, I end up creating double ghost images, which I recognize as residual reflections of the internal lenses.
Okay, let’s try it with the frost. The first one, the Edge frost, provides slightly softened edges. I move on to the next one, the Wash frost. Neither of them is linear, but both are very efficient for going in a flash from a beam to a wash, and they are excellent for backlighting. While the Wash allows me to gain some coverage, I struggle with the intensity. There is a kind of veil that closes like a curtain, with a hot spot that appears at about 60% of the dimmer range. The VL10 is hard to use for key lighting or projection, but that’s clearly not its intended purpose. And the continuous noise of the ventilation system may deter those who would like to take it into a theater or auditorium. There’s a complete collection of gobos that can be divided into three categories:
– Gobo wheel 1, Beam-types, with eight super-simple shapes engraved directly into the metal disc, plus four beam reducers to replace an iris. Very basic, but still effective when mixed with a prism or a little frost.
The eight, static metal gobos of wheel 1.
The four beam reducers of wheel 1.
– Gobo wheel 2, for aerial effects. All eight work very well, with lots of presence in backlighting and lots of choices. No trendy effects with super fine engravings that look great on paper but don’t really work in real life, here it gets straight to the point: one revolution and the effect works. And for those who want to go further, they’re all interchangeable.
The eight rotating metal gobos of wheel 2.
– Gobo wheel 3 for textures and effects. With this new set of animation gobos, which Vari*Lite calls VL-FX, I am bouncing off the walls. I feel like I’m twenty years old again, in front of my first VLs. The five discs pass radially through the beam, transforming all the other gobos. Here, we find Vari*Lite’s famous multicolor, the glass, a multi-hole and two others with shapes designed for animation.
The 4 radial glass gobos of wheel 3.
Parameters abound on the VL10. There’s a very interesting gobo and prism stepping mode, the MegaStep, as well as the default ‘shortest path’ option for finding the shortest path from one gobo to another. The two prisms leave a little bit to be desired. This is already due to their slightly off-center position, as with the gobos, but also because both ̶ the 8-facet radial and the 4-facet linear ̶ suffer a little from their location. As we saw during our disassembly, on some zoom extreme values, or with the frosts, they can’t engage mechanically. Not always easy to anticipate. It really depends on the situation. And the linear one is compressed in so little space that it seems to get nibbled at the sides. However, here again, it is in the mixes that they demonstrate their full potential.
Let’s move on to the last ̶ but by no means least ̶ part: the colors
I still keep as a reference in my mind the Vari-Lite tones, which are very expressive; now let’s see if it keeps up the American flavor. Everybody swears by CMY mixing, assuming that, apart from the automated macros, anybody knows how to program colors anymore. So, in this case, let’s start with the color wheel.
Ten hues, plus white, with no transitions between them. We find almost only pure colors, with the advantage of completely covering the beam, without any disruption. I sequence a quite bloody red, a rather refined blue, a slightly greenish yellow, a saturated peacock, an almost crimson magenta, a very warm and very low CTO, a violet, an electric green, a Martian orange and a UV straight out of a haunted house. Hyper-contrasting colors, that we can imagine finding in American amusement parks, where the line is as forced as in a Heavy Metal concert.
The CMY flags combine well, with a slightly conspicuous insertion into the beam. The three primary components of subtractive synthesis ̶ cyan, magenta and yellow ̶ are also very rich, with dense mixtures. The pastel shades lag a little more behind, especially considering the ever present hot spot. We find again the spirit of saturated moods, it feels like a city under neon lights: cold, incisive and a bit flashy. Somewhere between the excesses of Las Vegas and the restlessness of New York.
The ten colors of the color wheel.
I was mistaken about rock ‘n’ roll, and about the disappearance of stage icons ̶ I was wrong about rock ‘n’ roll. There’s still the hunger to play, and the energy to shine. The VL10 isn’t just a machine out of the past, it’s the proof that it is possible to live with panache, in spite of its flaws or its character. Of course, it will never be comfortable hanging in an opera house or in a TV studio. It’s made to burn up the stage and fly over concerts with its lightning-fast, cutting beam, saturated colors and collection of effects tailored for live performance. With this kind of power available, we got a real kick out of mixing animation and gobos. Lost in the middle of a forest of LEDs, our VL10s really take the upper hand, and make the statement. Once the band is on stage, the amps in the red and the drum intro coming on like a lumberjack, we forget its few flaws, the BeamWash comes out like a Stratocaster. Long Live Vari-Lite !
As a bi-amplified Point Source system, easy and efficient to work with, the HK Audio Linear7 offers performance and innovative features that are summarized in this getting started topic. We listened and measured the 112 FA top and two 118 SUB A subs.
Nothing like a wooden pallet and a beautiful day ahead!
This new range includes three different top enclosures. These are the 110, 112 and 115, with the two last figures indicating the woofer size in inches. The two first models also have a XA version with the ability of being used as a complementary wedge monitor while positioned on their side on the ground. The 115 only exists in standard version, with full internal volume available to obtain a full low frequency response.
The 112 FA we received for our tests from Algam, the French distributor, is therefore designed mainly for reinforcement, and we’ll check this point later with its far-from-standard bass specs.
How to assemble two 112? By their sides!
All these models comprise an amplifier module by Pascal, important competitor for Powersoft, the other world Class-D amplifiers specialist. The PWM (and certainly PFC-fitted) PSUs that equip this new range can cope with any mains supply voltage between équipant 90 and 260 V.
The small cutouts on the sides of the speaker enclosure have finally a useful and practical function: facilitating the always delicate coupling of two Point Source speakers in a cluster with little or no interference.
Linear7 112 FA
A back side as we like them. At the top right a selector and 4 LEDs indicate which preset is loaded in the DSP. Flat, Boost, Cut or remote! On the left the two RJ45 ports. The balanced input and output and the DSP out, the best way to continue using speakers that need a touch up here and there and that will be remote controlled with your fingertips.
23 kg of wood, transducers and amplifier, the least we can say is that this model inspires sheer confidence when unboxing it. With its 12” woofer (with 2.5” coil) and 1” driver with 1.7” dome, while boarding an active 2 kW peak power bi-amplification thru a FIR filter at 1,6 kHz, the 112 FA really makes you want to listen to it.
The peculiarity of this speaker as of all the Linear7 range is, in addition to the usual rear controls, also the presence not of one but of two DSP engines, the first managing the speaker itself and the second offering separate settings and leading to a rear analog chassis plug labelled “DSP out”. Convenient indeed to have control over any other models linked to this output.
Remote is the word here, as a pair of Ethercon RJ45 chassis plugs allows the control of each model via the HK DSP Control software, in PC and MacOs, all downloadable from the HK website.
The 112 FA. There is a family resemblance to the Linear3 and Linear5 from HK.
But that’s not all. These speakers will also very soon be able to receive an AVB feed using the Milan protocol, which is becoming more and more the standard for signal transport between control room and broadcasting. HK has therefore made the choice of the future. It is not certain that many users of this range of products will exploit it, but it is a real guarantee of seriousness of the German manufacturer. Of course, accessories are included for the operation of the Linear7 including for the installers.
The two 112 models, XA on the left and FA on the right, both hung from their yoke. The difference in load volume is quite obvious.
Linear7 118 SUB A
The sub 118 SUB A subwoofer coming with the 112 is very compact 18” transducer (4” coil) and the peak 2 kW amplifier that powers it. It weights 41 kg and calls for a second techie or being a strong guy yourself to move it or stack it, thanks to two lateral handles.
The two subs in vertical front-front mounting, called Power Setup at HK. Of course it is possible to raise the head at the top of a bar.
4 rubber pads protect the back and allow it to rest there. Its fairly massive wood enclosure and its vents at the four corners of the front surround the bass transducer and even at high levels no extraneous noise is audible. The bass-reflex charge guarantees both good performance and an extended and sufficiently nervous frequency response.
As for the top cabinets, the 118 SUB receives the signal in analog and in AVB and, to simplify the life of the users, has two inputs in order to possibly serve as a “receiving hub” for the signal and then route it towards two satellites in a stereo configuration and so after this link.
Same DSP out and a pair of Powercons to bring down the count of cables when setting up classic Sub + Tops kits. Since we are talking about DSP, the choice was made by HK to work at 96 kHz, once again a guarantee of quality and the simplest way to lower the latency, not exceeding 2.6 ms and of course identical to that of the top cabinets.
Our measurements and listening tests took place in a studio of 130 m², quite damped and high under ceiling, with treatment and thick hanging curtains. They were carried out by Alizée Tricart using a multi-measurement station based on the Scarlett 18i20 Focusrite + SMAART 8 couple.
Alizée at work. It’s far from pure chance that she’s in charge of big systems in France and abroad.
The implementation of the network is relatively simple and in a few minutes we can remotely take control of the DSP, this is the real added value of this range indeed. Everything is not perfect in the app but we tested a version that included some display bugs, we can bet that the current 3.8 has fixed them. Be careful however, the Mac version does not currently accept the newest Catalina OS.
Left HK Audio DSP Control and right SMAART 8
Hopefully, the HK development teams will also simplify things a little bit, i.e. like when creating speaker groups and adding a general EQ bypass. It would even be great that they could write down a page containing everything we need to have before our eyes and on hand in full operation and that, when a fixture goes off-line, this could be clearly indicated.
Nevertheless, having the possibility of having full control over 10 parametric EQ, having two different settings, being able to save presets, insert a delay, a limiter, reverse the phase, adjust the volume, all this makes using the Linear7 a piece of cake operation.
The Linear7 112 FA without equalization.
The first curve confirms our good impressions on the 112 FA top box. Placed on the ground and fed by an analog signal, it displays a frequency response without notable accidents, ranging from a credible bass and sufficient for a number of uses to a high frequency response conform up to 12 kHz and a little lower beyond that point, even if it has little impact on listening and is partly explained by our ground measurement method. Take note also of the magnitude and the phase …
The DSP Control EQ page. 4 points with a maximum of 2 dB attenuation to clearly improve the result.
We have nevertheless chosen to slightly correct this result, taking advantage of the on-board DSP, the 10 very, very complete EQ bands at our disposal, and especially Alizée’s ears.
We start to dream of having FIR tools … The result is not only better to listen to but also more beautiful to see, which can also be enjoyable.
After equalization, we get a nice rendering with a pleasant listening.
Once the last harshness in the medium and high mid-range corrected, including a small bump in the 780 Hz, allow to reveal the bass which suddenly gains in precision and the overall balance appears even better. The dispersion of the 112 FA is advertised 70°x 50°, but the waveguide with constant directivity can, if necessary, be rotated by 90°.
This type of speaker being aimed very easily towards the public in small halls via its two-angle base at 3° and 7°, we chose to measure only the horizontal polar diagram. The result is once again satisfactory, even when listening, where the descaling is acceptable even if at 35° the attenuation is greater and increases around the crossover point.
The polar response very smooth (on purpose) at 0°, 5°, 15°, 35°, 40° and 45°.
The sub 118 SUB A provides precisely what is lacking in the top speaker with steep filters on both sides of its two octaves of crossover influence. Its frequency response is, apart from a few details, what the manufacturer claims. Superimposing two 118s adds 6 dB, as it should, and leads with a single 112 to an awkward tone balance, as the 12” transducer in the top box can’t then fill the excess of low bass with enough energy. No doubt the 115 FA is better suited in such a case.
The frequency response is well contained between 50 and 80 Hz, maybe a little bit too much. In blue, the two stacked 118s.
Head and a sub with the resultant in pink.
Anyway, once the presets are selected on each of the two speakers, the connection between top and sub gives a perfect match and we get an interesting frequency response curve with a contour of around 12 dB and an extra amount of energy between 50 and 80 Hz with a small bump on the upper harmonic.
Our last curve figures the native cardioid mode present in the 118 SUB A. Without managing to find the rear attenuation announced by the manufacturer (or then only around the 63 Hz frequency alone), the cancellation effect works, cleans and modifies also somewhat the top of the bass which will have a welcomed effect on listening. The only downside is the rear attenuation is especially effective at 180°, but and less laterally at the edges.
In blue, the subwoofer at 0°, in violet the same at 180. The rear soundwave « digs » slightly into the front sub response around 80 Hz, without too much energy loss, and a nice surprise on rendering.
We’ve undergone a listening session of the Linear7 with different tracks, including an album by Michael Ruff from the Sheffield Lab Recordings series, recorded live in analog two half inch by George Massenburg himself. A lesson in sound recording and mixing, dynamics and respect for timbre, not even quoting the top-notch musicians present in the studio of late Doug Sax, who left to give lessons to the angels a few years ago. As Al Schmitt said: “Mastering in Paradise has improved a lot since”.
The main page of DSP Control.
With the top enclosure on its own, the sound is dry, incisive, fairly precise at low and medium level with a detailed bass but lacking a little energy. Note that we listened to only one 112 FA in a volume that could accommodate up to 300 people.
The midrange and treble have no harshness and, if we except a less regular and wide polar response than we would have liked, this is faultless. The overall impression is good, including at high level, even if you feel a little loss of details before the protections go into service. The complement of the sub with the standard preset connecting to 100 Hz restores the balance and builds a system definitely more interesting, serious and capable of better serving the audience.
The two subs in vertical front-back mounting, a specific preset dedicated to it and a second existing also for a front-back-front.
The foundation in the first two octaves goes very well with the top box now freed of the bottom end, and therefore breathing much better. The levels achieved and the impact are clearly professional.
The addition of a second sub slightly unbalances the tonal balance and you have to play between -2 and -3 dB on the group of two 118 SUB A to find your way around, the contribution of blurring rendering leads then to seriously go into the way of the top box. The best configuration is cardioid set up.
Without going back on the quality of the rear rejection, the nature of the bass generated and maybe the cancellation of many reflections in our room, all this give an excellent low end, firm and more defined which goes perfectly with the top and complements it at best, especially at in the upper zone of the bass, giving colors to the attack and fattening the instruments that have balls. A nice surprise indeed.
We finally listened to the cardioid configuration “in the limiters” a more interesting test than a pink noise, from which we will get away from the measured values which will never be the same as those calculated by the manufacturer, 131 dB SPL at 10% THD for 112 FA and 118 SUB A. The impact felt, the respect of the timbres and the capacity to accept sources with reduced dynamics are more than welcomed. The amps and their power supply are well sized. With sources with greater dynamics it lacks a few dB before it starts to flash with an acceptable rendering of the limiters, the ideal strategy would be to stay away from that limit.
It’s over, we pack it up. It was about time, some say we did a lot of noise with Alizée. Did we?? Naaaaaah…
The HK guys sure know how to build loudspeakers, there is no doubt about it. With the Linear7, they are aiming for the markets for orchestras, DJs, rental companies and other small venues with a very relevant product, delivering a modern and pleasant sound at a price. Well built, with efficient transducers and a serious amplifier module, fairly powerful, faithful and capable of handling Live sessions, this new series has the undeniable advantage with the possibility of being controlled remotely. which will continue to evolve with soon the iPad software upgrade. The choice of Milan (not yet implemented as at Q1, 2020) may seem strange where the Dante is still leading, but let’s bet that quickly affordable converters make its use natural as it takes its way into Pro Audio. Good for service!