Looking for location lighting gear at LDI is a bit like being a vegan at a steak house. There’s a big menu but not much you can order. With the show’s primary focus on theater and live entertainment, LDI attracted some manufacturers of TV studio lighting gear but many location oriented companies were absent. Even industry leaders Mole and Arri scaled back the presentations you’d expect to see at CineGear or NAB.
However, if you were interested in LED technology, this Orlando show was the place to be. There were LED fixtures of about every shape, size and description. (Except maybe high quality/low cost.) Much talk in my gossip circles was about the growing selection of LED Ellipsoidals. ETC announced their LED Source Four (due in 2012), and just about every other manufacturer used the tungsten ETC Source Four as their benchmark for comparison.
There’s a similar explosion of “Fresnel-like” products. All are aiming at taking a piece of the TV studio market where the myriad soft source LEDs really need a shadow-making companion with acceptable barn door capabilities. I liked Desisti’s path of using existing housings for their range of TV Studio Fresnels. Light output levels (at 40W, 90W and 120W) still seem a bit low for the fixture size, but the familiarity of the mechanical package and standard accessories should be appealing as will the concept of retrofit kits for existing tungsten fixtures.
However, none of my show favorites were traditional fixtures. Top on the list was Rosco’s LED Tape Channel Mount Kit. Rosco isn’t supplying the LED tape. They’ve simply provided a field cuttable aluminum extrusion with end caps, mounting clips and a polycarbonate shell that can hold diffusion or correction. At only 1” wide, it’s a great solution for getting light in tight spots. If you haven’t seen it, a good example of LED Tape or Ribbon can be found from Litegear.
Litepanels offered several new products, but their little ENG camera mountable 30W head stood out. The focus range is good and handling is simple and straightforward. My wish list includes a more streamlined camera mount, as well as a four leaf barndoor. But the overall punch and low power makes the ENG very attractive.
The last two LED products that rate mention here are the LEDHeimer beamlight from Brother, Brother & Sons in Copenhagen. Think of a mini-brute you can assemble from individual fixtures. With changeable reflectors for 17°, 28°and 40° beam spreads, the manufacturers claim the equivalent of an 800W tungsten fixture. The nifty part is the ability to clip several fixtures together into a variety of configurations and easily daisy chain power and control. The basic fixture aimed at the trade show market has a relatively low CRI but BBS claims to offer a high CRI version on request. Prisim’s Reveal Profile, one of the manufacturers making comparison to ETC’s Source 4 seems to outdistance their competitors in terms of performance. The list of features is impressive but the package remains pretty large and the 35 lb. weight is a bit daunting.
Of course, not all the cool stuff was LED centric. Arri introduced their M40/25 HMI companion to the smaller M18 and bigger Arrimax. Fitting between these two popular fixtures with their lensless design and high output, the M40/25 seems like a no-brainer. Sadly, Arri says it won’t be available until next year. Mole looks to give Arri some competition for their T12, with the debut of the Baby Twelver Solarspot. The big 17″ lens promises good performance from both 10K and 12K tungsten lamps and I particularly like the rear door lamping adapted from bigger fixtures.
Wrapping up the cool new stuff at LDI are two non-lighting products. With more low powered fixtures on sets, Lex Products has designed their new “Bento Box” distro series. Up to 100A with 5 x 20A duplex outlets, these boxes stack nicely and are designed to fit up to six in a milk crate. I make no claims to rigging expertise, but the adjustable cable grippers from Griplock Systems seem like a fast and easy system for a number of rigging situations. They allow the user to quickly install and adjust a variety of different cable ends on wire cable up to 5/16” making it simple to trim at precise heights without needing to cut the cable.
Having spent the last thirty years seeing trade shows from the vantage point of a single manufacturer, this year’s LDI, while a bit disappointing in terms of attendance (both vendors and customers), was eye opening in a number of respects. A wide range of large and small companies are creating interesting products and, I think we’ll see significant changes in the next few years. The opportunity for new players to make an impact on the business is greater than ever.
Charlie Davidson spent his formative years on the road as an electrician for a number of arena rock shows. For the past thirty years he was at Arri, where he created the US lighting division and more recently served as Chief Operating Officer. Charlie left Arri in May and, following a summer of sailing, plans to be back in the business soon.