ETS-LDI 2005: The Aliens Have Landed
Richard Cadena report from Orlando

Isn’t it ironic that the biggest head-turner at ETS-LDI wasn’t a pure lighting product, but a quasi-video display offered by a company of whom most of us have never heard? It seemed an odd twist that Image-Mesh by Komaden Corporation of Japan was the most commonly sited product when talk turned to new products on the trade show floor.

The lightweight polycarbonate mesh has a tri-color LED at each intersection, which can produce a graphic image which you can actually see through. The mesh modules come in 12” squares and it remains to be seen how popular the product actually is when the pricing is revealed, since it was unavailable at the show. If the convergence aliens have not landed then they have at the very least entered the earth’s atmosphere.

It could be argued that AC Lighting’s new Color Web lo-res LED display beat Komaden to market since they showed it at PLASA in September. The flexible fabric webbing uses color mixing LEDs to produce transparent graphics displays as well, but the LEDs are spaced 250mm apart, as opposed to Image-Mesh with its 25mm pitch. And G-LEC, which is now distributed in the US by Scharff-Weisberg, has been around for a few years. The biggest difference, however, was the massive display Komaden set up, which apparently paid off, judging by the buzz on the show floor. The other grand quasi-video LED display that got a lot of attention was Main Light Industries’ 80’ SoftLED on the back wall of the room.

Lots of other new LED products landed on the show floor, but they are integrating so nicely that it’s hard to distinguish them from native life forms. Robe’s new LEDBlinder 148 LT and 196LT, for example, appear to be very similar to four-light and eight-light audience blinders, while Chauvet’s ColorSplash and American DJ’s P36 and P64 LED PAR cans look very much like PAR cans but with LED sources. These products plus James Thomas Engineering’s new Pixel Arc Series of bricks and cans are making LED alternatives more much more affordable and less alien-like.

But if your attention was monopolised by any one product or group of products, then you missed the parade which included lots of new automated luminaires, motion control systems, LEDs – including a new yoke coloUr wash fixture called the MovingLED – wireless systems, visualiSers, media servers, console updates, special effects and two new digital luminaires, the DL2 with integral media server from High End Systems and the DT5000 from Robe, which will begin shipping early in 2006.

The flavour of the month in automated lighting seems to be color wash fixtures. Vari-Lite launched the new VL500, which uses the same Dichro-Tune radial color mixing system as the old VL5 and there are three tungsten lamps and one discharge lamp options. Martin showed, among other new products, a new tungsten wash fixture in prototype form called the MAC TW1. It has three tungsten lamp options, all of which are 1200-watts at various voltages. High End Systems launched the Studio Command colour wash fixture which is based on the Color Command color mixing system but with an MSR700 lamp and a moving yoke. Clay Paky was showing, among other new automated luminaires, the Alpha Wash Halo 1000-watt tungsten moving yoke fixture with its integral top hat to control halation. Coemar’s contribution to the color wash parade is the iWash Halo 700-watt tungsten halogen automated luminaire. Colour wash fixtures aside, one of the coolest new automated luminaires was on the Techni-Lux stand, who are distributors for SGM. The new SGM Synthesis has every bell and whistle plus built-in wireless DMX.

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The flavour of the day in media servers seems to be pixel mapping software. The newly updated Martin Maxedia version 2.10 build 17 now boasts pixel mapping among other new features, as does the new High End Systems Catalyst v4 with the PixelMad plug-in. Both now have cue lists and operate in stand-alone mode. The Brash media server was on display under a new distribution deal with Laser Design Production. New at LDI was the Coolux Pandora’s Box media server, which is now being distributed in the US and South America by Theatrical Concepts, Inc. There is no way to do these media servers justice in a short amount of space so you really must visit their respective web sites to find out more.

Among the newer automated lighting consoles at LDI were the ETC Congo and the Genlyte Marquee ILC, both of which are definitely worth looking into. Plus the Martin Maxxyz PC version is finally here and High End have been busy getting ready to deliver the Wholehog 3 Expansion Wing. Also drawing lots of attention was the Jands Vista on the AC Lighting stand.

There were also several motion control systems at the show. Among the most notable were the Cyberhoist from Xlnt Advanced Technologies featuring InMotion 3D visualisation, the hoist control system on the Tomcat stand, and the ChainMaster Vario Trolleys and Vario Lift combination on the Show Distribution stand.

A couple of more interesting down-to-earth products worth mentioning were ETC’s new Source Four Enhanced Definition Lens Tube, which turns an ordinary Source Four into an extraordinarily sharp profile projector, their new 14º, 70º, and 90º (that’s no typo – it’s ninety degrees) and the Sigma Firefly coloured flame effects, which are distributed by Le Maitre Special Effects. The Firefly shoots colored flames tens of feet in the air and if it doesn’t make you look, nothing will.

Finally, across the street at a conference room in the Peabody Hotel, Schott was privately showing a new dichroic glass reflector and Fresnel lens system that is 70% efficient, a vast improvement over current Fresnel technology. They don’t have a luminaire, but they are working with several manufacturers who will build a luminaire around the system. The cool part is that the system was initiated by an article in the pages of PLSN magazine about the inefficiency of Fresnel fixtures.

There was much to see at this year’s show, too much, in fact, to adequately cover in one article. It was really quite a challenge to cover the show floor in only three days. And now that the aliens have landed, the worlds of lighting and video are combining make it a bigger, better place.