Last week I was able to plan a short road trip with some of my good friends in the tech world. We headed off from SoCal to Las Vegas to spend a day at LDI 2010, one of the larger lighting-focused trade shows in the US. I had a few things I really wanted to see while there, among them the Jands Vista series of consoles. We currently have a Hog 3 PC, and while it's a great console if you are a professional lighting designer, most would agree it's not the most user-friendly, especially for non-professional volunteers. As a church, we're making a push to get more volunteers involved and I want them to be successful. As great as the Hog is, it is it tough for our volunteer lighting team to run.
Jands Vista Series
Enter the Jands Vista. Now I know a lot of professional lighting guys don't like the Vista because it doesn't act like a traditional lighting console. However, for me, that's the point. Rather then trying to find a series of function keys, then entering numbers, then more keys, and more numbers to get a light to turn on, you point, click and click. Because the interface is so visual, and designed to be touch-based, it's very intuitive and user-friendly. I've played with the demo software for a few hours and was very quickly able to patch my entire rig, and start creating looks and effects; all without reading a manual.
Jands also is working on v. 2.0 of the software, and following the recent trend to name software versions, it's called Byron. I got to see the latest version of Byron at the show and to say I was impressed would be an understatement. Whereas v.1 looks a bit Windows 98 (even on a Mac), Byron looks very slick. All of the palettes are resizable and re-positionable, which makes it easy to get the layout you want (even on an iPad!). It is packed with time-saving features that will make it easier than ever for our volunteers to create consistently good lighting.
Without going into a full review, let me highlight a few key features. First, the icons in the layout view of the programmer window are re-sizable. Make them bigger if you're using a touch screen, smaller for mouse control. A new "Store Look" command makes it easy to store whatever lighting look is currently on stage and play it back at the touch of a button. It removes some of the complexity of tracking and behaves more like a conventional lighting board.
They've made it faster to scroll around the cue list and easier to create synchronized effects. It's also even more visual with a new gobo chooser that will even show you the combined effect of two gobo wheels.
Right now, we're not quite ready to move forward with a new lighting console, but I hope to be after the first of the year. I've not yet decided if we'd go with the full T2 console with it's built-in Wacom Clinique touch screen, or a more modular i3 or even a computer running the software with an S3 surface. A lot will come down to how much budget I can appropriate, but either way, I think there will be a Vista in our future.
It was hard to miss LED lights this year at LDI. They were literally everywhere. My ATD, Isaiah, commented that next year he would be bringing sunglasses because so many of the booths were so insanely bright. We saw a lot of great fixtures, and it's clear LEDs are here to stay. I would say this is the first time I've seen a large enough collection of fixtures that were both bright enough and reasonably priced that I can really see us beginning the shift away from conventional fixtures in the next 12 months. As I said, we saw a lot of them; here are few standouts.
Two fixtures that I thought were most interesting from Chauvet were the COLORado 1-Tri TOUR and the COLORado 2 TOUR. The TOUR versions are designed for indoor use and are thus a little less expensive than the outdoor rated models. As it's name suggests, the Tri version is a Tri-LED fixture, meaning the fixture is based on 14 3-watt tri-color LEDs that are designed to eliminate the color shadows sometimes seen on single-color LED based lights. The Tri was extremely bright, had solid color mixing and is reasonably priced ($549 MAP). The COLORado 2 is a newer fixture that's even more powerful than the original COLORado 1. It's outfitted with 48 2-and 3-watt RGBW LEDs, has 5 distinct dimming curves, selectable color temperature presets as well as DMX and power in and out. Priced at $599 MAP, it also represents a great value.
Chroma-Q had a number of fantastic fixtures on display, but one that's really interesting is the Color Force 12. It's a 12" brick-type fixture that boasts not only insanely high output, but a CRI (Color Rendering Index) of 92. If you're not familiar with CRI, look it up on Wikipedia; the short story is higher is better when it comes to getting accurate color rendition of the items you're lighting. The optics section of these lights provide a very smooth output and are very useable for a wall wash, or general illumination. I didn't get pricing on these, but I understand they are reasonable given their output. I hope to get some demos of them soon.
PixelRange is a newer company, located in Knoxville, TN. I was able to spend about 25 minutes with the president of the company, who was a wealth of knowledge regarding their instruments. What I liked most about PixelRange is the company's can-do attitude. When we asked him if a certain fixture was available in a different configuration, he replied, "We can put whatever you want in there." So if you want an RGBA version of a fixture, they would probably build it for you. The products were all very well made, and while not inexpensive, looked like they would hold up well under any environment. Of particular note were the PIX60 and the PIX120. At 6,000 and 15,000 lux respectively, they were certainly impressive wash fixtures. These are a few more fixtures I'll be demo'ing soon.
There was a lot more that we saw, and I'll be writing that up later in the week. Also, for a more on what we saw, check out this week's episode of Church Tech Weekly. My good friend Van Metschke and I discuss these products and more in greater detail