Automated Lighting

in Buyer's Guide


For a PDF of the Oct. 2008 PLSN Buyers Guide, CLICK HERE.


If there was an economic stimulus package for the live event production industry, it would have to have a passel of automated lights. The multi-parameter luminaire has done more to stimulate the industry than any other technology, with the possible exception of the multi-pixel LED luminaire or display device. But automated lighting was first, and, as such, deserves recognition as the technology that started the exponential growth of the DMX512 channel count in a rig.


That, in turn, triggered the need for multiple universes of DMX512 and the onslaught of DMX-to-Ethernet solutions. As automated lights became more reliable and more readily available, lighting rigs grew to monstrous proportions and, as happened in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing, some of them became manageable only by networking multiple consoles and dividing the programming work among several programmers. This is the state of the industry.


But now, automated lighting is about to take it up a notch as manufacturers refine their R&D engines. The latest crop of fixtures exhibit exceptionally well-engineered optics, modularity, mechanics, electronics, and high light output. Fixtures like the Bad Boy from PRG are breaking out of the mold by using servo motors instead of stepper motors, and the Martin MAC III has such innovations as absolute value encoders with their own internal zero reference (which should do away with that annoying clacking sound during homing).


There are plenty of new automated moving LED heads, but some, like the Barco/High End Systems StudioPix, are particularly difficult to classify as either a color wash or an LED display device. Either way, they are clearly forging their own path. But the hardest of all to classify might be the SGM Giotto 1500, which is so modular that it can go from a spot to a wash to a digital luminaire.


Forget billion dollar bailouts. What this country needs is an automated lighting stimulus package. For the price of the taxpayer-funded bailout, every family in the U.S. could have their own brand new automated lighting rig. Just in case this proposal goes through, you can use this Buyers Guide to help you put together your shopping list. Enjoy!