Apollo Design Technology, Inc.'s Right Arm

The Right Arm from Apollo is designed to add pan and tilt capabilities to a wide range of lighting fixtures, as well as cameras, projectors, or just about anything under 40lbs that you want to automate. The unit debuted at the 2006 PLASA show and, at LDI2006, took home an honorable mention for a lighting product in the LDI Debuting Product Awards.

What It Does

“I describe the Right Arm as a pan/tilt device but, it doesn't always have to be a light, camera, or projector,” says Rich Dale, lighting design representative for Apollo. “Some of the more interesting ideas I've heard include putting a bucket on it with a rigid handle and using the Right Arm for a cued confetti drop. Another would be putting a police siren on it and having the unit pan from stage left to stage right to give the illusion of a police car going by.” Jeff Mateer, product manager at Apollo adds that they have also heard about applications with confetti cannons, snow machines, and wind machines. “Just about the time you think that you have heard of every application, something new comes along,” he says.

The Right Arm contains a two-point, integral balancing system that allows the use of fixtures that are front or rear heavy — i.e., an ellipsoidal using a color changer or douser on the front — without adding counterweights or having to modify the fixture. For items like a long throw ellipsoidal, there are accessory counterweights to balance the load of the unit. The unit offers a range of adjustments for fixture heights and widths without the need to remove the shutters or the fixture's yoke.

The Right Arm uses high-torque stepper motors. “You can define the pan and tilt range with built-in range presets to control the range of movement and increase accuracy,” comments Mateer. “An optional speed control channel provides smooth movement with all loads and speeds.”

Depending on how you set up the unit, it takes from two to five DMX channels. Two channels for basic 8-bit control; three channels for 8-bit plus speed control; and five DMX channels for the 16-bit option where you have fine and course pan and tilt plus speed control.

The Right Arm has a pan range of 340° and a tilt range of 270°. It can pan or tilt 180° in six seconds. It has a built-in universal power supply with an operational voltage of 90-260 VAC, 50/60 Hz, which is auto selectable, as well as a power connector rated for 15A, five-pin DMX In and Out connectors, and two four-pin XLRs for 24VDC accessory control. The accessory outlets will power all Apollo accessories and many other manufacturers' products as well. The unit is UL STD 73-compliant with CE and TUV ratings pending and comes with a one-year warranty.

How It Came To Be

Mateer explains that a respected industry veteran brought the Right Arm to Apollo as a prototype, and the company started working on it in May 2006. “It was meant to fill the void between nothing and automated lights,” he says. “From its inception, it was meant to be a simple and affordable product. Further development was done in house at Apollo. We beta-tested the prototypes and came up with a list of refinements. That's what takes time; you really are retooling. From the prototypes, we changed the motherboards, the power supply, and other things, but that's 60% of the unit. The released unit started shipping two months ago. We worked hard to get something that was more useful.”

What's Next

“We do have further development plans for the Right Arm,” says Mateer. “In prototype, we have a spot/flood mechanism for Fresnels. When we were at NAB, we had lots of TV people who came up and said, ‘You know, I can pan and tilt, but if I still have to go up to spot and flood…’ That is the only attachment that we are planning at the moment.” As a part of his duties as lighting designer representative, Dale speaks with a lot of users about the Right Arm. “After talking to many different people at tradeshows and one-on-one visits, there seems to be many new market-specific areas where the Right Arm could be used. As time goes by, we may be able to develop different ways of adapting the current Right Arm for those opportunities.”

What End-Users Have To Say

Chris Rynne, lighting director for the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, CA (www.oldglobe.org), saw the units at a demo and was so impressed he put himself on the waiting list. “The reason that they caught my eye is that we don't do moving lights in house yet,” he says. “My favorite thing about it is that it's a lot like Linux; it's open ended. You can put whatever you want on it — everything from a confetti drop to a speaker to stuff that we haven't even thought of yet. The fact that you don't have to squeeze something within a certain profile or have to make up weird brackets is great. It is just an open bracket, so you can hang just about anything that you can draw a bolt through. It doesn't hurt that you have those two 24V accessory connectors. It is flexible, quiet, and easy to set up.”

Jesus M. Villarreal, president of Black Show Soporte y Producciones S.A de C.V (www.blackshow.com.mx), based in Monterrey, NL Mexico, notes, “As owner of the company, I make my bets on products that offer safety and are time saving,” he says. “Apollo's Right Arm fulfills my needs. Besides, if you add the quiet operation and the variety of uses, the Right Arm is…the always useful product.”

Geoff Spain, technical coordinator for Aldeburgh Music at the Snape Maltings Concert Hall in Suffolk, UK, really likes that the units have no fans, especially due to the concert hall's acoustics. “The majority of the work we present is classical,” he says. “Any mechanical noise during these concerts would be totally unacceptable, so no matter how good the product, if it makes a noise, we can't use it.”

Spain discusses why the Right Arm was the best choice for his application. “It allows me to cope with unexpected changes during concerts, whether it's the singer moving to the piano or the conductor coming downstage to speak to the audience…to ‘nudge’ the specials without having to climb back up a ladder or wait until the end of the rehearsal. They also mean that I have far fewer trips up the ladder in the first place, as most specials can be covered with the Right Arms, which has big implications not only for saved time but also for health and safety. They are very flexible and can be used with just about any lantern in the rig.”

There are a few items that Spain would like to see improved on the product, but he also points out the unit is great with out them. “A scale on the main bracket would be really helpful for balancing several Right Arms with identical lanterns,” he says. “The scale just needs some arbitrary markings… power and DMX indicators would be useful, but not essential. It would be good to have a point on one of the brackets for attaching safety cables on ancillary equipment like barndoors, scrollers, etc. Finally, a means of locking the tilt mechanism while rigging the lantern would be welcome.”

For more information on the Right Arm and other Apollo products, check out the website at: http://www.internetapollo.com/.

Michael S. Eddy writes about design and technology. He can be reached at [email protected].

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