Lighting Product of the Month: GLP/Elation Impression

The Impression, a moving head LED luminaire—manufactured in Germany by GLP German Light Products GmbH and distributed exclusively in the Americas by Elation—has been appearing on a lot of equipment lists. A 2008 Live Design Lighting Product of Year, it was first introduced in March 2007 and then started shipping in large quantities in early 2008. The compact and lightweight Impression is well-suited for situations where users have little power or are under tight weight limits. One of its key features is the fact that, while still having an onboard power supply, it has a tiny base, unlike the larger ones we are all used to seeing with automated lights. The fixture uses 90 Luxeon K2 LEDs and is available in different versions: an RGB version with 30 LEDs per color and several white versions—60 cold white and 30 amber LEDs, 60 warm white and 30 cold white LEDS, etc.—so you can adjust the color temperature. The fixture includes a color calibration feature as well as internal color presets. It pans 660° in as fast as two seconds and tilts up to 300° in one second. The optical system features a standard 10° beam angle, with an optional 25° lens assembly for a wider spread, yet it maintains even color mixing. It has a low-noise ventilation system with overheat protection. The compact design allows these units to be hung on 14" centers, and the fixtures use 3-pin locking XLR DMX connectors for data in/out. It is constructed with a die-cast aluminum head and industrial lightweight plastics so the fixture weighs only 16lbs.

What It Does

“The Impression is unique in that it is one of the first LED fixtures that has been able to be used on large stages,” says Eric Loader, director of sales for Elation. “I think that it was the first one to put enough LEDs into a package that was usable, rentable, manageable, and affordable enough to make sense for rental and production companies. Because it is so small, it is easy to handle. It takes less room in the truck, and you can put a lot on the rig yet not need a lot of power.”

When you make a color wash fixture, good color is obviously important, and Loader notes that the Luxeon K2 RGB LEDs yield a wide color range while providing a good white. Still, some users have inquired why the RGB version doesn’t have dedicated white or amber LEDs. “Because of the binning we have used in optimizing the LEDs, we don’t need them, and we are able to get a really good white out of it,” Loader says. “One unique feature is that, on one channel of DMX with preset values, you can go from a warm 3,000K white to a cool 6,000K white. You have white control in addition to RGB control.”

The Impression draws 300VA with all LEDs at full and runs on 110V or 220V with an auto-sensing power supply. “It compares to most 700W-type traditional discharge wash units, color-to-color,” says Loader. “In white, it is not close to a 575W discharge fixture, but color-to-color, it is often brighter, similar to a 700W fixture.”

The all-white LED version is intended for the auto show, events, and television markets. “We have it in a couple of different forms,” says Loader. “We can do it with white and amber LEDs, with all warm white and cool white LEDs, or in different combinations.”

How It Came To Be

GLP’s engineers worked on the Impression for about two years before it was launched, and while there were other LED fixtures on the market first, the company felt that none were bright enough until the K2 LED was available. “GLP worked closely with Lumileds to get the LEDs for this product,” says Loader. “The goal was to make a compact, moving head, LED-based wash fixture. Elation was involved in the development. We saw prototypes and were able to give them feedback on what we thought of it, but it was their project to run in the beginning. We have been working closely with GLP for a number of years with our Power Spot 700 fixture series, which GLP developed in partnership with us.”

The engineers worked particularly hard to develop the smoothness of the dimming. “We now have what we call 16-bit television/theatre mode, which gives an almost tungsten dimming effect with the LEDs,” Loader says. “Designers have been asking for this feature. Smooth, seamless dimming has been a big challenge for all LED manufacturers, but this is something that the Impression does very well. We have tested this with cameras, as well.” Users can choose from two modes for cameras with different refresh rates. The fixture is flicker-free on all cameras and has a 1,200Hz update frequency for super-slow motion use.

What’s Next

The Impression was always meant to become part of a family of products. “The Impression XL was the next obvious direction to go, just a bigger version to compete with 1,200W wash fixtures,” says Loader. “It has 240 Luxeon K2 LEDs. It is a little over 2.5 times as bright as a regular Impression.” The Impression XL has 78 red, 84 green, and 78 blue LEDs, measures 21.65"x20.28"x 7.9", and weighs 48.5lbs.

Many designers have asked about a zoom version, and coming soon is the Impression 120RZ, with 120 RGB LEDs and a zoom range of 10° to 26°. The RZ stands for Rebel Zoom, since this version uses Lumileds’ Rebel LEDs. “The challenge is the optics and getting the field flat when you are mixing colors in the zoom range,” says Loader. “You have so many point sources of light that making it a soft, true wash fixture is tough.” A patent-pending lens system provides consistent color mixing. The 120RZ is the same size as the existing Impression, but because the LEDs are smaller than the K2s, more fit into the unit. “It will be about the same brightness as the current Impression, maybe a little brighter depending on how the zoom lens works out,” adds Loader.

In addition to the zoom version, GLP is working on the Impression Meisterstück—German for “masterpiece.” “It’s a moving head LED wash fixture with a Fresnel lens, so you have one beam, and you don’t see the LEDs,” says Loader. It uses 640W of RGBW LEDs to give you a traditional-looking wash fixture design. It will also be baseless. It produces no multicolor shadows.”

What End Users Have To Say

Chuck Spector of Chicago-based Upstaging, Inc., which stocks between 75 and 100 Impressions, also has the units out on tours with WWE and AC/DC. “Generally, when Upstaging chooses something, it is when one of our clients is asking for it,” Spector says. “The real key to their the base, or lack thereof. We refer to this style of LED fixture as an ‘LED pancake.’ All of the other LED pancakes have a big old base, some the size of a breadbox. I equate the base of the Impression more like the size of a hockey puck.” Spector says the one problem is the “little LCD display on the side. Because they are so small, stagehands grabbing them at load out naturally tend to grab this light by the arm. A lot of people squash the display panel with their thumbs. Other than that, they are pretty robust fixtures.”

David Milly, president of Huntsville, AL-based Theatrical Lighting Systems, Inc., stocks Impressions and has some out with a variety of acts, including Brad Paisley’s current tour. “Dean Spurlock, LD for Paisley, had an idea of having lots of them around the thrust, and the Impression fit the bill,” Milly says. “Dean made the selection after going to LDI and having several shootouts. I think the Impression will be making TLS, Inc. money for many years to come.” Milly also likes that the Impressions are lightweight and fast. TLS also has Impression XL units out on Paisley. “The XL is just another layer of where entertainment lighting is evolving,” he adds. As far as improvements, Milly says he would like to see them “twice as bright for half the money.”

Dan Willoughby, president/CEO and resident LD for the Brighton, MI-based Tobins Lake Studio Productions, Inc., says his company uses the fixtures primarily for industrials but also as a low-power and compact rental option. “It means we can give our customers—at a very reasonable price—a small package that has a lot of bells and whistles,” he says. Willoughby also likes that it is “fast, lightweight, fits in places and in décors that other fixtures don’t, and has two different beam spreads. I wish it had more. I know they have another product in the works that will have variable focus.”

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