Lighting Product Of The Month: PRG Bad Boy Spot Luminaire

PRG’s Bad Boy spot luminaire has seen its fair share of productions considering it was introduced to the market at the last LDI. Designed to pack a lot of punch in a large venue fixture, it also features high-definition optics as well as colors and patterns. The unit won a Live Design Lighting Product of the Year award, and it has been seen on television shows from the Grammys to the CMA Awards, on industrials and concerts from Oasis to Britney Spears, and notably, it is the main fixture—nearly 200 of them—on the U2 360° Tour.

What It Does
“Bad Boy is what we call a hybrid luminaire that blends the features of large format searchlights with the sophistication of modern day automated spot luminaires,” says Rusty Brutsché, vice chairman and chief technology officer for PRG. “All product designs are a tradeoff of basic design parameters, such as brightness, optical quality, cost, weight, size, noise, features, etc. With Bad Boy, we decided that brightness and optical quality would be the dominant design parameters, and we set out to achieve a new industry record for brightness and optical quality.”

The Bad Boy couples its high-definition optics with a Philips MSR Gold™ 1,200W SA/SE FastFit lamp that can be set at any level between 700W and 1,400W. The single-ended axial lamp can be changed from the rear of the unit and without opening the head for lamp access. “The Bad Boy, drawing 1,400W, produces nearly 50,000 lumens of output which represents a 40% optical efficiency,” adds Brutsché. “That is double the current industry standard of 20% and makes Bad Boy a very green product. The zoom lens was designed with an 8"-diameter front lens to produce a full, fat beam and be very efficient over the entire zoom range of 7° to 56°. This combination of brightness and zoom allows Bad Boy to project images over great distances, even with color and gobos in the beam.”

The unit also offers smooth control of focus, zoom, dimming, and imaging by bringing together high-quality lenses with the high-speed servo motors. “We used high-speed servo motors on the dimmer, strobe, and color and gobo wheels to provide instant response, and the pan and tilt systems also use servos for smooth and precise movement,” says Brutsché. These servo motors allow the fixture to respond quickly to commands with accurate movement. The unit weighs 167lbs (75.8 kg), but by using servo motors as opposed to stepper motors, PRG says its movement compares to a unit about one-quarter of its size and weight. Three-phase high-speed servo motors with a clutch and dual optical encoders for pan and tilt provide repeatable, precision response with a maximum speed of 4.1 seconds for 540° of pan and 3.2 seconds for 270° of tilt, all with an accuracy of .2°.

The zoom lens system features a zoom range of 8:1 from a narrow spot of 7° to a wide flood of 56°. The zoom consists of four groups of lenses, each independently controlled for accuracy while maintaining focus during zoom changes, plus edge control for gobo focus and gobo morphing. This arrangement is well-suited to high-resolution gobos. Two rotating gobo wheels are indexable, with each of the seven gobos per wheel individually calibrated so the unit will automatically index the orientation of each gobo regardless of placement.

“Bad Boy features the Quantum Color® system that uses individual color filters arranged in four wheels to provide a broad range of rich, pure colors that are vibrant and match precisely from luminaire to luminaire,” says Brutsché. This color method features seven discrete colors on each wheel: one designer wheel with user-changeable color filters and three fixed color wheels organized into cyan, magenta, and yellow. The individual color filters allow for variation in both saturation and hue of the CMY colors, resulting in colors that are pure and homogenous across the beam. Because no diffusion material is required, the output brightness in white and the brightness of the colors are maximized.

Additional features on the unit include built-in handles, DMX and Ethernet inputs, touchscreen display, and an automatic pan/tilt locking system that releases when power is connected. The unit’s cooling system has internal temperature sensors and processor-controlled fans that monitor the proper operating temperatures based on outside ambient temperature and the operating conditions of the luminaire. “The yoke and pan tube were designed to support the unit when mounted in a horizontal orientation, a feature that U2 is using on many of the Bad Boys in the rig,” says Brutsché.

Chris Conti, PRG product manager, adds that the unit “does not require a lot of off-board equipment like ballasts and proprietary head cable to make it work. It draws around 8A and can plug directly into industry-standard moving light connectors like an L6-20 here in North America or a 16A Cee-Form in Europe.”

How It Came To Be And What’s Next
Conti notes that the fixture was inspired by requirements in the concert touring market. “They wanted a bright and fast rock ‘n’ roll fixture,” he says. Led by Jim Bornhorst, the unit was developed by the PRG R&D groups in Dallas and Birmingham, England. “The increasing use of LED video products on shows has raised the ambient light levels dramatically, and we saw a need for a much brighter automated spot luminaire,” adds Brutsché. “Within the PRG organization, we developed the specification for Bad Boy. Jim then did a masterful job of leading a very talented group of engineers to make Bad Boy a reality. I would also like to acknowledge Tom Hough for the optical design.”

Brutsché and Conti have been taking in a lot of user feedback. “We have received a ton of positive feedback from technicians on what we could do on the software side off the fixture to help make their daily jobs easier,” says Conti. “Having a touchscreen to access the fixture has opened up all kinds of new possibilities for features that were just not possible previously.” Brutsché adds that other luminaires that will address market needs are on the horizon.

What End Users Have To Say
While beta-testing, four Bad Boys were used on the 2008 Toyota National Dealer Meeting. Lighting designer Fabian Yeager says he really likes the brightness. “It has a wonderful flat field and is very bright,” he says. “The next is the color rendering; it has a terrific primary color range, especially the red, which is often hard to get from other automated fixtures.” He also loves the zoom feature. “One fixture can wash half the arena and then zoom down to a 6"-diameter pin spot,” he says. For improvements, Yeager says he looks forward to “the day we get the features stated above in a body that isn’t the size of a washing machine.”

Television lighting designer, Kieran Healy saw the Bad Boys at a demo and used some to add punch to his design for the recent American Idol finale on Fox. “The optics are outstanding—the best I have ever seen in a luminaire—and it has great color rendering too,” he says, adding that he would like to see the unit have smooth color cross-fading.

Concert lighting designer Nick Whitehouse chose 18 Bad Boys for his design of The Circus Starring Britney Spears. “The show is in the round, and I wanted to create a pop spectacle, so I needed to put enough lights out there to accomplish that,” he says. “I love the optics. With one light, I can go from a 2" beam on the mainstage to a full look that covers 70', and it is crystal clear and bright the whole way out.” As well as spotlighting the stage, the units wash the audience with color and gobos; they even create a laser-like effect for one number.
The Quantum Color system of the Bad Boy also served Whitehouse’s needs. “It’s great for fast, rock ‘n’ roll color snaps,” he says. “The light and the color system made me think how to use it differently. I actually created colors on the Bad Boy and then tried to match them with my other lights.”

U2 show director/designer Willie Williams conducted a shoot-out in London’s Wembley Stadium last December and chose to base the bulk of his lighting design for the 360° Tour around the Bad Boys. “I largely chose the Bad Boy because it was an appropriate product which came along exactly at the right time,” says Williams. “The brightness was the main appeal. It provides a light that is bright enough not only to wash a stadium but to create readable gobo textures onto a stadium audience. I also like the fact that it is a very specific fixture. It was created with an application in mind, and all the elements of the fixture work toward that. It isn’t overrun with extraneous features or fiddly bits that might need additional maintenance.”

Williams says he’d like to see color mixing added, “but I completely understand the choice of opting for maximum brightness by excluding that feature. Likewise, the field is a little peaky, but again, flattening it would reduce overall intensity, so no complaints.” He adds that the fixtures have their specific place in production: “They are not subtle, so you may not use them on your next Broadway musical, but if you need high output, reliability and a reasonable color palette, they work.”

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