When we first instituted the Projection and Staging Products of the Year in 2003, we envisioned a lineup that would mix relatively high-tech complex gear (projection), with relatively low-tech easy to use gear (staging). Turns out the bulk of new products chosen this year by our panel of working designers and technicians blends both high-tech and ease-of-use pretty much across the board. From the first in what promises to be a wave of “digital lights” to a sleek new rigging system that should find a home in both major opera houses and small high schools, this year's crop of staging and projection products will help meet the needs of a wide cross section of people and projects.
VISTA SYSTEMS MONTAGE
Chosen by the judges in part for its “enormous flexibility,” the Vista Systems Montage is a video processing and windowing system that uses a new advanced architecture to create “virtual displays” inside the Montage processor that are much higher resolution than any single display device can handle. “With all of the functionality and tactile surfaces found on a powerful broadcast video switcher, this unit offers programmers a totally superior mode of working,” say the judges. It goes beyond this by handling inputs, outputs, and routing for virtually every streaming image format available. Standard Definition, High Definition, computer generated, component, SDI — it plays nice across the board. Though not without bugs, say the judges, Montage “goes where no other multi-screen control system has ever dreamed of going.”
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HIGH END SYSTEMS CATALYST DL1
While some may quibble about the brightness of High End's DL-1 digital light, there can be little argument that this light represents a holy grail long sought after: the integration of projection and moving light fixture. “With big bonuses like dimming irises (goodbye video black!), and High End's robust stepper motor technology inserted into the lens train, this is not your daddy's projector,” say the judges. The DL-1 moves with all of the agility and speed of any larger automated light, and the DMX channel control of the fixture provides the user the ability to control all of the projector lens and focus attributes, as well as the movement. “Unlike some previous attempts at a fixture like this,” say the judges, “High End wisely chose not to reinvent the wheel.” Watch for this unit to upgrade in power and brightness soon; watch also for the other leading moving light manufacturers to be out the door with their own versions of digital lights in short order.
High End Systems
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Motion Control Software
STAGE TECHNOLOGIES VISUAL CREATOR
Created initially for the Millennium Dome and the West End hit The Witches of Eastwick, and later perfected on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Visual Creator is a motion design tool that can be fully integrated with Stage Technologies' Nomad or Acrobat control systems. It allows three types of movement (paths, maps and profiles) to be plotted: a path through 2D or 3D space can be created while passing through a number of known points (the path can be a single journey or continuous loop); a map that defines, through the use of software, the position relationship between any number of axes; or a profile that allows the position of an axis to be plotted against time. This “remarkably intuitive” 3D visualization software “greatly expands the notion of what can be moved where on the stage,” say the judges. “Can't wait to play with it.”
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BARCO MIPIX INTELLIGENT LED PIXEL BLOCK
MiPIX “breaks the mold for LED imaging with separation and shaping,” say the judges. A modular intelligent block measuring a little over one inch in diameter, the MiPIX contains four, three-color LED sources that can be stacked much like Legos to create totally variably sized and shaped surfaces. With some spacing the MiPIX blocks assume the form of a textural light lattice. When butted together closely in large surfaces they give a more clear appearance of being a media screen. Perhaps most interestingly, the MiPIX can be constructed into three-dimensional objects. “Leading the way in a trend that also extends to the G-Lec LED Curtain,” say the judges, “this intriguing new concept offers designers a flexibility for screen shape that goes all the way to 3D and see-through.”
Barco Projection Systems LLC
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HOFFEND & SONS VORTEK RIGGING SYSTEM
Already a hit among theatres large and small (and also named the ETS-LDI Product of the Year in the Rigging and Hardware category,) Vortek is a complete, ceiling-to-floor rigging system for theatres that eliminates the need for counterweights. Significant features include a secondary holding brake that is variable-load and constantly applied, and a bold touchscreen user interface with intuitive features. The complete system, in all its speed and load-capacity configurations, has been designed for high-volume manufacturing and ease of installation. It's also easy enough for an operator to run with limited technical knowledge. “Vortek has not only managed to make motorized pipes intelligent, but it may also spell the beginning of the end of counterweight rigging, a feat that cannot be overestimated,” say the judges.
Hoffend & Sons
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