“….Yeah, but does it change color?” A G&E recap of NAB 2018

April 17, 2018

After a brief road trip to Zion National Park where I about killed Auggy hiking to Angel’s Landing via 33 switchbacks, we headed out to Vegas Fear and Loathing style. Auggy in the passenger seat of our convertible Cadillac El Dorado high on Ether, and my bald head burning from the weight of the desert sun bearing down. The car was low on coolant but we couldn’t stop – this was bat country after all.

NAB 2018 Recap

When we finally made it to the convention center, bat country didn’t look so bad. Suddenly we were in a new and scary place – soft light panel country. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me, but I was taken back by the sheer volume of soft LED panels at the show. With the widespread success of some of the most prominent panels, EVERY manufacturer has followed suit. Big names like Litepanels and Cineo debuting their newest solutions, stand out companies like Velvet Lighting putting on a good showing, and about a hundred thousand copycats with amazing names like the Skies Panel or the Astrology Panel. Some innovations stood out, like the Litepanels Quad Gemini mount and the Quasar Ozium yokes. Many fixtures took the dive into RGB as well.

Litepanels Gemini Quad Mount NAB 2018

In addition to the soft lighting phenomenon, we also saw a myriad of RGB tube based fixtures. We’ve had our Quasar RGBx in for a while, as well as the ever popular Astera Pixel tubes, but were looking forward to seeing the new iteration from fluorescent lighting giant Kino-Flo. From a distance the tubes looked amazing! They offered over 300 degrees of light output as compared to the 180 of most other LED tubes. The mounts were sturdy and the output was everything you hoped for from the fixtures. Just as I was beginning to regret our other RGB tube purchases, I looked down and saw the biggest mistake kino could have made – a ballast sitting on the floor below the display.

NAB 2018 Kino Select LED Tubes

The new Kino tubes are not self ballasted which means you must run header cable to each tube and use all kinds of splitters and extensions to power multiple tubes. They run off of the same ballast as the LED Select series, and are high quality fixtures with wireless DMX built into the ballast, but these tubes feel like they undid a couple of years of progress by binding you to a ballast. They may find their home with the near 360 degree output, and quality you can expect from Kino, but they fall short in my opinion of what was promised.

Despite the letdown from the kino flo release, another welcome conclusion in the world of lighting seems to have been reached. We recently pulled the trigger and picked up our first kit of Ratpac Cintennas. These wireless DMX transmitter and receivers are a super solid piece of kit that eliminates the headache of chasing your DMX daisy chain around set. The only caveat is that they only speak one language – CRMX – commonly branded as LumenRadio. Fortunately, among the many different wireless DMX protocols, CRMX seems to have finally landed as somewhat of an industry standard with the film and television lighting companies. Every new fixture of note was equipped with the chip built right in. This feature enables the LumenRadio transmitters to talk directly to the lights without the need for adding any cable or a receiver. It seems like a standard feature we will come to expect moving forward, and is certainly a welcome addition to the world of shooting, especially on location.

While there was not too many things this year that blew us away (maybe we are getting a little jaded already?), a couple other companies had some really stand out stuff.

Mole-Richardson took the next jump with their LED Fresnel series by adding the newer, better colored Vari-LED chip into the LED Tener. The light has an enormous output and is tunable from tungsten to daylight just like the rest of the line. They made another welcome improvement from last year by moving the ballast inside of the head. With a small weight trade off, you now have a tremendously bright, large aperture LED fresnel that packs a serious punch. We’ll be keeping our eye out to see where it lands once they have finished stitching up the prototype.

NAB 2018 Mole Vari Tener

In case you haven’t had your fill of buying new series of Litemats, Litegear is back at it again. Last year they announced the Litemat+ series which took their ever popular line of lighting and really propelled it into the world of a fully formed fixture. They refined the ballast/power supply, cleaned up the dimmer, added real locking header cables, wireless dmx, and basically doubled the output. We have seen these fixtures do really well in the last year, but they already have the next thing on the horizon and I think it is a real winner.

The new Litemat+ Spectrums will offer all of the features you have come to expect from litegear, but they’ll also add RGB. No surprise there, huh? Think again because litegear isn’t just following suit with the other manufacturers here. Their RGB chips will work in conjunction with the high quality warm and cool white chips to extend the color temperature range, and will also be calibrated to run within the sensor limitations of specific cameras. In future firmware updates, it sounds like they may even allow you to punch in your camera’s gamma settings to allow maximum compatibility between lighting and your camera’s sensor.

NAB 2018 Litegear Spectrum

These are still in prototype and I’m sure we will have more official data soon, but for now it looks like these might be a really solid iteration of the litemat that could be a little more future-proof, not only in terms of design but software as well.

We saw some awesome grip advancements like Dana Dolly’s new collapsible curved track, and the new Matthews clamp made exclusively to hold T12 tubes without crushing them. We ogled at the JL Fisher booth (as we are anticipating the arrival of our new Fisher 10 package in the shop) and were blown away as always by the guy operating the Model 7 Boom; chasing people around the convention center discreetly. This was also our first time getting eyes on the Matthews Max Menace arm which certainly lived up to the hype. This thing has a footprint around the size of a mombo combo, but can be backed right up to a wall and extends 20’ with a weight capacity of 75lbs!

NAB 2018 Matthews T12 Clamp

Of course I could go on about everything at the show, but I will spare you the details until my next blog. Look out in the upcoming weeks for some of our standout picks from the convention, as well as some updates to our inventory here at the shop! We will be following up with vendors and hopefully getting some of these fixtures in for our Summer Expo (TBA). There were some really exciting updates that I haven’t touched on and will be covering in the weeks to follow!

“I was right in the middle of a f***ing reptile zoo, and somebody was giving booze to these goddamn things. Won’t be long now before they tear us to shreds.”

Written By: Johnny BaumBaum – Shop Manager

John Baumgartner

In three words: Kind, Caring, Balding. With a vast knowledge of camera and lighting gear, John will help see your project through from start to finish. When not knee deep in poorly coiled stingers, John enjoys exploring Philadelphia’s extensive restaurant scene and day sailing on his glorious 13′ yacht.