in Road Tests
Philips Strand Selecon has come up with a unique product in the PLCyc LED Luminaire. The fixture utilizes various aspects of new technologies to elegantly and efficiently light cycloramas. When I first heard about this unit, I had a mixed reaction — “No way can this do what they claim,” coupled with, “Wow, someone has finally come up with the right solution.”
“Each PLCyc LED luminaire can replace the equivalent of a traditional 4-color, 500W per circuit cyc light,” Philips says, in their press release.
Having lit scenic backdrops over the years, starting with 1000W far cyc lights, then incorporating eight-lighters with Colorams on them, sometimes utilizing MR16 strips and, more recently, relying on the barrage of LED strip lights that have come into play, I can honestly say the PL is a real pleasure to work with. It is also a much better alternative. All the aforementioned are cumbersome to deploy and, excluding the LED strips, power beasts. Couple that with the footprint required for a dimmer rack, and the PL option becomes an even more-welcome addition to scenic lighting.
LED strips, while energy-efficient, usually have a very tight beam spread, necessitating almost end-to-end alignment. Their throw, meanwhile, tends to fall short of the height and saturation levels achieved by the old far cycs. There may be some strips that pack enough punch, but those that do weigh enough to require two techs for deployment. And yes, moving heads paint a scenic as beautifully as the other options, but that requires a hefty portion of the lighting budget dedicated to one specific need.
Bright and Light
The PL, by contrast, weighs around 7 pounds and consumes 1.25 amps at 120V. It contains an RGBW 120W LED engine chip that produces 2000 lumens. Fixture literature states an excess of 50,000 hours of life expectancy under normal operating conditions before any degradation in light output occurs. No dimmer racks are required. The unit does have an electronic universal power supply auto ranging from 100-240VAC and uses a PowerCon connection for power. There are pass-throughs for both power and DMX, allowing the fixtures to be daisy-chained — 16 of them can be powered off of one 20A circuit.
Although DMX is available through a five-pin connector, there’s no three-pin option. These connections, however, are easily accessible.
I found the size and shape of the fixture to be pleasing as well. I’ve long been a proponent of the “form follows function” school of thought in design. With their rounded edges and compact size, which house all that phenomenal output, the PL is firmly placed in that concept. The body of the unit is such that, when it is used as a ground row, it does not require any trunnions or additional hardware to stay in focus position.
When hanging, they just look good in the air, the size once again belying what the instrument can really do. Overall dimensions, including the yoke, are 10 by 12 by 13 inches (WxLxH). They are built with molded plastic and steel. The non-slip tilt-locking handle is well-formed and big enough to allow for easy fixture maneuvering. Units can be placed on four-foot centers. At a four-foot distance from the surface of the cyc, the PLCyc will produce an even 16-foot throw. A large cyc 20 feet or higher would necessitate a top-hung and ground row setup (as would all the other fixtures mentioned earlier). The advantages of the PLCyc over the others, of course, include the smaller footprint, a need for fewer fixtures, less power consumption and true color reproduction with no loss in quality.
The PLCyc produces a consistent color balance down to very low light levels, regardless of intensity setting. The primary colors (Red, Green, Blue) are deeply saturated, and the RGBW engine provided by the LED technology allows for an infinite range of color options. The additional white on the LED chip supports color temperature capabilities from 2300° to 9970°K.
The fixture allows for beam spreads of 42° vertical and 38° horizontal at a four-foot distance from the lighted surface, and those beam spreads are very even as well. This is possible due to the combination of the LED chip engine, the asymmetrical reflector and the holographic diffuser, which begins to explain why this product provides such a richer spectrum to the eye than your typical LED fixture.
Along with output, color-mixing and beam spread, the PLCyc’s holographic diffuser counters the tendency of light to scatter or bounce back from any media placed in front of it, thereby reducing transmittance.
Physical Optics Corporation invented the first holographic diffuser back in the mid 1990s as part of an effort to resolve this problem. Rather than reducing output, holographic diffusers promise to enhance the brightness of traditional light sources. This is accomplished by producing screens and filters that sculpt beams of light and distribute most of the light into the desired direction — improving the output by restructuring light beams into a uniformly diffused beam without internal hot spots.
LCD Menu Options
The easy-to-read, BW 1-by-2.5-inch LCD menu offers DMX addressing options, info on the status of the fixture and a number of customizable data display options along with adjustable contrast. Users navigate with a four-arrow up, down, left and right system. These same arrows access a second layer of alpha numeric symbols to let users edit names of presets.
There are a total of 31 presets available in the PL, which can be called up via a Preset button beside the LCD menu. A nearby Intensity button makes it easy to edit presets and make changes to individual RGBW parameters.
The first four presets offer yet another great aspect of the PLCyc, that of white color temperature. The 2300-9970°K range takes the fixture from warm white to cool white and daylight. There are also 20 factory presets that match standard gel colors; each can be adjusted. Users also get six presets for their own custom palettes. All 31 palettes can be accessible as a fader on the console for programming purposes via corresponding DMX. (Of course, the Red, Green, Blue and White LEDs are available as individual faders too.)
The settings portion in the menu offers 16- and 8-bit resolution. A three-channel option is available as well, which breaks down control to one fader each of intensity and timing, with the third fader assignment providing access to the 31 presets.
A security feature is offered to protect the fixture from any unwanted changes. Depending on the need for access, there are three levels of security, while a fourth option completely locks in these settings. A customized password can be enabled to further secure the fixtures settings.
Other customized menu settings include fan control (normal to quiet), power limit settings, reset of operational hours and the ability to flip the display for easier reading. DMX options include addressing, what the fixture should do if it loses DMX and whether to enable DMX or not — considerations for standalone and wireless applications.
The wireless option is compatible with W-DMX, LumenRadio or SHoW DMX transmitters. The fixture’s control settings can also be updated or reloaded via a USB to DMX dongle updater.
At the beginning of this article, I wrote about some fairly old instrumentation. Those fixtures — far cycs and strip lights — served (and continue, in some cases, to serve) a useful purpose. But when you compare new gear like the PLCyc to those older fixtures, you get a clear look at how far this industry has come. The PLCyc is a sleek-looking, user-friendly unit that delivers, and with a competitive price and three-year warranty, I would say you can’t go wrong.
Philips Strand Selecon PLCyc LED Luminaire
What It Is: LED alternative for traditional cyclorama lighting fixtures
Pros: Lightweight, quality output, energy efficient, highly customizable, sleek design
Cons: Still requires a top-hung and ground row setup for cyc wash applications that exceed 16 feet.
MSRP: $1,584 (PLCYC1-03)