- by Nook Schoenfeld
in Road Tests
I have always been critical of hybrid lights. That’s because, for several years, I have heard boasts from several manufacturers that they have come up with the ultimate Swiss Army Knife of a fixture. Yet every time I drive a new one on a gig, I find something missing, or a trade off in certain features, that leaves me disappointed. I find lights where the lumens disappear when I pop out the tight narrow lens or a color system that is not up to snuff with what I desire. So I’m putting the BMFL WashBeam through the wringer to see if everything’s as great as what I’m hearing on the web.
The fixture arrives in a sturdy road case where it hangs by its head on a shelf. Another tech and I easily turn the 85-pound fixture onto a table as the pan and tilt locks held it from moving. It is a large format fixture, all the better to contain every bell and whistle. No manual is needed to address the fixture and set the mode on the LCD screen. I’m running it in 48-channel extended mode from an M1 console with a tested fixture library. It fires right up with a 20-amp, 208V connection (it won’t run on 120V), and the first thing I want to do is look at the lamp and its output.
The Light Beam
The bulb is a compact short-arc metal halide lamp. One of those Osram HTI Lok-it 1700/PS models. The bulb lasts 750 hours and can be run in 1200W (a.k.a. Quiet Mode), 1500W or 1700W mode. They seat in a dichroic glass reflector to maximize efficiency. My color meter shows a crisp white color temperature of 6000K. I focus a hard edge on a beam and point the light at a wall 70 feet away. I see a flat field of light as I zoom it down to a 5° beam. It has a 9:1 zoom ratio which means the beam can widen to 45°. The tech sheet is boasting some serious lumens at 48,000 when the bulb is in 1700W mode. I walk 70 feet away and hold my meter out. BAM! I’m just over 2,000 foot-candles. I don’t believe it, so I recalibrate my meter, place the optical sensor right in the center of the beam and hit it again. It reads 2,170 foot-candles from 70 feet away. Unreal. I zoom the light out full. I now read 250 foot-candles. As a comparison, this light is giving me more than five times the candlepower of a Robe Pointe or any of those other “R” type lamped fixtures on the market — with no hot spot.
One achieves a large wash beam due to a wide, clear 7-inch-diameter front lens. The user can turn it into a pencil beam with a really quick iris mechanism (which features built-in pulse effects). But the best part is the ability to use the iris to dim to black. That’s right, you can tighten this baby down to zero light output, like the old VL’s of the 1980s. Internal shutters act as barn doors shaping the beam. Four separate rotating blades make up the framing shutters, and they move at the speed of light, apparently, because I’m placing them into pre-canned macro effects and watching them move in a snap. Rectangles, triangles, diamonds and all sorts of cool hard-edged beams are achieved. I can even put a Sine wave function on the 90° rotation of the shutters to achieve psychedelic effects.
There is no denying this is a hard-edged fixture by the crisp focus of the beam in a haze. But there are a couple of filters here. The first one I drop in softens the edges of the fixture as if it was a narrow par beam. It’s a slight diffusion. It comes in from one side, and is not really what I would call a perfect variable frost. But it’s fast. The effect made by dropping it in and out on a fast chase is just killer. The next filter I drop in turns the beam into a wide beam. I actually put the fixture in strobe mode with this lens in, and the strobing beam is omnidirectional, like a real strobe. Who would have thought this possible?
Breaking Up the Beam
All the typical strobe functions are there, but there is something noticeably missing from the mechanical strobe effect — the unmistakable chatter noise of shutters moving rapidly. There is none. This fricking strobe is silent!
There is a gobo wheel with six rotating/indexable gobos. They can shake as they are rotating. Unlike other wash lights that boast gobo capabilities, the BMFL WashBeam doesn’t demand that your fixture be in a narrow beam to see the gobos. Heck, I can see them and focus them sharp in any angle. I drop the diffusion lens in, and the gobos are easily read. There are one or two gobos that look suitable for texturing scenery, but the others are definitely better for aerial breakups.
This WashBeam has an animation wheel as well. A uniquely dotted pattern on this wheel gives me one of the best water effects I have seen. I put in the diffusion, and I get some great fuzzy almost prism-like effects. One can use the gobo wheel and animation wheel simultaneously to get kaleidoscope-like effects. I look for the prism, but alas — there is none. Not that I have ever seen any other beam/wash fixture with one, but it would have been nice.
Coloring and Movement
The WashBeam has a CYM color system. It is fast, and I can mix just about any color except blood red. It’s closer to a fire-type red, though, and it can be tweaked further with a little CTO from the variable CTO wheel. The yellow flag is awesome — it reminds me of old Vari-Lites where you could get that really rich golden hue, as opposed to lemon yellow. The color wheel system is smart. One wheel contains six fixed saturated colors ranging from blood red to a proper green to UV. A secondary wheel has replaceable color filters and stocked with light pink, lavender and camera filter colors. One can shift the color temp to 9000K CTB or use it to park a minus green in place.
Fast response time to movement commands has always been a strong suit of Robe fixtures, and the WashBeam is no exception. For a fixture this large, it can move in a hurry, panning 540° and tilting 270°. The fixture boasts of having an Electronic Motion Stabilizer system (EMSTM). This patent pending system reduces beam deviation caused by truss movement or vibration. I place the fixture in a circle effect on the wall and it executes the cue flawlessly.
To this lighting designer there’s really nothing I can’t do with this fixture. Perfect for a concert setting, for an architectural project where a long shot is required, or for film use. Maintaining the same brightness whether zoomed to a medium flood or pin spotting is a credit to the amazing optics. I would not be afraid of spec’ing this light as a hard-edged fixture as well. It is indeed the closest thing I have seen to that Swiss Army Knife model yet. The users on the web were right. Get one in your hands.
At a Glance
The Most Promising Hybrid Fixture Yet
Every time I’ve had the chance to give the new breed of hybrid fixtures a try on a gig, I’ve found that they’ve come up short. Judging from the tests for this article, I’d say that Robe’s BMFL WashBeam is the most promising hybrid I’ve seen yet. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen yet to a true “Swiss Army knife” of a fixture. All it needs is a corkscrew for opening a bottle of wine. —N.S.
Robe BMFL WashBeam
PROS: Promising hybrid light. Gobos seen in any zoom size, incredibly bright, good animation effect. Outstanding optics. Hard and soft edges. Good movement response.
CONS: Variable Frost filters come in from one side. Could use a prism effect.
- Battery backup touch screen
- Two sets of mounting points
- Two Omega brackets w/ ¼ turn lock
- Size: 32.5”h x 19”w x 13.2”d
- Weight: 84.7 lbs.
- Power Consumption: 2000W @ 230V
- MSRP: Call for a quote
- Manufacturer: Robe Lighting
More Info: www.robelighting.com