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LDI: Part II

The Robe BFML

This is one of the big fixtures at LDI I saw that I’m really looking forward to playing around with. Made by Robe, the BFML is the “Bright Multi-Functional Luminaire”, though various backronyms regarding the name exist. We won’t get into those. The unit is fairly sizable, probably a little smaller than a VL3K, with an Osram HTI 1500-watt lamp. By default the lamp is overrun to 1700 watts, which shortens its life to 500 hours, but that’s still 125 shows at an average run time of around 4 hours, which I think is realistic. (Leave it on for an hour to do your focus position updates, then a 2-3 hour show.) You can still throttle the lamp back to 1500 watts (or 1200) if you desire. The unit, as it name suggests, is bright. Very bright. I saw it in the Robe booth at LDI, where a billion other Robe lights were swinging around wildly, flashing, changing colors, etc, and the BFML cut through all the washes and LED gak in their booth and issued forth a very powerful, very substantial column of light that was truly impressive. You shouldn’t usually be impressed by luminance numbers, but Robe claims 250,000 lux at 5 meters. It’s bright.

One of the first things that I look at when seeing a new light is the smoothness of the mix system and dimming. Dimming is very difficult to see in an environment like LDI – with all the other stuff going crazy around you, it makes it very difficult to get a good read on the quality of the curve. That said, I didn’t notice any ridiculous artifacts in the dimming curve, and I’d be very interested to see what it looks like properly plotted against an ideal square or linear curve. I examined the color-mixing next, and was initially disappointed that one of the biggest issues I had with the VL4000 – the unevenness of the mix system – was also an issue here, with the flags being extremely obvious as they were brought into the beam. However, after playing with it for a bit, I realized that by default the focus of the light is set to 0% – at least in the personality that was loaded into the little Avo console they had set up for the demo unit – and that by changing it to above 70% almost all of the unevenness went away. The system does a good job producing both saturated colors and pastels, and my two “difficult” colors (lavender and amber) were handled reasonably well. The unit does, of course, have two fixed colors wheels, one with saturated difficult colors like deep roses, red, congo, green and amber, and a second wheel with pastel shades, some color correction and minusgreen, and a CTB. Both very usable wheels, and the speed was right up there with some of the earlier VL units for snappiness. The light also has a variable CTO that gives decent results, but again it was difficult to judge this aspect in the environment I was in. (Note: I was aware of the position of the focus on the VL unit as well, and its performance was worse all around in this regard.)

The BFML also has a good selection of gobos, one wheel obviously optimized for aerials and the other with breakup patterns optimized for projection onto surfaces. They all rotate, there is no fixed wheel. The speed on the gobo wheels isn’t quite as fast as I’d like it to be as far as switching between patterns, but that’s the price you pay when using a rotating wheel. The unit also has the “dual graphics wheels” from the MMX for animation effects, and it’s possible to get some great ripple effects and other dynamic looks by altering the relative placement and speed of these disks. I wonder if Robe has considered making a colored version like VL did with their “Dichro*Fusion” animation disks. The unit also incorporates both the circular and linear prisms from another of my favorite Robe fixtures, the Pointe. The usual variable iris is here too, and it’s very fast – it can pulse up to 3hz. There’s also a frost, which I either forgot to play with or can’t really remember what it did. I think it’s the standard “heavy” frost effect that completely blurs gobos and makes the beam much more wash-like, rather than the other effect that is commonly called “frost”, which is more of a gobo blur. The industry really needs to come up with another name for this effect! The unit also has an 11:1 zoom which is very, very fast, as we’ve come to expect from Robe products.

The light pans and tilts very quickly, which is probably due to much of the construction being plastic, which helps keep weight down. It also has what Robe calls “EMSTM: Electronic Motion Stabiliser system”, which uses accelerometers in the head to detect when the light is swinging after a pan or tilt movement, and has adjusts the pan and tilt to compensate for that. I didn’t get to see this work, because the grid that all the lights were on was very rigid, but something like that would be excellent in a theatre situation where one has to hang on pipes. The light also has the now-familiar color touchscreen that is on all other modern Robe products, and really is about the best control screen out there that I’ve seen.

Overall, if I were going to spec a huge rig of movers at this point, I’d be more than eager to give the BFML a try. More features than the 4K, brighter, and lighter. Robe is certainly trying to make a splash in the US side of the lighting industry, and it shows.

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