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Review – the Robe MMX spot

Robe MMX spot

These are my primary spot moving lights, and they’re made by the (lesser known, in the States at least) Czech company Robe. (Pronounced row-bee.) The MMX spot uses the Phillips Platinum 35 lamp, an 800-watt short arc lamp that the company says is close to the output of traditional 1200-watt sources. I think that’s fair if we’re talking about an older light like the MAC 2000, which they are comparable to. However, newer 1200-watt lights like the VL3000 still certainly have a noticeable output edge. But that’s okay, because what these light lack in output, they make up for in features, speed, weight, and size.

The MMX (I have no idea what this initialism stands for, if anything) weighs in at 65 pounds, and is just a touch bigger than a MAC 700. Two of them ride side-by-side in a case which could be a little narrower if they took the silly divider out of the middle and made the case just a few inches taller so that the mounting hardware could be left on while in said case. This is one of my biggest pet peeves with mover cases of any style – attaching and removing mounting hardware to moving lights every day is a real pain in the ass, especially when dealing with lots of fixtures. It’s just another step for local crews to screw up, and requires the attentional time from the road crew that could be better spent doing other things. The mounting hardware is standard omega-style brackets to which you can attach any mounting hardware you prefer – we use half-couplers, sadly.

One of the things that is really nice about this fixture is the settings screen. Not only is it full-color and a touchscreen, Robe added a battery to the unit so you can address and change fixture modes and settings without powering the unit on, which is amazing. The DMX addresser also has an intuitive slider, so gone are the days of holding an up or down button and then overshooting the address you wanted to get to your fixture to – you just take your finger, move the slider close to where you want it and click it once or twice to fine-tune it. It’s a great feature, and I love it. The screen also features full text of all the settings that you’re changing, so you don’t have to consult a manual to figure out what “LdOF” means, like on fixtures with a seven-segment LED display. ::cough::old Martin::couph::

The fixture has a good selection of aerial and breakup gobos, and all the wheels move at a respectable speed. One of the effects that I use in my show is an alternating 0-second swap between adjacent patterns, so being able to switch back and forth between two gobos on the same wheel is critical for me, and the MMX performs very nicely in this area. They’re not quite as fast as the VL2000-style wheel, but close enough. Two of the gobos are a little too close in appearance for my tastes – waves right next to wavy bars – but I understand that those are for projection and not really aerial effects, so I’m not too bothered by it.

The color mix system is interesting. It’s very fast, which is lovely, but the mixing itself is a bit uneven – half-mixed colors result in noticeably unevenly-colored beams. All color-mix systems are, of course, a trade-off between speed, saturation / color, and smoothness of the mix system, so I understand why it is the way it is. The colors are very saturated – mixing green (yellow and cyan flags at full) reduces the light output by an enormous amount. Orange can be mixed, but it’s very dim, so as usual there’s a fixed color wheel with color flags to help fill in the gaps in the mix system – a nice bright orange, congo and primary red, a saturated blue and yellow, and a green. I feel that the shade of green chosen is not what I would have picked. It’s a very light Kelly green, almost sea-foam-y, which is fine – that’s a color that’s hard to mix while getting a nice output, but I would have really appreciated the inclusion of a primary green filter instead to help get that nice deep rock ‘n’ roll green while maintaining better output than can be had with the mix system. It’s not really an oversight so much as a choice made to keep the stock colors in line with the likely wishes of most of Robe’s end users, so I understand it, it just sucks for my situation. As of this writing I haven’t been able to find additional fixed filters on Robe’s website, so I don’t know if it’s possible to change them without having a third-party company custom-make a dichroic for me.


Pictures: The Kelly green filter in action. And rare photographic proof of a guitarist actually hitting his stage position for a lighting cue.
The unit also includes a “dual animation wheel”, two wheels with diamond-shaped patterns that can create some really cool moire-style patterns in the beam, which can create some really cool projections for surfaces. It’s not that interesting as an aerial effect unless you’re trying to do ripple or sparkle effects with a gobo, it’s really meant more as a surface projection tool, which I don’t have much use for in my show (I lack surfaces to really let this feature shine) but I use it a few times to paint the players with some ripple-ly light. Interestingly, the fixture also includes a motorized lamp hot-spot control – so you optimize your lamp when you put it in, but then you can adjust the placement of the lamp within the reflector via DMX – make it peaky or smooth. This is fun when using the iris – you can shoot all the energy of the lamp down the middle. It’s not something I’ve ever seen on any other moving light ever, and it’s a clever idea. Note to rental shops: this does NOT mean that you can just throw lamps in there. They still have to be focused properly the first time you install them.

The zoom is impressively fast, covering its full range in less than a second, it has an equally-snappy iris, and they don’t draw a ton of power. Overall, I feel these lights are somewhat of a budget solution; I think the color-mix system lags behind anything Martin or Vari-Lite uses, but other than that, I can’t really complain for the price and the wattage.

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