2011 Gear in Review

by Ben Stowe, CTS

Wow! What a year we just experienced. Besides perhaps being the last full calendar year of civilization, if you believe some of the apocalyptic hype surrounding the end of the Mayan b’ak’tun (which this writer does not), 2011 was notable for many other things.

On the technology front, I’d be remiss if I forgot to mention the passing of Steve Jobs and Sidney Harman. Harman-Kardon owns the brands JBL, Crown, BSS, DBX, Lexicon, SoundCraft, Studer, AKG and others.

Happy Birthday

We also celebrated the 20th birthday of a technology that is very much alive; DMX-512. While introduced in 1986, it didn’t gain widespread acceptance until 1991, and turns 20 with an unmatched deployment in lighting fixtures. Despite the emergence of ACN, DMX is sure to have many more birthdays. It is now available on fixtures costing less than a steak dinner, and is likely to only become more common.

Start Saying “Goodbye” to
Physical Media Formats

2011 saw the continued march towards solid-state media and digital formats with the rapid increase in the number of MIDI mappable players for DJs. It’s hard to believe, but the CD is hanging on to its thin marketshare while turning 30 this year. Music CDs will soon be a thing of the past but on a historical note, they were first demonstrated with a BeeGees recording in 1981. It’s widely discussed in geek circles that Blu-Ray will be the last physical media format, with digital downloads and cloud based technologies now poised to completely take over.

It’s LED for You and Me

LED continues to grow as a dominant technology for lighting. The low cost, lightweight, low-heat, solid-state nature of LED makes it a natural fit for DJs. The ability to mix red, green and blue colors to create a broad palette is very desirable, and the addition of amber and white diodes broadens the gamut and allows a DJ to make pleasing colors to suit most client’s wishes. When using SMD tri and quad devices the color-mixing is even smoother and the usable gamut increased. It’s likely that LED will be around for quite some time, although it’s rumored that BMW is experimenting with lasers as a possible light source for headlamps.

Don’t Get Irradiated

Speaking of lasers, 2011 continued to increase my level of concern with the number of very high-power, low-cost lasers being illegally imported and made available to an uneducated and unsuspecting public.  Make no mistake, the R in laser stands for Radiation.  Granted, it’s not ionizing radiation like uranium, but it is a focused beam of pure energy that must be respected. LASER is an acronym, and there’s good reason for them to have warning labels and Federal regulation.  We’re not talking about the tag on a mattress here.  We’re talking about devices that can be very dangerous if not properly designed, manufactured, regulated and operated.  If you are looking to buy a IIIb or IV laser, and the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.  If you want to be sure, a quick search on www.regulations.gov will provide you with an answer.  If you don’t know what IIIb or IV is, you probably shouldn’t be shopping for them.  That comment will probably offend some, but I can’t put safety behind the risk of hurting someone’s feelings.  Chances are, I’ll potentially save someone from paying some pretty big fines, causing permanent injury to themselves or worse yet someone else.   If you want to get into laser displays, they can be fantastic.  Just be sure to be safe.  Work with an established, reputable company that can help educate you on the proper laser for you, and the proper ways to use it.

One Final Thought

Here’s to wishing you a safe and prosperous 2012! I’m excited about what technology will bring us in the next year and look forward to reporting on it next December. Until then, have fun and be safe!

Ben Stowe, CTS – Sound & Lighting Guru

Ben Stowe serves the AV industry as the President of NLFX Professional, an industry leading supplier of sound, lighting and video systems, a role he has maintained since founding the company in 1993.

Ben’s AV installs have been featured in almost every major industry trade magazine. He has assisted lighting manufacturers with product R&D, as well as contributing to the DJ industry through presentations at trade shows and articles for magazines in the U.S. and Europe.

Ben holds an electrical license as well as other certifications and accreditations, including the most widely recognized one in the AV industry, the InfoComm CTS.

Ben’s highly praised “Event Lighting” DVD is available at ProAcademySeries.com.

To watch a promotional video about it click here.

To contact him email ben@nlfxpro.com.

 

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