Pro Light & Sound 2018 – Frankfurt still delivers

By Julius Grafton.

While PL&S was once the eighth wonder of the trade-show world, it still packs a punch for hordes of tech-heads from everywhere. Including Australia and New Zealand, since I kept running into people I wanted to talk to, and some I did not.

Strangely the hall managers don’t care if you hang around half the night drinking on your stand! One such event turned ugly when some Latvian lighting guys attempted to finish a long session with some traditional wrestling. It’s what they do, apparently, but the show security took it as an invitation to pile in and dished out some biff.

There were plenty of lost phones too, one luckless guy managed to lose his personal and his work phone to pick pockets, who target the things. Does anyone know how they un-brick them?

On with the show, this is it:

HD Ledshine

Please step outside.

Would you like a 33 ton, 16 x 9 (almost 4k), 144 square metre mobile screen? This monster is actually 16m x 9m and sets up in one hour flat! It’s got 6.2 million pixels on board, which adds up to a lot of soldering. There was a lot of conjecture about its wind rating and it comes with a little weather station on top too.

But it is Belgian – so it must be safe.

d&b SL Series – GSL 

It’s not a replacement for the iconic J Series. GSL is instead a line array system that delivers much more SPL and full broadband directivity control, for the largest events. It’s been christened ‘a destroyer of worlds’.

GSL8 is loaded with two newly designed 14” woofers for low end, and a single 10” out each side to provide full cardioid performance. The design provides a very real low frequency usability, such that in some situations sub woofers are not required, especially in flown configurations.

The result is +8db more audio from a full array than from a corresponding J array, across the 50 to 200Hz range. At 50hz, the SL delivers +10db more. This is quite startling. Midrange is delivered from one 10” driver on a mid horn, and highs come from 3 x 3.4” diaphragms. The overall cabinet weight is 80kg. The subwoofer offering is loaded with 3 x 21” drivers – two out front and one at the back to deliver cardioid.

Claypaky add on ADB 

I was looking around for ADB to talk to them about their big install at Sydney Opera House, and discovered they were now part of the Claypaky family under Osram. I never did have the discussion, but I did see the Zac-Eye.

It is a ‘magic box’, an external device which can be connected to any Claypaky moving light via Ethernet. Its optical 3D sensor detects all the objects on the stage, and a sophisticated algorithm distinguishes human shapes from the rest of the environment.

With the performer wearing a tag, the box has a camera and sends out a pulsed infra-red light source. That encoded IR beam hits the tag and is reflected back. The camera only accepts that pulsed IR light, confirming the target. Sounds a bit Robo Cop, right? But it works! Now you have as many ‘follow’ spots as you want.



It’s been roughly four years since the G Spot came along, one of the hardiest outdoor LED movers with almost submarine water performance. I know this because we gave one a very refreshing bath in our loading dock.

Now this Danish company, who had a very clever entry show at the front of Hall 4, have upgraded the G Spot with two derivatives – the G7, which comes at a very keen price point, and the Turbo G which breaks the 20,000 lumen barrier. That puts it at Martin Viper level, bearing in mind the Viper has a discharge lamp.

Former Martin CEO Peter Johansenn runs SGM which some wag says stands for ‘Some Guys from Martin’, and it is unique in that every light is IP65/66 rated, and every light is LED.


The Mantra Lite that is, selling strong in Europe as an entry level console. The Melbourne based manufacturer had solid interest across all their lines, and report that the humble dimmer rack is alive and kicking still.


While L-Acoustics were really busy with their new L-ISA immersive sound system, reporting several touring implementations (including Lorde), they surprised many with an adaptation: the ‘Island’. 

This is a four metre diameter item of furniture which surrounds your couch, deck, or bed, and which comes complete with 23 speakers, two subs, and 24 power amplifiers. A futuristic ‘Bubble’ interface lets you put whatever music or movie noise you want through its L-ISA derived brain.

The finish is up to you – it’s bespoke. Provided you have a room at least six by six metres, with the floor happy to take a tonne, you can have an Island in your dream home.

This is a Rolls Royce product. Not for most people. And if you have to ask how much it is (I did, they demurred) then you just can’t afford it, old boy.

MA Lighting grandMA3 

The grandMA3 is a hit – the stand was swamped. There’s a raft of new tricks and amazing industrial design – the way it folds is impressive in itself. There’s huge new multi-touch screens, configurable dual encoders, and you can connect it directly to the web for software updates, technical support, and fixture downloads. That’s just a few of around 20 new capabilities. The grandMA3 is the new big thing, and MA Lighting are number one across most markets.




L-Acoustic launched L-ISA (the revolutionary Immersive Audio multi-speaker machine that makes stereo obsolete) with day-one integration from the surface of some DiGiCo consoles. It means the live sound engineer can pan any input to any of many shorter front hangs of speakers.

Anyhow you should be all over that by now, since CX has been reporting on this since November last year. Now d&b audiotechnik has leapfrogged their French competition and announced a series of landmark integrations between their Soundscape (same ideas as L-ISA, different software and hardware) with its central DS100 Signal Engine and digital mixing consoles from leading manufacturers DiGiCo, Avid, and Lawo.

That steps things up. The announcement was made at live mixing sessions showing the console workflows and mixing live multitrack recordings at a large-scale demonstration venue at PL&S. This follows earlier announcements of integration partnerships with QLab show control systems, TTA Stagetracker and VST plugin formats.

Both d&b and L-Acoustic have their Immersive Audio systems in the market. Viva le revolution!


Lawo are kicking goals with the MC2 which does a pretty good job being almost all things to all people – live broadcasts, post-production, live mixing and the theatre.

MC2 comes in four footprints, from 36 to 96 faders, and incorporates handy features for working with video, including thumbnail previews of video streams directly in the fader labeling displays.

Across the aisle from DiGiCo was a similarly sized and just as busy stand for Allen & Heath. Now they are owned by Audiotonix, with SSL recently joining Calrec inside the same firm. This is one mighty, mighty machine.

The cynics have been silenced, after all, you have motoring manufacturers sharing platforms across brands, like VW, Skoda, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini and half a dozen others all owned by the one firm. Audiotonix are showing it makes sense to do it with consoles. More power to them.


Please understand this tradeshow has a phenomenal number of exhibitors. Some big audio names that were not there include Meyer Sound, Sennheiser, and Shure.

Robe had a sensational stand with a really professional show every hour – featuring ten dancers and acrobats. It really was classy, and showed off their eternally expanding range, including the new Tarantula which breaks through the 20,000 lumen barrier. That’s the tipping point for LED; the discharge lamp is on its last legs now.

Finally there was talk of an exhibitor revolt due to a proposal to merge the MusikMesse (M.I.) halls with the more successful Pro Light & Sound halls. That idea went down like a tungsten lamp in a sauna.

Despite some obvious contraction in size, and the shrinking of the M.I. industry, I think I’ll be at Frankfurt every year now. I had a ball!

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