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Selador product life cycle (obsolescence)

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Top 25 Contributor
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sk8rs_dad posted on 02-17-2011 10:35 AM

Is there a whitepaper somewhere that provides any guidance on futureproofing for the Selador line in specific, or LED luminaires in general?  

I am contemplating a replacement plan for our theatre. It is unlikely we can acquire all the units in a single purchase so I have some concern that I may be unable to match units based on the Luxeon Rebel with some future unit.  I know of others who invested heavily in LEDs a few years ago are already regretting their purchase as the next big thing came along and obsoleted their inventory overnight. It would be nice to understand the risks and benefits of buying now versus, say, 3 years from now.

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Top 75 Contributor
158 Posts

Well - I must say that the LED product lifecycle is going to be very turbulent for a long time. But you can't wait forever!

We are introducing new Selador products in the near future and will continue to introduce LED products later this year and into the future. We will continue to sell the products we have currently. The products you buy are not going to go obsolete. They are useful for lighting! There will be brighter products in the future. Over time the prices will reduce. But the fact remains that LED products have power supplies, control boards, user interfaces; these things are far more expensive than conventional tungsten.

So - buy some now - some later. Think carefully about how you will integrate them. Their greatest use is as over stage color washes. If you want to be green, use them where tungsten is least efficient; deep colors like blues that burn lots of power and gel in tungsten. It is about Color color color.

Will they match colors in the future? We cannot guarantee they will. We are developing tools that will vastly improve consistency, but the years will bring new challenges to LED technology.

Don't wait to get in the game - but view it as a process. It's not a quick cure all. Plan to build a hybrid theatre where LEDs have a purpose and tungsten has a purpose. If you want products that are green and have a brightness level that will impact your productions - look at our Ice units for top and back light washes. You don't get every color in the rainbow - but you can sure see the colors you get! They cut through bright stage washes and create impact - while they use a fraction of the energy of tungsten.

 

David Lincecum, Marketing Manager, ETC

David Lincecum Product Marketing Manager, ETC
Top 25 Contributor
765 Posts

I'm not sure I agree with LED being more expensive than tungsten, even today. The TCO for a new installation might actually be less if one reduces or eliminates the cost of the conventional dimming system, lamp replacement, gel replacement, HVAC, and electricity over the life of the product, and that doesn't even include the use of a single LED luminaire instead of several tungstens. Depending on the jurisdiction there may even be "green" grants to offset the purchase price, improving the ROI and reduce the payback period for the investment. About a decade ago Hydro One (Ontario, Canada) ran a rebate program to green theatres in my area due, in large part, to the introduction of the HPL and FLK lamp and a recognition that reducing demand is much cheaper than increasing generating capacity. Are you aware of any such discussions in the works now that LED has become a viable option?

In my case, LED units would supplant our existing cyclorama lights and our inventory of scrollers that are typically used for colour washs. Some of the scrollers would continue to see use on other conventional instruments from time to time, but otherwise they will be taking up space as most of our people would adopt using the new fixtures. So, I get to consider how many we keep and how many we sell off. Since we've got between 3 and 10 years of use out of them depending on their purchase date, they don't owe me anything. I have no heartburn retiring a fully depreciated piece of gear.

Its all well and good to suggest a piecemeal approach to buying but the consequence is coping with incompatibility. It means potentially maintaining a separate inventory of cable, power supplies, adapters, or whatever else might be required to actually get the luminaire to emit light. Little things like the use of PowerCon connectors, or whether passthru power is available to facilitate daisy-chaining influence a purchasing decision.  How those connections get made may determine whether the luminaire can be used for a specific application. There's no agreement on form factor so I can't pick up a louvre, tophat or other accessory and expect to be able to use it on the luminaire I buy next time.

Here's a hypothetical, and somewhat likely scenario. Suppose I buy some quantity this year based on a 3x3 zone approach to area lighting. Next year an LD decides on 2x5 zoning for their show. I need one luminaire to cover the extra zone, and maybe a different set of lenses for the existing fixtures. Unfortunately, the manufacturer isn't making them any more, and the local rental houses never stocked that particular model. The only rental house I can find that has them won't ship to Canada. What's the solution? Replace the whole rig, or buy one oddball from the current product and convince the LD to live with the inconsistency.

The available marketing literature says that LED luminaires belong in my rig. I'm convinced that is true. So my next challenge is finding literature that helps me manage my inventory, and more importantly, helps me save face when I go back to the board for more money next time.

 

Top 500 Contributor
29 Posts

It is very gratifying to know of the thought you've put into this purchase decision.  The glut of hype around LEDs can easily distract potential buyers from considering all of the factors.  You are absolutely right about the total cost of ownership when the complete picture is evaluated.  LED lighting can legitimately be considered an overall cost saver for many theatrical applications, even with the high upfront price tags.

On the other hand, the technology is still in its adolescence, and it is sufficiently disruptive to require huge adjustments to nearly every aspect of conventional fixture design.  Right now all of this is still being figured out and finessed.  Not until solid-state lighting becomes much more mature—5 years? 10 years? 20?—will we see the speed of change slow down and fixtures look more alike one another over time.  

As difficult as it is to market them in this way, today's LED luminaires are probably more similar to consumer electronics (e.g., cell phones, flat-screen TVs, etc.) than conventional light fixtures.  That’s a tough sell.  These are expensive products that are intended to last a lot longer in their functions than a gadget that fits in your pocket.

In the relatively near future, 2 to 5 years, the thing that will change more than anything else for the kinds of LED fixtures that are out there now is that the cost per lumen will drop, and this probably won’t happen incredibly quickly.  The fixtures may change shape and size, but their output is already pretty well defined for many functions (like short-throw wash lighting), so if we’re to compare only the actual light coming out of the fixtures, the changes will probably be pretty minimal.  But remember, that’s for those functions that are well established at this point.  I wouldn’t say the same thing about LED ellipsoidals or projectors right now.

Be selective about the functions you consider for replacement with LEDs.  LEDs aren't ready for every role yet.  Your approach, thinking in terms of specific, whole locations on the stage (like the cyclorama), rather than piecemeal one-to-one replacement of old fixtures, is the best way to begin adopting LEDs.  

If you can do it, purchase enough units for an entire function at one time--maybe with just enough to spare that if the design for an overhead wash goes from a 3x3 zoning to 2x5, for example, you'll be covered.  Whether fixtures change or technology becomes obsolete, the functionality that these fixtures provide will still be valid.

Having said this, we really do understand the concerns around incongruence, and we are working hard to maintain as much consistency as possible between existing offerings and new products that are coming down the pipeline.  This includes simple things like power and data cable connections, lenses, and compatibility with standard accessories, but it also carries over to complex parameters like calibrated color output for uniformity among multiple fixtures, thermal management for longevity, new ways of thinking about control modes for broad flexibility with various control consoles, etc.  We will always explore new ways of managing this issue.  Keep your eyes open as we continue to release new products, and I’ll think you’ll find some of your concerns alleviated.

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