Audio Progress takes stock of Robe LEDBeam 350s

Audio Progress is a audio, lighting and staging company based in Palmerston North tucked into the rural heartlands of New Zealand’s North Island.

The enterprise is run by Malcolm McKinnon, who founded it back in the 1980s, originally as an audio specialist, and since then, he and the team have built a reputation for delivering productions for all types of shows and events, concerts, and festivals.

A recent investment in 16 Robe LEDBeam 350s sees the first Robe moving lights to join the Audio Progress inventory.

The new fixtures – delivered by distributor Jands New Zealand – are being used to light an increasing array of televised and streamed events serviced by Audio Progress. McKinnon found they needed a moving light with optics that was optimised for working with camera systems.

When he first started the company in the 1980s, it wasn’t possible to buy modern PA systems in New Zealand. He then built one himself primarily using JBL components initially for his own band, he soon started receiving rental inquiries, and the business started to blossom and grow. By the early 1990s, production technology distribution had finally made it to New Zealand, and manufactured systems started becoming available to purchase.

The company expanded steadily, and in 1999 McKinnon designed and built his own staging system to service the evolving work, especially for music and cultural concerts. This was self-contained, stored and transported on a flat-bed truck. The company also moved into its current warehouse in 2001, as a home was needed for the stage, which is still working regularly.

They needed lighting for the stage, so the first lighting stock joined the growing kit inventory, as the tech and the production values advanced with the demand for moving lights.

“Golden Shears” – the world’s premier shearing and wool handling championship staged in Masterton, capital of New Zealand’s shearing industry – was a great example of where their other moving lights suffered from crawling reds, sketchy whites and additional aberrations which generally didn’t look great on camera. The shearers typically work on a raised platform  and below this, the wool handling takes place, all of which needed consistent light.

“Clearly it was time for change! We needed superior optics and colour rendering to deliver our clients the best-looking shows, so I started looking around,” he explained.

He was aware of Robe as a brand already and had hired some LEDWash 600s for a Kapa Haka festival from Grouse Lighting in Wellington. However, it was watching the LEDBeam 350 product video, that he was most impressed by.  For due diligence, he looked at smaller fixtures from two other manufacturers as well for perspective, and organised a shootout before making the decision to go with Robe.

The first eight arrived followed by another eight giving a current system of 16, which McKinnon expects to be growing soon.

He is delighted with the results, especially with the general adaptability due to the zoom and other Robe refinements like the manual hot spot control, plus the colour mixing and general output characteristics.

“LEDBeam 350s have made a massive difference to how we can light all our productions. The quality and engineering are excellent, they are easy to handle physically, and they work brilliantly on camera. Basically, they have solved all the issues at once! It’s been a great investment!” he concluded.