The ‘integration of video and lighting’ has been a developing point of interest in the live events industry for some time. With show designers, creative directors, lighting designers and content creators assessing the creative parameters of a stage, the days of video and lighting departments existing as separate entities are seemingly over.
In line with the merging of worlds, Avolites has announced its latest flagship console, the Diamond 9. Released in two versions – D9-330 and D9-215 – with the tagline ‘designed by visual designers, for visual designers’ the new consoles promise to combine lighting, media and other visual aspects into one central point of control. It’s not a pure lighting desk nor is it a visual operator – it’s everything rolled into one. “The Diamond 9, along with our new brand logo, marks the first step in our future-facing strategy as a company,” explained Avolites Managing Director, Paul Wong. “This is the result of four years worth of work, following a great deal of research and R&D investment, building on our current software platform.”
The desk offers numerous contact points for users, with 11 touchscreens including three main workspace screens and three media previews, as well as specific screens for attribute control and soft key shortcuts. There are also numerous indications across the surface that this desk is also designed for the use of video operations – notably the T-bar.
As well as a range of hardware options that are sure to excite those looking for more control of video elements for their desk, the Diamond 9 provides much more when it comes to intuitive media control. Avolites has already made serious ground on this topic with its release of Synergy in 2019, which allowed seamless integration between media server and lighting control. The Diamond 9 builds on this, bringing this control to users’ fingertips with intuitive design and layouts ideal for media playback and control.
“The functionality that we have put into the Diamond 9 is what our customers have been requesting for years,” expressed Wong, as he stood next to the larger of the two models, the D9-330. “The worlds of video and lighting have been moving closer for some time and therefore it was inevitable that the market would need a desk to control the entire visual canvas.”
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One of the key people within the Avolites camp responsible for bringing the Diamond to market has been Technical Director, JB Toby. “Diamond 9 dates back to 2017 when we set out to create a new control surface that was totally at ease with dealing with both media and lighting,” he commented. “It’s been quite a journey to maintain this vision for such a long time, but we are really happy with the result.”
The creation of the Diamond 9 has led Avolites to alter its R&D department, with both the hardware and the software teams all working under one roof – this was all before COVID-19, of course. “The two departments were based in different buildings before and I had wanted to make this change for a long time,” reported JB. “Now, we have the AI team, Titan software team and hardware development all in the same space, which means we have direct contact all the time.”
On the topic of software, while at the HQ, TPi caught up with Titan Lead Developer, Oliver Waits. He detailed some of the development challenges of the desk. “The real challenge has been pulling all the technologies together, as sometimes the video and lighting worlds don’t quite gel,” he explained. “At the same time, we did not want to compromise the power the Diamond 9 would have as a lighting console that can operate on the largest shows.”
The announcement of Diamond 9 coincided with the beta open release of latest version of Avolites Titan v15, set to be released at the end of February. “One of the most exciting developments with v15 is the new Timeline feature,” commented Waits. “We have always been really proud of having a visual experience with our software, but the new Timeline feature really drills home this kind of visual way of programming in linear timecoded shows.”
The Diamond 9 has been through rigorous testing to ensure it is show ready it was show ready for the start of 2021. “From the hardware testing side of things – we were fortunate enough to be able to take two prototypes to the US on our SPLNTR event in Las Vegas in November 2019, which acted as a great test of the desks’ durability,” JB explained. “While in lockdown, we have done a number of tests including mock load-ins, where we have taken the desk in and out of flight cases.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lighting Designer, Tom Campbell was able to take the D9-215 console out for one show in London to put it through its paces. “The experience was fantastic. Programming on it felt familiar but greatly enhanced by the step up in hardware allowing for a smoother, quicker and more enjoyable programming experience,” he commented. “As a long-term user of Avolites, I am extremely excited to see where the D9 takes the company and I am very proud to have had a small part in its development.”
With a new year and a new console, TPi asked the team at Avolites what they believe this new release meant for the company’s future progression. “I think from the feedback we’ve had over the past 12 months, you’ll see more designers choosing an Avolites platform to deliver their productions,” JB said. “Tighter integration of media is where these larger shows are going and it’s going to mean the Diamond 9 is a vital piece of the puzzle.”
The Technical Director was also keen to state that this was “just the beginning of the story”; with an extensive software roadmap in the next few years, future releases will give end users even greater potential than today. Although this might not have been the initial concept for the use of the console, JB believes that the Diamond 9 is a solution in line with the emergence of virtual and XR-style performances.
“Both VR and XR will continually develop into this side of the industry,” mused JB, who explained that many VR and XR tools use DMX and ACN to control internal objects within their platform while also using NDI, meaning the Diamond 9 would certainly be a solution for this developing market. “The control of those virtual extras all comes back to the linking of lighting and video, which is what this product is open for. We have the tools and features to be able to bring that to fruition,” he stated.
Wong pinpointed the Diamond 9 as the “start of a new chapter” at the firm. “Diamond 9 really represented the start of our vision of where we see Avolites going,” he concluded. “It’s the culmination of integration of multiple technologies that enable users to provide the complete immersive experience – whether it’s integration of lighting, video or our recent one-way integration with Pioneer Pro DJ Link – users will have complete control of the entire visual canvas.”
This article originally appeared in issue #258 of TPi, which you can read here.