Hands-on Evaluation of the CHAUVET® LED Followspot 75

Posted on February 29, 2012 by webmaster

written by Nick Burke (aka DJ NickyB)
Originally posted on the GEAR BOARD at http://start.mobilebeat.com, re-posted by permission.

The unit arrived unexpectedly via FedEx safe and sound in a brown corrugated box. The fixture itself was boxed in a molded, form-fitted Styrofoam liner with its IEC power cable in its individual slot within in the liner. I have to rate the packaging for this unit as an “A+.” No tripod mount or clamp is provided with the unit so you’re on your own to fabricate one. I happened to have some 1.5” white PVC pipe with an end cap and some 5/16” x 1.5” bolts with nuts and washers so I built one that would slip over the vertical post of a standard Ultimate lighting stand. I figured this had worked for my other followspot and this fixture was much lighter in weight (a mere 13.5 lbs.)

After removing the fixture itself from its container, my initial inspection revealed that this particular unit was very well constructed. All handles, knobs and the like operated smoothly and with feeling. Not being my first CHAUVET® evaluation, I have to say that the build quality of their latest gear definitely exceeds the quality of their DJ line of fixtures of old. The metal housing is quite thick and the feel of the fixture is very sturdy. The “U-bracket” for tripod use was nice and gave plenty of clearance for cables and your hands. Also the DMX in/out XLR connectors were on the rear side of the unit to accommodate easy access and connection into any standard DMX controller. And with the ample clearance of the “U” bracket, all the cables could be easily routed through the bracket and down the post for a clean installation and not interfere with operating the unit.

Only a “Quick Reference Guide” is packaged with the unit but there is a full “User’s Reference Manual” available at the CHAUVET® website available as a PDF download file. The “Quick Reference” has enough information to get you started using your fixture right away as a followspot but not informative enough to take advantage of every feature of this fixture. It starts with an “About This Guide”, then a “Disclaimer” about the guide, a list of “Safety Notes” about connections, light output and heat generated. It then goes into a product description with good diagrams and explanations and a table of Menu Options and a DMX protocol table. The one big short fall I noticed, was that there is nothing in either manual describing where the gobo holder was located or how to access it and mount a gobo into it. More on this later. [EDIT: the latest user manual available on CHAUVET® site has gobo information found on page nine.)

Insert the power cord, plug it into a standard household 115VAC outlet and get ready for a truly smooth experience. My past experience has always been to have a comparison, so I had my Odyssey FS-400/2 right next to the CHAUVET®.

The control panel for this fixture is very well laid out and easy to manipulate. There are four separate sections. On the top left, a single row of four switches … two to control dimming (MAX/MIN) and two to control the lamp (ON/BLACKOUT). Holding the ON button for three seconds puts the lamp into strobe mode.

On the top right is a red  digital display to show the mode the fixture is currently running. “Man” displays for manual mode and the numeric address is displayed when running DMX mode.

On the bottom left are two rows of four switches which control the color filter wheel. The color filter capabilities of this fixture are extraordinarily smooth and surprisingly fast. I stepped through each of the eight color switches and the change from one color to the next was “nearly” instantaneous. On my Odyssey FS-400/2 you see a true “scroll” when the colors are switched so the stepper motor on the color wheel of the CHAUVET® is clearly much, much faster. The colors of both are pretty much a standard set …..ORANGE, CYAN, RED, GREEN, MAGENTA, YELLOW, BLUE and WHITE.

On the bottom right are three switches to control the fixture’s operational mode in MANUAL or DMX mode with UP and DOWN switches to select a DMX address when running DMX mode. The fixture in DMX mode uses three DMX channels and you can refer to the DMX protocol table in the Quick StartUp Guide for the numeric values and their functions for each of the channels.

At initial turn on, there was a second or two delay prior to the 75W LED coming on but when it did, I was really surprised as to the pure whiteness of the beam. There was no comparison to the Odyssey’s 360W halogen lamp. The CHAUVET® LED Followspot 75 simply blew it away. This fixture was as bright as the 250W MSD gas discharge lamp in my Martin Imagescan gobo fixture. Next I tested the dimmer switches which are clearly marked MAX and MIN. Pressing MIN, the dimming appeared to step in smooth increments until the lamp was extinguished, Pressing MAX, the lamp brightened in the same manner until it reached full intensity. Two other buttons basically shutter the lamp off instantly and turn it back on.

Locating the gobo holder and loading a gobo image proved to be puzzling as there is absolutely no mention of it in either manual*. Drawing on my own personal experience, I guessed as to where it should be. Unscrew and remove the knob from the top of the IRIS adjustment handle. Remove the thumbscrew from the IRIS cover plate, then lift the cover straight up. Tucked in behind the color filter wheel is the gobo holder, held in place by two spring loaded clips. Pull the gobo holder straight up and voila, its ready to take on a gobo.

I was excited to try my freshly printed full color “Santa Claus’ face gobo with the words “Merry Christmas” printed in bold white letters. It took several tries to get it down to the correct size. I removed the wire spring that’s used to hold the gobo

Flat against the back of the holder, dropped my gobo in place upside down and reinserted the spring to hold it there. Why upside down? Remembering from physics class, this fixture works similar to the human eye. Images on the retina are actually seen upside down but the brain inverts the image. This fixture has no brain so an upside down image would actually be projected right side up. Make sense?

Anyway, I reinserted the gobo holder, put the cover back in place and excitedly turned on the lamp …. Viola there was Santa with Merry Christmas in full color for about 20 seconds …… then poof ….. a complete gobo meltdown**! Well, much to my disappointment, you CAN NOT use PC generated gobos on overhead projector stock in this fixture. The gobos MUST BE metal or glass to withstand the heat of the 75W LED light source. Yes I was disappointed as I had been informed otherwise but this is still a great fixture and at a great price point. To use it as a really powerful and bright gobo projector would cost you roughly $65-$85 for a custom made metal gobo but that’s a cost that gets passed onto the client.

Across the board I’d have to give this fixture an “A-minus” grade. Its definitely a quality piece of gear for the price. It’s a duel purpose fixture that can fit into live entertainment or DJ environments. Its light weight at 13.5 lbs and very well  constructed for road use. I lowered its grade because of the total omission of the gobo info in the manuals and its inability to handle PC generated gobos. I also think CHAUVET® should provide a mount fitting and at least one 5m dmx cable. Will I be purchasing one …. Yes I will as an upgrade over my Odyssey FS-400/2 …. That you can count on!

Nick Burke (aka DJ NickyB)
Nicky-B Entertainment, LLC – Millersville,MD
Gear Board Co-Moderator for MobileBeat.com
40+ yrs computer experience for NASA
Musician ’65-’87 / DJ since ’87

Editor’s notes:
*The manual has been updated on our website; see page nine.
**We did our own test of print-your-own gobos on standard transparency film at HQ. We also performed a temperature read (see image) and did not experience the same result as described in this review.

LED Followspot 75 temperature measure at CHAUVET® HQ.