Clay-Paky Spheriscan Review: All of the Right Reasons to Use a Scanner AgainApril 16, 2018
Clay Paky Spheriscan
Back in the 1980’s manufacturers like Coemar and Lightwave Research released a light that shot a single beam of light through a projector and onto a mirror surface attached to a couple motors that moved the mirror around. That was what was known as the Scanner, (acknowledging the VL-1) the scanner played a huge part in the evolution of intelligent moving lights as we know them today. Scanners were used for quite some time, it was the pretty much the only moving light you could purchase from clubs to stadiums (unless you went with Vari-Lite).
The opposite can be said today. Moving heads were rare until the late 90’s, but now the moving head is pretty much the only available moving light you can use today. The moving head has gained popularity primarily over its more flexible movement range compared to scanners and the majority of manufacturers have stopped producing scanners in favor of innovating the moving head.
Today you still see some older lighting systems using scanners like the good old Trackspot working hard and strong for decades. Currently, only Martin Professional with the RUSH Scanner 1, Blizzard, Chauvet, and American DJ still manufacture an intelligent moving mirror for consumer use. However, these fixtures are pretty limited with their outputs to be limited to smaller venues and mobile DJ’s with their designs being similar to the design used over 20 years ago.
Clay Paky, one of the industry leaders for entertainment lighting products is no stranger to the scanner, actually one of the first with the GoldenScan being released in 1987. The scanner still has a purpose, fast and minimal movement. For bringing back the scanner, Clay Paky had something different in mind and introduced a completely revolutionary scanner, the Spheriscan.
What It Offers
The Clay Paky Spheriscan is a completely different animal of moving light setting a class of its own. Its design utilizes the great features the scanner was once known for and made it better. The Spheriscan is a moving mirror fixture that offers advanced features you will find in a moving head today but uses a glass-enclosed, motorized 2-axis mirror at the top that is completely unobstructed on all sides. This proprietary design eliminates the limited horizontal movement scanners were prone to, allows more movement flexibility but still has the minimal movement that the scanner benefits from and offers strikingly fast movement with continuous pan rotation at 250 RPM.
The Spheriscan is a true professional grade scanner reminiscent of the Martin Pal 1200. It uses a 1400W OSRAM discharge lamp that runs on 1200W and effortlessly out 120,000 lumens at the lamp. Making it suitable for large rigs that demand power and performance with minimal movement. Now this fixture is far more than just a high-output scanner from Clay Paky that infinite rotation. It actually has its own proprietary features that are not found in any manufacturer’s line of moving lights. One lesser-know feature is the fixture is actually weatherproof, with an IP-54 protection rating, making it the first weather-proof moving mirror fixture ever produced.
Even though it has a 45-degree swivel bracket, its unique 360-degree moving mirror design allows the fixture body to be mounted below the stage, exposing only the mirror dome while the rest of its 34-inch body hide discreetly below the stage. Making this light the only discreet and non-obtrusive moving light on stage that you can purchase. A great way to save space and add ground support fixtures. To add to that, the dome that houses the moving mirror features a set of RGB LED’s integrated at the top to give the dome its own unique glow. The mirror dome can also be removed to use the projector for static light use still taking advantage of its numerous effects.
That being said, as mentioned previously, the Spheriscan offers all of the same features you would find in touring-grade profile moving head, making it one of the most flexible moving mirror fixtures available to date. The fixture only accepts a 220V power source, using a 1400 watt OSRAM Lok-it 1400-PS lamp, only 1200 watt of power is sent to it, putting out a 6000K color temperature. For a scanner, the Spheriscan has an impressively wide zoom range of 13-34 degrees along with a 16-blade mechanical iris to further narrow the beam. You will also find a variable frost filter for heavy wash effects never before seen in a scanner.
The Spheriscan features CMY color mixing along with a standard 7-slot color wheel, the LED atop of the dome also offer its own separate RGB color mixing through dedicated channels on DMX. On the Spheriscan you can expect 16-bit dimming control, mechanical shutter with strobe, and motorized focus. It allows for stunning ariel effects featuring 2 gobo wheels with 8 static shaking gobos and 6 interchangeable, indexable rotating gobos plus an 8-facet indexable, rotating prism. The moving mirror offers 360-degree movement with continuous rotation up to 250 RPM and a tilt range of 60-degrees.
The fixture offers precise 16-bit control for each of its parameters, even the pan/tilt adjustments of the mirror are also 16-bit resolution, a rarity found in moving mirror fixtures today. The fixtures supports DMX control with 2 DMX personalities and ART-NET protocols. It has 5-pin DMX data connections located on the bottom of the fixture, the connections are positioned at a flexible angle to allow the fixture to sit flat when used on the ground. The power connections are IP-65 rated Neutrik PowerCON TRUE1 input also at an angle.
The construction of the fixture is very robust to preserve its IP54 protection rating when used in both vertical and horizontal positions. The cooling system is extremely well made to prevent outside elements from entering inside of it and also includes reusable filters inside the air vents of the fixture. The glass dome also feels very solid too, but definitely not something you would want to drop either way.
We’ve all had the incident where someone on stage hits a ground fixture that makes our heart drop. If someone onstage were to trip over the dome of the Spheriscan while being mounted below the stage, it would be completely unharmed. A positioning call or a fixture reset would be needed if this happens on a moving head without position correction. Yeah, the artist tripped over the light and face planted, but at least your expensive light is okay. But don’t let performers stand on the dome.
Being a Clay Paky product, you can bet that the light offers outstanding performance for what you need it for. It can’t 100% replace the flexible movement of a moving yoke fixture, but it comes pretty close to it though, it sure can do a hell of a job of doing what a scanner does best and then some. The tilt range is a little bit limited (60º), it still maneuvers the beam of light well across the vertical spectrum of the dome, but for wide a range of movement such as pointing the beam of light straight up or movements requiring 90º tilt is where the limitation shows. This is where a moving head would be more ideal unless you have the extra stage hands that want to go take the mirror dome off the fixture at the push of a button.
Aside from that. Let’s talk about the speed. Everything is fast, and the effect of that mirror is just second-to-none. The pan/tilt is strikingly fast at 730ms, extremely precise, and smooth. The same applies for the continuous pan rotation. Everything is fast on the Spheriscan, color changes, gobos, zoom, iris, focus, prism rotation. Everything is just fast and precise, there is legitimately is no other scanner available on the market that can match this performance. There is no moving head with this type of output that can move light as quick as the Spheriscan.
The brightness is what comes to be notable. Most of the scanners today use LED, and the brightest one is Blizzard’s Turboscan with a 150W LED. Then there’s the Spheriscan that just makes the Turboscan look like it’s not even on. The optics are what make the brightness so impressive. On maximum zoom at 33 degress, the Spheriscan can puts out 33,000 lumens of light! Remarkable!
The beam it projects is also impressively crisp when you make some adjustments to the focusing (thanks to 16-bit control). This is remarkable for a light that has to pass through so many optical layers. A typical scanner has usually 1 lens plus the mirror, a moving head has 2 or 3 max usually. The Spheriscan has to go through multiple lenses, plus project onto the mirror and then pass through the glass dome, yet it still keeps the crisp beam of light and optimal brightness.
It was surprising to see a frost filter on this fixture. Being a moving mirror with this type of design and a wide zoom range, you would think the frost filter would make the beam of light wide enough to where it almost looks a little like a directional blinder, sort of. Surprisingly, it renders a wash effect extremely well and you’re still able to position the direction of the wash like you would with a moving head. Since it’s variable and having a nice zoom range, the wash is extremely even throughout the dispersion of light.
With this type of design, positioning it is a little quirky. The light works best as a ground fixture, positioned either downstage or center stage if you want to optimize the use of continuous pan movement. If you’re going to take advantage of the under-mounting capabilities, it’s best to position as far downstage as possible. Using it as a grid fixture or flying the fixture on truss is a little awkward to use, it can take a few angle adjustments to get the right looks and movements but that’s the life when using a scanner. Either way the combinations are endless with lighting design and the flexibility of this light allows for plenty of designs and configurations where this fixture will work great.
We didn’t get a chance to test the weather protection personally, but we’ve heard it resists the rain well based on feedback we’ve received from users. The glass dome being exposed to sunlight for long periods of time raises the concern for fading, but so far after 2 years of being in production, no reports of fading have occurred.
Personally, I’m looking for reasons to use it on my next rig. The Clay Paky Spheriscan is an exceptional fixture for its performance and flexibility. Fast and minimal movement and a lot of unique features that give it industry firsts that no other light offers today. It has a price tag and we’ll let your distributor help you on that. However, the cost-to-value is pretty impressive, it’s one of the highest powered weatherproof moving light fixtures available on the market. The SGM G-Spot can’t even match the brightness of this fixture and it has a higher price tag.
Add that plus all of it’s unique features, it truly is the ultimate scanner. Just like the Sharpy, in our book Clay Paky is taken the crown for scanners. Despite some of its limitations, that should be expected on a scanner, but you have more of a scanner with the Spheriscan.