Dave Cunningham and the Magic of the Source 4--today at 2PM eastern

STEVETERRY

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Aug 12, 2007
Location
New York
Today at 2PM eastern, we will have a 90-minute webinar with Dave Cunningham, the inventor of the most successful spotlight in history: the ETC Source 4. This will be a deep dive into the fascinating engineering behind the product and the unique structure of the three-year research project that produced it.

You can register for the session free at the link below. It will also be available on the ETC YouTube channel.

ST

 

SteveB

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Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
Thank you for linking this Steve, it was fascinating and educational. As I watched I had a couple of thoughts.

- They keep refering to an "Altman 360Q with an FEL lamp", which was a not a 1000 watt rated fixture by 250 watts, was not UL listed at 1K and used a lamp that would ultimately kill the socket and reflector. It was also standard operating practice at the time.

- As well and at the time of introduction, every electrician was skeptical of the durability of a glass reflector. It had been considered on earlier fixtures but nobody had put it into practical use. S4 proved us wrong.

- I found it remarkable that 2 years or R&D on this was entirely on spec., with no promise of profit. I mean how did they fund this ? And how did they pay salaries ?.
 

RonHebbard

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Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Thank you for linking this Steve, it was fascinating and educational. As I watched I had a couple of thoughts.

- They keep refering to an "Altman 360Q with an FEL lamp", which was a not a 1000 watt rated fixture by 250 watts, was not UL listed at 1K and used a lamp that would ultimately kill the socket and reflector. It was also standard operating practice at the time.

- As well and at the time of introduction, every electrician was skeptical of the durability of a glass reflector. It had been considered on earlier fixtures but nobody had put it into practical use. S4 proved us wrong.

- I found it remarkable that 2 years or R&D on this was entirely on spec., with no promise of profit. I mean how did they fund this ? And how did they pay salaries ?.
Didn't Canada's Electro Controls Parallpsphere (Sp?) utilize a glass reflector to reflect visible light forward while allowing invisible light / heat to pass through its reflector and out the rear of the fixture?
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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STEVETERRY

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Location
New York
Thank you for linking this Steve, it was fascinating and educational. As I watched I had a couple of thoughts.

- They keep refering to an "Altman 360Q with an FEL lamp", which was a not a 1000 watt rated fixture by 250 watts, was not UL listed at 1K and used a lamp that would ultimately kill the socket and reflector. It was also standard operating practice at the time.

- As well and at the time of introduction, every electrician was skeptical of the durability of a glass reflector. It had been considered on earlier fixtures but nobody had put it into practical use. S4 proved us wrong.

- I found it remarkable that 2 years or R&D on this was entirely on spec., with no promise of profit. I mean how did they fund this ? And how did they pay salaries ?.
Don't forget that S4 was preceded by many other successful royalty-bearing Cunningham products from different manufacturers. That royalty stream provided funding for all aspects of the 3- year Source 4 project.

ST
 

derekleffew

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Las Vegas, NV, USA
... utilize a glass reflector to reflect visible light forward while allowing invisible light / heat to pass through its reflector and out the rear of the fixture?
You're half correct, I believe. The primary advantage of the Parellipsphere's glass reflector (besides its shape) was that it reflected more light than the defacto standard Alzak. The SourceFour's dichroic-coated "cold mirror" technology wouldn't appear until much later.

Now that I think about it, the first use of dichroic reflectors may have been in lamps like the GE Marc-350 or HTI of the mid-1980s. @ship ? @DELO72 ?
 
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Les

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Feb 24, 2004
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DFW, Tx.
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Les

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Feb 24, 2004
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DFW, Tx.
That was the color filter only.

ST
I remember seeing a few of these on eBay at one point. They were going for a pretty penny! I can imagine the disappointment when manufactures started only producing dipped Par 38's.

@STEVETERRY Thank you so much for providing us with this unique history and perspective. Fixture design and improvements have always been such a compelling subject for me. In fact, it was the interest in fixtures that got me in to this industry. Getting in to Lighting Design initially served as only a conduit to working with those incredible tools (the love of the art came later). After fully servicing three-dozen Shakespeare ellipsoidals last summer, I have even more appreciation for the amount of time the development team spent perfecting this the Source Four.
 
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SteveB

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Location
Brooklyn, NY
The key here is that the huge success of Source 4 was not due to any single feature, but the aggregate of all the features, of which the glass reflector was only one.

ST
True, but it all came as a result of DC being able to get Sylvania to agree to build a proprietary lamp. Without that, nothing else could follow. It's remarkable for the era that he could get a major lamp manufacturer to take on a custom lamp. Possibly they too saw the potential of a more compact filament design but they likely did not see enough revenue in the Stage/Studio market to choose to innovate on their own.

I assume that the TH lamps at the time - EHG/FLK/BTL etc.... were all derivatives of the earlier non-TH version in terms of lighted center length, which drove reflector design and size, which drove lens size, which drove fixture size. I do recall that when Altman moved to the TH lamp and the 360Q they changed the reflector from a non-faceted in the 360 to a faceted in the Q, so credit for that move. But fixture design was essentially stagnated and Altman was perfectly happy just cranking out 360Q's, which were not that much different from the Century ellipsoidals of the early 60's. Kleigl, Strand and Colortran and ultimately Altman all saw that the 1KW FEL was the lamp and wattage of choice for designers and built fixtures to accommodate that lamp (A UL listing requirement as much as anything) but nobody saw the dichroic reflector concept or the rotating barrel usefulness.

DC threw all that into the garbage and re-invented the wheel essentially.

Remarkable story.
 
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STEVETERRY

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New York
True, but it all came as a result of DC being able to get Sylvania to agree to build a proprietary lamp. Without that, nothing else could follow. It's remarkable for the era that he could get a major lamp manufacturer to take on a custom lamp. Possibly they too saw the potential of a more compact filament design but they likely did not see enough revenue in the Stage/Studio market to choose to innovate on their own.

I assume that the TH lamps at the time - EHG/FLK/BTL etc.... were all derivatives of the earlier non-TH version in terms of lighted center length, which drove reflector design and size, which drove lens size, which drove fixture size. I do recall that when Altman moved to the TH lamp and the 360Q they changed the reflector from a non-faceted in the 360 to a faceted in the Q, so credit for that move. But fixture design was essentially stagnated and Altman was perfectly happy just cranking out 360Q's, which were not that much different from the Century ellipsoidals of the early 60's. Kleigl, Strand and Colortran and ultimately Altman all saw that the 1KW FEL was the lamp and wattage of choice for designers and built fixtures to accommodate that lamp (A UL listing requirement as much as anything) but nobody saw the dichroic reflector concept or the rotating barrel usefulness.

DC threw all that into the garbage and re-invented the wheel essentially.

Remarkable story.
"DC threw all that into the garbage and re-invented the wheel essentially."

And that is what makes Dave unique in our industry. Nobody can do that reinvention like Dave. Hence, my reference to "magic".

ST
 

JChenault

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Jan 5, 2009
Location
seattle, wa USA
One thing that DC did not go into that would have been interesting is "How the heck did he get the physical properties so good"
IE The lens tube does not stick.
The burner goes in and out easily and does not jam
( Not on the original but soon after) we get a clip to hold the lamp tightly to the socket in the burner.
Rotating shutter barrels ( he mentioned this briefly)
An EZ clip to hold the gel frame / top hat in place
Double slots so I can put a heat shield, or top hat and gel easily in the fixture.
Knobs to adjust tilt that don't sag down after I tighten them.

The external physical packaging of the thing (IMHO) was also one of it's big selling points.
 
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almorton

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Caterham, Surrey, UK
Some of those features already existed in other instruments in some form, of course, but I think it's the bringing together of all the ideas, improving where necessary and making them all work as a unified whole that makes the S4 such an outstanding product, and one which has continued to evolve and be built on.
 

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