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LEE Colortran Company

DId you ever use A Lee Colortran ENR 96 system and did you Like it?

  • Yes I used one and I liked it

    Votes: 5 33.3%
  • No I have never used one

    Votes: 7 46.7%
  • Yes I have used one and never liked that system

    Votes: 5 33.3%

  • Total voters
    15

JimP0771

Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2017
Location
Upstate NY
Hi All

It has been a long time sense I have posted anything here. Been busy with work and my theater life doing theater sound. Here is my question. Does anyone know the history of Lee Colortran? I know they were at one point a very large lighting company producing light and lighting consoles and controls for theaters. Were they big in the Broadway theater wold in NYC. Were any theaters in NYC using there products and what happen to the company? Do they still exist today? Sorry of all of the long questions but I am sure there are people on here that are wondering the same thing.

Thanks

Jim
 

SteveB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
It has been a long time sense I have posted anything here. Been busy with work and my theater life doing theater sound. Here is my question. Does anyone know the history of Lee Colortran? I know they were at one point a very large lighting company producing light and lighting consoles and controls for theaters.

The links provided by Dan have useful info.

Were they big in the Broadway theater wold in NYC.

Generally no, they were not popular on Broadway. Strand pretty much owned the conventional console market on Broadway for a period with various versions of the Light Palette. When movers got introduced, most shows used a Whole Hog, then would Midi link the Hog to a Strand (maybe they only Midi linked starting with Obsession, cant recall). Later, ETC made a big push with the Obsession and later Eos, while Strand got pushed aside. GrandMA then made inroads as well and today you mostly see Eos and GrandMA. Part of the reason Colortran never got popular was the top desk for them was Prestige, which while a good desk (I owned 2) had very buggy software and Colortran was not up to the task of supporting and fixing. As well and with Broadway under IATSE contracts, the lighting shops that provided gear, also being IATSE, never purchased Colortran. The IATSE local shops were 4 Star and Bash and they had mostly Strand or ETC, with Altman fixtures being prevalent. And finally, Colortran never made a great impression on the B-Dway lighting designers, so they weren't asking for them.

Were any theaters in NYC using there products

Colortrans were in use in assorted spaces, we had 2 at Brooklyn, the NBC Ave. M studio in Brooklyn had at least one, I think City Center had one. The local company pushing them was Production Arts (became 4th Phase and then PRG), they had a bunch of Prestige console in rental, that were awful at touring and getting shipped (cards would come loose internally) with ProArts finally dropping the line and that was the death knell in the NYC area for Colortran.

and what happen to the company? Do they still exist today? Sorry of all of the long questions but I am sure there are people on here that are wondering the same thing.

They still exist, buried in the Levition on-line catelog. If you check out the website, they still show Picollo and Innovator consoles, the i series dimmer racks and packs, as well as assorted incandescent ellipsoidal's, fresnels, what look like either ETC S4 Par knock-offs, or actual Pars sourced thru ETC, plus open faced units, soft-lights, etc.... They were purchased by NSI and moved to Portland, OR then subsequently purchased by Leviton, who has done a Borg on them as they seem completely assimilated into the Leviton family. I could find no actual information other than support seems to be in Portland.

2 add'l notes. I have an ENR 12 pack, it's my running light system and it works just fine. You can get parts from Steve Short at Litetrol 516 681-5288. He has ENR and D192 rack parts.
 
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BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
Some early attention for their consoles - Colortrack? Channel Track? Lots of schools, sound stages, and Vegas. A lot of the success was due to Sonny Sonnenfeld, legendary stage lighting sales rep. Strong and aggressive sales force - many of whom were hired by ETC when Colortran went bad.

They contracted for the services of David Cunningham, who had done quite a bit of Strand's product development, and he seemed to be behind the ill-fated ENR series (Electronic Noise Reduction - a major concern at that time. Picture a Sensor dimmer but the module case is plastic, not metal, and the buss bars are aluminum, not copper.) BTW Cunningham has done a lot of work for ETC with a major hand in the Sensor dimmers and original S4, among other products.
 
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EdSavoie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 19, 2016
Location
Windsor, ON, Canada
I've had the (Privilege?) of becoming intimate with two separate Colortran ENR Systems.

Both in Windsor, one used professionally, and another at a local secondary school.
The big boy in the Cleary International Centre Chrysler Theatre, as well as a smaller one in aforementioned school used for school and community productions.

There are certainly problems with the ENR system, well documented and otherwise, but i've developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. I find the quirks of the system a little charming if not a bit annoying to work around.

The larger one in the Chrysler Theatre seems to have grown a bit oversensitive on a handful of the heavy draw circuits, generally ones used for large Fresnels and cyc lighting. We had some issues with the rack throwing a few of the breakers, but nothing important that couldn't be rectified pre-show by swapping a circuit or two. Control is fed to these via a Net2 Node, i'm not aware of any hiccups from feeding them DMX.

The "little" system used in the secondary school is a pair of ENR 24 packs, which work fine once you get past some quirks with "Modern" DMX signals. After far more troubleshooting than I would have liked, I narrowed the problem down to an incompatibility with the "auto-syncing" feature prominently championed by the ENR system. I've seen documentation for control modules that allow you to manually select protocol via a switch on the card, which have ironically aged better than the smarter "auto-syncing" ones.

As far as I've been able to tell, the sync is looking for specific things in order to latch onto the signal. Attempts by modern consoles to prune DMX channels outside the used range, or to output at a fast refresh rate result in the dimmer throwing it's hands up and failing to sync. I was actually able to fix a long running "flicker" problem described by the school where every single DMX channel would briefly flicker off and back on again. This turned out to be caused by their Express being set to output at maximum speed, which was just fast enough that the dimmer would lose sync for a fraction of a second every few minutes. A quick adjustment to a slower output speed was all it took to prevent any flickering from happening again.

This also tied in to an issue where their brand spanking new Leprecon XC 350 (For the love of god please spare me from my suffering) would refuse to speak to the dimmer, as it tries to output far too fast for the Dimmer to latch on to the signal, and the console has ZERO options for configuring DMX outputs other than universe. A Doug Fleenor Design DMX decelerator is currently being shipped to fix this.

My adventures with the XC 350 are a whole other world of pain I can delve into should somebody wish to hear.
 

microstar

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 19, 2014
Location
Lawton, OK
Some early attention for their consoles - Colortrack? Channel Track? Lots of schools, sound stages, and Vegas. A lot of the success was due to Sonny Sonnenfeld, legendary stage lighting sales rep. Strong and aggressive sales force - many of whom were hired by ETC when Colortran went bad.

They contracted for the services of Glen Cunningham, who had done quite a bit of Strand's product development, and he seemed to be behind the ill-fated ENR series (Electronic Noise Reduction - a major concern at that time. Picture a Sensor dimmer but the module case is plastic, not metal, and the buss bars are aluminum, not copper.) BTW Cunningham has done a lot of work for ETC with a major hand in the Sensor dimmers and original S4, among other products.
I'm sure you meant David Cunningham!
 

derekleffew

Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
Premium Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2007
Location
Las Vegas, NV, USA
Something not yet mentioned...were it not for Colortran, we might not have DMX512 today. In the mid-1980s, Strand-Century was committed to CD-80 protocol, which USITT adopted as AMX192. Berkey-Colortran had the superior D192, aka CMX, Colortran MultipleX, which, with minor alterations (just enough so as not to be considered proprietary to allow Colortran to have an advantage), was adopted as USITT DMX512 in 1986.

The first origins of ColorTran are interesting as well: https://www.controlbooth.com/threads/colortran-trivia.9242/

Also, were it not for Colortran's CineQueen, we might not have the PAR64 fixture (although Ariel Davis was first with that too.) https://www.controlbooth.com/threads/par-acl-and-par-can-invention.18874/#post-190354

Expounding on @SteveB 's comments above: https://www.controlbooth.com/threads/worst-dimmers-youve-worked-with.24049/page-2#post-212615 .

When I first encountered the Prestige about 1986, I thought it was wonderful, a much less-expensive Light Palette with more modern features (and for good reason as Dave Cunningham was involved with both). Perhaps I was lucky, but didn't encounter many of the issues that @STEVETERRY discusses (although at the time, the Chicago Colortran rep was known for keeping Prestige parts in his car.) Around the same time, when I first saw the Expression, I didn't like it--operationally it was too similar to the Kliegl Performer. Insert long discussion about tracking vs. preset desks here. Obsession on the other hand, was a further step in the progression Light Palette>Prestige>Obsession>EOS.
 

SteveB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
Ditto Derek’s comments about actually running a Prestige. It was fast, great button layout and very reliable for us. I hated the buttons on the LP and likewise never liked the Express/ion syntax. It was very unfortunate that Colortran could not support their product with bug fixes and updates, else it would have done very well.

At the time, similar desks to the Light Palette, such as the Kliegl Performance, Colortran Channel Track, etc... we’re big stand-alone desks on wheels and were impossible to tour with. The Prestige changed that with a separate desktop design and external monitors. It toured great except that the internal components would fall out. Minor problem.

I well recall Steve Terry’s frustrations with Colortran, to the extent that ProArts designed and built a touring Lighting Palette that was also a desktop unit outside the rolling desk unit, separate small components rack, external monitors, etc.... a nice design subsequently outdated by Expression and then Obsession. Interesting though that for all its reliability and ease of use, the Expression never got adopted on Broadway as the designers all wanted Light Palette syntax.
 
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Numlok

Member
Joined
Sep 7, 2008
It has been a long time sense I have posted anything here. Been busy with work and my theater life doing theater sound. Here is my question. Does anyone know the history of Lee Colortran? I know they were at one point a very large lighting company producing light and lighting consoles and controls for theaters.


2 add'l notes. I have an ENR 12 pack, it's my running light system and it works just fine. You can get parts from Steve Short at Litetrol 516 681-5288. He has ENR and D192 rack parts.
SteveB! You just made my day. I have 2 ENR dimmer packs in flyaway's. They must be 20 years old. They are long in the tooth, full of grit, and getting a bit tired, but they still work really well. I had never heard of Lite-trol and just looked them up. So there is hope for the old packs still.
 

JonCarter

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2011
Location
Meridian, Idaho, US
I first ran into Colortran products in the early 1960s. They made "Colortran Converters" which were boxes, about 12" x 14" x 10" high and weighing 40# containing a multi-tapped autotransformer. Line cord on one end, a half-dozen Edison receptacles on the other and a voltmeter and push-button voltage selector switch on top. They stepped 120VAC up to something like 160VAC in 5V steps. The purpose of these was to allow conventional 120V PAR and R lamps (2700K) to be used for color photography at 3200K (or 3400K for Kodachrome) by running them at above rated voltage. Lamp life went to H, but a bunch of 500W PAR fixtures were much smaller and lighter (and cheaper, even with the short lamp life!) than conventional Mole-Richardson or Bardwell-McAllister equipment. Saved crew personnel & setup & strike time & transportation cost on small location work; not very good for the big stuff.
 

Mac Hosehead

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 10, 2014
Location
Shark Tank
I believe it was Berkey Colortran before Lee, the gel makers.

i was sent to one of the first technician training seminars at Berkey Colortran for ENR dimmers in Burbank, California. There, they touted the plated aluminum bus bars and the namesake "ENR" mode.

At a later date, the bus bars were replaced in racks and the "ENR" mode of dimming was disabled.
 

JohnD

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
Joined
Jan 11, 2012
Location
north central OK
So, was the company ColorTran before it was Berkey ColorTran before it was Lee Colortran?

I do have to mention another interesting Berkey ColorTran product, the lens-less followspot.
 
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BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
The Colorspot was a fantastic piece of equipment. A 1k tungsten unit that probably out performed others by a factor of 2. Iirc an ellipsoidal reflector off axis into a parabolic mirror. Like a reflecting telescope vs. refracting. And very light weight and quiet. Couldn't reliably source the mirrors I recall.
 

microstar

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 19, 2014
Location
Lawton, OK
The Colorspot was a fantastic piece of equipment. A 1k tungsten unit that probably out performed others by a factor of 2. Iirc an ellipsoidal reflector off axis into a parabolic mirror. Like a reflecting telescope vs. refracting. And very light weight and quiet. Couldn't reliably source the mirrors I recall.
I like the round piece of Masonite they supplied as the front cover and the mirror cleaning brush fastened inside the rear cover!
Totally agree is was (is) an excellent design. I've got two of them! One has a small problem where the iris goes to an octagonal shape when it gets to a fairly small-size opening. Doesn't happen on the other one.
 

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TimMc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2017
I recall EPOI (Ererenrich? Photo Optical, Inc) owning ColorTran, then Berkey Photo bought them, then Lee. About that time I decided I could do less damage in audio and didn't pay much attention so I could have the sequence wrong...

My first notice of ColorTran was their dimmer pack system used in Univeral Amphitheater in LA on of Jesus Christ, Superstar. ColorTran had a full page advert in the program. It was while I was still in high school so I'm guessing 1972 or 1973. Anyway, I rang them up (on a Saturday, IIRC) and got them to send a catalog. Lots of grip/location lighting instruments as well as dimming and control. I also recall their first "computerized" console where the computer was sourced from Xerox, who also provided field service for that part of the desk, maybe around 1975.
 

derekleffew

Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
Premium Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2007
Location
Las Vegas, NV, USA
So, was the company ColorTran before it was Berkey ColorTran before it was Lee Colortran?
Dang, you almost got it. When, in the mid-60s Berkey Photo bought ColorTran Industries, they stopped capitalizing the T. So,
1955 ColorTran Industries
1965-ish Berkey Colortran
1988-ish LEE Colortran
1996 Colortran declares bankruptcy, assets purchased by NSI, NSI/Colortran
1999 Leviton buys NSI

Also:
1969 Gelatran
1989 GamColor