The History of intelligent lighting

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I am researching the history of intelligent light for kicks and giggles andi was wondering if anyone hane any suggestions as to where i might could find some source material- thanks
 

digitaltec

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The first "moving light" was first seen in a movie in 1949. The first true moving light (color changer) was created by Rusty Brutsché and Jack Maxson (Showco/Vari*Lite) in 1982.


I know alot about the history of DMX. Let me look around for more on moving lights. Ill ask one of my course directors too.
 

Inaki2

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The first Vari*Lite was called the VL Zero, it was presented as a prototype and the first banda to use them was Genesis...which led to a great deal of collaboration between theb and and VL.
 

dj_illusions

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in correction of homocidals signature, i thought the true statement was: and the lord said "let there be light, lx1 go"
 

RonaldBeal

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TN
hello everyone, I have a couple of minor corrections.
I Worked for Vari-Lite starting in 1994, until it split into Vari-Lite and VLPS. I now work for VLPS.

The development of the Vari-lite started in 1978 at Showco, as a discharge fixture with dichroic color changer. Eventually, the engineers decided "Hey why don't we add 2 more moters and have the thing pan and tilt" The prototype was shown to the members of the band Genesis, in a barn in England sometime around 1979. The band liked the idea, and decided to financially back the project. (Their manager is the one who came up with the name "Vari-Lite".)
The Vari-Lite debuted in Madrid Spain at a Genisis concert in 1981. After a year or so, Vari-Lite seperated from Showco, and began development of a new series of fixtures. Originally their light was just the "Vari-Lite", but with new fixtures on the way, they needed a naming scheme to differentiate them. The original Vari-Lite became the VL-1, and it's system was renamed Series 100. The new Series 200 fixtures included the Artisan control console, the VL-2 Spot Luminaire, and VL-3 Wash Luminaire. (The prototype was simply refered to as the prototype, or "First Vari-Lite" until the early 1990's when VL started retroactivly refering to it as the VL-Zero)
For those of you interested, there is a discussion on the lightnetwork forums with pictures of the insides of VL-2c's Go To forums.delphiforums.com/lightnetwork and look for the thread titled "VL2c's that workhorse"
Vari-Lite eventually replaced the VL-3 with the VL-4. VL-2's were upgraded to 2b's then 2c's. In 1991 Vari-Lite introduced the VL-5 Wash Luminaire and the Series 300 system. The VL-6 came in 1995, VL-7 1998.
The series 1000, 2000 and 3000 fixtures have come in the last few years.

As for published sources on the history of moving lights, the only one I know of is an old issue of Lighting Diminsions has a History of Vari-Lite, that came out a few years ago. (Not sure what issue)

Hope all of this helps
 

wolf825

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Hmm, Wasn't Syncrolite the predecessor to Vari-Lite, and VL came about only after the folks (who held most of the patents & design) at Syncrolite split and leave Syncrolite to form VL? Or is it the other way around?



-wolf
FWIW--I love playing with VL toys..plus they are so easy to repair. :)
 

RonaldBeal

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TN
Vari-Lite definatly was the predecessor, and still holds a couple of tons of patents. Syncrolites don't have much in common, practically or patent wise, other than being started in Dallas Texas, (and a few old ex vl guys now work for Syncro.)
You may be thinking of Summa Light, (the Summa 400 HTI looks remarkably like a VL-2.) Summa died when it lost a major patent suit brought by VL in the late 80's.
Hope this helps
 

gafftaper

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You want to read the first chapter or two of "Automated Lighting" by Richard Cadena. It does a great job of telling the history all the way back to these ancient remotely operated follow spot devices that had long cable and pulley systems. The rest of the book is a fascination look at the nuts and bolts of how automated lighting works.
 

derekleffew

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I have to agree with Gafftaper. <gasp!></gasp!> Automated Lighting, by Richard Cadena. Focal Press, 2006, does a very good job of documenting the history of moving lights. It also has more information on stepper motors than most will ever want to know. And I like the picture of a COIL of sashcord-tied 5-wire 2/0 with the caption "Excess feeder cable should be stacked in a figure 8"! Another good book is The Speed of Light, by Linda Essig. Heinemann, 2002. digitaltec, have you read Essig's book and if so, do you find it an accurate representation of how DMX came to be?

From my own experience, I first used "moving lights" in 1986. The PanCan was an XY mirror that one fitted into the colorframe slot of a conventional fixture. I put them on PAR64-ACLs and VNSPs. Surrounding the mirror was a cage that you could fit up to 4 cuts of color media around. However, you had to make sure to move the color channel and the pan channel at the same time, or the light would change colors as the beam moved to a different piece of gel. They were analog only, and used 5pin DIN connectors. However, I ran them from a Colortran Prestige 1000, with a MUX card installed to send CD-80 protocol to a Demux box which sent the analog voltages (0-10vdc, IIRC) to the PanCans. So those of you using Rosco I-Cues, you're only 21 years behind the times! It was simplistic, but I never had any real problems with the PanCan, I was using them just for "flash" for corporate shows, but they would have made a good "refocusable special." I believe at the time they were just under $1000/unit, so rather expensive for what they were.

About the same time, or just before, I sold but never used, something called a MAC ACR, which was a PAR56 that panned and tilted. I believe this was a French fixture, imported by Ness Lighting, which for a time was the largest importer of "disco effect" lighting in the US. I think the company eventually became American DJ, which has since become Elation.

I'm moving this thread to from "Off-topic" to "Lighting," as I feel it deserves a more prominent place.
 

soundlight

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Automated Lighting, by Richard Cadena. Focal Press, 2006, does a very good job of documenting the history of moving lights.
This is one of my favorite books. Whenever I see/hear/talk about this book, I have to go back and read the history chapter again just for fun.

I believe this was a French fixture, imported by Ness Lighting, which for a time was the largest importer of "disco effect" lighting in the US. I think the company eventually became American DJ, which has since become Elation.
In the middle, before Elation became the parent company, LSD (Lighitng and Sound Design) was the brand name for most AMDJ controllers. Also, Elation makes/imports higher quality stuff under their own name than the stuff than it imports under the AMDJ name. They still do "steal" alot of their designs for lighting instruments, but they've also got alot of their own designs.

I'm moving this thread to from "Off-topic" to "Lighting," as I feel it deserves a more prominent place.
Thanks! Even though this is a necroposted thread, I'm always up for talking about lighting history! Always fun to learn more.
 

JD

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Not sure if it is covered elsewhere but some Vari-lite trivia-

The first band to use an all Vari-light show was the Police and not by choice! They were faced with a power distribution failure at a show (I think down in Oz) and decided to go on anyway using only their movers! It worked out pretty well, and changed a lot of views making Vari-lite a legitimate "stand alone" system as compared to an effect. Wish I remembered more, but a lot of those brain cells are dead!
 

Van

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I wish I had grabbed a setup from a place I used to work for. I cannot remember the name of it, but it was very similar to the PanCan that Derek described. I was offered the chance to take these things once, and never got around to it. The base was about 12" in diameter, there was a large yoke, with a "saddle" into which you mounted a par can. The base unit panned and tilted. it had it's own separate 110 power. The controller was what I like the best. It had a short ball topped joystick, exactly like the one from the Pac-Man game. There were a couple of buttons for "Programming" < I think it could remember a couple of looks> that again looked just like the ones from an old Video game. All the controls were done in Yellow and Blue laminate. God that cabling for that system was monstrous! It just always struck me as funny, the whole setup looked much more like a video game than a lighting controller.

Oh and for what it's worth.... I was talking to Gordon one day about the "History of moving lights" he told me one of the funniest things about Vari-Lites was that when they first demonstrated the things to Genesis, they were intended to only be a fixture capable of "refocusing" in the middle of a show. It was purely an accident when someone left the shutters open on a bank of them, and then moved them to their next position. Apparently everyone went nuts, "Do it again Do it again" and the rest is history
 
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derekleffew

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Van, that sounds like you are describing the controller for the MAC ACR, not the PanCan (as the PanCan didn't have a dedicated controller). Was the "fixture" base round and red, about 18" in diameter?

It could have also been a Moto-Yoke, by Dyna-Might Sound and Light--I never saw a controller for one of those.

Our beloved Strand Lighting had, in the 1980s, the ParScan, a moving PARcan, which most people nicknamed the ParScam, due to the fixture's lack of reliability.
 

Van

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Van, that sounds like you are describing the controller for the MAC ACR, not the PanCan (as the PanCan didn't have a dedicated controller). Was the "fixture" base round and red, about 18" in diameter?

It could have also been a Moto-Yoke, by Dyna-Might Sound and Light--I never saw a controller for one of those.

Our beloved Strand Lighting had, in the 1980s, the ParScan, a moving PARcan, which most people nicknamed the ParScam, due to the fixture's lack of reliability.
I think "Moto-Yoke" sounds familiar. The fixture bases were black, as were the yokes, and looked suprisingly similar to a mirror ball motor case, only larger and upside down. Sort of like a heavy duty turntable motor for retail display, if you're familiar with those.
 

soundlight

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Oh and for what it's worth.... I was talking to Gordon one day about the "History of moving lights" he told me one of the funniest things about Vari-Lites was that when they first demonstrated the things to Genesis, they were intended to only be a fixture capable of "refocusing" in the middle of a show. It was purely an accident when someone left the shutters open on a bank of them, and then moved them to their next position. Apparently everyone went nuts, "Do it again Do it again" and the rest is history
The Cadena book says the same thing - when they powered the whole 55-light system up for the first time, they tested the movement, and didn't realize the power that moving beams of light would have.