History of Automated Lighting

There were many patents dating back from 1806, from Edmund Sohlberg, who created a lantern using a carbon-arc lamp operated manually by cord, which controlled pan, tilt and zoom.

1925 was the year that motors were used to move a fixture, as well as the beam position. This was invented by Herbert F.King. In 1936, an unnamed person was given permission to create a similar device to the one previously mentioned, but with pan and tilt, which was controlled by a joystick. From this point to approximately 1969, similar lighting fixtures had been made and the technology been improved. In this period, Century Lighting, now known as ‘Strand,’ started selling and ordering parts for lanterns, that would fit into any of their existing lanterns up to 750 watts, to control pan and/or tilt.

The next breakthrough was in 1969 by George Izenour. He was the first person to use a mirror on the end of an ellipsoidal, (having the nature or shape of an ellipsoid,) to redirect the beam of light.

In Bristol in 1968, progress was also being made, mainly for use on live music. Peter Whynne Wilson referred to the use of 1kW Profiles, on slides which gobos were printed, which was to be inserted from a reel, just like a slide projector. These fixtures also had an Iris, and a multiple coloured gel wheel. These lights were also fitted with mirrors, which were used for a Pink Floyd show in London. Another fixture known as the ‘Cycklops’ was also used for music in the USA, although it had limited capability, as with only pan, tilt, colour functions, and at 1.2 meter long and weighing 97 kg, they were heavy and cumbersome. These fixtures were designed for replacing spotlight operators if they were unreliable.

In 1986, Vari-Lite introduced a new series of lighting fixtures and control consoles. This system was referred to as Series 200. The Series 200 system was controlled by the Artisan console.

1985, and the first moving head to be controlled by DMX was produced by Summa Technologies. Up until this time, moving heads were controlled by other communication controls, such as DIN8, AMX, D54.

In the 1990’s, Martin, a Danish company started producing fog machines. They made a line of scanners known as Roboscans. Martin also invented a range of moving heads such as, Mac250, the Mac250+, Mac300, Mac500,Mac 550, Mac600, Mac700, Mac1200 and more recently the Mac 2000. Martin Macs are most popular in most rental situations. (Intelligent lighting 1980-2000, no date)