Theatre Design & Technology - May 1971 - 20
MR. OLSON: Why don't we do it then, Mr.
MR. WOLFF: Money people usually buy
ellipsoidal spotlights on the basis of cost.
They simply say a six-inch and you assume
that the six-inch is going to take at least
500, 750, or maybe 1,000 watts. You
know it will have a six-inch lens, but most
people don't bother to specify whether the
lens is going to be six by nine planoconvex or whether it is going to be a step
I am speaking as a manufacturer which I
shouldn't do because I am not, but I have
spent a number of years in that field.
Some time ago one of the astronauts expressed considerable concern when he said,
"You know, it bothers me when I realize
that every component of this rocket was let
on the basis of the lowest bidder." (Laughter)
This is true, in the theatre more than in
the trip to the moon; the lowest cost item
is the one which is going to sell more.
The ell ipsoidal reflector spotl ight was designed around 1932-1933, and the original
units were in some cases better than the
units today. They were also much more expensive and, consequently, an effort was
made to reduce cost rather than to make
the unit better.
MR. WARFEL: I would like to say that
I for one am not one to lionize all continental stagecraft simply by the fact of its existence. But equipment from Germany, for example, for which you pay a premium offers
calibrated focusing devices, I ittle cranks that
run a screw feed up and down and indicators that give focus by degree. With some
of that equipment I can, by swinging to a
predetermined set of coordinates as calibrated on the instrument, restore the focus
of a show last week. Therefore, you can
work in repertory very quickly and simply.
In this country, the demand hasn't built
up because of the way we use our equipment, which is up and down for every production, and because we are not willing to
pay for it.
MR. OLSON: Perhaps the spotlight with
accurate, simple control and focusing apparatus is a matter of degree: are you willing to pay for the instrument for which we
have the technology rather than the instrument which has the lowest cost?
MR. MILLER: Just how important is it for
this instrument to be as sophisticated as,
let's say, this German instrument?
When most designers-I can't say all
because I only work with certain onesseem to use three and four instruments to
light a particular area, how important is it
for each instrument to be as accurate as
these European instruments?
MR. WOLFF: Don, what's your aggravation
MR. OENSLAGER: Well, I think it's important. When you are lighting actors, they
want to be lit as well as possible. When
working with a spotlight that is below a
reading, a sensitive actor is aware of it and
goes to the stage manager and checks it.
MR. MILLER: That's if the cue progresses
a certain way every night and one night it's
suddenly different. But if it's at a certain
level the first night, say four units at only
half output, and he becomes accustomed to
it or everyone around says, "Well, that's
what we got," that's what he accepts.
MR. OLSON: Is that why designers use
four units rather than two?
MR. WARFEL: Yes, that's why they use
MR. OENSLAGER: Partly yes, I do, because
of its assurance.
MR. MILLER: If the director used four
units where one or two units would do,
maybe the introduction of better equipment
(so he would only have to rent one) might
be to his advantage. Then why don't the
rental companies just stock the one fixture? There is something backward here.
MR. OENSLAGER: It is a matter of economics, but I can't believe that in the next
25 years we won't have better equipment
than today, whether it costs more or not.
MR. WOLFF: It costs more anyhow.
MR. OENSLAGER: It will, but with all the
new theatres being built, civic and university theatres which have permanent equipment, isn't it of advantage to have the
best equipment installed at construction
MR. WOLFF: It is.
MR. WARFEL: I think there is another
point here. Let's get down to one particular
feature of an ellipsoidal reflector spotlight,
the place where the yoke attaches to the instrument where you have an elliptical or
stanchion head or hex head bolt.
Where I work, we have three theatres on
the same bus line and they are all very
lively buildings. Every time a bus goes by,
you can feel all three theatres shake, and
every time the buildings shake a little the
instrument shakes a little. It creeps, and
pretty soon you can't come in an hour before the show, you have to come in an
hour and a half before the show to lift stuff
and tighten it.
I think we all would agree we need improvement here. Is the art which I think we
represent going to lead the technology or
are we going to let the technology lead us?
Right now the technology is leading us.
One attempt has been made to improve
that joint with the Century Diecast Leko
where there were two interlocking cones
that one tightened by hand. It was tight.
Sometimes it was tight forever. (Laughter)
That is one effort that's been made to
improve that one little point, and it is still
moot as to whose idea it was in the first
MR. WOLFF: The Germans with their disc
and clamp have improved a light beam,
Now, there is also the ball-bearing tightening bit found on a number of West Coast
big fresnel lights used in television and
movies, but that is not very much better.
Have you any experience with the German
MR. WARFEL: I will back off one half step.
There was another effort to improve this particular problem, and it appeared in units in
this country that for some reason have disappeared. It was that little disc in that joint
in a tightening handle further up.
Evidently it has disappeared for one of
two reasons; we quit asking for it, or we
are not willing to pay for it.
MR. WOLFF: I think there's another reason
too. I think it was used inappropriately. Too
much was demanded of it on units which
were not balanced in the first place. It was
decided that it wasn't worthwhile because
it was used where it should not have been.
MR. OLSON: Closely allied with the
problem of finding an accurate focusing apparatus for spotlights and about shutters
that won't burn out is Point Nine: a spotlight capable of throwing diffused light without spill. Any comments?
MR. GERSZTOFF: It's a matter of degree. It
is possible to get diffuse light. It is possible to get a unit without spill. Where one
starts, the other leaves off. I think it is a
matter of individual opinion.
MR. OLSON: What precisely did you have
in mind, do you think? Do you remember?
Why did you think that this is important?
MR. OENSLAGER: At that time I meant a
spotlight that is slightly soft edged, that has
no sharp definition to it, cuts the hardness
out of a beam of Iight, and gives general
illumination within a very concentrated area.
To be able to put several together and not
be able to tell how many spots are in that
area on the floor is what I really had in
You can just throw the lamp a little out
of focus and that takes care of it, but it
often doesn't stay out of focus in just the
way you want.
MR. OLSON: I think the key in Point Nine
is, perhaps, something that technology can't
really relate to. A lighting designer knows
exactly what is meant by a diffuse light
without spill, but try to tell somebody in a
design laboratory and it becomes more and
more difficult to explain.
The capability of such an instrument is
certainly advantageous and it, for me, is
certainly something which does not seem
unreasonable. Why then can't we have it?
MR. WARFEL: Do we have it? A frost
gel in a fresnel with a top hat on it will
give you diffused illumination, certainly,
and the top hat cuts down on spill to a
THEATER DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY
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