Hello all.

At the USITT conference, I will be exploring the development of theatrical lighting fixtures, from their humble beginnings as candles, to the complexity of today’s LED fixtures. I will be focusing on the most recent developments in lighting of this kind. What cutting edge lighting instrumentation is available to modern-day scenographers? My research will yield a comprehensive timeline, both in visual and textual formats, of the development of the lighting fixture, from its conception as a controllable element, to the complex, finite control we have today
Today’s seminar was entitled “Evolution or Immaculate Conception: Lighting control over 5 decades.” It covered lighting instrument controls from 1913 to present day. On the panel of presenters were Kirk Starks, Tracy Fitch, Gordon Pearlman, and Anne Valentino. These people represented the masterminds behind controls such as the LS/8, the Obsession, and the Piano Board.
They started with Autotransformers, which were the first movement forward in the industry circa 1913. Previously resistance dimmers were used, and after auto-transformers were marketed, the Met was the first to switch over their entire system. Soon thereafter, the idea of the dimmer panel was developed starting in 1915. These ideas were then combined with the Fred Bentham’s Light Organ. It looked exactly like an organ, and it consisted of a keyboard that controlled a clutch that drove the motorized autotransformers. This was developed in 1935. Soon, Strand came into the picture and developed the first completely electric control desks. Their first break through however, was the IDM 1967 control desk. Its revolutionary idea was simple; it was a board that had a memory. It cost $150,000, and only had 16K of memory. In 1979, the Light Palette was created, and this was the first board that integrated the lingo that theater technicians used then and now. Shortly thereafter, the Morpheus Commander was created, and this was the first board to recognize moving light controls. A nifty little tidbits, is that the idea of the moving light, was invented by sound designers, not lighting designers.
To this day light boards continue to progress, and add functionality. At the same time, large strides are difficult because learning to use these systems takes time, and sometimes time is not a luxury. Slowly but surely, control systems for lighting instruments continue to develop in our industry.