Last fall, we asked our readers, “What's on your personal product wish list?” One of New York-based LD Clifton Taylor's desires was for “US-available PC [plano-convex] luminaires. These luminaires got a bad reputation in the States and fell out of use in favor of the ellipsoidal, but current models available in Europe are beautiful and useful in many situations that our available instruments don't quite fit. I wish that I could easily get them here.”
This was an immediate heads-up for Selecon, the New Zealand-based manufacturer, with a product line that features a range of PCs including Acclaim (4", 575/650W; 6" and 7", 750/1,000W) and Arena (2,000W) fixtures. Selecon's Jeremy Collins contacted Taylor with an offer to loan some Selecon PC fixtures to use on one of his shows. Taylor seized this opportunity, having been invited to design the lighting for Flamenco Festival USA 2003. Now in its third season, this is a major annual event, which showcases the best Flamenco artists of Spain in cities across the US. Selecon loaned 7" High Performance PCs to Taylor. “They gave me five units, which I used for specials,” he says.
Selecon developed its PC line in response to British LD Francis Reid's challenge for a PC “with a beam like an ellipsoidal with Rosco 114 Hamburg Frost.” The result is a unit with a beam that is adjustable from 4.5° to over 60°, producing an even beam with a soft, well-controlled edge, which can be shaped with a barndoor like fresnel fixtures. “We don't have a light in the US that does what these lights do,” says Taylor. “We would replace it with a PAR or put frost into a leko. The interesting thing about PCs is that you can very easily change the angle, not unlike changing the angle on a fresnel. The beam stays the same quality when you make it bigger or smaller — it just gets brighter or dimmer. So it stays very flat. It is another tool that I think is very useful.”
The festival opened in January at the Shubert Theatre in Boston and just concluded its US tour. Taylor had a chance to light and preview many of the performers in Seville, Spain, prior to the Boston opening. In Seville he used PCs in the design. “PCs are great for many applications,” he says. “The units from Selecon are available with textured lenses, which produce a beautiful soft edge and a flat field that was perfect for the show.”
Taylor's view is that PCs fell out of favor in the US years ago, where there was a general move to ellipsoidals for most theatrical lighting tasks. “The PCs that were available in the past were of poor quality compared to [newer models]. Most designers who have been around long enough to have used PCs in the US shudder at the memory. The old units often projected an image of the filament onto the stage with a dim beam and uncontrollable flare.”
Taylor wants these new fixtures to be recognized in the States as a valuable addition to the designer's toolkit. “The PCs available throughout the rest of the world offer many advantages as a theatrical fixture and deserve to be looked at here in the US,” he says. “PCs are the first-choice instrument for most situations in most theatres around the world. ETC is changing this now, by selling Source Fours for relatively little money, but in the past a profile unit was so expensive compared to a PC, you would only use it if you were actually projecting gobos. The idea in the US that we use the leko for everything, whether you are projecting gobos or using a shutter cut or not, seems wasteful elsewhere in the world, because you can buy a PC for so much less.”
A modern PC spotlight has many attractive features. It has a variable beam spread that, unlike a fresnel, will generally keep a flat field throughout the focus range. The edge of the beam is soft, due to the textured lens, and beam shaping is available with barndoors. Unlike a fresnel, the shaping remains useful throughout the focus range. “The barndoors are easy to figure out when you are on the ladder. It is a pretty clean cut,” says Taylor. “People use them for low boom sidelight in Europe all of the time, and they get a cut off the floor. It is not my choice; I will always fight for profiles on the side, but they usually don't exist. But with the PC, to get a cut off legs and off the floor, no problem.” Another feature that Taylor likes: The beam shape is round. “For many applications,” he says, “the oval shape of a PAR is not appropriate. I prefer [PCs] for backlight instead of PAR cans. It's just me, but I like a round shape. You could make arguments either way. It's a matter of personal taste.”
Taylor concludes, “I'm not saying it's a replacement for an ellipsoidal or a fresnel or a PAR, but a modern PC spotlight is an extremely useful tool that offers features that are not available on other types of units.”
For more information on the Selecon PC fixture line, visit the company's website at www.seleconlight.com.
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