Colour by Design
Sunday, 11 February 2001
Toronto-based Spectrum Manufacturing has recently launched a new colour-changer - the Aquarelle - the result of a seven-month long race to design an architectural colour-changing system for the Famous Players project in Montreal.

The work began in March last year when lighting designer Stephen Pollard approached Dave George of Spectrum to discuss the feasibility of a new architectural system. The deadline was October 2000 and since he wanted to ‘paint the outside wall of the theatre with light,’ the team at Spectrum, having accepted the challenge, immediately christened the project Aquarelle - French for ‘water colour’ .

Spectrum’s engineering department began by evaluating several architectural lighting fixtures, finally recommending a 1,000 metal halide HID fixture. Its optical system, modular reflector and overall construction of the fixture seemed ideal for the proposed link up with a colour scroller. For the scroller itself, Spectrum started by modifying one of its existing large size indoor constant tension colour scrollers, the M-5 MkII. Since the terms of the brief required the unit to be totally sealed from the external environment and withstand heat from the 1,000W lamp, not to mention the extremes of the Montreal climate which can range from -40 degrees in the winter to +100 degrees F in the summer. Using its in-house environmental chamber, Spectrum tested components, and then built a full-scale prototype to verify that the proposed design would withstand 100% humidity.

A patented IR-reducing technology that eliminates 95% of all transmitted heat from the lamp was used to control the heat transmitted to the interior of the scroller. Various lengths and construction of gel strings were tested, resulting in a nominal gel string length of 200" and a revised string manufacturing method to prolong the life of the gel string in the scroller. A working prototype was installed in the company’s outdoor test facility in July and operated 24 hours a day until the end of September. Additional water sprays were carried out to augment mother nature. A mounting bracket was designed to allow for easy installation of the scroller which is powered by 24V DC obtained from a power supply mounted in the light fixture’s ballast housing, whilst control is via DMX 512.

Right on schedule, the 33 Aquarelles were installed at Famous Players Olympic Park in Montreal in October.


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