Xenon lighting: Power Gems interviews Greg Smith of Arc Light EFX
Power Gems asked Greg Smith of Arc Light EFX about Xenon lighting for live events and entertainment. From roadie for rock shows to developing the latest ceramic Xenon follow spotlights via the Super Bowl, the Voice and the Late Late Show, Greg’s career spans over 40 years working in the USA and internationally.
The owner of ARC Light EFX started out with A&M Records before working backstage with Supertramp, Chris de Burgh and Shadowfax on several world tours during the 70s and 80s. In 1986 he joined Arc Lighting, Inc., a follow spotlight sales, rentals and service company based in California, USA. After taking over the business in 1988, Greg expanded the product lines to include fog machines and in 2002 absorbed the rental assets of Xenotech/Strong Inc. In 2010, he established Brite Box Inc. and co-developed the new Flame ceramic Xenon follow spotlight.
What in your background has prepared you for working at lighting company Arc Light EFX?
My experience as a logistics manager for Supertramp’s world tours (Breakfast in America, Famous Last Word and Brother Where You Bound) provided exposure to projection sources; we toured with a large 4000W Background Engineer Xenon projector to show film footage for our concerts.
We also had our truck drivers operate the follow spotlights for the band. I became interested in the Key Light sources and discovered Xenon. I developed a fascination with the properties of Xenon. Xenon’s atomic weight is 54 – I was born in 1954 and my initials are GAS, which seems fitting.
Perhaps most importantly I had a family to support, and I wanted to be present. So I gave up the tour life and invested in a business.
Can you tell us about the recent productions you’ve worked on?
Arc Light EFX, Inc. has supported:
- The Super Bowl Half-Time Shows since 1993.
- Launch Vehicle Lighting Vandenberg Air Force Base Lompoc, CA since 2002.
- Our Spotlights are used on The Voice, Roadies, Late Late Show with James Corden, Chelsey Lately, Transformers 5 and Straight Out Of Compton.
Where do you expect to see growth in the global Xenon lighting market?
I do not have an optimistic answer. The application of Xenon light sources in the entertainment lighting market is in a state of transition. As high definition cameras have evolved the need for high-intensity daylight, arc source fixtures have been replaced with LED sources.
However, the aftermarket demand for replacement follow spotlight power supplies will now be complemented by the Power Gems XE300P power supply. This new ballast offers our clients and their installations many more years of usage and life for their Strong International follow spotlights.
What are the shortfalls in current Xenon lighting and what are the advances you’d like to see?
I believe that the shortfall is primarily in understanding the source. Xenon light fixtures are tools, and the shortfalls exist in the education of the user. Understanding the physics and nature of Xenon light sources (the how, when and where to use) are essential.
With regard to the technology applied to the fixture design and power supply itself, the Power Gems design team has addressed the problems experienced with touring spotlights. These include size and weight, and the ability to regulate and compensate for line voltage irregularity. The XE300P was designed specifically for the Strong Follow Spotlight product line, not doubled up for use with film projectors in movie theatres.
When there’s no room for error, which products will you rely on?
While I was at Strong Entertainment Lighting in 1998, I was involved with the development of the Truss Trouper 1.2 1200W HMI follow spotlight. We asked the Power Gems design team to provide us with a modified EB1200 power supply for use with this spotlight. I still have these fixtures and power supplies in our active rental inventory today.
If you were looking to upgrade, which fixtures would you invest in?
I am very biased. My involvement in the development and production of the new Brite Box Inc. Flame follow spotlight (left) has been my focus and the child I have invested in. My hope is that I will be able to incorporate a Power Gems power supply in the final production version of our LT & MT 3000 Flame spotlight.
What are your thoughts on the move to replace Xenon with LED and laser technology?
As I mentioned before, I believe that all light sources are tools and for the artistic-minded they are brushes used to illuminate, apply colour and depth. It is important to understand the light source, when and how it will best serve the purpose and accomplish the objective. I don’t think Xenon will become extinct, but the use and applications will be more selective.
Our thanks to Greg for sharing his experience of the Xenon lighting market. You can find out more about Arc Light EFX Inc at www.arclightefx.com
This interview is part of an occasional series. If you enjoyed this, you should read: