High End Systems SolaFrame Theatre Moving Light – Welcome to The Sound of Silence
By David Martin Jacques.
First published in Church Production Magazine.
David Martin Jacques is a professional lighting designer, architectural lighting consultant, and Head of Stage Design at Long Beach State University. His book, Introduction to the Musical Art of Stage Lighting Design, is available on amazon.com
For decades, lighting designers have been waiting for a powerful, high intensity moving light with framing shutters suitable for extreme noise-sensitive live entertainment environments, including opera, theatre, concert halls, television studios, and of course, houses of worship.
The SolaFrame Theatre also has an iris, a linear CTO filter (that matches perfectly to a Tungsten Halogen lamp), and a four-faceted prism.
Many moving light companies have searched to find that balance of intensity and fixture cooling that would result in a light that has very quiet motors, cooling fans, and internal moving parts (gobo wheels, zoom mechanisms, shutters, and the thousand of other gears, belts, and tracks).
High End Systems (an ETC company) has developed a revolutionary fixture that addresses and meets these challenges. The new SolaFrame Theatre moving light is a welcome addition to the recently developed SolaFrame line, which also includes the SolaFrame 750, SolaFrame 1500, and SolaFrame 2000.
What separates the SolaFrame Theatre from the others in the SolaFrame family is that this is the only light without any cooling fans. In addition, this fixture has a very high CRI of >90 with an output of 15,000 field lumens. The light engine consumes 440 watts and has a colour temperature of 6,000 Kelvin. The SolaFrame Theatre also has an L70 LED-life rating of 50,000 hours. It’s RDM compatible and runs on 47 DMX channels.
This fixture is ideal for small to medium-long throw applications (10-40 feet), which applies to most houses of worship.
So how does the SolaFrame Theatre get away with no cooling fans?
The engineers at High End Systems came up with an ingenious liquid cooling system that circulates a coolant throughout the fixture. And no, you don’t fill it with anti-freeze.
High End Systems sent us two SolaFrame Theatres to test in our lab and theatres at California State University Long Beach.
We ran our tests in a real-world environment by using these fixtures for front light for our production of Wonderland. We were also able to directly compare these fixtures to our SolaSpot 2000s, since five of them were also used on this production.
As we pulled the SolaFrame Theatres out of their cleverly designed road cases, we immediately noticed how beefy they were. No doubt, this is partially due to their elaborate cooling system. But this cooling system allows for completely silent operation.
I am not kidding; these lights are super quiet even when they reset.
Like the companion models, the SolaFrame Theatre is built solidly with high-quality materials. High End Systems tells us that SolaFrame Theatres are presently on several tours and have been holding up well, which after careful inspection in our lab does not surprise us.
The student lighting designer for “Wonderland” wisely placed these lights in a front of house catwalk position. They were used in most of the light cues as area lights, front specials, colour washes, and effects. They never failed and were dependable for the entire run of the show (which is a good thing because we didn’t have a spare).
What did we like about the SolaFrame Theatre? Well … just about everything. Let’s start with the quality of the field of light. We have not seen a smoother field in any other moving light that we have tested over the years.
Throughout its entire 7-degree to 42-degree zoom range, the SolaFrame Theatre (and the SolaSpot 2000s, for that matter) has an incredibly smooth and unbelievably even field of light with very little drop-off. In fact, you cannot see any drop-off with the naked eye. This is due to a combination of the fixture’s high quality optics and its panel LED light engine.
The high CRI of the LED engine enabled us to see the true colours of the costumes and skin tones. This is crucial for front light. We were able to compare the white light quality of the SolaFrame Theatre to our SolaSpot 2000s.
We found that with careful manipulation of CTO and CMY, we were able to get the 2000s very close to the high CRI quality of the SolaFrame Theatre. But in comparison, the SolaFrame Theatre is slightly more accurate in colour rendition.
You would never see this from 12 feet away, but you may if you are using video in your services.
The CMY colour system is exceptional. There was no colour creep in any combination of colours. The field of colour stayed consistent and pure, even during complex colour fades. We were able to mix to just about any colour. For deep primaries, you can dial them in with the dedicated seven-position colour wheel.
The SolaFrame Theatre passed our LED-dimming test with flying colours. We expected no less as all of the High End Systems Sola models that we have tested have excelled in this challenging test. The dimming is smooth and perfectly linear from 0-100%. The designer programmed several subtle pulsating dimming chases for her show and the fixtures performed flawlessly. The fixtures also passed all strobe and video flicker tests.