Moving Mirror Fixtures

in Buyer's Guide

For a PDF of the July 2009 PLSN Buyers Guide, CLICK HERE.

Moving mirrors fixtures have been around for at least 40 years and they have been tried in the theatre, on concert tours, and in nightclubs. George Izenour undertook a project to build a remote followspot in a moving mirror form factor in 1969. The water-cooled fixture had heat problems and never found much commercial success but a couple of them that were installed in the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre.  

In 1971, Jim Fackert and Stefan Graf were touring with the band Grand Funk Railroad when they grew increasingly tired of dealing with followspot operators. As a result, they built a set of remotely controlled followspots and dubbed them the Cyklops. Those fixtures remained actively touring for many years.

Then in 1986, the Italian lighting manufacturer Coemar built a small 350-watt moving mirror fixture around the GE Marc 350 lamp and called it the Robot. That was the beginning of the modern day moving mirror fixture. It was simple by today’s standards — it had pan, tilt, four colors, and four gobos — but it was one of the first moving light fixtures offered for sale rather than for rental only. It was a sensation in nightclubs around the world.

Many other moving mirror fixtures soon followed from various manufacturers, and before long, they were available in a wide range of sizes. The feature set was eventually expanded to include just about every feature found in today’s automated luminaires — high-resolution stepping, color mixing, high-resolution glass gobos with rotation and indexing, mechanical dimming, electronic strobing, remote focus and iris and more.

But the same technological advances that brought these developments also enabled the production of affordable moving yoke fixtures, which precipitated the decline in sales of moving mirror fixtures. Today, most automated lights in use are moving yoke fixtures, but moving mirror fixtures still offer many advantages over moving yokes. They can move the beam faster, which makes for more high energy cues, and they have a lower profile, which allows them to make more effective use of the available ceiling height. In some cases, they fit where moving yoke fixtures do not. They also have fewer parts, so they are less expensive and they can produce less noise related to moving parts.

Many lighting designers who remember the old days of the Golden Scan, Intellabeam, Telescan and other contemporary moving mirror fixtures lament the decline of the moving mirror era of automated lighting. Perhaps they don’t know just how many of these fixtures are still available today. That’s the underlying purpose of this month’s Buyers Guide. We’ve solicited every theatrical lighting manufacturer asking for listings of their moving mirror fixtures. The results may surprise you. Just turn the page and start shopping.