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This page was last updated on
11/08/2015

 

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Searchlight History

619-442-9700

 

19th Century

Military usage of searchlights started in the late 19th century originally mounted on a battleship to find torpedo boats. Soon after that the artillery divisions added them for night combat.

Military usage of searchlights started in the late 19th century originally mounted on a battleship to find torpedo boats. Soon after that the artillery divisions added them for night combat.

A larger version than the shipboard type became available during the First World War for artificial light for night warfare.

World War I

A larger version than the shipboard type became available during the First World War for artificial light for night warfare.

1930's Era

Searchlights became common appearance with most every movie premier starting during this period.

 

The Searchlight beams became a part of the 20th Century Fox logo in 1934 and still remains today. Searchlights are as much a part of the Hollywood theme as the sign on the hill or red carpet.

Forties pinup girl Susan Hayward poses with a 1930's Hollywood searchlight!


Forties pinup girl Susan Hayward poses with a 1930's Hollywood searchlight!

"While the inevitable klieg lights pierced the sky, a colorful parade of 500 Marines and the 150-piece Marine band from Camp Pendleton preceded the screening of "The Sands of Iwo Jima," at Carthay Circle Theater. Thousands jammed streets to greet movie stars."

Klieg Lights

A Klieg light is an intense light beam used in filmmaking. Although not completely documented, the ellipsoidal reflector spotlight was a Klieg light.

 

Trade names often become part of backstage vernacular. Leko, Klieg, and so forth are terms all referring to an ellipsoidal reflector spotlight.

 

The terms Klieg light and Spotlights are often improperly used when searchlights are desired for an event.

World War II

During the Second World War, General Electric and the Sperry Company manufactured carbon arc searchlight models.

 

They are mostly of 60” diameter with parabolic mirror reflectors. They reflected a carbon arc in to the night sky that has an effective beam visibility of about 30 miles.

 

A separate trailer powered these searchlight units with an engine and generator. These units were high maintenance and had their own Army or Navy division for service and repair.

During the Second World War, General Electric and the Sperry Company manufactured carbon arc searchlight models. They are mostly of 60” diameter with parabolic mirror reflectors. They reflected a carbon arc in to the night sky that has an effective beam visibility of about 30 miles. A separate trailer powered these searchlight units with an engine and generator. These units were high maintenance and had their own Army or Navy division for service and repair.

At wars end, these units were brought into civilian mainstream. They were commonly used for attention getting events such as Drive-In movies, Grand Opening Events, Car Dealers, and especially for Hollywood premiers.

1948 - 1980

At wars end, these units were brought into civilian mainstream. They were commonly used for attention getting events such as Drive-In movies, Grand Opening Events, Car Dealers, and especially for Hollywood premiers.

There are still a few of the carbon arc type searchlight units still around. Parts have become scarce and many have been converted to a lamp configuration instead of the problematic carbon arc rod feed system.

 

Most of these types are now restored for historical purpose.

1980

A company Pichel Industries, Temecula Ca., brought a new product to market called a Sky-Tracker.

 

It would use Xenon lighting, large individual power supplies and coupled a fixed speed motion drive system to project light beams into the night sky.

 

Over the next 10 years these units would replace the older carbon arc searchlight units for most events.

A company Pichel Industries, Temecula Ca., brought a new product to market called a Sky-Tracker. It would use Xenon lighting, large individual power supplies and coupled a fixed speed motion drive system to project light beams into the night sky. Over the next 10 years these units would replace the older carbon arc searchlight units for most events.

Another new type of searchlight type light beam unit would be developed out of Anaheim, Ca. It featured a HMI lamp and would be excellent for smaller events that wanted a Hollywood theme but not the noise and size of the carbon arc or Xenon trailer mounted units. Other manufactures have since come into the market place with similar sized units.

2002

Another new type of searchlight type light beam unit would be developed out of Anaheim, Ca. It featured a HMI lamp and would be excellent for smaller events that wanted a Hollywood theme but not the noise and size of the carbon arc or Xenon trailer mounted units.

 

Other manufactures have since come into the market place with similar sized units.

Today, searchlights are used for Hollywood theme events, advertising, and special events and are a terrific attention-getting tool.

 

Documentation from Britannica and Wikipedia

 

 

The newer type of searchlights are more like a Hollywood "Kleig" light than the older carbon arch true searchlights.

The newer advertising type uses a bulb and ballast technology & have a fixed shaft that does not rotate to less than 45 degrees from vertical.

This is the more desired configuration per the Operations Officers of the FAA in the southern California region.

Generally, the advertising type searchlights used today do not pose a problem for pilots.

 

TAGS: Spotlights, Outdoor Event Lights, Film Festival Spotlights, Wedding Receptions, Boat Parades, Pyro Show lighting, Hornblower events, Midway Museum Events, Batman Lights, Tent Sales, Ad Lights, Advertising lights, Hollywood lights, Red Carpet Events