THE HISTORY OF OPTI SOLAR PROJECTORS
Optikinetics Ltd was formed on 27th November 1970. For the first two years the company bought slide projectors from a variety of sources and converted them into effects projectors by adding motors and effects discs. Realising this was not entirely cost effective, or satisfactory to the market as a finished product, Optikinetics asked their main supplier of slide projectors to produce a purpose-built effects projector. They declined stating that the market would only last 5 years. This supplier later, very flatteringly, produced a copy of the Solar effects gate known as a DDU, Double Drive Unit, to fit their projector. This enabled Solar attachments and effects to be used on their projector and was an attempt to curb the decline in sales of their projector as the Solar 250 captured the market.
In 1972 Optikinetics produced its first effects projector the Solar 100. This was a side entry 3" Effect Cassette projector with a convection cooled (i.e. no fan) 100watt 12volt quartz halogen lamp. A slightly later variant of this projector, the Solar 100A, was identical except that it was offered in either Red, Yellow or Blue. The original Solar 100 was offered in black only.
The more powerful and versatile Solar 250 was introduced in 1974 at the first National Disc Jockey Association exhibition organised by Ben Cree at the Sundown discotheque in Charing Cross Road, London. This venue later became Busbys discotheque and subsequently operated as a live music venue known as LA2.
The Solar 250 has always had a 250watt 24volt quartz halogen lamp. The first ones were fitted with a Phillips M33 display version with an average life of 300 hours. This was a significant improvement on the photographic, A1/223, version with an average life of only 50 hours.
The first Solar 250s were an all-metal construction and were supplied with a 60mm wide angle lens as well as both a Wheel Rotator and a Cassette Rotator. The 60mm lens allowed mobile DJs who often operated on their own to keep the projectors close to them on stage yet still project a large image behind them. Earlier light show operators had projected with narrower angle lenses from the back of a hall onto the stage backdrop. The rotators were supplied with the projector to encourage sales of both 3" Effect Cassettes and 6" Effect Wheels. The inclusion of both a Wheel Rotator and a Cassette Rotator with the Solar 250 ceased in December 1997.
Also in 1997 at the first UK exhibition held at the Bloomsbury Crest Hotel in London and organised by BADEM (The British Association of Discotheque Equipment Manufacturers), later to become PLASA, Optikinetics ran a competition to win the 10,000th Solar 250. This model was chrome plated and was presented to the winner Martin De La Fuente, a disc jockey from North London, by Optikinetics chairman, Neil Rice.
Up until the 1990's all Optikinetics Solar projectors were finished in their house colours of black and silver. With the burgeoning market for display applications in the '90s the Solar 250 was made available in an all white finish.
For approximately the first two years of Solar 250 production the projectors were fitted with two round 3-pin 240v accessory outlets and all the attachments were correspondingly 240v. (Picture) The type of plug and socket utilised was then declared unsafe by the UK authorities although it had been legitimately offered for 240v use.
Subsequent Solar 250 production has been with 12v accessory outlet sockets of a flat 2-pin type. The company did experience some problems with customers who bought the new type of 12v attachments for use with their existing projectors. There were a few customers who cut off the new 2-pin plug and replaced it with the old style 3-pin type themselves. They then plugged a 12v motor into a 240v supply, which was very dangerous and generally caused them to go bang!
In 1979 the number of 12v outlet sockets on the Solar 250 was increased from two to three and the plastic moulded gate was also introduced. The reason the plastic gate was introduced was because production of the sheet metal body of the projector, including the seam welded metal gate, was taking longer than the assembly time for the projector as a whole. 1997 also saw the peak production of Solar 250s with 2000 units being produced in the month of August.
1980 saw the introduction of the Sound Animated Solar 250. This product followed the success of the Sound Animator Unit as an accessory for the standard Solar 250. The Sound Animator Unit won the
1979 Award from the UK magazine Disco International for best new lighting effect. Therefore incorporating the 'Animator' circuit within the projector was a natural progression.
The Sound Animated Solar 250 had three 'Animated' 12v outlet sockets on one side and two continuous 12v outlets on the opposite side. An audio source was connected via a 3.5mm mono jack plug to the front of the projector. The 'Animator' circuit inside the projector converted the music signal into a pulsed 12v supply synchronised to the audio source. With special Animator attachments fitted with fast bi-directional synchronous motors the resultant effect was 'sound to motion'. The Sound Animated Solar 250 became particularly popular in the early 1980s with the advent of Beam effects. These created beams through smoke rather than projecting an image onto a wall or screen as had been the use of effects projectors up until then. At this time the standard lens was changed from 60mm to 85mm. This gave more strength to the beam effects which were typically shone out from the stage towards the audience.
The Solar 100B that was introduced soon after the Solar 250 in the early 1970s was discontinued in 1983. The Solar 100B was the successor to the Solar 100A. It was a slightly shorter version of the Solar 250 based around the same 100watt 12v M28 lamp as its predecessor. The Solar 100B was also convection cooled i.e., it was not fan cooled like its big brother the Solar 250. A replacement, the Solar 100C, was re-introduced in 1999.
In 1986 the Quasar Xe 900 Strobe Projector was introduced. This was an elongated version of the Solar projector and was a merging of Optikinetics projector and strobe technology. The quartz halogen lamp was replaced with a unique short arc xenon flash tube. The flash rate was remotely adjustable using an Optikinetics Strobe Control Unit. This light source later led to the infamous Optikinetics Strobeflower. The Quasar was discontinued in 1996.
In 1992 the Solar 575 (Picture) was launched on Avitecs stand at the PLASA show at Olympia in London. This huge projector weighing in at 30Kg was based on a 575watt metal halide lamp and was aimed at the rental market for tours and rave parties. The Solar 575 continued in production until 1996 when it was superseded by the K4.
Production of the Solar 250 and the Sound Animated Solar 250 continued unabated until early 1996 when due to the advent of CE regulations in the European Union they were withdrawn from sale. The Solar 250 was replaced by the K1. However, market forces and fresh design impetuous enabled its return in December of 1996.
Total production of the Solar 250's is in excess of 81,445 units. The last Solar 250, went out on 6th November 2014 and was replaced by the new Solar 250 LED version.
Thank you to Neil Rice for the Information. Thank you also to the following for support in selling and servicing of OptiKineticsEquipment:
David Fowler ( Optifanatics )
Rod Wilson ( Bubble Vision )
Mr Funky Parrot (Funkyparrot )
Mike Ginda (Karillion2 )
Copyright Neil Rice : Jan 2022