Light sources (Neil Thompson)

Neil Thompson interviewed by Richard Wallace

Projectionist Neil Thompson describes the change in lighting technology from fast-burning carbon arc lamps to long-lasting xenon lamps.

Clip

Show Transcript
I liked the machines down at The Queens. They were real workhouses. You know, you had a massive lamp house. We used to use these carbon arcs which were high intensity and the light from them was fantastic. I mean when we used to strike them, we used to put the carbons in and tie them and shut the door, then we used to press the button, you'd hear the contactor come in and then when you joined the two together it used to make a hell of a sound you know. And then you had a little eye piece where you could look to see how far they were. And, of course, carbon arcs had a tendency to wander away from each other. And there was a little motor on the side that used to keep them, or try to keep them, at a certain distance because if they went too far the picture would go blue, if they went too close the picture would go brown. They had to be about an inch apart. So you had to keep going and checking them, making sure ‘cause it had a guide at the top of the lamp house. You know, that was fascinating. Of course you daresn't open the door because the light was just intense, you know it could blind you. Of course that's what they used to use in search lights during the war. And I think that light, meself, from them was better than xenon bulbs will ever be. I mean it’s...with carbons you had fumes as well, they weren't good for your health. Whereas xenon bulbs, it's more temperature controlled, you don't have any fumes and they're simpler to use, you just put them in and that's it and once they're set up that's it, you don't touch them. Whereas carbons, you had to put a carbon in every time this one burnt right down and you had to set them up and you had to keep an eye on them, well that's all done away and finished with. But at the time, I mean they were good, they were really smashing, you know, fantastic. Because I mean when I first kicked off, I mean like a lot of people you would think that there was a high voltage bulb that was in there that used to provide the illumination. And I had that at The Odeon in Gateshead in 1970 when I was there, it was one of the first things I remember asking, you know, “What kind of a bulb are you use in these things?” And he says, “Oh it's not a bulb, we're using carbon arcs”. And I thought, “What's carbon arcs then?” And they explained it to us. It's just an empty lamppost with these two rods in and a reflector at the back. Fascinating, absolutely fascinating. They pushed me over to the Odeon in ’75 and when I went across to the Odeon I had to learn about xenon bulbs. Because we were working with with what they call platters, or cake stands as they used to call them which held four foot horizontal plates and on those you had, I think it ran about three and a half, three and three-quarter hours. And, of course, carbon arcs would be no good then, and so we all went with xenon bulbs. They were in their infancy then, they had just came out. To me the light was terrible. The light was cream, it wasn’t white it was awful yellowy cream colour. Of course later on they converted them to three phase and they were much steadier and they were whiter. And they were blinking dangerous because one went off on me one day when I was on with the Chief there. He’d just changed the lamp in number one and he’d just left it on for five minutes and oh, all of a sudden I can remember standing right next to it and there’s this almighty bang and the glass went all over the floor. It didn’t seem to affect him, he just come round and he says, “Oh, my bloody lamp’s blown.” And I was standing there and I thought my nerves were nearly shattered. I thought, “I was standing next to the damned thing!” I remember walking to the lamp house, everything was just broken. There was glass all over the place, the reflector, the back was all in bits because of the bang it just took it and there wasn’t extensive damage but it made a bit of a mess. So they were really dangerous. You had to be careful but, as I say, they were in their infancy then, they just came out.

Title

Light sources (Neil Thompson)

Description

Projectionist Neil Thompson describes the change in lighting technology from fast-burning carbon arc lamps to long-lasting xenon lamps.

Source

Interview with Neil Thompson

Publisher

The University of Warwick

Date

29/12/2015

Format

.mp3

Language

English

Type

Sound recording
interview extract

Coverage

1974-1990
Queens Theatre, Northumberland Place, Newcastle upon Tyne

Interviewer

Richard Wallace

Interviewee

Neil Thompson

Date of Interview

11/11/2014

Location

Gateshead

Transcription

I liked the machines down at The Queens. They were real workhouses. You know, you had a massive lamp house. We used to use these carbon arcs which were high intensity and the light from them was fantastic. I mean when we used to strike them, we used to put the carbons in and tie them and shut the door, then we used to press the button, you'd hear the contactor come in and then when you joined the two together it used to make a hell of a sound you know. And then you had a little eye piece where you could look to see how far they were. And, of course, carbon arcs had a tendency to wander away from each other. And there was a little motor on the side that used to keep them, or try to keep them, at a certain distance because if they went too far the picture would go blue, if they went too close the picture would go brown. They had to be about an inch apart. So you had to keep going and checking them, making sure ‘cause it had a guide at the top of the lamp house. You know, that was fascinating. Of course you daresn't open the door because the light was just intense, you know it could blind you. Of course that's what they used to use in search lights during the war. And I think that light, meself, from them was better than xenon bulbs will ever be. I mean it’s...with carbons you had fumes as well, they weren't good for your health. Whereas xenon bulbs, it's more temperature controlled, you don't have any fumes and they're simpler to use, you just put them in and that's it and once they're set up that's it, you don't touch them. Whereas carbons, you had to put a carbon in every time this one burnt right down and you had to set them up and you had to keep an eye on them, well that's all done away and finished with. But at the time, I mean they were good, they were really smashing, you know, fantastic. Because I mean when I first kicked off, I mean like a lot of people you would think that there was a high voltage bulb that was in there that used to provide the illumination. And I had that at The Odeon in Gateshead in 1970 when I was there, it was one of the first things I remember asking, you know, “What kind of a bulb are you use in these things?” And he says, “Oh it's not a bulb, we're using carbon arcs”. And I thought, “What's carbon arcs then?” And they explained it to us. It's just an empty lamppost with these two rods in and a reflector at the back. Fascinating, absolutely fascinating. They pushed me over to the Odeon in ’75 and when I went across to the Odeon I had to learn about xenon bulbs. Because we were working with with what they call platters, or cake stands as they used to call them which held four foot horizontal plates and on those you had, I think it ran about three and a half, three and three-quarter hours. And, of course, carbon arcs would be no good then, and so we all went with xenon bulbs. They were in their infancy then, they had just came out. To me the light was terrible. The light was cream, it wasn’t white it was awful yellowy cream colour. Of course later on they converted them to three phase and they were much steadier and they were whiter. And they were blinking dangerous because one went off on me one day when I was on with the Chief there. He’d just changed the lamp in number one and he’d just left it on for five minutes and oh, all of a sudden I can remember standing right next to it and there’s this almighty bang and the glass went all over the floor. It didn’t seem to affect him, he just come round and he says, “Oh, my bloody lamp’s blown.” And I was standing there and I thought my nerves were nearly shattered. I thought, “I was standing next to the damned thing!” I remember walking to the lamp house, everything was just broken. There was glass all over the place, the reflector, the back was all in bits because of the bang it just took it and there wasn’t extensive damage but it made a bit of a mess. So they were really dangerous. You had to be careful but, as I say, they were in their infancy then, they just came out.

Original Format

One-to-one interview

Duration

00:03:38

Bit Rate/Frequency

320kbps

Cinema

Queens Theatre, Northumberland Place, Newcastle upon Tyne
Odeon Newcastle upon Tyne, Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Tyne

Citation

The Projection Project, “Light sources (Neil Thompson),” Projection Project, accessed March 24, 2019, https://projectionproject.warwick.ac.uk/items/show/435.

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