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Color Kinetics C75 Digital
Full-Spectrum Light
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C-75 Full-Spectrum Digital "Can" Light (16.7 million color, LED). Color Kinetics
Estimated price approx. $500 (unconfirmed)
Last Updated: 08-15-09

Color Kinetics C-75 RGB fixture




This new product is so exciting, I don't even know where to start.
As soon as I plugged it in, my eyeballs almost popped out of my head and shot across the room!

Manufactured by Color Kinetics, this particular unit is their Model C-75 Full-Spectrum Digital Lighting fixture in a medium-sized can-style package.
It is called the C-75 because it has 75 LED lamps inside of it.

Compared to the usual colored lighting fixtures that use technology almost as old as burning a bucket of lime, this new fixture is totally silent, runs cool, has no motors, color wheels or filter gels; has no fragile & hot incandescent bulb to burn out or explode; and uses only a few watts of electricity.
It can be left running continuously for over 11 years - the LEDs inside have a rated lifetime of 100,000 hours.

Once you see one of these in action, you might just as soon go back to oil-burning footlights and balls of lime burning in little tin pails before going back to the old style of hot, noisy motorized incandescent cans & filter gels.

Although the theatre industry will find these lights really great, they are far, far more useful than that. Think of any place, any situation that could benefit from a colored light - more than that - a colored light that can change to any of some 16.7 million colors, and that place can benefit from having these fixtures and other Color Kinetics fixtures installed.
Some other examples (not necessarily limited to just the C- series) include nightclubs, raves, museums, restaurants, homes, gardens, architectural lighting, dance halls, store windows & merchandising displays, and so many other places & situations too numerous to list.

Another benefit that may or may not be immediately obvious is that because there is no ultraviolet and almost no heat, all Color Kinetics fixtures can be used around drapes, curtains, artwork, posters, tapestries and other flammable or sensitive surfaces.
Simply put, this means that paper, textiles, wood, artwork, scupltures, live plants, and other materials won't ignite, won't fade or turn brittle, and won't desiccate (dry out) like they would if an incandescent fixture were used near them.

Not much bigger than a pop can
This fixture isn't much larger than a pop can. Note: Light does not
come with beverages, nor should beverages be consumed near it.



This fixture is designed to be operated in one of two different ways:
1: Hook it up to a computer or to a Color Kinetics DMX512 controller, and program your own light show that way. When connected this way, multiple Color Kinetics lights can perform the same show in perfect synchronisation.
2: Just plug in the power cord, and let it run. The fixture is equipped with a set of DIP switches on the back that allow the user to select from literally hundreds of different "shows" and displays; all you need to program it is a stylus or a cap from a cheap pen.
More detail about what this super cool fixture can do in "stand-alone" mode will appear later on this page. For now, here are the basic features of this fixture:

  • Low power consumption
  • Low voltage
  • Totally silent operation
  • Low heat
  • Easy to control
  • Lightweight, compact size
  • No UV emission
  • Stand Alone operation
  • DMX512 / PC Serial Data Protocol
  • All-metal construction - not cheap plastic.
  • Uses patented Chromacore™ technology for additive color synthesis

Not much bigger than a pop can
Back of the fixture, showing the DIP switches, power and data connectors.


The C-75 is very sophisticated, yet remarkably easy to hook up and use.
If you're in a hurry just to see it "do something", all you need to do is plug it in. Straight out of the box, the fixture will default to a color fade effect, where the fixture slowly & silently cycles through all of the colors on the color wheel. But you will no doubt want to see it do some more tricks - and the C-75 has plenty of tricks up its sleeve and it will be more than happy to perform for you.

Packed with your C-75 is the user guide, and I strongly suggest you open it up and read it, or you will be missing out on all the excitement!

Let's start with the usual initial test results first though.


Brightness - this fixture turned out to be brighter than expected, and has a beam spread of 22 degrees; falling off very softly at the edges, so there is no harsh edge that would look nasty on your walls. In a 18' x 20' room illuminated by medium & low overcast out of a north window (11am PST), the C-75 easily projects its light across the room and very noticeably colors the wall - I can't wait to try it out tonight after sunset because that should give some truly spectacular effects.

The specifications listed on the web site show this fixture puts out 46 foot-candles of light at 3 feet, 15 foot-candles at 6 feet, and 6 foot-candles at 9 feet.
The light only uses about ten watts, and much of that is used by the on-board computer. LEDs are efficient light sources, and don't require very much power to operate at all.



First picture: C-75 is in extreme left of picture; the other two show the C-75 on the middle/upper right.
These should help show that this light is quite powerful indeed; I didn't even need to wait until sunset before taking these.


LED matrix inside If the diffuser window were removed, you would see a hexagonal array of LEDs sitting in the bottom of the can. Normally, this diffuser should be left in place, and only removed if it is badly in need of a cleaning or if it becomes broken and you need to screw on a replacement.


To protect the LEDs and microprocessor board inside, the fixture should not be operated without the diffuser, and please don't monkey around with either the LEDs or the circuit board itself. I won't disassemble this one any further, and you shouldn't either.


Although some Color Kinetics fixtures are water-resistant and can be used outdoors and even underwater, the C-series is for indoor use only.


The fixture comes packaged with the C-75 itself, a swivel mounting bracket (already attached, is removable), the instructional user's guide, registration card, 1-year warranty, and a cool little Color Kinetics sticker.

The power supply unit is usually sold seperately; and can directly power four C-75 fixtures. It will also power eight of the smaller C-30 or one of the larger C-200 fixtures (newer info suggests it will power 10 C-30, 5 C-75 or 2 C-200 fixtures)
Instructions for "daisy chaining" the fixtures are shown in the user's guide. It comes with an IEC (computer-style) AC cord, and has a 6 foot low voltage cable terminated in a BNC connector that plugs into the light. The risk of shock is minimal, as all of the C-series fixtures operate at only 24 volts.
The power supply is universal, and will operate from 100 to 240 volts - all you need to do is get the right AC cord for whatever country you're using it in.
These lights can also be operated on batteries; please contact Color Kinetics for details on how this works and where to obtain the correct battery pack(s).

Not much bigger than a pop can
C-75 fixture shown with its power supply.


All of the C-series fixtures can be mounted on a wall, floor, or ceiling using the included bracket. The bracket also has a center hole for a ball & socket mount; using this, the light can be swivelled in virtually any direction you choose. Two thumbscrews on the sides can be loosened to change the position of the light; just tighten them "finger tight" when your adjustment is done.

Finally, here's the part I know you've all been waiting for. Remove your beverage from the vicinity of your C-75, and listen up... :)

There are three words you will need to learn in relation to using this fixture: Control, Effects, and Variations.

Control: How the light is used - more specifically, how it gets programmed.
There are two Control functions here - either Stand-Alone where the fixture uses its own, built-in light shows; or Networked, where a computer or controller tells the light what to do, how to do it, and when.

Effects: This relates to what kind of display the light will put on for you. This is a group of different effects, including Fixed Color, Color Wash, Cross Fade, Random Color, Fixed Color Strobe, and Variable Color Strobe.

Variations: Once you pick an Effect, using Variations can change that effect in some way or other.
Variations include Color, Speed, Brightness, Saturation, Strobe Rate, and Color Cycle Direction.

Without ripping off the user's guide too blatantly (remember, this technology is as new to me as it is to most of you), I'll try to explain a few of the built-in "light shows" and how to make this fixture perform them for you.

To help explain things a little, here are the "official" descriptions of the light's built-in effects:

FIXED COLOR: Static (non-changing) display of a single color.
COLOR WASH: Colors transition gracefully from color to color, cycling through the entire color wheel.
CROSS FADE: Colors cycle back and forth gracefully between two colors of your choice.
RANDOM COLOR: Colors step or jump from one color to the next in random order.
FIXED COLOR STROBE: A constant color appears in a rapid series of intense flashes of light.
VARIABLE COLOR STROBE: A sequence of colors appears in a rapid series of intense flashes of light.

All of the fixture's built-in programming can be activated through a little row of switches on the back. Without going into detail that would bore you to tears, the switches control each of the light's basic functions - Effects and Variations. Setting these switches to various positions (these are all explained in the manual) allows you to "program" the fixture to do any of the effects shown above, and with some number of variations on that effect. Not all effects will be able to use every single variation - this is also explained in the manual.

The switches are arranged in groups according to their function, and according to what effect the light is performing.
A very handy table in the manual explains all of this quite elegantly and in layman's terms.

Another table in the manual shows the variations available for each effect; for example...
In Color Wash mode, you can select from 64 different speeds (0.5 seconds to 2 hours), Saturation (how pure each color appears), Brightness (this one should be obvious) and Cycle Direction (when looking at a standard color wheel, do you want the colors to cycle clockwise or counterclockwise).
In Variable Strobe mode, you can select from 32 color advancement rates (0.007% to 49.9%), Cycle Direction, and Strobe Rate (from 20 flashes a second down to 2 flashes a second).

Well, since I can see a couple of you already starting to cry, I'll dive right in and describe a few of the light's tricks and how to make it do them.

To get a color wash (where the light smoothly cycles through the spectrum) with colors that change every 0.6 seconds, fully saturated (more pure hues, less pastels) and cycling clockwise through the standard color wheel, set the light's 12 switches to the following:
1 on
2, 3, 4, 5, 6 off
7, 8 on
9 off
10, 11 on
12 off


Here's an example of a Random Color effect. Setting the switches this way will cause the fixture to display fully saturated random colors that change approximately once every second.
1,2 on
3 off
4 on
5 off
6 on
7 off
8,9 on
10,11 off
12 on


Light doing what it does best Light doing what it does best
C-75 fixture shown doing what it does best.


The switches are quite small, but are very easy to set using the stylus from your pocket computer, or the cap from a disposable ballpoint pen.
The use of a sharp object like a pocket knife or a pin is not recommended, as the switches (and as a result, the fixture itself) can be damaged by these.
Also, when you change the switch settings, you need to briefly turn the light off & back on before your new program will activate.

For those who hate manuals and simply want to keep trying things until they find something they like, the fixture will not be damaged by "bad" programming - that is, just setting the switches arbitrarily with no particular pattern. Fixture can be programmed by trial-and-error - but doing it with help from the manual is highly recommended, not to mention a lot faster and easier.

The compact, spiral bound owner's manual is thoughtfully put together, and includes a little touch of humor here and there while filling your mind with the specifics of binary encoding, DIP switches and color wheels. It also lays flat no matter where you put it, so you can bring it right to where you're hanging one of these fixtures and have it open to the page you need.
There are also some neat tips on how to make several C-series fixtures do some strange and scary things - but things which will only make things look even better.

One thing I found so odd that it is almost amusing, is that despite all of the talk about color and the color wheel, there is no picture of a color wheel shown anywhere in the book!

additive color wheel

For those who want to see one, here is an example of an RGB (additive synthesis) color wheel that may help show a very few of the colors this fixture can create. Note: this particular wheel does not show brightness variations that allow for colors dimming to black.


Spectrographic plot
Spectrographic analysis of the product emitting red light.


Spectrographic plot
Spectrographic analysis of the product emitting green light.


Spectrographic plot
Spectrographic analysis of the product emitting blue light.


Spectrographic plot
Spectrographic analysis of the product emitting magenta light.


Spectrographic plot
Spectrographic analysis of the product emitting cyan light.


Spectrographic plot
Spectrographic analysis of the product emitting yellow light.


Spectrographic plot
Spectrographic analysis of the product emitting white light.
USB2000 spectrometer graciously donated by P.L.


TEST NOTES:
Fixture is being tested with the 24VDC 2.5A power supply which was included with the test unit. Normally, it is sold seperately, so that you won't end up with one every time you buy another fixture.
Computer control via Windows PC and a DMX512 board is possible; however the hardware is as of yet unavailable.

Drop tests will not be performed; as this fixture is not designed for that type of abuse.

Test locations (so far): 1.5' below ceiling in SE corner of large room, aimed at all other exposed walls, floor, and ceiling; 2' below ceiling on NE wall aimed at NW wall, floor, & ceiling.
Additional locations are being tried at the rate of approximately one new location per day.

The evaluation & review of this fixture is going to take more time than any other fixture tested to date - so please check in here regularly for updates and eventually, the product's final rating.


UPDATE 08-28-00:
Additional mounting locations & programming continue to be used.
A particularly nice effect is to have it mounted low and aimed up towards my collection of antique telegraph insulators, then programming the fixture for a random color effect using pastel colors (rather than fully-saturated colors). Once a second, a new color gets displayed; and depending on which color comes up, various insulators "light up" much better than others.
This fixture also does nicely when aimed at a popcorn ceiling from about waist-height.

UPDATE 09-07-00:
Things have been very busy here at The LED Museum, so I haven't had the time to experiment over the last week as much as I'd have liked. However, I have been regularly changing the fixture's programming and observing the various effects available as much as time has permitted.
Random color is still my favorite effect, followed by the variable color strobe effect. The ability to use the fixture near live plants is a +.

UPDATE 09-20-00:
I packed up the C-75 and took it for a little "road trip" today. Destination: The Manray Video Bar in Seattle.
A demonstration of the fixture got everybody in the bar curious, and the owner convinced that he wanted one.
After my demo was finished, I could hear the whole place buzzing about the thing clear up until I left an hour or so later.

UPDATE 10-22-00:
During the Seattle Mariners post-season run, I had set up the Color Kinetics fixture to do a color swap using the Mariners team colors.
When it was strategically placed behind an "Unleash The Mojo" poster in my window, it created a very eye-catching display to anyone who happened to be walking by outside. Unfortunately, this display did not help the team advance to the World Series, so I'll try it again next year.

UPDATE 11-29-00:
C75 in use
I took the C75 back up to the Manray and had it temporarily installed in this alcove for the bar's web release party.
Originally, the light was aimed at the Manray sign on the back wall, but it was later decided to aim it towards the ceiling so the upper opening is more dramatic. Everybody who has seen and worked with this light loves it, and the owner of this place was no different.

For this temporary installation, the light was set to do a color wash with a cycle time of approximately fifty seconds.

UPDATE 10-24-01:
Again for this year's postseason Mariners games, I set up the Color Kinetics fixture swap colors between blue and an off-shade of blue-green, and placed it behind a homemade poster in the window, hoping it would help guide the M's to the World Series. Again I was S.O.L., but at least it looked good, and the thing was photographed numerous times by visitors of the swanky hotel across the street.



PROS:
Everything about this light.
Fantastic new technology
Compact & easy to install
Extremely versatile
Unexpectedly bright for LED technology
Relatively easy to program once you learn a few basics
Cannot be harmed by "bad" programming
Solid & durable construction
Won't set plants or curtains afire.

CONS:
It's probably nitpicking, but the manual does not show what a color wheel looks like. (pick, pick, pick)
Not waterproof - but you aren't supposed to flush these down the can anyway. ;-)





    MANUFACTURER: Color Kinetics
    PRODUCT TYPE: LED lighting fixture
    LAMP TYPE: 5mm LED
    No. OF LAMPS: At least 77
    BEAM TYPE: Soft spot with soft corona at edges
    SWITCH TYPE: DIP switches on back
    BEZEL: Diffused plastic cover to protect LEDs
    BATTERY: N/A
    CURRENT CONSUMPTION: Unknown/unable to measure
    WATER RESISTANT: No
    SUBMERSIBLE: No
    ACCESSORIES: Mounting bracket with thumbscrew type fasteners
    WARRANTY: 1 year limited, barring accident, abuse, etc.

    PRODUCT RATING:

    Star Rating



C-75 Digital RGB Fixture (WWW.COLORKINETICS.COM)




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