Was formed as a limited company on 27th November 1970. Its first directors were Phil Brunker, Keith Canadine, John Harding, Neil Rice and Nick Turnbull. The name is a combination of the Greek words for light and
movement. Optikinetics operated from a large farmhouse, with five bedrooms and four bathrooms plus a large attic workshop, on Barbara Cartland’s estate in the village of Wildhill just outside Hatfield in Hertfordshire, England. Barbara Cartland was the famous romantic novelist who passed away in 2000.
Having seen the commercial possibilities of selling lightshow equipment at Krishna Lights, Canadine and Rice, who lived with Harding and Turnbull, were introduced to Brunker by Peter Cutchey then of Light
Sound Studios in Acton. Cutchey was a mutual customer of both Krishna and Brunker who was also making liquid wheels and converting cheap east European slide projectors to go with them.
In the summer of ’71 Harding and Turnbull left after a difference of direction and the others continued together with their wives. The boys made the ‘hardware’ converting slide projectors into effects
projectors and the girls made the ‘software’, hand painting rotating moiré effect cassettes. Such was the demand for Liquid Wheels both for their own projectors and for other companies who had joined the bandwagon
converting slide projectors that everyone mucked in to keep up production of these.
Although the company was set up to manufacture and sell what was by then being termed effects lighting equipment it also
continued to perform regular lightshows which they were able to use as a test bed for new products. They performed regularly as the resident lightshow once a month on a Sunday evening at Hemel Hempstead Pavilion in
Hertfordshire, England during 1971 & 2. Also all-nighters at Kings Cross Odeon cinema in London. Both these gigs were promoted by Harvey Goldsmith.
Equipment used for these events included Rank Tutor 2
projectors, a UK lightshow standard by now, Kodak Carousel and Leitz Pradovit slide projectors, overhead and film projectors. I recall a particular Siemans 16mm cine projector for which we acquired a 300 foot loop
attachment. This sat horizontally on the front spool arm making the unit look the SS Enterprise.
Optikinetics moved from the farm house into an old hat factory in Luton in late 1972 where its headquarters remain to this day. In 2000 it celebrated its 30th anniversary. The company also has modern manufacturing premises in Huntingdon, England and Carp just outside Ottawa in Canada. It also has its own sales/warehousing operation in the USA just north of Richmond Virginia.
Originally like most of the other effects lighting equipment ‘manufacturers’ at the time Optikinetics was converting slide projectors into effects projectors. Slide projector brands bought at the time for conversion were from Rank Aldis in Brentford, Hanimax, London and Gnome Photographic in Cardiff. Most business was done with Ranks projectors. After Rank declined to produce a purpose built effects projector for Optikinetics in 1972 they set about producing their own. The first was the Solar 100. Then in 1973 the Solar 250 was launched and, with the exception of one year recently when it was withdrawn for redesign to CE compliance, has been in production ever since. Over 70,000 have been produced. The company still also produces its first ever product the Liquid Wheel.
The advent of the rave scene in the mid to late 1980’s brought a
resurgence of popularity to Optikinetics lighting effects. The company responded by producing larger, brighter effects projectors to cater for the huge warehouse venues. The Strobeflower was introduced in 1988 and almost immediately became the ‘de rigueur' lighting effect at rave parties. Often the words ‘Strobeflower’ and ‘Optikinetics’ would appear on flyers for these events leading many to believe that the company was both providing the equipment and the operators whereas in truth it was
solely their ‘kit’ that was being used.
However Optikinetics does continue to do occasional lightshow performances.
Most notable in recent years has been their involvement with The Orb. Helping to light their famous Glastonbury appearances, the Sheffield Miners Benefit with Primal Scream, the UFOrb midnight album launch at Tower Records in Piccadilly and the all-nighter on a floating stage in Copenhagen Harbour where The Orb played both at dusk and again at dawn.
In Reno, Nevada, in November 1994 during the entertainment lighting trade show LDI Optikinetics joined other 60’s lightshow veterans to help provide an authentic lightshow for a party hosted by leading US lighting manufacturers High End Systems of Austin, Texas. Also from the UK were John Andrews (Acidica), John Lethbridge (Cerebrum) and Peter Wynne-Willson. American Jerry Abrams of Headlights fame had all his original equipment set up at floor level in a cordoned off area where people could watch him at work close-up. His resultant collaged images were relayed to the main stage screens via video. The evening was MC’d by Wavy Gravy (Woodstock) and featured Dr Timothy Leary and Jefferson Starship.
With the help of Graeme Furley and Geoff Blindt (who works for OPTI, as Optikinetics is now known, also running Mystic Lights in his spare time) atmospheric retro lighting was provided for The Recurring Technicolour Dream at the ICA in The Mall in London in the Autumn of 1999. This was the 30th anniversary of the original 14 Hour Technicolour Dream held at Alexandra Palace. Playing live were both John’s Children and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. John Lethbridge of Cerebrum was also there and boiled some excellent wet slides.
Perhaps the current largest and most frequent OPTI lightshow is that created by Zeeman Zap of Whirl-y-Gig, a monthly Saturday night club at Camden Town Hall, Euston Road, London. Their trade mark is the
famous parachute set which ends the night. Clubbers sit or lie under an undulating parachute onto the surface of which are played the images from as many as 40 Optikinetics projectors .
Whirl–y-Gig also star regularly at the annual summer UK WOMAD Festival in Reading, Berkshire, England.