Cinema Product Reviews

CFS Lamphouse console
Manufacturer:  Cinema Film Systems
Grade D
Reviewed October 2000 by Brad Miller

Here is the fabulous Cinema Film Systems console in a typical installation.
Let's get a closer look at this fine piece of machinery.

Here on the operator side at the top is your basic lamphouse controls.  You've got your standard on/off controls, the current meter which comes with a handy amps/volts toggle switch, the hourmeter so you can say "but this xenon lamp is only 500 hours old" on a daily basis in reference to a variety of concerns, as well as your manual start and ignitor adjust.  All projectionists who use this magnificent machine will definitely need to know where that manual strike button is!  Fortunately it is conveniently located.

To the right of these controls is a nice large "Film Systems" logo which one will stare at in awe for hours on end.  Most of their R&D costs must've gone into designing that logo.  Also here is a pretty green and red light to tell the projectionist whether the exhaust blower is functioning properly.  Having these color coordinated was very thoughtful for those projectionists who don't speak English or are too dumb to read.  This theater has done a nifty job of adding mailbox stick-on letters to denote the auditorium number.  Sadly, the theater's letters seem to have stayed put better than CFS's letters denoting this is a "4500 watt" model.  We'll get more into the wattage later.

Finally on the bottom half of the operator's side is a row of breakers and a master "main power" switch.  I actually do find this extremely handy and have raised the final review rating here for this "no-brainer" alternative to flipping those nasty breakers.

Looking into the back side of the console we've got a nicely organized wiring scheme (some of which is for the automation), but the space alotted for the power supply is a bit restricted.  Still, the diodes are easily accessible and every projectionist will need proper training on how to check and change these little suckers out...for they will fail CONSTANTLY.  Later models have incorporated a cooling fan which does help somewhat, but they still fail routinely which substantially increases operating costs.  The daring projectionist, who in an emergency situation does not use heatsink compound when changing these diodes, generally finds he can't even make a day's operation on a new set of diodes until he can get to Radio Shack to buy a tube.  Buy plenty of spare diodes and dozens of tubes of heatsink compound.

Check out the "CFS stock room" at this theater.  Several mirrors, ignitors and dozens upon dozens of diodes must be kept in stock to keep these monstrocities running.  Yes, all humor aside, this is no joke.  There is actually a dedicated room just for storing replacement CFS parts!  You will ultimately spend far more money a few years down the road on parts to keep this thing running than buying a good reliable lamphouse to start with.

But enough of this, you're dying to see the nasty guts of this thing, aren't ya?

Well, here it is in all of it's glory!  CFS has chosen to go with a vertically mounted xenon.  There is one nice thing about this design, bulbs do last longer and they never need to be rotated.  Note I did not state "there is one nice thing about this lamphouse" and that I did in fact state "design".  Because the cooling is so piss poor in a CFS lamphouse, your bulb will look like this in no time.  This bulb is a Christie with less than 500 hours on it!!!  Now before you say "so how many lamphouses did you have to open at that complex before you found a bulb like that to stage this picture?"  Allow me to state that these pictures were taken on the FIRST lamphouse that was opened.  Upon inspection of others in the complex, they were all like this.

Here you can see the air vent and the "light-eating 45 degree mirror".  This mirror does double duty.  First, it sucks light output from the xenon and second it shades everything a nice purplish hue.  On screen with any other lamphouse, an actor wearing a white T-shirt will appear white.  On a CFS lamphouse, that same white T-shirt from that same print will appear purple.  It does wonders for flesh tones and will colorize old black and white movies too!  Now those movies no one would screen because they weren't in color are now presented in glorious black and purple.  Simply amazing.

This mirror was just changed out in this lamphouse pictured above, but these will crack and die quickly due to the excess heat inside the chamber.  Remember back up top when I pointed out this was a 4500 watt console?  There is a little known mathematical equation that should be followed when choosing which level of CFS lamphouse to install in your theater.  I know this is a bit complicated, but if you study it long enough it will make sense.

CFS-stated lamphouse wattage divided by a factor of two = actual light output wattage as compared to other manufacturer's lamphouses.

Make sense?  Basically this 4500 watter will put out roughly as much light as a 2000-2500 watt Christie or Strong lamphouse (to name a couple specifically, there are others).  Add the cost of the lamp with it's shortened warranty life hours (about half), the cost of the extra electricity needed to run this beast, the cost of the replacement mirrors which need to be replaced every one to two years, the monthly cost of changing out diodes, and the refunds issued when the damn thing won't strike and I say "what the hell were they thinking?"  Most importantly, "what the hell were the big money men at the corporate offices thinking when they bought these pieces of junk?  Idiots!"  If I didn't know better (and I'm not saying that I do), I would say there is some sort of under-the-counter kickback going to the fellow who makes purchasing decisions for these theater chains going on.  I just for the life of me cannot figure out why anyone would ever purchase these twice in a row...unless they were just plain stupid or did not care in the least about their presentation.  Maybe I'm missing something, though.

And that is why this machine gets a Blows rating of D.  I would've given it an F rating, but the diodes ARE easy to change (unlike many other brands) as well as the facts that you can get at the wiring on the non-operator side without tripping the interlock failsafe during a show and that handy dandy master power switch.

Bottom line: Might as well buy a flashlight.

-Brad Miller

Brad Miller is that guy who runs this web site.  He runs an independent engineering service company by the same name of "Film-Tech" and the company also manufacturers film cleaning products, notably FilmGuard.  On the side and for fun, he has always kept a projectionist position at a local theater because "A: I love it and B: it gives me a chance to test and demo my film cleaning products in real life situations".

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