fluorescent tubes to low levels. Its Hi-lume became
the world’s first solid-state dimming ballast to dim
fluorescent light to one per cent.
But the biggest breakthrough was to come in 1993.
Spira observed that in many conference rooms, there
would be four or more of the company’s Nova dimmers
installed in a row on the wall: one to adjust the lights in
front of the projection screen, one to control the light
over the table and so on.
Michael Pessina, co-CEO and president of the
company, recalls: ‘And he said, “boy, wouldn’t it be
great if we could develop a product that could allow
you to press a button and have [all] the lights go to the
level you want for that particular task?”’
Lighting designers working in the theatre already had
a term for it. Scene setting. Lutron engineers were
tasked with creating a scene-setting lighting controller.
It had to work with any type of lighting load, be it
incandescent, low voltage, halogen or fluorescent.
What made the challenge possible were the small-
but-powerful microprocessors starting to appear
on the electronics market at the time. The result was
light in a room. Press any scene button and the room
transformed before your eyes.
Spira’s timing was perfect. The home cinema was
coming into vogue at this time, and the GRAFIK Eye
became standard equipment in such applications. Its
commercial success was helped by Spira’s insistence
that the scene-setter had to be truly global. ‘That
product had to be able to be sold in Tokyo, London,
New York or LA,’ says Pessina.
‘I think one of the things he loved about it was that in
our factories, we set the first button for 100 per cent
lighting level, the second button for 75 per cent, the
third for 50 per cent, the fourth for 25 per cent and the
last button for off, so effectively you get scenes out of
the box once you’ve connected it.’
Success in the commercial sector soon matched the
residential sector. Lutron equipment was installed
in some very prestigious addresses, including the
Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the All England
Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, and The New York
Times Building, as well as the refurbishment of the
Early marketing material
for Lutron urged customers
to ‘dial romance’