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Sunset Center installs Canto USA’s NEW Culla Pendant Series



Jason Reeves - VP of Marketing

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March 28, 2023

The Sunset Center is a performing arts center located in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Formerly the Sunset School, it was purchased in 1965 by the city of Carmel with the plan to develop it into a cultural center. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 9, 1998. A $23 Million restoration in 2002 added new seats, fly gallery, improved acoustics and an enlarged lobby. Now it is a performing arts center that features concerts, comedy, theatre, and dance. Annually it welcomes over 125,000 visitors from the entire Bay Area.

Sunset’s project manager, Kendall Smith, recently handled a lighting upgrade for the center with Canto USA’s Culla Pendant product line. He was gracious enough to sit down with us and talk about his experience with it.

So, what prompted the Sunset Center to upgrade its lighting?

We have a variety of house lighting at our theatre; pendants, wall washes, and chandeliers. The 22 halogen pendant lamps hang from heights of 20’ to 50’ but with no easy means of access. In the past, when the halogen lights burn out, a scaffolding company was brought in for access. They would build a small section, change the light bulb in 30 seconds, take it down and move to the next burnout. It worked out to be around $500 to change a light bulb! We needed to find a more cost-effective solution.

Sunset Center Canto USA Pendant Before Installation 02
Sunset Center Before Installation
Sunset Center Canto USA Pendant Before Installation 01
Sunset Center Before Installation

What made the Sunset Center choose Canto USA for the job? Was it previous experience, ease of installation, or something else?

It was very important that we get a retrofit unit that matched our current color temperature and had a perfect dimming curve. We looked at other manufacturers, spoke with many top engineers, and the only company that could produce a high-quality fixture was Canto USA. This is an older building with a two-wire system and no additional wiring was possible. Therefore we needed a fixture that could work off of our current ETC dimming system.

What were some of the challenges?

The original pendants had a mini candelabra base which was twenty years old. Rather than combine the new RETRO unit with an old fixture, we had Canto USA design a pendant with an Edison base, providing us with a brand-new fixture and a full warranty. Since we also use our theatre for chamber orchestras and small presentations, there could be no additional sound coming from the new lighting. For that reason, we chose the pendant with passive engines that are fanless.

Given the supply chain, we were worried about getting the product in time for our small installation window. Canto USA was able to get us a sample fixture within one month and the entire order four weeks later!

Were there any other customizations that had to be done?

I wanted to reduce the glare coming from the houselights so I asked the design team to place the LED lamp farther back into the unit and yet still provide the proper beam angle. The engineers were more than happy to customize the unit and I believe it simplified the manufacturing of the pendant. We also asked for a bronze custom color for the pendant that fit in well with our current color scheme.

How long did the installation take?

The installation went much faster than anticipated. Since the old pendant and the Culla Pendant had the same canopy, it took only ten minutes to install. With the combination of the scaffolding company, and our local installer Collins Electric, they managed to do the orchestra level in four days and the balcony in two. Mind you, the theatre floor is raked so additional time was needed to adjust for the varying floor heights.

Sunset Center CantoUSA Pendant Installation 1
Sunset Center CantoUSA Culla Pendant Installation
Sunset Center CantoUSA Pendant Installation 2
Sunset Center CantoUSA Culla Pendant Installation

Were any adjustments necessary with the new pendants in some areas?

The last detail that needed to be addressed was our new balcony pendants which were added to better illuminate the balcony area.  In the past, the only light in the balcony were some wall wash units and 2 small chandeliers which did not provide enough light to read programs. Using power from the wall wash units, we added 4 new pendants to address this issue. The problem then became where to hang them so the light did not visually get in the way of the wall wash units or the chandeliers. The only solution was to hang them a bit lower and further off from center than we wanted, making a very short throw to the upper balcony. By extending the light further to the front of the unit and using wall wash attachments, it perfectly directed the light to the center of the section.

What was everybody’s initial reaction when the job was done?

The staff and audience noticed a big difference in the warmth and brightness of the units. The theatre is very evenly lit now, and with the addition of four new pendants in the balcony, bright enough for everyone to read their program.  Given the quality and spread of the new fixtures, we are keeping our houselights at 70%.

How does everybody feel about how the new LED pendants are performing in the space?

We had the opening of our season last night and it was flawless. The dimming curve on these units is perfect and the city will be happy to know we cut our power consumption from 11,000 watts to 1100, a 90% drop!

Sunset Center CantoUSA Pendant After Install 2
Sunset Center CantoUSA Culla Pendant After Install
Sunset Center CantoUSA Pendant After Install 1
Sunset Center CantoUSA Culla Pendant After Install

Any issues?

The only issue we had was the lack of load on our dimmers. Initially, the Culla units were flickering, now drawing only 150 watts per circuit rather than 1500w. Once we combined multiple circuits into one dimmer the flickering stopped completely.

Anything else?

I would like thank Collins Electric-Contractor, Meredith Nole: Monterey Lighting-Representative/Consultant, and David West of Wunder Lighting for their work on this project along with the entire staff at the Sunset Cultural Center for their support.

Ken, thanks for talking with us about your experience with our product.

The NEW Culla Pendant

Canto USA Culla Pendant Series

Our Culla Pendants are proudly made in the USA. They are meant to be used with the RETRO-Fusion™RETRO-ClassicRETRO-Passive® and any E26 Screw in Light Engine

About CantoUSA

Founded in 2013, Canto USA is a manufacturer of houselight retrofits and followspots. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to our mission: “Our customers come first. In order to do this, we continuously train our team on the latest trends and needs of the industry, while at the same time becoming a trendsetter in the development of new products and technology that no other company has available.” 

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