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The History of the Phantom Contour Projector

Today, the Phantom Contour optical framing projector is the premiere option for art lighting on the market today. Our art lighting projectors can be found in some of the finest homes around the country, illuminating pieces by some very notable artists. However, the Phantom projector couldn’t have achieved this status without its founder’s rich history of technical expertise, lighting industry experience, and sheer design innovation.


Timeline of the Phantom Projector

Phantom’s founder and owner, Tom Kretzschmar, began his career in the lighting industry building custom cabinet lighting products on the job in 1980. He became the exclusive installer in the Gulf Coast area for Wendelighting framing projectors in 1983. As he installed these large, cumbersome projectors in high-end homes around Houston, he started to design a more streamlined projector in his head. After being awarded his first patent for his proprietary cabinet lighting systems in 1987, Tom recognized the beginnings of a new company and Phantom Lighting was born. In 2002, Tom terminated his exclusive contract with Wendelighting and brought his own patented optical framing projector to the Phantom product line.

1987 – Tom received his first US Patent for his proprietary cabinet lighting systems and their unique wiring methods.
1990 – The Phantom Trademark was established; the young company specialized in proprietary cabinet lighting and the installation of Wendelighting framing projectors for art lighting.
2001 – Tom submitted his first US Patent application for the Phantom Contour optical framing projector.
2002 – Phantom Contour projectors received ETL Approval and the first Phantom website was launched; the Wendelighting contract was terminated as Tom launched his own streamlined framing projector.
2003 – The first Phantom sales agent was hired, beginning our network of representatives around the country.
2004 – A US Patent (#US6832845B1) was issued to Tom Kretzschmar for the original halogen Contour Projector.
2005 – Tom, always striving to improve, submitted a second US Patent application for an updated projector lensing system.
2009 – A second US Patent (#US7517088B1) was issued to Tom Kretzschmar for the updated halogen Contour Projector.
2016 – Phantom Lighting Systems, LLC was established as a standalone entity.
2019 – Introduced updated LED Contour Projector and LED projector conversion kits, which allow existing customers with halogen models the option to upgrade to LED technology without replacing their whole projector systems.
2020 – Phantom website updated and rebranded under the guidance of Limb Design.


The Switch from Halogen to LED

The lighting business, like most others, is always changing and adapting to the latest technology. LED light bulbs in all shapes and sizes emerged into the market as incandescent, fluorescent and halogen lamps were being phased out. Early LED lamp performance was inconsistent between manufacturers even thought they had the same shape as a replacement. Consumers were faced with making the conversion from watts to lumens and picking lamps by kelvin color.  Most people thought the color was bad and they had dimming issues with LED. Eventually, manufacturers worked out the kinks and the industry standardized so that consumer could make intelligent selections. LED lamps for recessed lighting, table lamps, accent lights and various other applications were becoming widely accepted.

While this LED transition was going on, it became apparent to the designers at Phantom Lighting that simply replacing the halogen MR16 in our framing projector was not going to produce the kind of results collectors expected. To complicate matters, the specialty MR16 halogen lamp manufactured exclusively by Ushio was discontinued, leaving us with no other choice than to find a solution. Phantom framing projectors have a precision optical chamber, consisting of one or more condensing lenses and achromatic focal lenses, that must be engineered properly to receive and magnify the light. So, we set out to produce an LED projector and conversion kit that would work in new and existing products. We consulted with optical engineers, lamp manufacturers, and industry professionals to meet and exceed the rigid criteria set by Tom Kretzschmar while still maintaining the spirit of the original design characteristics. The results were impressive and in 2019 we introduced the new LED contour projector and discontinued the halogen framing projector.

The re-engineered Phantom LED projector design has been well received by architects, engineers, builders, lighting designers, interior designers and art collectors for its unique design, ease of installation and overall performance. With a high-performance proprietary 26-watt Cree™ 3000K LED light engine coupled to a concentric parabolic reflector, aluminum heat sink and active cooling fan, the Phantom projector has become the leader in fine art illumination techniques.

Phantom Lighting also offers LED conversion kits for all our projector models including those with square or round housings, as well as surface mount models. This is not a simple lamp change, but a major upgrade that improves light levels, energy efficiency, and overall performance. The conversion process involves changing the electrical power supply, updating the optical system and installing a high output LED light engine for maintenance free operation. The unique tri-dimming driver is compatible with forward phase (MLV), reverse phase (ELV) and 0-10V wall box dimmers and most lighting control systems.

To read more about the benefits of LED projectors over the older Halogen models, please click here.


If you have any questions about the Phantom Contour Projector and why it’s the best option for art lighting on the market, please give us a call toll-free at 800-863-1184 or request a quote using our online form.