Profoto is more than a brand and a line of products. It is also the place where some us work and spend our weekdays. Have you ever wondered who we are or what the thinking was behind the design of this or that piece of equipment? Then join us behind the scenes at Profoto!
Even though Profoto’s products have had a similar look and feel since the late 1960s, a lot of changes have been behind the scenes. One of the most important changes is the transition from mechanical hardware to digital software. But what does that really mean? Tommy Sundström, Software Engineer at Profoto, knows the answer.
“When you turn the dials on a mechanical generator, you physically reposition the components and conductors inside to redistribute the power. In a digital generator, on the other hand, there is a processor or a microcontroller that reads the position of the dials and tells the semiconductors how to distribute the power. In other words, you don’t actually move anything. You just tell the computer what to do.”
Released in 2002, the D4 was Profoto’s first digital generator. Since then, all flash packs, monolights and continuous light units have been digital: the Pro-8, the D1, the Pro-B4, ProDaylight, ProTungsten, etc.
“You have to go digital if you want the level of flexibility that these units offer,” says Tommy. “It’s also necessary if you want to have wireless control. In addition, a digital unit allows you to work with more user-friendly displays and continuously updated firmware. There are also a bunch of exciting new ideas that we’re working on right now that we couldn’t have dreamed of when we had mechanical units. But those are still classified.”
Are there any downsides to a digital generator?
“Not really, except for that the units are a lot more complex. But that is not unique for flash generators. Just think of today’s phones or cars. Old cars are made of relatively few parts, and they are quite easy to fix if you know how. A modern car, on the other hand, is incredibly complex and picking it apart it is just not a very good idea. The same goes for a modern flash generator.”
So, what does a Software Engineer actually do?
“In short, I’m responsible for making the generator as easy as possible to use. I believe we have a long tradition at Profoto of making intuitive, user-friendly generators, and that is something I strive to maintain. I don’t think the manual should ever have to be opened. To be a little more precise, I’m responsible for designing a system where the dials and buttons and semiconductors and displays work together as smoothly and efficiently as possible.”
Can you give us a concrete example of a project that you were recently involved with?
“I was involved in developing our latest generator, the Pro-B4. I’m really, really pleased with how that turned out. The entire system is designed exactly the way it should be to make it as efficient and robust as possible, and if you don’t mind me saying so, I’m quite proud of that. If you want an even more concrete example, I’d mention the battery indicator on the Pro-B4. It might not look like much, but that tiny little detail was actually very, very complicated to do.”
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