The Perfect Light Since 1980

How it All Began

From its inception in 1980, Chimera Lighting has gained a reputation for innovation and excellence in the photography and film industries for its exceptional lighting products. But, like many innovative companies, Chimera evolved from humble beginnings.

In 1980, advertising and album cover photographer Gary Regester and noted climber, photographer and engineer/designer Tom Frost joined forces to create Chimera’s the first of a long line of light modifiers. Regester, who often photographed musicians on location, was looking for an alternative solution to creating the beautiful light he wanted for his portraits—one that created broader and softer illumination than umbrellas and a set-up that was more practical and portable than bulky lightboxes constructed from foam core and gaffer’s tape. Regester, inspired by the design of high altitude tents, sketched out some rough ideas for a collapsible modifier, which generated overwhelming interest from his photographer friends.

Frost provided the perfect balance of skills and experience, including his tenure as a designer for Chouinard Equipment (the predecessor to Patagonia, founded by Chouinard), to partner with Regester to bring the photographer’s idea to life. Set against the backdrop of Boulder, Colorado, known for its rugged beauty and outdoor adventures, Regester and Frost created the Illuminata Lightbank and Chimera was born, with Frost and his wife Dorene and Regester and his wife Joanie, as the original founders.

The business initially started in the Frosts’ garage, with Tom Frost cutting the fabric for the lighbanks and then outsourcing the sewing locally. Skilled home sewers were—and are—plentiful in Boulder, thanks to the backpack and tent industry in the area. In the early days, the lightbanks were mainly sold at tradeshows but the business grew and the Frosts purchased a building that remains in the Frost family and continues to be home base for Chimera.

While initially designed for, and marketed to, still photographers, in the early 1980’s the late Dean Collins suggested that Chimera adapt its product lines for film and, later, video. Frost followed through by meeting with key players in the Hollywood film industry. This was a major step for the small company as cinematographers began to embrace Chimera lightbanks. Perhaps the tipping point was reached in 1990, when gaffer Mo Flam and DP Geoffrey Simpson used Chimera equipment when filming the breakout movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes.’” Since then, Chimera has played—and continues to maintain—a dominant role in the movie industry.  That’s no surprise given the products’ rugged build, ability to withstand the high heat output from cinema lights and to create the perfect illumination. When you’re working on a million dollar set, the last thing you want to face is an issue with equipment.

Born and Handcrafted in the USA

Even after the original founders departed Chimera, the company continued to flourish by creating innovative products for the imaging industry while adhering to the principles established at the company’s inception.

One of the establishing hallmarks of Chimera products is the company’s high quality standards and exceptional quality control. Materials for all but two accessories are sourced from and produced in the United States, whether locally or out of state. Even the small amount of imported materials is produced to Chimera’s specifications.

To ensure that the components that comprise Chimera’s softboxes, speedrings and other products meet the company’s standards, materials are inspected prior to going into production. Fabric is examined as it comes in and is spot-checked on the cutting table; speedrings are checked for fit and any finishing issues to make sure there’s no peeling or scratching on the anodized surface.

But quality materials are only part of what makes Chimera products so special and long lasting. The workmanship that goes into production is equally as important. Softbox fabrics are handsewn by local sewers. All products are hand assembled, and hand stamped, at the Boulder facility. Rigorous inspections prior to shipping guarantee that each piece of gear is perfect before it heads out the door.

Keeping production local allows the company to quickly and efficiently meet the often-urgent needs of its customers. And although repairs barely register on Winters’ financial reports since the products are so well made, maintenance on normal wear and tear—like that requested by rental houses—can be made in record time. The customer service department is one of the best in the industry,

Chimera’s decades-long relationships with employees, sewers, suppliers and machine shops contribute to the company’s smooth and profitable operations.  Employees take pride in the company and in their work and that’s a winning combination for any business.