Which Stage Lights Should I Use For My Show?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007 - Lighting Design - by:

If you are new to stage lighting and are a bit confused about all of the lighting equipment involved then don’t worry. You know that you need some stage lights but which ones? On Stage Lighting has put together a guide to spotlights to help you choose the right ones for the job.

Stage spotlights come in a variety of sizes , types and power outputs and are each type can be used in a variety of ways to achieve the lighting that your show needs. Below is a list the different kinds of spotlight, their uses and power outputs generally available.

  • Profile Spots – (Fixed Beam Angle) – These spotlights are good for producing a small pool of light and for “throwing” a long distance. They can project gobos (patterns) and their lenses can be focussed to produce a hard or soft edge but their beam width remains fixed. Beam angles of different spotlights vary from 6 deg (good for tight spotlight) to about 50 deg (good for soft gobo wash). Use 500w to 1000w in a small to medium sized venue. Up to 2500w profile spotlights are used in really large theatres.
  • Zoom Profile Spots – Similar uses to the fixed spotlights above but their beam angle is varied by adjusting 2 moving lenses. These spotlights can also project gobos. Power outputs and uses of these spots are the same as the fixed version.
  • Fresnel Spots – These stage lights are used to wash medium to large areas and are best used much nearer to the stage than profile spotlights. They have a stepped lens and can be adjusted by moving the lamp (bulb) forward and back inside the light. Fresnels have a soft edge and come in a variety of power outputs. 500w lights are useful in the smallest venues with 650w – 1200w being the most useful in the majority of theatres and stages.
  • PC Spots – Prism Convex, Pebble Convex, Plano Convex, they are all still called PC’s. Similar to a Fresnel in design, they provide an adjustable medium sized pool of light with a slightly harder edge. These stage spotlights give slightly more intensity than a Fresnel light and have a larger beam size range but tend to “hole out” at their wider beam focus. When you push the lamp near to the lens, to produce a wide beam, a dark patch opens up in the centre of the spotlights beam.

A stage lighting rig for a theatre show consists of a range of the different spotlights here, plus other types of lights and equipment. Fresnels and PC’s are most often used flown over the stage with the narrower beam angles of the Profile Spotlights rigged out in the auditorium.

Choosing exactly the right spotlights for which job require knowing the throw distances and required beam size of each of the lights you need for your show. Get this information together and have a chat with a professional lighting hire company to see what they suggest. They are usually more than happy to help.

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Rob is a Lighting Designer and Moving Light Programmer and currently Senior Lecturer in Technical Theatre Production at Bath Spa University in the UK. He is also the Editor of On Stage Lighting and runs workshops in stage lighting practice.

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