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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 freelance Lighting Designer and Moving Light Programmer currently lecturing 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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2 Comments

  1. Ian Mackenzie:

    Awesome. A blog dedicated to stage lighting! Great idea.

    We just interviewed a prominent Canadian stage lighting designer as part of our theatre blog’s “10 questions” interview series:

    http://praxistheatre.blogspot.com/2007/07/10-questions-itai-erdal.html

    Anyway. I’ll look forward to reading future posts.

    Regards,

    Ian

  2. LD SHARUKH:

    I just lit a three member band yesterday.Believe me when i say it was extremely satisfying. I used four 26 degree profiles and two ten degree profiles. I have lit several bands in my career but yesterday i got it perfect. I rigged 2 26degrees and 1 10degree on each side. They were rigged on the speaker scaffolding. Now usually we always foh using Narrow pars from a distance and most of the time it looks like crap. Yesterday. by using those profiles at a 45′ angle from each side and only slightly to the front of the stage I could brightly light all the members without washing out the moving heads or blinding the musicians. It was awesome. I used the 10 degree for the vocalist while using two 26′s for the guitar and two for the drummer. I focused these by using one stage left side 26′ to focus on to the drummer (on the left) along with one from the right.Similarly for the guitarist on the right of the stage.Thus both got one from almost above and from the opposite side. The Vocalist got 2 10′ focused to center.
    Heres a tip: If you use 2 10′ profiles from real close you can get it really bright.Thus in my case i could increase the brightness of only the vocalist.You can use it on a drum kit and even gel it with a red or blue if you wish.

    In yesterdays show i did not even use the profiles at 50% yet there was plenty of facelight. The musicians thanked me 4 times for the wonderful lighting. They did not feel the heat neither were they blinded.
    As a lighting designer or a musician I ask you what more do you want from an FOH light.

    Profiles rock and in a country where everybody uses pars for foh lighting i think yesterday was an eye opener for me.

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