Effective lighting, like all other theatre design processes, is based on an equal measure of creative inspiration and logical decisions. Therefore, it doesn't matter whether you're planning an amateur production or a professional one - the principles of stage lighting remain the same for everyone.
To help you create a display that sparkles, we've put together this small guide explaining the main types of theatre lights and what you can use them for:
A floodlight is the least complicated of all the stage lights, consisting of either:
There are no adjusting knobs and therefore no control over the focus of the floodlight. Consequently, this type of light is suited to illuminating stage scenery, rather than actors. LED stage floodlights are a great choice for all size stages and are easy to install and use.
The Fresnel is a soft-edged spotlight that offers more control over the angle of the beam than a flood light. A Fresnel light's beam is adjustable because you are able to move the lamp or LED source and the reflector closer or further away, by using a screw mechanism or a slide.
In addition, you can shape a Fresnel's beam by using a rotatable 'barndoor' that is attached to the front of the lantern. In most productions, a Fresnel is used at medium throw distances (the distance from lens to stage) as a top or back light. However, for smaller venues, you could consider using a Fresnel as a front light.
A profile consists of a lens, lamp or LED light source, reflector, plus a shutter and gate, which provide very close control over the light's beam. It is possible to adjust the edge quality of a profile light from very soft to very hard by adjusting the lens.
Profile lights also have the ability to project any shape that is placed in the lantern's gate, between the lamp and the lens. These shapes are either formed by the shutters or a 'gobo' - which is a glass pattern or metal cut-out that is used to project shapes, or to split the light's beam into a particular pattern.
Standard profile lights have a fixed beam angle, which is shaped using the shutters. Conversely, variable profile lights use two lenses to provide a wider range of beam angles and edge qualities to the light.
A Parcan light is a sealed beam unit that consists of a lamp (or LED source), reflector and lens. Often referred to as PAR (Parabolic Aluminised Reflector) lights, a Parcan lantern produces a very intense light quality. Therefore, they are particularly suited to producing deep colours or special lighting effects.
PAR lamps are available in a range of beam angles, which are created via different levels of diffusion on the front lens. A PAR light creates an elliptical shaped beam, which you can adjust by simply rotating the lamp.
Moving lights, or intelligent lighting, refers to stage lighting equipment that has automated abilities that go above and beyond traditional lights. These types of lights can produce the most complex and extraordinary effects.
Moving lights are usually controlled via lighting control consoles. Currently, the most common output control signal used for directing moving lights via a console is DMX (Digital Multiplex). Potentially, moving lights have a huge range of variables that are controllable via a console - including colour, pan and tilt, gobo, prism, animation and framing shutters.
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