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An Intro To Lighting

Posted by on 12 August 2011



:: An Intro to Lighting ::

Once you have yourself a band or DJ setup, a PA, a setlist and some gigs – the next thing you might want to think about is some lighting. Even if you play at a variety of venues that already have lighting, there’s always going to be some new venue or some private function where you turn up and there’s only fluorescent lights with one switch. All on, or all off.

The great thing about lighting is that so much of it is ‘plug n play’ these days that you don’t need a lighting guy, you literally put it somewhere and turn it on. And with the advent of LED lighting, you also don’t need to worry about overloading power sockets. More on that later.

Why do you need lighting? Lighting creates ambiance, allows you to highlight areas and provide a point of difference to other acts. A professional act gets paid more. The more professional you look and sound, the more work you will get, and the more you can charge.


:: Positioning :: .

You can use lighting in a number of ways. The most obvious is to point the lights at the band members. This has the effect of lighting them up, and also reflecting off the instruments. Drumkits with chrome or shiny surfaces look really good under lights, as do instruments with polished surfaces.

However, some band members / DJs don’t want lights in their eyes all night, so another option is to point it at the amplifiers or the drum kits / keyboard / decks etc to highlight them. This looks really effective although the band members may still be in the dark.

Another popular option is to use lighting as a colour wash against the wall behind the band, or on the roof. This makes the band noticeable without blinding the band or the punters, and can be a great visual look as well.

To some degree, you can set out a dance floor by pointing lights at the floor in front of the band or wherever you want people to dance. Most people like to dance in the light, rather than dance in the dark. It’s surprising how well this little tip works.

Most lights can be mounted on stands so they are up and out of the way. You can also purchase H stands where lights can be mounted on to, and the light can sit securely on the floor. Bear in mind that if you perform in bars and licensed venues that intoxicated patrons could be an issue – so lighting does need to be appropriately positioned.


:: Types of Lights ::
For me, lights fall into three categories, effects lights, specialty lights and colour wash. I will deal with fog/smoke/haze and bubble machines in a later blog but I will say that fog machines really up the visual appeal and presentation of lights because it allows you to see the beams of the light, gobo or effect.

Effect lights would be moving lights with different colours and different gobos/patterns. Most of these are sound activated and some can be controlled and linked together to expand the lighting coverage.

Specialty lights would be strobes, mirror balls with pin spots and lasers. Some of these can be controlled.

Colour wash are lights that emit a bank of colour … red yellow blue green etc. This can be a single colour, but most of them are colour mixers or colour banks. A colour mixer mixs 3 or 4 colours to produce dozens of different colours. They don’t use a colour wheel inside the light. I’d also consider the fire and water effects lights as colour wash lights. Most colour wash lights can be controlled and linked together.
:: LED versus Lamp ::

LED lighting is all the rage and thankfully have started to come down in price but a lot of people are still unfamiliar with why LED lighting is so popular, and sought after. LED stand for light emitting diode and LED lights are all the rage because they are usually

-give off little or no heat
-have incredibly low power consumption
-no replacing bulbs

This power consumption is a huge part of their attraction. Consider that a 1000w Par64 uses 1000w of power but you only have 2400w to use (the maxmium on single-phase, standard output wall sockets). So you can only use two lights before you run the risk of overloading the power socket. Not many pubs and local venues have 3-phase power wired up ready for you to use with your banks and banks of Bon Jovi inspired-lighting.

Bar or venue owners can now have this type of LED lighting on all day and all night for a mere fraction of the power cost.

A Par64 LED can uses just 32w … so you could have nearly 75 of them … instead of 2 lamp based versions.

The heat reduction is another major advantage. I've played on stages with 6-8 1000w Par64 cans as stage fill colour ... that's like having 5 kilowatt heater sitting beside you all night. The smaller the venue, the closer the lights are. With LED, you don't have the heat component, or the power draw to worry about.

People have always thought that LED lighting was too costly to be effective - but I'm here to tell you that it's not. As a comparison consider the cost of setting up a four way lamp based system.

Lamp Based Par64 Setup LED Based PowerBar Setup


4 x Par64 Lights
4 x Par64 Lamps
1 x Lightweight T Bar Stand
1 x Hand Controller
1 x Dimmer Pack
1 x Carry Bag
4 x Par64 Lights
4 x Par64 Lamps
1 x Lightweight T Bar Stand
1 x Hand Controller
1 x Dimmer Pack
1 x Carry Bag
$1230 -Power Consumption - up to 4000w
-Replacement lamps - $85 upwards each
-Gel Paper required
-Two people or two trips to carry
-Up to 4 colours depending gel paper
$995 -Power Consumption - around 200w
-No need for replacement lamps
-No Gel Paper required
-One person carry (only one arm as well)
-9 Colour presets with 12 shows and fade in/out

Lamp based lights are still available and prevalent in a lot of clubs / bars / pubs and sometimes the only way to get certain effects. Replacing all the lights in a club / band / dj rig can be expensive but have a chat with us about what you'd like to do, and we can offer suggestions and a plan to make it happen sooner rather than later.

Naturally, we still have access to a wide range a lamps for lights, so let us know if you need anything lamp related.

All products mentioned in this blog are in stock and available now from us, If you have any questions at all in relation to lighting and visual effects, please send an email below (and you might win something).


:: Conclusion ::

As noted at the start, this was just an overview of lighting, in the next blog I will aim to get into the effects and different types and how to use them.