Event lighting technology has gone through several generations of transformation and updating. Today, computerized lighting boards can be automated to create dazzling lighting displays that can completely transform a venue’s environment. From moving fixtures that can produce 100’s of colors, to wireless LED uplighting, the choices available to creative lighting designers can be overwhelming!
That being said, traditional lighting has been the mainstay of the industry for decades, and even with the newest technology, can still produce amazing effects that even the most advanced fixtures can’t match for warmth and depth. Many event lighting designers use conventional fixtures as the base of their designs. Sometimes the tried and true methods are still the best option and conventional lighting will always have a place in event lighting design!
Let’s explore the world of conventional event lighting. We’ll break down the various fixtures available with a brief description of their most common usage in today’s special events production market.
Conventional Event Lighting Fixtures
Also known as ellipsoidal reflector spotlights, these are go-to conventional fixtures that combine an ellipsoidal reflector with either a one step lens or two plano-convex lenses. Because of the location of the focal point, anything placed in the gate is inverted. Any image slide will appear upside down and backwards.
These fixtures typically have four shutters positioned around the lens that are used to shape the light. The pattern placed in the lens is called a template or gobo. These fixtures are useful if you need a sharp edge, a projected pattern (like a corporate logo for example) or a high-intensity light. Focal lengths are typically fixed, but zooms are available.
Fresnel Lens Spotlight
Fresnels are typically lighter and smaller than the Lekos and offer various beam widths. By moving the lamp closer to the lens, the field of light can be made wider. Moving the lamp away makes the field smaller. Fresnels produce softer light and can be shaped by external “barn doors” but do not offer the sharp edges of a Leko fixture.
Fresnels are useful if you need a softer edge or the ability to vary the width of the lighting field.
Parabolic Aluminized Reflector or PAR Fixtures
Traditional PAR fixtures are self-contained; the lamp, reflector and lens are all housed in one unit and the instrument is similar to a can holding a lamp. To change the field size, you need to change the lamp. Typical field sizes available are:
• Wide Flood (WFL)
• Medium Flood (MFL
• Narrow Spot (NSP)
• Very Narrow Spot (VNSP)
Pars are identified by the diameter of the fixture, in 1/8ths of an inch. So a PAR 48 is 6” in diameter and a PAR 64 is 8” in diameter. Medium flood and wide flood lamps throw an oval beam of light. Newer technology is available that have separate lamps and reflectors with interchangeable lenses. Also, Extra Wide Flood (XWFL) are available which produce round fields of light.
An interesting note: MR16 and MR20’s are 2” and 2 1/2” units that use diachronic parabolic reflectors and often no lens. They are used for display work and are referred to as “birdies” in industry jargon…because they’re “under par”!
LED technology is a newer type of dimmable lamp that uses “light-emitting diodes” as its light source. There are limitations as to the color choices available due to the purity of the color produced and their relatively low intensity.
LED are extremely energy efficient and are used in theatre productions and as ambient lights. As a result, wireless LED fixtures are available. They produce little heat and are relatively small allowing for easy placement in tight spaces. LEDs are available as wide-dispersal “wall wash” type fixtures, but are also available as PAR type fixtures. New technology has allowed LED fixtures to produce a sharp-edged beam as well as mimic the performance of LEKOs complete with shutter cuts and gobos.
Convex spotlights use a spherical reflector and a plano-covered lens. Like a Fresnel, changing the distance between the lamp and the lens changes the width of the light field. PC spots produce a sharp edge.
A variation is available that uses a stippled lens to produce a less defined beam. It’s is slightly less diffused than a Fresnel and softer than a Leko.
Scoops and Floodlights
Floodlights produce a very soft, wide field without lenses. Cyc lights are specialized floodlights with two or more compartments in one fixture. They are usually used to light backdrops.
Striplights or Borderlights
Compartmental fixtures designed to use as a general wash of light on backdrops. They are usually wired for three or four circuit operation and contain multiple lamps per circuit. They can use both gels or glass roundels to produce color.
Follow spots are large fixtures supported by a stand designed for manual operation and are used to produce a strongly concentrated beam to light a specific performer or fixture. The beam is very controllable and the fixture has an “iris” for controlling the lighting field. A dowser (build in dimmer) allows the operator to fade in or out and a color boomerang (a movable wheel of colored gels) allows the operator to change the color of the beam.
Follow spots are extremely bright allowing them to cut through other stage lightings.
There you have it, a complete guide to your conventional event lighting options! At BML-Blackbird, we not only have the latest state-of-the-art computerized lighting technology, we also stock a full selection of conventional lighting. Our designers know that sometimes the best option for your production’s aesthetics is an old school approach to event lighting.
We have one of the largest selection of controllers (dimmers) in the industry and have years of experience and expertise designing event lighting using both state-of-the-art computerized fixtures and tried and true conventional lamps. The end result is event lighting that will transform your environment into a magical space and leave your guests talking long after the party is over!