Whether you’re performing at your local venue, or producing a mega musical - stage lighting will take any show to the next level. With a variety of solutions available for any situation, there’s no excuse for keeping your productions in the dark.
Stage lighting is as much a technical skill as an artistic one. In this article, we’ll introduce different forms of stage lighting, and how they each function within a live setting.
Before long you will be a lighting wizard, creating mind-blowing displays that will elevate your live performances to the maximum. Ready to dive in?
LED Par Cans create bright washes of light and are capable of displaying almost any colour you desire. If your show is on the smaller side - this is the best place to start.
Many LED Par Cans have automatic and music-following modes, meaning they’re easy to set up and give your show that extra kick. They also excel in larger rigs, creating washes to set the mood of a stage. By doing so, you can evoke times of the day, seasons, or even geographical locations.
If you’re a touring artist who might need to setup alone, Par Bars are a great option. These all-in-one rigs typically come bundled as four Par Cans, allowing for a simple and stressfree setup - along with remote control operation for even more convenience.
See more | Par Bars
Shop now | LED Par Cans
To illuminate or focus on subjects, you’ll want spotlights. These fixtures create a pool of light that can be cast from a long distance.
If wash fixtures set the mood, spotlights allow you to see the action on stage. Therefore, they are often positioned above the stage, illuminating its front side.
Spots can also be used to create exciting effects. Gobos - pieces of metal or glass with patterns cut into them - can be added to some spots to project interesting shapes. Or shine your spot at a mirror ball for a simple way to liven up any dancefloor.
For dynamic control, you might use a followspot. They are placed at the back of a venue and are operated manually, with controls for movement, focus, and spotlight size.
Top pick | ADJ Pinspot LED II
See more | Profile Lighting & Spotlights
Moving Heads are lights with automatic movement capabilities. These are ideal for dynamic motion and moving effects that aren’t possible with static fixtures. They’re offered in different variations depending on what type of light they use, such as moving spots and moving washes.
You can even get hybrid moving heads, which present multiple features into one fixture. These can include motorised zoom, gobo wheels, rotating prism lenses, and much more! While on the premium side, hybrid moving heads might be a good option for those who don’t want to overload their rig.
This type of fixture doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, a moving head might be exactly what you’re looking for to add exciting, automated movement to your show.
See more | Moving Heads
Frankly, there’s a near-endless array of options for lighting up your performances on stage. Too many to list, in fact. However, let’s go over some of the more popular choices for enhancing your live presence…
Blinders create dazzling walls of light that face towards the audience. Strobes go for a similar effect, but can flash at incredibly high speeds. These two fixtures are a firm favourite at rock concerts when trying to up the crowd atmosphere.
Due to the intensity of the strobe light effect, it’s important to note that this lighting is not suitable for those with photosensitive epilepsy - and should therefore be used with caution.
It is advised to restrict strobe rate to four flashes per second, mount above head-height, and inform all audiences of your intention to utilise the effect. This way, everybody can enjoy the lights and the music, while minimising the risk.
Top pick | Comet LED Mini Strobe by Gear4music
See more | Strobe Lights
Shop now | Blinders
Project precise points of light with lasers. Coming in a variety of colours, lasers can be set to follow different preset patterns - ideal for creating a sci-fi twist on the dancefloor.
What’s more, you can combine this stunning effect with that of a fog machine for a totally immersive light display, truly enhancing the beaming qualities of the lasers.
Top pick | ADJ Micro Galaxian II Laser
See more | Lasers
Gobo Lights are the most direct way of projecting unique Gobo patterns. If you need a dedicated unit for creating these patterns, or to project a custom logo onto the stage – Gobo lights are the way to go.
Top pick | Chauvet Gobo Zoom 2 LED Gobo Projector
See more | Gobo Lights
The easiest way to control lights is to use automatic built-in programs, which can often be changed from afar with remotes. But what if you need more advanced control?
Luckily, most modern light fixtures are compatible with DMX, a protocol for sending messages to lights through cables. For musicians, this is essentially the lighting equivalent of MIDI.
DMX can control different aspects of a light’s operation. From dimming and strobing, to specific rotations of a moving head fixture.
You can operate lights using a DMX Controller. These range in complexity, from dimming of individual fixtures using faders, to sequencing an entire light show in advance.
Starting with a controller, 3 or 5-pin cables link lighting fixtures together in a one-way chain. Operation is seamless. Just sit back, and take control from your lighting desk.
A different direction is DMX Interfaces, allowing for DMX control from computer software packages. If you want complicated lighting schemes that may be troublesome to program on a desk, interfaces will allow you to achieve more ambitious lighting possibilities.
However, not having DMX isn’t the end of the world. There are plenty of alternative options for controlling your light show…
An infrared remote control provides simplistic and efficient control from your pocket, while Bluetooth operated stage lighting allows you to take full control from your mobile device! No matter your event, there’s a solution for any setup.
Top pick | Cameo Control 54 DMX Controller
See more | DMX Controllers
Shop now | DMX Interfaces
When it comes to light setup, there’s a myriad of options. Some can simply sit on the floor using built-in stands, which is the best choice for upwards lighting.
But most shows will require lights pointing from above. The most common way to do this is with T-Bars, which allows lights to be attached to and raised upwards.
At a more complex level, you can use trussing, which is essentially modular scaffolding that can hold numerous lights. Some degree of professional experience is recommended with this option, however.
However, with any level of rigging, you should always put safety first. Always make sure you are using the right clamps for the lights you have and that you aren’t loading past your stand’s capacity weight. You should also ensure that you’re always using safety cables, stopping lights from falling should the clamp fail.
In terms of designing your lighting rig, it might be best to start by sketching out a diagram of your venue, highlighting where you want each of your lights to go. You could even emulate the design of your favourite productions, maximising the plethora of information now available online.
Top pick | Adjustable Lighting Bridge by Gear4music
See more | Lighting Stands
Shop now | Stage Lighting Accessories
To heighten your light show even further, why not add some special effects? This could be a fogger to add atmosphere to the stage, a mirror ball to increase the energy of your dancefloor, or bubble machines for a touch of whimsy.
The list goes on – snow machines, confetti cannons, and wind machines. These effects (along with many more) can be combined with your lighting to create a unique and exciting atmosphere on the stage or dancefloor.
Top pick | 400W Fog Machine + Fog Fluid by Gear4music
See more| Effects Machines
Shop now | Lighting Effects
You may also require some accessories to facilitate your new collection of lights. There are a wide range of bags and cases specifically designed for transporting light fixtures, which is important to consider if you are a touring artist.
DMX cables are also useful if you want to create a complex lighting design – just check whether your lights use 3 or 5-pin cables first.
Top pick | Chauvet DJ 13'' x 13'' x 14'' VIP Gear Bag
See more | Stage Lighting Accessories
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