A few years ago it was unimaginable that LEDs could produce similar light quality as traditional stage lights. With new LED stage lighting technologies, manufacturers are creating LED profiles and wash fixtures that can create equivalent light output and color rendition of conventional tungsten halogen lighting instruments while consuming significantly less power and generating next to no heat. Color rendering- which describes how a light source makes the color of an object appear to human eyes- is a key lighting characteristic. On a scale from 0 to 100%, new LED stage lighting technologies are at the 97-98% mark.
Today, LED lighting is being vastly used in the event, entertainment and broadcast industries with manufacturers providing complete technical solutions for conferences, award shows, road shows, exhibitions, public events, themed events, experiential exhibits, fashion shows, car launches, sporting events, festivals and concerts, exhibitions and broadcast and television.
STAGE LIGHTING FIXTURES
Stage lighting isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ set up and needs to be tailored to the performance genre.
Lighting instruments can be broadly separated into two categories: floodlights, which illuminate a wide area, and spotlights (sometimes known as profiles), which produce a narrower, more controllable light beam.
Most stage lighting fixtures use incandescent lamps. However these lamps are largely inefficient as most of its energy is used to produce heat with very little light output. The use of HID and ARC lamps for stage lighting are slowly being developed but most fixtures that do use arc lamp are quite noisy due to lamp cooling requirements.
LED stage lighting instruments are proving a good alternative to traditional stage lighting sources due to their high light output and lower power consumption.
LED STAGE LIGHTS
1. LED instruments can contain a number of different colored LEDs, often Red, Green and Blue, and different light output colors can be achieved by adjusting the intensity of each LED color group.
2. LED instruments have a long service life relative to other options, without the expense of color gel or replacement lamps.
3. They are more visible than conventional lighting under daylight. This is making LED fixtures a popular choice for daytime events & festivals.
4. They can be controlled directly using DMX and do not require additional dimmers; the intensity of the LEDs being adjusted by circuitry onboard the fixture.
5. Due to low heat output, LED instruments can be used to light up fabrics/cloth material and plastic & wooden objects from a close range and even ice sculptures from within.
6. More environmentally friendly due to their low power consumption.
As for the flip side, Mr. Vineesh Vijayan, Regional Manager- Marketing, Canara Lighting opines that the weight of LED lights is much more than halogen lamps due to the size of the heat sink used for thermal management in the fixture.
On a similar note, Mr. Sandeep Dhawan, Managing Director, Dhawan Stagecrafts Pvt. Ltd. says, “The only shortcoming as of now is the limitation of the LED power in a single source – which restricts in making/designing fixtures comparable to high-power metal-halide lamps as used in bigger & brighter fixtures used for large sized venues and stadium events. Hopefully, it shall soon be taken care off as lot of LED lamp manufacturers are already working on it.”
The initial high cost is another shortcoming but in light of versatility and reliability, LED stage lights hands down trump over other lighting sources. The initial cost can also be recovered within 2-3 years according to Mr. Vijayan, adding one more reason to opt for these high-priced quality lights that are cost saving in the long run.
Types of LED Stage Lights & Usage
LED stage lights can be divided into four main types: Par cans, strip lights, moving heads and spot lights. These are used for different purposes such as stage illumination, decoration and lighting effects.
In LED PAR cans, a round printed circuit board with LEDs mounted on is used in place of a PAR lamp. The brightness is determined by the size of LEDs. The three most common sizes are 5mm, 10mm and 1W. Budget PAR cans use 5mm LEDs and do not cast sufficient light on the targeted surface. PAR cans with 10mm LEDs can be used as a replacement for standard PAR cans. 1W are the most powerful LEDs that are most commonly used for entertainment lighting.
Light output on the other hand is determined by the number of LEDs. PAR cans with 5mm LEDs should have at least 150 and likewise with 10mm LEDs, though manufacturers will try using fewer to cut down on costs. 1W LEDs are physically bigger and have very large light output. Around 36 will give significant light output. LED PAR cans are typically used for color washes covering the entire stage area at events, concerts, decoration, theatre and general ambience.
A strip light is a multi-circuit stage lighting instrument typically consisting of a row of lamps usually wired internally into either 3 or 4 circuits. The lamps are covered with colored gels or glass lenses, with each color controlled by a separate electrical dimmer circuit. Strip lights are designed for use as a general wash of light, usually on cycloramas or backdrops and also for stage decoration.
Spotlights are powerful lighting instruments which project a bright beam of light onto a performance space. They can fall into three general areas: Fresnels- small fixtures giving a soft-edged spot or pool of light, Ellipsoidal reflector spotlights- longer fixtures containing convex lenses and having agate at their focal point which enables the insertion of gobos or irises to shape the beam of light and Pebble Convex lanterns- similar to Fresnels, but use a plano-convex lens with a pebbled effect on the planar (flat) side, resulting in less “spill” outside the main beam.
Moving Head (or Moving Yoke) are units which work by moving the entire fixture body. Moving yoke fixtures may be “spot” fixtures, which allow the beam to be focused to a ‘hard edge’, allowing full use of gobo/beam/prism effects or “wash” fixtures, which are designed to cover (usually using several fixtures) a large area; programmable positioning/movements with tilt upto 185 degrees and pan 540 degrees or in continuous rotation are possible. Moving head types can either be a bank of LEDs mounted on a yoke or more conventional moving head lights with the bulb replaced with an LED bank.
Osram Opto Semiconductors released the new Osram Ostar Stage, the latest high-output addition to the company’s LED product family for stage, exhibition and architecture lighting at the end of last year. The new version is equipped with four two-square-millimeter high-current chips in red, green, blue and white based on the latest thin-film and UX:3 chip technologies. It can handle a maximum of 4.5 amps (A) per chip, enabling moving heads for stage and exhibition lighting to be more compact and more powerful.
Canara Lighting is one of the biggest manufacturers of specialized lighting equipment in South Asia and has expertise in the field of stage lighting since 1972. It also carries the distinction of being the only company to manufacture LED stage lights in India.
Providing turnkey solutions for some of the most reputed auditoriums in India, some of its projects include: INFOSYS Auditorium, Bangalore; Engineers India Ltd., Gurgaon; IISER, Pune & Bhopal; GSIDC, Goa; TCS, Chennai; BITS, Hyderabad; Tagore Auditorium, Trivandrum; TV Today (Aajtak) Auditorium, Delhi; Mody University, Jaipur; Astro Awani, Malaysia and ANTAH TV, Singapore.
Delhi-based company Dhawan Stagecrafts Pvt. Ltd. has been dealing in professional LED stage lights since 1961 for events/concerts, theatre/drama, venue/decoration lighting as well as television studio lighting. Its product portfolio includes professional stage show & intelligent lights from CLAY-PAKY for whom it is the sole distributor in India, GRIVEN, SGM, STRAND Lighting, AVOLITES, PULSAR and many more reputed brands.
Under the brand name of D.LED Lighting, the Company “customizes” these fixtures; setting them apart from the general range of LED fixture commonly available in the market. Any of the D.LED fixtures can be wirelessly operated by just inserting a specially design compact DMX wireless XLR connector, which powers-up without the need of any external power adaptors.
Dhawan Stagecrafts’ stand out projects include the British Council Auditorium, New Delhi (It is one of the first auditoriums in India where only LED fixtures have been used in a theatre); Mangalya Convention Centre – Subharti University, Meerut; Homeshop-18 TV Studios, Noida (UP) and the illumination of various heritage monuments in Hyderabad. Other Delhi-based suppliers include: Modern Stage Services Pvt. Ltd., Neo Stage Craft and Jia Lighting & Audio Equipments Co.
For decades, stage lighting has been dominated by halogen lights but the revolutionary LEDs have proved their muscle in meeting all the requirements and if not more in performance capability and reliability of stage lighting in recent years. A significant development in the area of stage and theatre lighting has been the introduction of DMX-controlled LED lighting fixtures that are allowing lighting designers to expand their abilities like never before. And ofcourse, the biggest advantage of using LED stage lights is their ability to consume less power resulting in substantial cost savings and causing less harm to the environment.