Information about ecologically sound ways of using lights in theatre.

Lighting Efficiently

I am not a designer, and I know that some may disagree, but I do think that, depending on the space, a show can still be seen and look good with less lights than are actually used. It’s a matter of being smart about your area lights, your specials, and not always feeling the need to use everything in the inventory.

Mike Lawler, a theatre practitioner in the States, has a great website,, that addresses the idea of scaling down lighting designs. “Certainly grand scale spectacle has its place from time to time, but is it done too much? Can we simply tone it down, use fewer lighting instruments and act more wisely when we power them up, keeping them on only as long as needed?“

The link above is a powerpoint presentation created by a UK company called White Light. It has a lot of information about efficient lighting, including comparison charts, information about dimmers, a cost savings worksheet for using LED cyc lights, and a very strong case for LEDs.

Here are some things to think about when designing the show:
– Do I need extra lights?
– Which lights are the most efficient?
– Where are the lights coming from?
– Are there lower power equivalents?
– Can we use what we have in stock (gels, gobos)?
– Do I have the proper information on time?

Here are some things to think about during the show run:
– Turn off moving lights!
– Turn off smoke machines!
– Keep all gobos/scrollers/gels for future shows!
– Properly recycle lamps
– LEDs and CFLs can be used backstage and for front of house

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LED Lights

ED fixtures are becoming more and more popular and versatile in the entertainment industry. An LED is a Light-Emitting Diode. It is essentially a tiny bulb without a filament that can burn out. LEDs are illuminated by the movement of electrons in a semiconducting material (often silicon) and don’t get very hot.  A diode consists of a section of material with extra electrons bonded to a section of material with extra ‘holes,’ or positively charged particles, with electrodes on each end. When a circuit is added, the interaction between the electrons and the holes creates light (see for a more in-depth explanation).

   A quick comparison between a Source 4 Par and an Elation – ELAR Par 108 RGBW on the Christie Lites website shows that Source 4s are between 375 and 750 watts, while the Elation consumes 120 watts. Also, because the Elation is made up of 36 smaller LEDs of different colours, the need for gels is eliminated, which saves a lot of money, time, and resources. The voltage needed for the two lights is about the same, with the Elation needing slightly less. The LED life of the Elation is up to 100 000 hours, while the lamp life of the Source 4 is between 300 and 2000 hours, depending on the model. Saying that’s a huge difference is completely stating the obvious, but still, THAT’S A HUGE DIFFERENCE!

That being said, LEDs still have a ways to go in terms of spotlights and other specific lighting needs, but taking steps to incorporate them into a theatre is a very good investment.

ETC also manufactures some LEDs which have a 50 000 hour lamp life and claim to be bright, beautiful, and multipurpose.

LEDs can be rented at many places around Edmonton, such as Long & McQuade, Infinite Event Services, Christie Lites, AllStar, and Production Lighting. AllStar and Prodution Lighting both rent out moving LED lights too!

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