By Dave Blencowe - One of our in house lighting team
A few years ago, when many types of incandescent lamp were being banned, theatres got specific permission to carry on using the many T class lamps for some time. It made no sense to scrap so many expensive fixtures in the time frame that other incandescent lamps were being phased out.
Now, long before anyone expected, T class lamps are becoming more and more difficult to source. One manufacturer has gone due to financial problems, others are reducing the number of types they are making, and some are struggling to meet the demand thus caused. The first lamps that seem to be going are the ones with P28S caps, the 500W version fit into the classic Strand Pattern 23 profile (see glossary below) and Pattern 123 Fresnel, which we still see a lot of in schools and village halls, we expect others to go soon.
The result of all of this is that many venues, schools, and village halls will probably find that it is time to upgrade to LED based lighting products. This will probably be driven by necessity, but will also save on electricity bills, marginal but helps justify the change. We have been reviewing products, looking for value for money units that fit into various spaces. I have summarised some of the products below but feel free to ask us for advice or demonstration visits if you need more information.
Fresnels and PCs
First, I will look at the Fresnel and PC options. These seem to be easier to replace than profiles, there are quite a few options. For small venues the elumen8 MP60 WW is a Fresnel that is almost as bright as a Quartet and has a fairly nice colour temperature, very good value for money. An LEDJ product is the Artisan 2000 Fresnel, available in warm white and RGBA. LEDJ are producing an Artisan 1000 Fresnel but this isn’t available yet. The elumen8 MP120 WW and MP180 RGBW are a lot brighter than the Artisan at a slightly higher cost.
Types of fresnel you may currently have...
Our recommended LED Fresnel alternatives...
I think that the hardest fixtures to replace will be the small (500W/650W) profiles. There are many offerings for the larger ETC Source 4 or Strand Cantata sizes and also small exhibition style fixtures but we are struggling to find a good medium size unit. The best we have found so far are the ADJ Encore 1000 WW and Encore 1000 Color (American spelling!). The only problem with these units is that they don’t have a colour runner, a bit of an omission since even with the RGBW version you might want to use a frost. We have made a retrofittable colour runner for these but this pushes up the price.
Types of profiles you may currently have...
For the brighter profiles for larger stages and longer throws there are several options that we like. There is a Prolights ECLCT+BK which takes standard Source 4 lenses or modern equivalents specifically designed for LED lanterns. This has a gorgeous colour temperature and is brighter than a 750W Source 4. There is also the elumen8 Virtuoso 1000 Profile in WW and RGBAL versions. These are very bright, probably heading for double as bright as the 750W tungsten halogen! We have discovered that it is best to use a high temperature colour filter, Rosco or Lee HT, but for all the extra light it is worth the expense. Both the Prolights and elumen8 units have very nice optics that work well with gobo’s and even cut colours.
Our recommended LED Profile alternatives...
The final unit to be considered is the LEDJ 7Q5. These could easily be dismissed because they are so affordable but they are great for some uses. They are just an LED wash/spot fixture with a spread of about 40 degrees. They come in black or white bodies with RGBA or RGBW chips. They are around £90 including VAT, they are bomb proof (we have lots in our hire stock and don’t see many faults), and they can be used for many different applications. We have used them as uplighters, truss warmers, general stage wash lighting, back lighting, band lighting, we have even recently supplied them to a local school to replace old Strand S63 backdrop floods. I don’t need to say more about these!
You don’t need to replace all of your system at once but probably best done in sections and started soon. One thing to be aware of is that many of these fixtures require several lighting desk channels. This can quickly fill a small desk. I hope this has helped you think about what might be available as options now theatre lamps are being phased out. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you want more advice.
Fresnels – produce a soft edge with a hot centre, the lens is stepped.
PCs – produce a more even beam still with a soft edge. The lens is convex with a ‘pebbled’ back.
Profiles – produce a hard edged (focused) beam that can be shaped with shutters or gobos.
Gobo – an etched metal or glass image that is projected from a profile spot.
Colour temperature – White isn’t white! What we perceive as white is different depending on the light source, generally theatre lanterns have always been a fairly yellow warm colour.
RGBA stands for Red, Green, Blue, Amber – these are the colours produced by the LED source that are then mixed to produce many other colours. RGBW is the same but has white instead of amber as the fourth colour.
WW stands for Warm White which should be close to the normal colour temperature of most theatre lamps. These fixtures are generally single colour.