# Global differences in types of lighting instruments

#### gafftaper

##### Senior Team
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This month's Stage Directions Magazine has a great article on how the favorite choice of lighting instrument is very different in the US vs. the rest of the world. Here's the story.

Fixed focus ERS rules!!

Let the debate begin...

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Logos

#### gafftapegreenia

##### CBMod
CB Mods
The conventional instrument debate again! WOOT

So, what rules the world? I'm going to have to say the S4......for now. It seems tha the majority of lighting rigs are S4 and PAR. Why? It's economical, so rigs can be standardized for both parts and fixtures. Makes weight easier to manage as well as maintenance. It's also familiar. Everyone has experience with them.

While many touring rigs have become standard, many, many theatres all the way from high schools to new york will continue to have a mix of old, new and everything in between. The consensus has been this allows the most flexibility and creativity in lighting design, when the differences in a Strand SL really do matter compared to a S4. The best lighting designers know how to both achieve their vision when they have a very few available fixtures or just a few styles, while also being able to be completely creative when they can and use very specific fixtures for very specific purposes instead of just using a basic rig to cover their tail. Flexibility and knowledge are key here. One should never get hung up with what an instrument is "supposed to" be used for. "Fresnels are just for overhead,etc etc etc."

As for me personally, my vote for most flexible instrument is the Fresnel. Everything from 40 seat black boxes to broadway stages can be lit with them. Any little company with no budget can easily do more with an inventory built upon Fresnels than Lekos. I'm not saying they shouldn't have Lekos, just what will work best for the space. IMHO.

#### Pie4Weebl

##### Well-Known Member
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As for me personally, my vote for most flexible instrument is the Fresnel. Everything from 40 seat black boxes to broadway stages can be lit with them. Any little company with no budget can easily do more with an inventory built upon Fresnels than Lekos. I'm not saying they shouldn't have Lekos, just what will work best for the space. IMHO.
I bet you I can get a better wash with my leko than you can hard shuttered edge with your fresnel.

#### Logos

##### Well-Known Member
And the source 4 might be the most economical choice in the US for a rig but not necesarily here. and I prefer a fresnel wash to a PAR wash any day. What is important is to get a mixed rig to do the jobs you need to do on a daily basis and hire in your special requirements for the biggies. I reckon that is trye everywhere.

#### stantonsound

##### Active Member
I agree that it depends on what you have. A recent theatre that I worked in only had 6 leko's, but 30+ fresnels and 20+ scoops. I had never worked with scoops, but was forced to. They just used the leko's for gobos and that is it. It was challenging as I am a "source four" and "par" man myself, but you use what you have.

If I had my way, for theatre I would use about 70% source four ers's (fixed), 10% source four pars, 10% fresnels, and 10% cyc strips. (Actually, I would throw in about 30-50% movers, but no show that I work on has the budget for that!)

#### Charc

##### Well-Known Member
Wow what a great read, thanks gaff.

I have too little experience to jump into the fray, but it sounds like an interesting debate.

#### DarSax

##### Active Member
The vast majority of my instruments are zoom lekos, but I have experience with the fixed source 4's. From what I've done, I've found that fixed-focus s4's are just fine for front lighting; a zoom will get you almost "perfect" of what you want, but having just guessed which beam angles I wanted, everything worked out great, almost-unbelievably.

At the same time, though, I don't think anything in the world is better than a zoom leko for a special, especially in a hazed situation. Provided your floor and set pieces aren't overly reflective, you can somewhat fudge a fixed-focus front light. With haze though, you want that single-light special to look perfectly formed--meaning, you want a zoom.

#### icewolf08

##### CBMod
CB Mods
DarSax said:
At the same time, though, I don't think anything in the world is better than a zoom leko for a special, especially in a hazed situation. Provided your floor and set pieces aren't overly reflective, you can somewhat fudge a fixed-focus front light. With haze though, you want that single-light special to look perfectly formed--meaning, you want a zoom.
First off, this really is not completely true. I can only speak from the perspective of being in the US, but given the nature of Americans, the Zoom is kind of the lazy-man's unit. If you are willing to do a little math and some worksheets (or lighting elevations, or whatever you might call it) you can usually find a fixed focal length unit that will fit your needs. We have 10 Source 4 15˚-30˚ in our inventory, and really the only reason is that when they were purchased they filled the gap in field angles between the 19˚ and the 10˚. It is really a matter of knowing what each unit in your inventory is capable of. Need a pool slightly smaller than your 19˚ special, use an iris.

Most of the Zoom fixtures available are big and heavy. The Source 4 15˚-30˚ zoom is a 35-40 pound beast, and if you hang it on an electric over the stage you generally need to either trim your electric out farther or your borders in closer which may foil some of your backlight systems sharing the same batten. Sure, zooms are useful for some things, like aligning templates that are supposed to match across a stage.

#### gafftaper

##### Senior Team
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Wow what a great read, thanks gaff. I have too little experience to jump into the fray, but it sounds like an interesting debate.

Stage Directions who published this article is one of the many free industry magazines, but you have to be someone who spends money in the industry in order to get it. They have to show their advertisers that the people reading the magazine are people who are likely to spend money in order to pay for the magazine. So they aren't likely to send you, a student, a magazine... of course who knows if they every check up on you and see if your theater really exists...

Of all the magazines S.D. is the one that seems the most likely to have articles like this that you can really learn from. Most of the other magazines do write ups about the latest concert tours, broadway shows, and theater rennovations... while those articles are interesting and you can find out a lot about the latest gear and design techniques, they don't have teaching you something new as a goal. Anyway, the point is as a student it would be well worth your time to spend a little time on the Stage Directions website once in a while. They post all their magazine articles on the website so you can get all the content without getting the paper subscription.

Back to the discussion...

#### Logos

##### Well-Known Member
Don't get me wrong, I love the source 4 as an instrument and the fixed focal lengths are perfect for a lot of use. For gobo use where you have versatility in placement of your instrument they are second to none. I know the zoom is bigger and heavier (i've recently been wrestling with some ancient CCT 1k Silhouette zooms they are about 3 feet long and god only knows what they weigh) but it is more versatile when you are limited in where you can place lanterns. I do a lot of work in black box situations with limited fixed grids.
I still like my fresnels and PC's and here I am talking more about the newer pebble convex rather than the classic plano convex. I like the wash. I always feel I get hotspots with PARS no matter what I do. I hate hot spots.

#### soundlight

##### Well-Known Member
At Bucknell, we have a mega-crap-ton (that's a techical unit of measure, folks) of fixed degree source fours. We have (I think) 25 of each of the source four zooms, and a bunch of old 4.5" lekolite zooms. The lekolite zooms are just kept around because they still work, and we honestly run out of certain types of fixtures for dance concerts and have to use them. They're also nice and compact for sidelighting. The other zooms, however, are most often used for rotators and gobos and film fx units that the LD wants to be a specific size. Also, we use them as 15 degree units from the far FOH position. If we'd had the option of the 14 degree unit, we would have probably gone for that for the 12 third beam fixtures. But, we use fixed-focus source fours and source four pars for almost everything. It's basic math folks! I personally think that for most applications, zooms (either fresnels or lekos) are for the lazy folks. But, I do agree that the light output from a fresnel is very nice. We often also use the zooms because we're too lazy to change the plates on the back of our Apollo Smart Colors down to regular S4 size, even though it just takes a screwdriver and adjusting 8 screws. Personally, I prefer fixed-angle units because I'm usually the one that has to haul them up to the midrail...I hauled twelve S4 15-30 zooms up to the midrail the other day, and then they put a six by sixteen on the line without me realizing...that fixture flew up through the air because I was still pulling with the force needed for a 15-30. Those 15-30's are also hard to hang, but it's nothing like hanging old 10" lens by 20" long or so Century Strand Lekos from an FOH position that's 40 feet in the air...

#### ship

##### Senior Team Emeritus
Stage Directions who published this article is one of the many free industry magazines, but you have to be someone who spends money in the industry in order to get it. They have to show their advertisers that the people reading the magazine are people who are likely to spend money in order to pay for the magazine. So they aren't likely to send you, a student, a magazine... of course who knows if they every check up on you and see if your theater really exists...
Of all the magazines S.D. is the one that seems the most likely to have articles like this that you can really learn from. Most of the other magazines do write ups about the latest concert tours, broadway shows, and theater rennovations... while those articles are interesting and you can find out a lot about the latest gear and design techniques, they don't have teaching you something new as a goal. Anyway, the point is as a student it would be well worth your time to spend a little time on the Stage Directions website once in a while. They post all their magazine articles on the website so you can get all the content without getting the paper subscription.
Back to the discussion...
Interesting, I'll keep it in mind for another magazine to attempt to read based upon your recommendation. It would be nice if there were a magazine out there similar to the really old version of Theater Crafts which gets into the nuts and bolts. PLSN is as you say and the ony magazine I normally get. Most of it's articles I don't bother with. Unfortunately I don't much have time to read any magazines much and only read for the tech parts.

Pebble PC... I would love to have a try with one, they seem fascinating. On the Leko/Fresnel debate, I like a 50% Leko/PC, 40% Fresnel, & 10% other type ratio. This not because the Leko is better than a Fresnel - just different and for other purposes. I would probably keep somewhere in the range of that ratio no matter how many fixtures in a theater up to a point than go say 50% Leko, 30% Fresnel and 20% other.

#### gafftaper

##### Senior Team
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Hey Ship,
Lighting and Sound America is another good one for you to consider. It has a lot of the industry news and Broadway/Concert stuff just like Live Design and PLSN. But they have a section called "Technical Focus" that is REALLY good. They don't seem to post their full magazine on the web but you certainly qualify for the free subscription. Last month the "Technical Focus" section was a full review of the Seachanger located here which they are currently featuring on the website. It looks like next month's tech focus will be on Truss... I'm eagerly checking my mail.

#### Logos

##### Well-Known Member
I like the pebble convex it sits between the old Plano Convex and the fresnel, great for area lighting. Ship, I think a lot like you I guess except that I would have 50% fresnel and 40% profile (leko) with 10% others (floods etc) for a generic theatre rig. Add a few movers if you've got the money to buy decent gear and the time to properly program them. For Rock and Roll replace pretty much all the fresnels with PARS of various kinds and put in more movers.
We msut be pretty far off topic now.

#### SteveB

##### Well-Known Member
Icewolf08 wrote:

"I can only speak from the perspective of being in the US, but given the nature of Americans, the Zoom is kind of the lazy-man's unit. "

The Euro (and Australian and NZ) use of zooms is often in a house that is a big multi-user facility, with little time to do re-hangs, due to very busy schedules of visiting events, ballet, dance, opera etc... Or so I've been told by many of the Euro companies that visit our space.

This is probably the best application for zoom ellipsoidals or S4 Pars, Fresnels and/or PC zooms, namely maximum flexibility with the least amount of time wasted - I.E. not swapping lamps, lenses, or barrels.

This is why I have maintained an inventory over 60 total zoom ellipsoidals in my rep plot, of assorted Altman 15/30 Shakespeares, Altman 4.5" 25/50 zooms and now 48 (climbing to 64) S4 25/50 zooms. I don't have time to swap barrels, and find the ability to simply zoom to the correct size a far superior method then accepting an image that is too big at 36 degrees, but too small at 26. The LD's visiting my space DON'T have to do the math to decide whether to go to a 50 or a 36 or a 26, the unit does it all, and quickly (in the hands of an experienced operator). Granted that I no longer use zooms in my cove as the 19 and 26 degree S4's work fine - especially with iris's, nor do I need zooms on my fixed side ladders where 30 and 40 degree Shakespeares do the trick, but when I build up a set of 8 dance side towers this coming fall, that's where I'm putting all my surplus 4.5" Altman zooms. Want it to be 25 degrees, no problem Too small, zoom out a bit. Everything for everyone.

SB

#### gafftaper

##### Senior Team
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I find it funny how so many seem to agree that using a zoom is "lazy". To some extent I agree but I'm not sure why... maybe it's just the bias of growing up in American theater. Yet, like Steve just said, it's a great tool for when you are in a situation where the plot is always changing. That doesn't sound lazy at all it sounds smart. I can see not using zooms for budget reasons but if you had the money why not go all zoom? Isn't that a much more efficient use of time than moving instruments and barrels all over the place? Is it really lazy or is that just an excuse we use because we all grew up using fixed focus Altman 360Q's and it's just what we are used to.

#### SteveB

##### Well-Known Member
gafftaper wrote:

"I can see not using zooms for budget reasons but if you had the money why not go all zoom?"

An ETC S4 2550 zoom runs about $410 at Production Advantage. You need a 3" color frame extender and that's another$21, so $432 all told. An S4 50 degree, with extra 36 and 26 lens tubes is about$460.

The Zoom wins, price wise.

My experiences with the S4 zooms and visiting designers:

1) Unless they are seeing a mixed inventory of fixed lense and zooms doing the same thing, such as images on the cyc, they never notice that a zoom might not be as crisp. The S4 optics are so good that even I don't notice.

2) Ditto intensity. At 750 watts, the S4 is punchier then a 1k wide Par and certainly as bright as a 750w ParNel. The beam is not as large/wide (as a Par) and that can sometimes be an issue, but by using R119 you can get a very even wash out of a set of S4 zooms. Is the S4 zoom @ 750 as bright as a fixed lens ?. Who knows, as I don't mix and match

3) All the designers love the ability to vary the image size to be exactly what they want. So no playing games for them in a house they don't know.

Is a zoom for everyone ?. No. AFAIK, all students should learn on fixed lens units, so as to learn to think about paying attention to beam spread and distance. They need to get a feel for what assorted fixtures can do in terms of image size and intensity at different throws. This is one of the vital tools an LD needs to learn, the sooner the better.

SB

#### drawstuf99

##### Active Member
I think it's interesting also how, generally, people speaking from electrician experience say "no" to zooms and how lots of the more designer people say "yes" to them.

Zooms are convenient when you need them, esp with patterns..etc; however, having had to hang some of those S4 Zooms, it's not a fun thing.

#### SteveB

##### Well-Known Member
however, having had to hang some of those S4 Zooms, it's not a fun thing.
The concept is, you DON"T re-hang much, thus the weight is less an issue. If your plot has a goodly number of zooms, you don't need to.

If you have the time to re-hang, you probably have the time to swap out lenses to whatever the designer specified (Though when I do re-hangs, I just move around my zooms).

SB

#### squigish

##### Member
I find it funny how so many seem to agree that using a zoom is "lazy". Yet, like Steve just said, it's a great tool for when you are in a situation where the plot is always changing. That doesn't sound lazy at all it sounds smart.
It's lazy in the sense that getting a dolly to move a huge set piece is lazy. It makes sense in some situations, but not all.

The master carpenter at my college loves to call himself "lazy" in just this sense of the term.