Need info on LEDs, but a bit overwhelmed


Hey all! I've been reading and loving this site and all of the wonderfully helpful people/hints on here over the years, but this is my first post on here, so please be kind :grin:

I'm in the wonderful (albeit sadly uncommon) position of having some new money roll into my theatre for the purpose of upgrading the lighting rig. We currently use a mixture of Capitol (yes, Capitol) 6" fresnels, some wonderful old 1kw 10" Kliegl Fresnels, various PAR cans, and a whole slew of very weather worn Altman 6x9s and 6x12s.

I'm interested in looking into some LED solutions for my smaller studio space. It's essentially a thrust configuration, roughly 15' across and 15' deep, and because it is a found space (it's an old grade school band room that we've converted into a small 75 seat black box) the throw distance is very short (the ceiling is only 10' from the deck, and the current hanging positions are a maximum of 20' from the stage and sometimes as short as 14'). We've had great luck using the old Capitol Fresnels barndoor-ed, but because of how small the space is, those suckers heat that place up like an oven. Dimming in there consists of 6 4x600watt portable DJ dimmers (purchased before I started there) and control is a very cumbersome DJ scene setter (also purchased before I started there).

I know for LEDs to be viable in there we'll need clean undimmed power (which I've already got worked out) as well as a better means of controlling the multiple channel needs of an LED (I've already got a solution to that as well), but I'm lacking in knowledge base and experience when it comes to LED instruments.

I'm essentially looking for any feedback / experience that folks here might have with LED instruments that would work in smaller spaces like this for front light, side light, etc... Because i'm in rural Iowa, the possibility of getting demo stuff is pretty slim (I'm a solid 15 minutes from the nearest grocery store, let alone a lighting vendor :grin:). For the sake of research, keep in mind that I'm working for a non-profit so money is a bit tight, but for the right products, I can usually convince my Tech Director and Artistic Director that the long term benefits, and short term artistic benefits are worth the money. My baseline budget for all intents and purposes is in the neighborhood of 30k.

There may already be a thread on here to the effect of this question, but it seems like what I've found so far is a few years old, but if I've missed something, if someone can point me in the right direction, it would be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance for any and all help/feedback, and thanks to everyone on here for all the helpful advice that I see get passed around here. It's reassuring to see that there's a place where people can ask "dumb" questions and not get belittled, but instead get solid advice/support from legitimate professionals.


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Fight Leukemia
Here's my $.02 and a few links you may find useful.

There isn't an LED on the market that is a direct replacement for a fresnel. Most of the LEDs on the market are closer to a PAR or cyc light. The closest LED match to a fresnel would be the Source Four LED or some other profile-style with some sort of diffusion.

For side and back light there are all sorts of options. For front light there's really only ETC, with the Source Four LED and Desire line, and even their CRI is not going to give you the same quality of light as an incandescent instrument.

Another option worth considering would be the ETC Source Four and ETC Source Four Fresnel lamped at 375W. They would cut your heat and give you more lumens per watt than what you have now and cost a lot less than an LED.

Have a look at these links to get started:
What would you do? - Electronic Theatre Controls
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Well-Known Member
When it comes to wash or cyc, the LEDs are your answer, but for front controlled lighting, an S4 with a 375 watt lamp is what you want. On the bright side, the shoebox dimmers will work great on the S4s and the LED can be run DMX. Using the S4's on the front will also insure you get the most natural facial colors. LEDs still have a way to go in that department, but they are getting better.


I have to agree that LED isn't cost effective as front light yet. It will be eventually, but not yet. There are better ways to spend your budget like said above. However for side fill and top light a fair LED is a great option. Personally I think the biggest thing to watch out for is chromatic distortion (rainbow shadows) I've found that ETC, Color Kinetics and the Tri/Quad color (all 3 or 4 colors in one lens package) LEDs are some of the best options for limiting this issue. Most of the cheap fixtures that have separate LEDs for each color will likely have fairly harsh chromatic distortion. The current Tri/Quad led units have the least distortion.

Anyway, what part of IA are you in? depending on your area I may not be far and would be willing to demo some fixtures or chat so you can at least get an idea of what you're looking at.


Active Member
I'm also on the 'LED isn't quite ready for front light' bandwagon. With LED, you tend to get what you pay for, there's still a nearly direct correlation between price and output - if you want ten times the light, you'll be paying ten times the price per fixture. On the plus side, you don't have to buy dimmers, and you hang the plot once, and color mix from there, instead of triple hanging to get three colors of wash like we used to do. Something to remember is that although LEDs aren't quite competing with incandescent for white light, they do hold their own on saturate colors, so depending on the type of show and style of lighting you want, they might do fairly well, especially for side, back, and cyc lighting.

The rainbows can be cured somewhat with diffusion, but are an issue with any of the cheaper LEDs. The Strand PL LEDs are rock-solid on the chromatic distortion issue, there is NO rainbows in the shadows. The PL3 has an output that I'd put against a 6" fresnel with no apologies, even in white. However, those are probably outside your price range for a while. Another couple years, and the output/cost graph lines will be crossing, and we'll finally be there.

PM me sometime, and we'll talk, I may be closer to you than you think for demo purposes.


Active Member
I would disagree with you that there isn't a LED replacement for the fresnel. The Robert Juliat 330LF LED Fresnel is EXACTLY like a standard fresnel with a single soft edge, barn doors and a huge spot/flood ratio. It isn't a color mixer so you don't get the rainbow effect from all the other color LED par fixtures out there. It is the size of an 8" fresnel (or slightly larger due to european scale). It comes in either a 3500k or 5800k color temp, and is 3 channels max, if you choose 16 bit dimming and the strobe channel. And there is no chatter or stepping while dimming at the lower levels like you can find on other LED fixtures. This is the product info sheet: The 85w LED is comparable to a 650 fresnel. Pete Robert Juliat USA


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Premium Member
Thank you NickH for providing details right off the bat! This allows better use of time and space, for sure-

Heat, electricity usage, maitenance costs- all factors worthy of consideration regardless of lighting position. While the trend of replacing tungsten with LED is not going away, there are certain drawbacks with technology available today. Designers often have a palette of color described in gel transmission values and numbers/names. There are several LED instruments which allow both old and new technology to be married for solving the issues mentioned above (heat, electricity usage, maitenance costs).

A fixture such as the 100W LED Compact Fresnel may be worth a look, to get an idea of evenness of beam and actual output at your specific throw distances. Your designers may continue using the color palette of which they are familar and still gain the advantages of long gel life, low heat, low power consumption, etc.

Apollo Compact Fresnel LED.png

If interested I'll send a demo you may test at your leisure, regardless of how far your nearest grocery store is! :stumped:


Senior Team
Senior Team
Fight Leukemia
Call us, we're right down the road from you and we can help you plan out what you need and of course we'll be happy to provide it. We are dealers for ETC, Color Kinetics, Apollo, Altman, LEX, Rosco et. al. [email protected] or [email protected] 515-277-4190

There's your best answer. The best thing you can do is get someone you can trust to come in and take a look at your space and help you choose the right products. Michael is a great guy, really knows his stuff, and he's your "local" dealer. Jackpot! Give him a call and have him come check out your space. All the advice we give here is limited to our guessing what your space is like. Michael can much more accurately asses your needs while standing in your theater.

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