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Recommend decent but very portable lighting for bands?
Old 10th June 2017
Lives for gear
dickiefunk's Avatar
🎧 10 years
Recommend decent but very portable lighting for bands?


I have been providing sound for various local events and am looking to add some lighting. I am completely new to lighting so have no idea what I should be looking to buy. I mainly work by myself so want something small, lightweight and effective.
I have used the common KAM Party Bar type of setup with 4 units attached to a T-Bar but would like to add some other lights to have more impact/variety to the stage lighting??

What would you recommend that's lightweight and very easy to rig by myself? I'm not sure on budget as I don't know what's available or how much it costs?

Old 12th June 2017
Gear Head
🎧 5 years
You start with some LED pars, learn DMX, want to be able to do more with DMX, add more pars or budget moving lights and before you know it, you will spend as much on lights and control as you did when you made the jump from MI speakers to semi professional speakers :p

When I started with adding lights I got 8x ADJ 12p hex lights. They are portable, bright and practical. As they are 6in1 leds, they can be used for front light (with clamp on speaker pole for example) and emulate conventional theatre lighting. I used up-lighting the most. No need for poles, just position them on the ground, have some DMX scenes and strobe prepared and you're good to go. If you start with lights, learn DMX. This will double the pleasure when doing a band and you be out of hands mixing and doing DMX at the same time :p

To learn DMX, there are several programs. Martin MPC is a well known program and full of features. It's free for 1 universe and artnet so it can be the only program you need (with midi controllers). I have no experience with light controllers but they are expensive and to my opinion limited compared to software.

To me adding lights and DMX programming in particular is a great way to enhance the band and audience experience. There is so much to talk about regarding stage light and I'm kind of surprised this sub forum is so silent to be honest.
Old 12th June 2017
Lives for gear
foamboy's Avatar
🎧 10 years
Originally Posted by dickiefunk View Post

but would like to add some other lights to have more impact/variety to the stage lighting??

I assume you mean something other than static fixtures. If so, the guy that does all of our lighting repairs swears up and down that the ADJ Inno Scans are the best built and most feature rich fixture in that price range. You might research those a bit. As for a dmx controller, I have been using Sunlite (Nicolaudie) and I think it is the best bang for the buck for a controller. There are many options but I like software based because I can always install it on another computer if I have to and I feel it is just easier to use. The ADJ Compulite is exactly the same because it is made by Nicolaudie for ADJ. You can connect a variety of midi controllers to have live control. I have been using the Behringer BCF 2000 and I know at least 4 other local guys doing the same and it is a killer and cheap setup.

Good luck,

Old 13th June 2017
Gear Addict
I was doing lighting on a small scale about 12 years ago, just prior to the LED disruption. I ran a 24-channel DMX controller and various traditional theater/stage lights as well as a couple of DJ type motion gobo things. I can't give you advice from current experience, but based on the limited knowledge I have of the entry-level scene nowadays, I could make a few comments and perhaps get feedback from those more knowledgeable.

"PAR" cans are probably the most popular style of light but not the most useful. PAR stands for Parabolic Aluminized Reflector, which is a type of bulb -- basically a spotlight or floodlight style bulb. The traditional incandescent PAR bulbs fit into cylindrical cans. They're typically used to flood the stage with light. The beam angle and pattern is a function of the lens built into the bulb and they tend to have soft edges. Gel filters were used to get various colors.

With the advent of LED, we struggled for a while to get the right combination of phosphors for the color temperature and color rendering index (CRI) that was appealing. Inexpensive "white" leds were poor quality for a while. Then RGB arrays became a popular low-cost solution. They immediately gave remote control of a wide variety of colors (previously one would have to hang separate PAR cans with gel, and blues especially were weak). But with the RGB arrays, "white" still looked too "cool" (color temperature wise). Nowadays, the RGBA (red, green, blue, amber) arrays are probably the best choice for a low-cost solution. You can get all the colors, and a decent white.

LED fixtures with RGBA arrays that take the place of traditional PAR cans are probably the most popular low-cost fixture, but ellipsoidal or fresnel fixtures might be more useful. The problem is they cost more. The big advantages of ellipsoidals is you can focus and crop them. They tend to have sharp edges, and a long throw. Fresnels have a shorter throw. Their advantage is they have soft edges that blend easily.

I'm not an expert, more of a hack than anything. But if I were working on a large scale with longer distances, more fixtures, and complex scenes, I would want a lot of ellipsoidals. But on the smaller scale that's more fitting you or me, I might only want one or two. An ellipsoidal is perfect for highlighting a killer drum set. You can focus a lot of light on it and control the edges so it doesn't spill into video screens or back stage junk. They're also good for other spot areas that don't move -- keyboards or a player/singer that doesn't move around a lot.

On the smaller scale end of things, I'd probably find fresnels the most useful. I can keep adding more and they just blend nicely. I can focus and crop the light where I need it, but I know I won't have harsh edges.

The LED version of "PAR" are probably the least expensive fixtures and therefore they tend to be the most purchased. They're fine for mostly uncontrolled wash and uplighting. They'll definitely give you some color compared to having nothing.

I agree that software is going to be a better bet than trying to do everything on an expensive hardware-based dmx controller. Some of the cheap stuff has IR or microwave wireless control. You can link fixtures into groups and use a handheld remote to change colors and dim. That route is great for a low budget if the fixtures will also work with DMX so you can include them in your inventory once you add the dmx boxes and interface to a laptop or something.
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