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Author Topic: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs  (Read 6691 times)

Graham Spice

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Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« on: April 11, 2016, 05:55:21 pm »

I have 2 light trees with 4x Par56 300 Watt fixtures. They have served as stage lighting at many gigs and events in the area throughout their 20 years of life. But...now my back is tired of lugging all that stuff around and would love a smaller package.

I generally have used these 2 light trees right behind the FOH speakers at the downstage edges to light a stage. You can imagine that the lights have been between 10 and 20 feet away from the farthest corners of the stage.

I'd like to replace with LED lights that are brighter and lighter than my current setup. I experimented with the Chauvet 4BAR Tri USB product. It has a nice small bag that each tree of lights can be transported in. But...it wasn't bright enough. The specs on those were 28 LEDs (tri-color RGB) 3 W (1 A) and they were rated at 2,330 lux @ 2 m per pod.

I realize there may not be a pre-packaged bar like that one I tried available so I've been looking at individual fixtures to build my own trees with. I've reviewed various instruments from Blizzard, Chauvet, and ADJ - they all seem to have good options. At the end of that process...I'm a bit overwhelmed by the options.

I've read that some folks like fixtures with a lens so that there aren't these strange glowing LED eyes up in the air and I agree with that. I don't want the audience to focus on the lights in any way - they should just be bright and provide good colors. I like the idea of having a zoom but am concerned about the longevity of a motor in a fairly inexpensive fixture like these.

In terms of coverage/spread, I have tended to use the PAR56 lights to focus a color onto individual band members or a small area of the stage. I expect that I'd continue to do something like this with these LEDs. That said, the PAR56 coverage is a pretty wide wash which has generally been fine.

Let me know what your suggestions are. I'm never in situations where I have dedicated front light to compliment this setup so these two trees of LEDs should be able to provide ALL the light that would be needed to light a small stage with a max of 6 or 8 band members for an audience of anywhere from 50 to 200 people. Due to the flexible demands of the system, I'm willing to spend somewhere between $2000 and $3500 total on all fixtures and stands.

Thanks in advance for your advice!
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Robert Piascik

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2016, 07:53:04 am »

I use a similar set up often and I have four Blizzard q12a mounted on a crossbeam on top of a USS stand (similar to the 4BAR set up) it is plenty of light for the size stage you're talking about. The fixtures stay mounted and wired on the crossbeam, just apply power and signal and ready to go. I'm sure others will chime in with a dizzying array of choices as well. I think you have a completely realistic budget, my set up was at the low end of your numbers and if you can spend up to $3500 I'm sure there will be many fancier options as well. In another thread people were talking about transporting this kind of set up in a 76-key soft keyboard case (a brilliant idea I'm going to investigate).

I'll be following this thread to see what others will suggest also.

Good luck!

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Steve Garris

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2016, 01:43:36 pm »

Be advised, you're going to have to learn DMX programming, and acquire a controller in order to make this work. Another thing, the LED lights will run very cool and have little power draw as compared to Par 56 lights, but they won't be any lighter in weight.

The COB lights with lenses have wide beams, but are often the dimmest of the LED per given wattage and price point. You can see this by looking up their spec's (ADJ Dotz, etc).

I use some name brand lights, and more recently I've been acquiring some cheap Chinese lights that I consider disposable at $50 each. These lights have (7) 10W Led's, and through about the same amount of light as a Par 56/300, but in a narrower 25 deg beam. I use them differently though, more of a "back lighting" effect. These lights are still better and brighter than any 4-par type fixture I've seen. They're also the lightest weight of any I own.
 http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MO8C766/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=1ZA0LKMGHFMHQ&coliid=I2G56HYIQDP7DT&psc=1

In general, the Led lights that I think look the best have the multi-color led's that are at least 5W each. I prefer RBGA, but have some that are RBGW. Many of these lights are just RBG. Here is a very nice brand-name light that will be super bright, and durable:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B014G9T0UG/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_S_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=1ZA0LKMGHFMHQ&coliid=I1X9O10ZOVUCDQ

A friend has these low-cost Led's on (2) T-Bars. They have (7) 5 Watt RBGA Led's, and through a 25 deg beam. In the photo below, they are the pink & blue lights:
http://www.mcmelectronics.com/product/LEDJ-LEDJ59B-/555-27075

Some have the older Led lights that have large numbers of fixed-color, 10 mm Led's, or as I call the "Light-Brite" looking lights. I have a couple of these that I use behind drums, and they create moving patterns that look pretty good, but I wouldn't use them as a front or side wash.
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Steve Garris

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2016, 03:38:31 pm »

I may have spoken too soon regarding the lens type COB lights. Here is a 150W COB lens light that is most certainly very bright. At $200 it is a bargain. The only downside is the deep Par 64 like can.

http://www.pssl.com/ColorKey/Sale/ColorKey-StagePar64-COB-TRI-150w-LED-Wash-Light
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Rob Gow

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2016, 04:28:51 pm »

Here's another one. Flat par style.


http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/DotzPar
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Steve Garris

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2016, 08:39:15 pm »

Here's another one. Flat par style.


http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/DotzPar

But at only 36W, they're not bright enough IMO. At $150, not that great of light output.
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Graham Spice

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2016, 02:40:19 pm »

How can I compare these lights without any in hand? I'm wondering how to compare brightness, coverage, and throw.

Another question:Is it easy to say that a light with 12 x 10 Watts LEDs is brighter than 24 x 5 Watts? Can you compare power consumption to determine brightness?

Finally, how can I compare the COB lights to the LED lights in terms of brightness? Are there other considerations when making that comparison (throw, color, etc)?
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Graham Spice

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2016, 02:43:08 pm »

Be advised, you're going to have to learn DMX programming, and acquire a controller in order to make this work. Another thing, the LED lights will run very cool and have little power draw as compared to Par 56 lights, but they won't be any lighter in weight.
I should have mentioned that I have a decent amount of DMX programming experience using DMXIS and ETC hardware controllers. I'm also interested in learning Sunlight Suite as I continue to see it being used with great results in small venues. Seems the busking/live control of this software is very manageable for operators...
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Mark Cadwallader

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2016, 02:57:43 pm »

How can I compare these lights without any in hand? I'm wondering how to compare brightness, coverage, and throw.

Another question:Is it easy to say that a light with 12 x 10 Watts LEDs is brighter than 24 x 5 Watts? Can you compare power consumption to determine brightness?

Finally, how can I compare the COB lights to the LED lights in terms of brightness? Are there other considerations when making that comparison (throw, color, etc)?

Without having the lights in hand, you have to rely on whatever photometric data is supplied by the maker. Compare lux numbers at the same distance -- the "inverse square" rule applies.  The beam and field of the light also matters. If you take the same lumen output and spread it over a broader area, the lumenous density (lux) will decrease.  When measuring "throw", count the distance from the light to the focus point (usually not the same as the trim height, unless used as overhead worklights).

The listed "watts" of an LED is often "rounded up" to the next highest whole number, so YMMV. Five watts at 10 degrees beam is going to be more intense than 50 degrees. (But less area is covered; see above.)
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Graham Spice

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2016, 03:22:03 pm »

Thanks Mark, that's a lot of good info. I'm hoping to put your notes into real-world info.

Can you help me make a comparison between a few of the lights that have been posted here as recommendations:
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Steve Garris

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2016, 05:40:12 pm »

How can I compare these lights without any in hand? I'm wondering how to compare brightness, coverage, and throw.

Another question:Is it easy to say that a light with 12 x 10 Watts LEDs is brighter than 24 x 5 Watts? Can you compare power consumption to determine brightness?

Finally, how can I compare the COB lights to the LED lights in terms of brightness? Are there other considerations when making that comparison (throw, color, etc)?

It's nearly impossible to make accurate comparisons, but in general a 10W multi-color Led will be brighter than a 5W multi-color Led. Having said that, I compared my (7) 10W Led's to my freinds (5) 10W Led's, and mine was only very slightly brighter. The 12 vs 24 comparison you mentioned would be anyones call, it could go either way or they might be the same.
Looking at spec's might not help much. some use Lumens, others use Lux, and there's no way to compare the two. I usually go by reviews, but sadly there aren't a lot of subjective reviews out there, and even fewer actual measurements.
Regarding the Cob lights, they throw super wide beams, so they have to be brighter.

If the Colorkey 150W spec is accurate, that will make for a fairly bright 60 deg light. But this Cob light has a super wide beam and will look entirely different than the other two Led lights. The LB Par and Puck Q12A will be identical in output.
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Mark Cadwallader

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2016, 07:41:10 pm »

Since you mention two Blizzard products, you can go to the Blizzard website and see the published photometric data. Blizzard lists that info (for each indivual color plus "all"); not all vendors do.  That is, in my mind, a reason to select one brand over another. I'm not wiiling to buy without seeing the (claimed) lumenous intensity numbers, if I can't actually compare units in person. (I live 300 miles from the nearest banjo hut, let alone a stocking dealer.)

Please note that many vendors list that data, not just Blizzard. I think that it fair to assume that a fixture with data is more of a professional unit than one without.
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Rick Powell

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2016, 12:59:42 am »

i used to use three Blizzard q12A per side on a tree, no controller just constant color by manual setting, and it seemed to light up a 10 x 20 stage area pretty well.  We now use about 3x that lighting also using lights on a back truss, and can cover anything up to 15 x 30 pretty well. We could use more but we are trying to keep down to 2 or 3 circuits total (band, sound and lights) and avoid distro land.

As far as the COB pars, most have an optional narrow angle lens that can sharpen the beam to 25 deg or so, if needed.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2016, 01:02:32 am by Rick Powell »
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Graham Spice

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #13 on: May 23, 2016, 05:35:40 pm »

As usual, I'm probably more confused than I started out! :)

If you were going to buy lights to cover a 16x16 stage, what would you get? I'm looking for fixtures that can be controlled by DMX with decent color and are very bright.

I think I've mentioned this but I tried the Chauvet 4BAR Tri USB and they were not bright enough so I sent them back. I loved the form factor (small & light with a gig bag) but they couldn't replace my existing 8 x 500w Par58s

Thanks again for your help. I wish I understood this stuff better. Obviously it would help if I could get my hands on more lights to try out but that's not an option so I'm hoping you have had hands-on with these fixtures.
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Mark Cadwallader

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2016, 10:32:36 pm »

Graham, if you find photometric specs for your PAR lamp (wattage and beam pattern), that will give you a reference point for starters. Assuming that you colored the PAR fixutes with Roscoe or Lee gels, you can look up the percentage of light transmitted thru the gel and therefore a very good idea of the lux you are needing for an LED fixture to be as bright or brighter than your existing PAR fixtures. The type of lamp should specify the "beam" and "field" angle (in degrees); that tells you (or lets you calculate) how much area will lit at any given distance from light to deck surface.

Don't forget to compare the % of light actually transmitted thru the gel to the LED color output in order to do a proper comparison. You'll probably be surprised at how much light gets absorbed by a saturated color gel.  Roscoe and Lee publish those specifications, and they should be easy to find. (Note that the light transmission data is based on new (unused) gel that hasn't aborbed many hours of full light exposure.)

A local source of information about how to figure out this stuff out is your local high school theater tech teacher, btw.
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David Buckley

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #15 on: May 25, 2016, 12:34:48 am »

A while ago I compared our el-cheapo LED PAR56 equivalents against a Selecon Acclaim 650W Fresnel, a very well regarded fixture.  And a lot brighter than a 300W PAR56. The two fixtures were setup illuminating next to each other against a white wall,  the frezzie was gelled, and the LED adjusted to be a similar colour by eye





For colours, the LEDs deliver similar intensity with less power consumption, though with the annoying background fan noise.  For open white, the last strip, well,  RGB el-cheapo lights do not do a tungsten white.





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Graham Spice

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #16 on: May 25, 2016, 01:07:22 pm »

Graham, if you find photometric specs for your PAR lamp (wattage and beam pattern), that will give you a reference point for starters.
This is an excellent idea, Mark. Figure out what I'm used to and then determine how to exceed it with a new system. I will start into this investigation, thank you
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Mal Brown

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #17 on: May 29, 2016, 01:18:36 pm »

MonoPrice has a nice 9 by 10 flat par RGBW. $60 per unit.   I have 16 of them for sound company use.  They blow my old Chauvet slimpar 56's away...  Way brighter, more defined edges, smoother color changes, better color mixing - RGB Chauvets vs The RGBW - not really fair...  better color saturation.

Only down side so far is no power pass through on the light so I have 8 power cables per tree...

For my band, I took 2 pairs of those and mounted them to a short poece of flat bar stock, drilled out toaccomodate an M10-150 bolt.  Put 2 cinch nuts on the  bolt.  I spin them into one of the fly points on QSC K12's and run the bottom cinch nut down to fix them in place.
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Rick Scofield

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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #18 on: May 30, 2016, 05:53:48 pm »

MonoPrice has a nice 9 by 10 flat par RGBW. $60 per unit.   I have 16 of them for sound company use.  They blow my old Chauvet slimpar 56's away...  Way brighter, more defined edges, smoother color changes, better color mixing - RGB Chauvets vs The RGBW - not really fair...  better color saturation.

Only down side so far is no power pass through on the light so I have 8 power cables per tree...

For my band, I took 2 pairs of those and mounted them to a short poece of flat bar stock, drilled out toaccomodate an M10-150 bolt.  Put 2 cinch nuts on the  bolt.  I spin them into one of the fly points on QSC K12's and run the bottom cinch nut down to fix them in place.

I'd love to see a picture of that set up deployed. Thinking of doing something similar for smaller stages.
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Re: Upgrade portable stage lighting to LEDs
« Reply #18 on: May 30, 2016, 05:53:48 pm »


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