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Author Topic: Can RGBW Washes Replace Ellipsoidals?  (Read 1550 times)

Luke McCready

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Can RGBW Washes Replace Ellipsoidals?
« on: February 06, 2020, 04:30:28 pm »

I've found almost nothing online about skipping ellipsoidals in favor of using RGBW washes. But two lighting vendors I've chatted with equated it to the 8th deadly sin. Ellipsoidals are expensive, and I'd rather not waste my budget on them when my design already includes a number of RGBW washes with color temperature presets.

Is CRI the issue? Is there some other reason why ellipsoidals are important? Or will RGBW washes suffice just fine in a mid-sized church environment?



Project background:

I'm creating a new lighting design for my workplace, a church. The stage is only 20 ft across, and the church likes to use dynamic, concert-like lighting for worship. Our budget is about $45k including fixtures, installation, new trusses, and some DMX upgrades. We're replacing 40-some knockoff intelligent lights - my hope is to replace all fixtures with more reliable ones, add more lights to fill the room itself with excitement, and add new effects. The budget is going quick.

My proposed design includes three Chauvet Pro COLORdash Par H12IP (12x10w RGBWAUV washes with a 22° beam) to cover the 20 ft stage, and eight Chauvet Pro Rogue R1X Wash movers (7x25w RGBW with 8-30° beam) that can hit the stage (6 movers maybe 12 ft in front of the pastor and 2 maybe 20-25 ft in front of the pastor).

I can't imagine audience members would care much. We're currently using a dad-joke of a Vaddio PTZ with plans to upgrade to cameras around the class of Sony BRC-H800 this year.
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Brian Jojade

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Re: Can RGBW Washes Replace Ellipsoidals?
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2020, 05:11:28 pm »

Comparing an Ellipsoidal with a wash fixture is a bigger difference than comparing a traditional source with an LED source.

With an ellipsoidal, you can control thesize, shape, texture, edge, color and intensity of the beam of light. With a wash, well, you just get a wash of light.

If your goal is to just flood the stage with light, yeah, wash fixtures might be all you need.  If you want to be able to control the light, then you'll need more.  Most stage lighting setups will include a mixture of both.

You can get LED sources for either type of light today.  The quality of LED lighting varies dramatically.  Cheap LEDs suck monkeyballs and should be avoided whenever possible.  Good lights are still stupid expensive, but are as good as traditional lights and produce a fraction of the heat. 
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Brian Jojade

Luke McCready

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Re: Can RGBW Washes Replace Ellipsoidals?
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2020, 06:30:52 pm »

With an ellipsoidal, you can control thesize, shape, texture, edge, color and intensity of the beam of light. With a wash, well, you just get a wash of light.

If your goal is to just flood the stage with light, yeah, wash fixtures might be all you need.  If you want to be able to control the light, then you'll need more.  Most stage lighting setups will include a mixture of both.

You can get LED sources for either type of light today.  The quality of LED lighting varies dramatically.  Cheap LEDs suck monkeyballs and should be avoided whenever possible.  Good lights are still stupid expensive, but are as good as traditional lights and produce a fraction of the heat.

Mover washes can control size, color, and intensity. Shape and edge are a function of barn doors, right? What do you mean by texture?

Would the fixtures I mentioned fall under cheap, good, or somewhere in between?
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Jeff Lelko

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Re: Can RGBW Washes Replace Ellipsoidals?
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2020, 08:43:55 pm »

The short answer is no - ellipsoidals and pars/Fresnels are two different types of lights for two very different purposes.  Ellipsoidals are useful when you need good beam control, an even field - typically with a hard edge, and other utilities such as gobos and whatnot.  Pars and Fresnels are usually used for short-throw applications where beam control and effects aren’t needed.

Pars and Fresnels (of the conventional type or COB) use barn doors for beam shaping, while ellipsoidals use framing shutters which give a much crisper edge.  Never put barn doors on a moving light.  Higher end “profile” moving lights can frame as well, though this is internal and controlled via DMX.

Getting to the point of your design (without seeing a plot), I think the 3 COLORdash Pars you propose won’t get you very far.  I’d think somewhere in the 12-18 range will probably get you all the angles you need.  Moving lights will go further in terms of being able to re-aim them, but they won’t solve all your problems and will be more susceptible to wear and tear breakdowns. 

What controller are you using and how are your 40 current moving lights being used?  Hope this helps!
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Luke McCready

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Re: Can RGBW Washes Replace Ellipsoidals?
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2020, 10:16:36 pm »

The short answer is no - ellipsoidals and pars/Fresnels are two different types of lights for two very different purposes.  Ellipsoidals are useful when you need good beam control, an even field - typically with a hard edge, and other utilities such as gobos and whatnot.  Pars and Fresnels are usually used for short-throw applications where beam control and effects aren’t needed.

Pars and Fresnels (of the conventional type or COB) use barn doors for beam shaping, while ellipsoidals use framing shutters which give a much crisper edge.  Never put barn doors on a moving light.  Higher end “profile” moving lights can frame as well, though this is internal and controlled via DMX.

Getting to the point of your design (without seeing a plot), I think the 3 COLORdash Pars you propose won’t get you very far.  I’d think somewhere in the 12-18 range will probably get you all the angles you need.  Moving lights will go further in terms of being able to re-aim them, but they won’t solve all your problems and will be more susceptible to wear and tear breakdowns. 

What controller are you using and how are your 40 current moving lights being used?  Hope this helps!

Of course no barn doors on movers. That would be silly. =]

12-18 of 12x10w washes to light up a 20 ft wide stage? Is that truly necessary?

In the current setup, we have 5x a brandless knockoff of the GLP Impression X4S (7x15w mover) and 4x what I believe to be the Blizzard RockLite RGBAW (36x3w, 8x of GBW and 6x RA) facing the stage. It's plenty bright, though two of the movers have significantly skewed color representation and can't make pure white anymore.

We're hoping to maintain our Jands S1 controller (mostly just used for aiming spots) and upgrade Vista 2 to Vista 3. We use all of our lights for very dynamic, concert-like lighting for church worship with lots of movement and intensity effects through heavy haze.

- - - - -

Sermon lighting just needs a warm, even wash across the 20 ft stage. Covering 10 ft, to be honest, as the pastor doesn't move much. I believe that's very doable with the lights I mentioned in my initial post, though I haven't done it. Am I missing something?

Do I need the hard edges of ellipsoidals? Or true fresnels? With the unknown CRI of Chauvet Pro LED lights that can be set to color temperature presets, will the pastor look (at a minimum) decent on a good camera?

Thanks, gents! I appreciate your wisdom.
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Jean-Pierre Coetzee

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Re: Can RGBW Washes Replace Ellipsoidals?
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2020, 04:59:32 am »

Maybe look up some lighting techniques for theatre lighting. Flat lighting can be fine but you lose any depth on the face and it looks flat. You can use pars to do 45s and halo/back lighting but it's not going to be very tight and there will be a lot of bleed where you don't need it even if you use barn doors.

I enjoyed reading through this.
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Scott Hofmann

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Re: Can RGBW Washes Replace Ellipsoidals?
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2020, 10:35:10 am »

From your description, it looks like all your fixtures are coming from in front of the stage. Angle is one of the primary tools in the lighting designer's arsenal. Do you have the ability to do sidelight, backlight, and downlight? Giving a three-dimensional appearance will do a lot.
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Scott Hofmann

Luke McCready

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Re: Can RGBW Washes Replace Ellipsoidals?
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2020, 01:36:38 pm »

Jean-Pierre, thanks for the link. I agree, it was a good read, particularly the section on designing and focusing a wash. Thanks!

Scott, you raise a good point. The church isn't set up for true sidelight or downlight. By my math (as I'm not in the building today), the movers at the fringes of the lighting truss should be about 45° above the pastor's head and about 40° to his left and right. Also, there's the lighting grid above the back portion of the stage, where I'll have ideally six movers: a couple of these should be able to light him nicely from up and behind.


1) I've read a handful of guides on sermon lighting, and most are vague and somewhat contradictory. Any particular standout guides to any of you?

2) Is three-point lighting applicable for live events like sermons, particularly when a 10' width needs to be lit, to account for pastor movement? I'm thinking key, fill, and hairlight?

3) Would it be worth investing in a couple of pars for the floor, aiming up behind the pastor? Useful or not?

4) My original question still stands: anything magical about the CRI or other aspects of an ellipsoidal's quality of light that carefully aimed LED zoom washes can't get within 90% of?


I'm new to this forum, but I'm learning a ton. I'm extremely grateful, and hope I can answer as many questions for others as I've asked going forward. Thanks for being a great group!
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Jamin Lynch

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Re: Can RGBW Washes Replace Ellipsoidals?
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2020, 01:42:17 pm »

I don't think you will get the desired  "white" color and Kelvin temp from the Colordash family.

I have some Chauvet EVE P-100WW fixtures that I use all the time for various events. Really bright, soft edge, comes with barn doors and have a nice natural looking warm white color. Changeable lenses for different bean angles. I use 25 all of the time. Can be set for 1 channel mode for 1 to 1 dimming.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2020, 01:52:37 pm by Jamin Lynch »
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Can RGBW Washes Replace Ellipsoidals?
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2020, 02:11:45 pm »

No.
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Re: Can RGBW Washes Replace Ellipsoidals?
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2020, 02:11:45 pm »


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