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Moving Head Lighting

Moving Lights

There is a class of fixtures that are automated, referring to motorized movement of either the entire fixture body or the movement of a mirror placed in front of its outermost lens. These fixtures and the more traditional follow spots add Direction and Motion to the relevant characteristics of light. Automated fixtures fall into either the moving head or moving mirror / scanner category. Scanners have a body which contains the lamp, PCBs, transformer, and effects (color, gobo, iris etc.) devices. A mirror is panned and tilted in the desired position by pan and tilt motors, thereby causing the light beam to move. Moving head fixtures have the effects and lamp assembly inside the head with transformers and other electronics in the base or external ballast. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Scanners are typically faster and less costly than moving head units but have a narrower range of movement. Moving head fixtures have a much larger range of movement as well as a more natural inertial movement but are typically more expensive.

The above characteristics are not always static, and it is frequently the variation in these characteristics that is used in achieving the goals of lighting.

Stanley McCandless was perhaps the first to define controllable qualities of light used in theater. In A Method for Lighting the Stage, McCandless discusses color, distribution, intensity and movement as the qualities that can be manipulated by a lighting designer to achieve the desired visual, emotional and thematic look on stage. The McCandless Method, outlined in that book, is widely embraced today. The method involves lighting an object on the stage from three angles- 2 lights at 45 degrees to the left and right, and one at 90 degrees (perpendicular to the front of the object).