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The Differences Between Fixtures

Various Stage LightsEvery theater uses a combination of various lighting fixtures to adequately light the stage. Ellipsoidal Spotlights and Followspots allow for precise placement of bright directional light.  Use Fresnel spotlights, Pars, or Floods to create washes or soft area light. Cyc lights and border strips are excellent for washing backdrops and scenery with color. Add LED lighting fixtures or intelligent lights for added versatility and stunning effects.

S4 90


This is the most common type of fixture used for accenting. Also called an ERS (Ellipsoidal Reflector Spotlight) or Leko® (which is a trademarked type of ellipsoidal created by Strand Lighting), the ellipsoidal can adjust from a sharp-edged, focused beam to a soft, diffused light. Using shutters, the beam can be shaped (for example, if part of the light "spills" off the stage into the orchestra pit, the shutters can be used to crop the beam so the pit is not lit). Ellipsoidals also have features to hold patterns and gel (more on this later).

Lycian 1239 followspot


This type of fixture you see all of the time in concerts, ice skating, lectures and other performances where the main character(s) moves around constantly and unpredictably. It is the type of fixture that is controlled by an operator standing beside it. Although different followspots sport different features, most will let you adjust the beam size, instantly change the color, and many will let you lock pan and tilt adjustment.

ETC Source 4 Par


(pronounced fra nel'; named after the inventor of the lens): This instrument is somewhat similar to the ellipsoidal, but has a softer edge to the light beam. The beam can go from narrow to wide, but shutters are not available on the fixture to shape the beam, nor is it able to utilize patterns. Fresnel spotlights are often used for near-stage are washes.

ETC S4 Par

PAR cans

Except for a few high-end fixtures, this is a no-frills, lightweight instrument that looks like a headlight at the bottom of a tin can (using a PAR lamp, this is how it got its name). Depending on the brand/model of a PAR can, the beam of the fixture might be able to adjust from a horizontal to a vertical beam. The lens can be part of the lamp, so by changing the lamp type, you can change the beam angle.

IW Blast


Also known as Scoop; Pretty much the same as a PAR can, the floodlight is less directional and will provide more of a wash than the PAR can fixture. Floodlights are relatively inexpensive,durable and lightweight. They cannot support patterns, beam adjustment or any other accessories except color and diffusion.

2- Cell Iris

Cyc lights

Open-faced fixture which gives an even wash of light over a vertical surface (such as a cyclorama or painted scenic drop).


Strip lights

Also known as borderlight; A wash fixture similar to a cyc light; used to add color or general lighting on stage.

 LED Lighting



Also known as solid state lighting, LED fixtures typically include color changing capability and on board dimmers. LED models are available to replace most conventional lighting instruments.

Automated Lighting



Also known as intelligent lights or moving lights, automated luminaires usually combine high output arc lamps with numerous features. Moving light fixtures often include pan and tilt control as well as other controllable attributes such as focus control, shutters or irises, color changing / mixing devices and even strobe effects.


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