Tag Archives: LED

A Review Of Generic, 18×3 Watt, Moving-Head Washes

They’re pretty okay, if a little “cheap.”

Please Remember:

The opinions expressed are mine only. These opinions do not necessarily reflect anybody else’s opinions. I do not own, operate, manage, or represent any band, venue, or company that I talk about, unless explicitly noted.

minimovers1Want to use this image for something else? Great! Click it for the link to a high-res or resolution-independent version.

If you’re a regular reader, you may remember my article about the lighting upgrade that took a lot longer than I thought it would. The main players in that upgrade were unbranded (generic, in other words) moving-head wash lights.

Unbranded lights are a way to get a lot of bang for your buck, but you do have to be cautious. The units may not be fundamentally different from what you would get from Chauvet, American DJ, Blizzard, or whoever. However, there’s also the possibility that you’re getting a variant which a factory is producing on its own. Maybe that factory used to build the units sold by the “name brands,” and then kept building lights after the line was removed from the brand’s catalog. Maybe they never built a branded unit, but got the plans and parts specs independently.

The point is that you don’t know exactly what’s going on. You also don’t know how big a part was played by the brand’s own quality control routine. It’s possible that the actual manufacturers have a high rate of “failures” or “unsatisfactories,” but end-users were unaware of the issues because the “labeled vendor” was aggressively weeding out the bad units.

If you’re going to buy generics, you need to have a tolerance for risk. If a particular factory can build and ship, say, 500 lights per month, and their failure rate is seven percent, then there are 35 chances that month for you to get a bad light. In one year, the factory might ship over 400 luminaires with a problem. That’s a lot of opportunities for a pissed-off customer to publicly say that the lights aren’t worth buying, but a seven percent rate of unsatisfactory units is probably pretty reasonable in modern manufacturing. (Notice that I said “probably.” I’m not a manufacturing process engineer. I’m a stage-production dude.)


The units I purchased seem to be very similar (or even fundamentally the same) as what Blizzard Lighting sold as the original Flurry Wash. All the basic specifications – from LED count and power draw to maximum pan and tilt – seem to be equivalent. Actual, Blizzard-labeled Flurry Washes seem to retail at about $350, plus or minus 15%. One of my favored vendors sells a generic version for $239. The units currently in service were purchased from DJStageLights, at a cost of only $125 per light.

The Good

minimovers2Want to use this image for something else? Great! Click it for the link to a high-res or resolution-independent version.

A major convenience feature of the lights I bought is the control-panel. Panels of this nature display DMX addresses as decimal-notated numbers – as in, the numbers we’re used to counting with. If you want DMX address 59, then you just dial up 59 and go. You don’t have to convert from binary to decimal as you would with DIP switches, so the only thing you have to stop and think about is which address you actually want. By the same token, these displays make the setting of options easier, because the option can be displayed with a linguistic identifier. You don’t have to remember (or look up) which switch corresponds to, say, reverse tilt. You just start paging through the options, looking for something like “rTilt.”

I’m a big fan of control systems that explain themselves. It’s not that learning to count in binary isn’t a nice bit of mental exercise, it’s just that counting in binary isn’t really at the core of what constitutes competency as a lighting person.

One of my nagging fears about the lights was that they might display strange, jarring glitches in their movement. I’m pleased to say that the pan and tilt operations on these units are smooth, almost always predictable in outcome (more on that later), not subject to starting and stopping without commands, and “fast enough.” No, the heads won’t go from one positional extreme to another in the space of an eyeblink – but what do you want for $125?

In a small-venue context, the most impressive feature of these luminaires is probably their output. I’m basically quoting another staff member at my regular gig when I say, “They’ve got a pretty fair amount of firepower.” For use as an occasional special effect or show-end accent, I have some “blinder” cues written. These movers are bright enough that I consider holding the cue for more than a few seconds as being inconsiderate of the audience.

For a more objective view of the output of the lights, I decided to use my camera as a non-calibrated light meter. What I mean is that, with the camera in manual mode, I can light an area with different fixtures and compare the measured exposure values. I don’t get a lux reading, but I do get a relative reading that’s both quantitative and meaningful.

For this test, I set up one of the mini-movers to illuminate the same target area as one of my Chauvet RGBA SlimPAR 64 lights. I set things up so that the overall throw distance for each light was as similar as practicable. I shut off the other lights in the room, and then set up my camera. The exposure was set so that a picture of the target area would have an exposure value of “0.0” when the mini-mover was in use. I then kept the same camera settings, and illuminated the target area with the SlimPar. Here’s what I got:

minimoverThe output of the mini moving head.
rgbaparThe output of the SlimPAR 64.

The camera’s measurement was that the mini-mover was 1.3 stops brighter than the SlimPar, which is about two and a half times more powerful when you do the conversion. This tracks closely with the published specs for the SlimPar and the Flurry Wash, which respectively are 5300 lux and 11560 lux at one meter.

The Not As Good

minimovers3Want to use this image for something else? Great! Click it for the link to a high-res or resolution-independent version.

There’s a certain point where a cheap light displays its cheapness. We’ve come a long way in terms of what can be accomplished at low cost, but there are still noticeable differences between units that sit on different, metaphorical shelves.

To begin at the most basic level, you need to be aware that the dimming on these units is anything but smooth. The “stepping” from brightness level to brightness level as you fade between colors and global intensities is VERY noticeable. If you must have silky-smooth fade behavior, you need to buy something else.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, while the movement on the units is overwhelmingly predictable and repeatable, not every light will be perfect at all times. If a light is run all the way to the pan or tilt “stops,” there’s a chance that it will get slightly miscalibrated. It’s not that the unit will end up pointing in a direction that’s completely wrong, it’s just that it can end up being a little off. For me, this issue has always been fixable via a fixture reset – but unfortunately, I can’t find a way to initiate that reset via a DMX command. You either have to power-cycle the light, or get up to the control panel and invoke a reset. (Be warned that invoking a reset at the panel may also set the DMX address back to the default.)

For shows like mine, an occasional position miscalibration isn’t a big problem. For other shows, it might be a dealbreaker.

As a final point, the QC on these generic luminaires seems to be a bit lacking. Getting the mounting brackets onto the light bases is a chore, because the holes for the bolts are just a touch “out of position.” You’ll eventually get the bracket attached, but you’ll probably have to resort to profanity in the process. Also, the control panels seem to be a weak link on these lights. Out of eight purchased units, I have six actually in service. This is because one of the lights has a control panel that doesn’t communicate properly with the rest of the light, and so I can’t get the lighting computer to talk to that luminaire. For the sake of symmetry, that means that I had to pull down a working unit on the other side of the stage.

Also, one of the operating units is also having minor troubles with its control panel. The problems don’t constitute a fatal error, though. (Plus, with having had to pull a working light off the line, I do have a fully functional spare.)

In a certain sense, you might say that these lights don’t actually cost $125 per piece. When you factor in the issue of having to buy more than you need (to cover the possibility of failures), each working unit will probably represent about $167.

That’s still rather inexpensive for a moving-head light, though.

If you need lights that could be used in a “varsity level” theater or arena setting, luminaires like these aren’t the right choice. However, these unbranded mini-movers are perfectly usable as serious, pro-sumer devices if you understand their limitations.

Work The Angles

A wider beam lets you cover more area, but with less intensity (if all things are equal).

Please Remember:

The opinions expressed are mine only. These opinions do not necessarily reflect anybody else’s opinions. I do not own, operate, manage, or represent any band, venue, or company that I talk about, unless explicitly noted.

Want to use this image for something else? Great! Click it for the link to a high-res or resolution-independent version.

We’re getting close to a time where I might be able to buy a couple of lighting fixtures. It’s been a while since I’ve updated the illumination at my main gig, and my feet are getting itchy. This functionally means that I spend inordinate amounts of time looking at the same lists of products over and over. Hey, you never know – something might change unexpectedly. (Seeing a vendor get new inventory excites me. Toys are rad. Let’s not pretend that they aren’t.)

Whenever you buy a piece of “tech” gear, you inevitably look at the spec sheet. Spec sheets are a great place for manufacturers to fudge, obfuscate, boast, and otherwise engage in Mark-Twainian truth stretching, but they do have their place. Unless they’re completely falsified, you can use a product’s specifications to get a ballpark estimate of whether or not it will meet your needs.

But you have to know what you’re looking for, and perhaps more importantly, you have to know how various product aspects interact. The interaction is key because it profoundly affects how useful or not useful a given offering is for your application.

One thing that gets both audio and lighting buyers in trouble is to ignore the interaction factor and just focus on a single number. In particular, both audio and lighting humans can become overly fixated on power. That is, the question of how many watts a device can consume. It’s not bad to start by looking at the power, but a place where you can get in trouble is to ignore how that power is used or delivered.

For instance, let’s take a couple of similar, hypothetical loudspeakers that are on a “let’s buy something” shortlist. One can handle 500 watts continuous, and the other can handle 1000 watts continuous. Easy choice, right? Well…what if the 500-watt box is 4 dB more sensitive in the frequency range we need? In that case, the 1000 watt box isn’t actually superior. Sure, it handles more power, but if both boxes are at full tilt it’s actually going to have ever-so-slightly LESS acoustical output than the 500-watt offering. It’s not just the power that matters. It’s what that power ultimately results in that’s useful (or not).

There are, of course, lots of other wrinkles beyond just brute-force output, but I needed a simple example.

Lighting is similar. If you’re dealing with essentially comparable fixtures, then more power equals more light. Where you can get tripped up, though, is when what you THINK are comparable fixtures aren’t actually. If you live in a realm dominated by LED-powered luminaires, you’re in a world where the boundaries are still being poked and prodded. The average output-per-watt next year may well be an improvement over this year, so simply comparing two fixtures’ LED-engine power draws won’t tell you the whole story.

There’s something else, though. Something that can have a dramatic effect on whether or not a fixture is correct for your application. It can be a bit insidious, because it can occur in two fixtures that have the same light source, the same body, the same control features, and basically the same price.

The “it” I’m referring to is the optics involved in the light. Change the optics around and one light will be fine for you, where the other might be a bad choice. It all comes down to angles.


The Lumen Starts Fights, But Lux Finishes Them

The number of lumens produced by a light source (incandescent, LED, fluorescent, whatever) is a measure of how much visible light that thing is emitting. The lumen measurement is thoroughly disinterested in whether or not that energy is actually traveling in a useful direction, or focused into a beam, or anything else. It means only that a certain amount of human-visible radiation is flowing out of an emitter.

A 1000 lumen emitter spits out 1000 lumens whether you’re right next to it, or huddled in a cave on some other planet in another galaxy. The reference frame (the location of the observer vs. the location of the emitter) is essentially irrelevant.

This is different from lux.

Lux is the amount of visible light that is meeting a given surface. For lux, the reference frame matters a lot, and that makes lux much more useful as a measure of whether a light fixture will actually work for a given application. Lux is derived from lumens, in that it describes lumens per square meter. In a certain sense, lux tells you how much of a light’s output is available to do something useful for you after that light has traveled to where you need it.

Yeah, okay, great. Why does this mean that optics matter so much?

Well, look at that description of lux again. If you have the same number of lumens, but you spread them out over a greater area, the lux drops. If you focus 1000 lumens worth of visible radiation into one square meter, you have 1000 lux. If the beam spread changes such that those 1000 lumens are spread over two square meters, you have 500 lux. That’s a significant difference in how much a focus target (a performer, a sweet-looking drumkit, a rad guitar, etc.) is being illuminated.

Let me give you a more concrete example. There’s some math involved, but it’s worthwhile math.

The Difference Between 13 and 26

There’s a certain entry-level “moving head” spotlight available these days that comes in different variants. One variant uses optics that create a 13 degree beam, and the other has optics that produce a 26 degree beam. A person could look at the form factors of the different variants, as well as the rated wattage of their emitters, and conclude that the lights are the same – but that would be incorrect. The lights will not have the same performance, because the optics are different.

I don’t want to assume anything specific about the lumens generated by the fixtures’ light engines, so this might get a little abstract. Even so, the point here is comparison and not exact numbers, to that’s fine.

So, let’s call the lumens generated by the fixtures’ LEDs “Output.” The question is, how much of that output is available to do cool-lookin’ stuff? That question is answered by how much output we get per unit of area, or lux (if we’re using lumens and square meters). The question now is how to figure out the area the light is covering.

The first thing to determine is the shape of the area we’re trying to calculate. To make things easier, let’s just assume that the light hits “dead on.” If the light beam is a cone, then a “dead on” illumination at some point along the beam results in a circular cross-section.



Since the cross-section is a circle, there is only one unknown required to get its area: The radius. The radius is proportional to the beam’s throw-length, because a cone’s absolute radius increases in proportion to the cone’s height. Neat – but how do we figure it all out? Well, if you use your imagination (and squint a bit), you can start to see that a conical light-beam is a sort of “lathed” right-triangle, and that triangle has a base with a length that is, in fact, the radius we need.


If only there were some way to analyze a right-triangle to get the numbers we need.

Trigonometry to the rescue! (We say it “trig-onometry,” but what we really mean is “trigon-ometry.” It’s all about measuring trigons – polygons with three sides. Triangles, in other words.)

Let’s start with something we can arbitrarily define, like the throw-length. Let’s say that our focus target is about five meters from our light (a bit over 15 feet). To find the proportion between the base/ radius length and the height/ throw, with us also knowing the beam angle (13 degrees), the most handy trigonometric function is probably tangent.

There’s a wrinkle, though. The angle we need to use with respect to tangent is NOT 13 degrees. Thirteen degrees in the “full” beam angle, but our triangle cuts the beam in half. What we need to use is the beam angle divided by two.

So, here’s how it all works (by the way – someone should definitely check my math):

Tan(13/2) = 0.114 (The radius is 0.114 X the throw-distance)

0.114 X 5m throw = 0.570m radius

(0.570m radius)^2 X pi = 1.02m squared

So, the 13 degree light has “Output”/1.02 available for doing cool stuff when you’re 5 meters away.

What about the 26 degree light?

Tan(26/2) = 0.231 (The radius is 0.231 X the throw-distance)

0.231 X 5m throw = 1.154m radius

(1.154m radius)^2 X pi = 4.186m squared

At the same distance, the 26 degree light has “Output”/4.186 available for lighting things.

In other words, the 26 degree variant will cover more area, but will also have an apparent brightness that is about one-quarter of the 13 degree light. Again, both lights might look the same. The LED at their hearts might be exactly the same thing.

But they simply will not perform the same way, which means that you might not be able to successfully interchange them in the context of your application.

Read those spec-sheets carefully.

Consider the interactions.

Work the angles.

The Trouble With Mister Floyd

A proposal for a show that incorporates a live, Pink Floyd tribute act with dance.

Please Remember:

The opinions expressed are mine only. These opinions do not necessarily reflect anybody else’s opinions. I do not own, operate, manage, or represent any band, venue, or company that I talk about, unless explicitly noted.

A while back, a friend paid me a compliment. She said that she would love to bring me out to where her ballet company performs, so that I could assist with the audio. She was sure it would be a great show.

(Thanks, Gina! I definitely think it would be cool to work with Ballet Ariel.)

One day, I was in desperate need of a project to do, and I hit upon the idea of melding a full-tilt, Rock and Roll presentation of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” with a similarly full-tilt, dramatic interpretation of the story through ballet.

In the end, I couldn’t quite get the results I wanted by just using “The Wall,” so I pulled in other Pink Floyd songs to introduce themes that would motivate the characters in ways I found interesting. I’m still basically ripping off “The Wall” as it was presenting in cinematic form, just with certain tweaks and a different ending.

Here’s what I ended up with. My guess is that the show could be pulled off for about $250,000 – anybody have any rich uncles who love Pink Floyd?

The Set

The idea for the set is to have a raised area for “Pink” and “Floyd” to perform, which is backed by a large platform for the band. The band area is roughly halfway enclosed by plexiglass sound barriers, which keep the band mostly visible while reducing their stagevolume’s contribution to sound in the house.

It is critical that the stage be well braced. Resonance from the platforms could be a huge sonic problem otherwise. The band portion of the stage should be carpeted, to help absorb sound.

The cost to construct the stage will probably be around $10,000.

The thumbnails below link to full-size versions of the pictures.

The Lighting Rig

The lighting rig is a huge piece of the show’s “soul,” and is also the show’s largest technological element. It is meant to be a primary driver of the show’s emotion and pacing, at a level equal to the physical movement by the performers and the music provided by the band.

A certain amount of restraint will be necessary, because the temptation will probably be to overuse the rig. We do want it to do some exciting things, and to do those things fairly frequently – but not so frequently that the audience simply filters the light show from their mind.

The experiment inherent in the rig is that there is no traditional front-lighting. Everything is from the side and/ or above. This is something of a risk, but the risk can be mitigated by performing the show in a space where front-lighting is already installed. The key luminaires, FX devices, rigging, and video gear are as follows:

  • 2 Haze Generators
  • 4 Geyser RGB Fog FX Units
  • 42 SlimPAR 12 IRC Sidelights
  • 48 SlimBANK Over-side lights
  • 28 BeamBAR Beam FX Units
  • 24 Intimidator Duo Moving Heads
  • 1 Rear projection screen
  • 1 5000+ ANSI lumen projector
  • 95 4′ sections of Featherlite Truss
  • 20 Featherlite square truss connectors

These pieces, along with their associated control gear, cabling, and miscellaneous items, are estimated to cost $67,000.

The Complete Stage, With Figures For Scale

The FOH Audio Rig

Like the lighting rig, the audio system needs to be extensive enough to be “big,” but the temptation to overuse it will have to be resisted. To that end, it seems reasonable to set a goal of having 50% of the audience experience an average level of no more than 100 dB SPLZ, slow. (Ideally, 94 dB SPLZ, slow would be the upper limit.)

Specifics in terms of the audio rig are not as important as those of the lighting rig. Many different kinds of subwoofer could be suitable, for example. In general, the audio system should include:

  • 8, 18-inch subwoofers
    • 4 amplifiers
  • 8, 15-inch subwoofers
    • 4 amplifiers
  • 8, 15-inch LF full-range enclosures, biamped, for the main stacks.
    • 8 amplifiers
  • 8, 12-inch LF full range enclosures, biamped, for the main stacks.
    • 8 amplifiers
  • 4, 15-inch LF full range enclosures, single amped, for surround FX.
    • 2 amplifiers
  • 10, 12 inch LF full range enclosures, single amped, for various fills.
    • 5 amplifiers

This FOH audio rig, along with its associated control and processing gear, could be built at a low-end cost of $25,000. The high end cost, of course, is unlimited. The cost does increase considerable when a monitor rig, mics, and accessories are added, but these have been left out for brevity.

The Cast

The overall imperative for any cast member is to be able, and indeed, delighted, to perform in a “full-tilt rock and roll” show with a live band, atmospheric effects like haze and fog, as well as lights that move and change rapidly at times.

Floyd: The main character.

It’s absolutely imperative that Floyd be VERY strong at duet and solo work, and also able to emote in ways that will seem very concrete and natural to the audience.

Mother: Floyd’s Mom

She will need to be a good soloist, but even more important is her ability to work well in a duet. Like Floyd, she needs to be able to project emotions in a very obvious and relatable way.

Daddy: Floyd’s Dad

The most important thing for this cast member is his ability to act in a vaguely menacing (but still palpably unsettling) way towards Floyd in several scenes. He only ever appears as a ghost. Some competence as a soloist and in duets will be required, but deep experience is probably not necessary – unless the choreographer decides to create some technically challenging moments for him, of course.

Pink: Floyd’s best friend.

He mostly needs to be able to be convincing as a young person who is “partners in crime” with Floyd. However, there is one key moment, late in the show, where he will need to deliver on some key emotions as a ghost. This may be a good part for a dancer who is just ready to transition into duets and solos.

The Groupies: Two “hangers-on” who get close to Floyd and Pink, briefly.

Both will need to be able to project an obvious (but NOT overdone) sort of “average intelligence rock girlfriend” persona. The twist is that, in one scene, they must be able to project a marked prowess as they dance, sensually, with Floyd and Pink. The Groupie who ends up with Floyd will need just that much more emotional ability than The Groupie who ends up with Pink.

The Company: Everybody else. Certain characters may be drawn from the company pool, if necessary.

The company plays concert goers, teachers, schoolkids, regular folks, and so on. The cast members who are the strongest technical and emotional performers should be selected to fill the roles of Pink and Floyd’s teacher, the “undesirables” singled out during In The Flesh, and so on.

The Show

Note: This section is not consistent in terms of details. The really important things are
specified, but there is quite a bit that will have to be determined later.

The audience is seated with the main curtain down. House-light flashes and aural tones should signal 5 minutes, 2 minutes, and 1 minute to show.

The show actually begins with the house-lights up. This is to promote safety for The Company, because they enter through the house. As they walk through the audience seating, they should chatter excitedly about being able to get into the “Pink and Floyd Concert,” amongst other things.

The house-lights dim slowly. The Company should offer the appropriate banter like, “Oh, wow!” and “It’s starting!”

The house goes black, as completely black as possible without compromising safety. The Company goes silent.

After a few seconds…

Prologue – In The Flesh?

The stage explodes with color, light, and sound. Pink and Floyd have started their show. The Company goes wild (silently, as they’re now in full “dance” mode) and go up to the stage to give their rapt attention to Floyd.

[Important – after this point, unless otherwise stated, all cast members are always silent. References to saying things, shouting, narration, etc, are to be mimed or danced and not actually vocalized.]

Although what Floyd sings might be a little confusing, lyrically, The Company is completely enthralled and joyful.

At the ending and plane crash, The Company erupts in celebration…and then freezes at the climax of light and sound.

The screen reads: “Bomber Shot Down – Crew Missing, Presumed Dead”

The Thin Ice

Daddy, as a ghost, stands a bit upstage. Downstage, Mother comforts Floyd, “singing” the song to him.

The Company “ice skates” around Mother and Floyd. When the music rises, Floyd tries to move away from Mother and interact with the “skaters,” but Mother, frightened, clings to him.

Another Brick In The Wall, Part 1

Mother and The Company exit the stage. Floyd attempts to reach Daddy, but he keeps retreating from Floyd’s touch.

The Happiest Days Of Our Lives

The screen reads: “School begins at 8:00 sharp! Tardiness will not be tolerated.”

Floyd finds Pink, and they “go hide” somewhere to have an illicit smoke. They are of course, found by their teacher, who “shouts” at them to “STAND STILL LADDIE!”

The teacher catches Pink, but Floyd gets away and comes downstage to “narrate” to the audience.

As the music rises, The Company (some as teachers, some as students) enter.

Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2

This entire scene is Pink, Floyd, and the students having a passive-aggressive battle. The teachers should turn their backs to give the students the opprotunity to “shout.” (“HEY TEACHER! LEAVE THEM KIDS ALONE!”) The students should be just barely restrained when the teachers are looking at them.

As the scene closes, Floyd goes home and goes to bed. There is silence. Floyd falls asleep, and then Daddy appears as a ghost.

Floyd jolts upright.

Welcome To The Machine

Daddy shows Floyd a vision of a possible future life. In this life, everyone has been “good girls and boys,” and are now productive (but somewhat lifeless) workers in a factory. The work is boring and mechanical.

The screen reads: “Work begins at 8:00 sharp. Late arrivals must be pre-approved with form 86-T, and you must contact your supervisor, undersupervisor, and supersupervisor three weeks in advance.”

There are blasts of steam (actually fog) throughout the scene.

As Daddy “talks” to Floyd, he should whisper in his ears, move around him in an almost predatory fashion, and invade Floyd’s personal space often. However, at no point should Daddy and Floyd actually touch.

There should be a sense of mounting horror (on Floyd’s part) at the prospect of being put to work in the factory.


Suddenly, the clocks strike. Horrified, Floyd watches as the factory workers fall over, lifeless.

The factory workers slowly rise, and help Daddy by acting out his “narration” of the song. At first, they move as carefree youths, but then seem to panic as the guitar solo comes in. An unseen terror is chasing them.

At the mention of the sun, they run out of energy and start collapsing. Less and less able to move. They seem to be dying off. Things seem to be falling out of their hands.

As the song ends, Daddy walks away.


Floyd wakes up, and finds his mother for support.

Mother tries to reassure Floyd. At first she seems successful, but as her parts of the song progress, it’s made clear that all she’s capable of is clinging to Floyd, preventing him from getting out of her sight.

At the end of the song, Floyd becomes abruptly repulsed. He runs off.

On The Run

Mother pursues Floyd, but can’t seem to catch up to him. Floyd links up with Pink, and they start to “write songs,” and “play shows” to The Company. Whenever Mother gets close, Pink, Floyd, and The Company always move on, looking cheery.

At the “boom,” the screen reads: “Pink and Floyd Song a Smash Hit!” The foggers let out a large, sustained blast.

Learning To Fly

Pink and Floyd perform their hit song to their adoring fans (The Company). Floyd seems free and happy, and The Company is ecstatic. The only one not seeming to enjoy things is Mother, who is unintentionally overwhelmed by the crowd and unable to get close to her son. She is essentially invisible to everyone.

(Mother’s part shouldn’t be too big in this scene – it has a dampening effect on the emotional tone, and this scene is meant to be one of the few really happy ones.)

Have A Cigar

The screen reads: “Pink and Floyd Continue Topping The Charts!”

Pink and Floyd are being wined, dined, congratulated, back-slapped, and buttered up by The Company as recording industry execs. In terms of formation, there are three areas:

The center, where Pink and Floyd spend most of their time.

The inner circle, where the execs are fawning over Pink and Floyd.

The outer circle, where the execs “talk” amongst themselves, count their money, and anticipate a very profitable future.

At the end of the scene, Pink and Floyd walk off, and are met by The Groupies.


Pink and Floyd take The Groupies out for a night of partying. This scene should be very unambiguously about conspicuous consumption, and (at least) heavily imply that the characters fall into using alcohol and hard drugs. These are young people caught up in an imaginary-yet-real world where they can have anything they want. Pink should be noticeably more affected by his drinking and drug use than Floyd. The Groupies mostly act as starry-eyed hangers-on.

Young Lust

The screen reads: “Pink and Floyd – Are These The Girlfriends? Exclusive Photos Inside!”

The Groupies definitely want to hang on to Pink and Floyd, and so now they reveal their true prowess – sensuality. This scene should provide a great opportunity for The Groupies to show off movement that is an order of magnitude more fluid and technically impressive than what they’ve done before.

At the guitar solo, Pink and his Groupie run off, leaving Floyd and his Groupie to do a short, but intense duet.

At the end of the scene, the song ends and silence falls. Suddenly, the phone rings. Floyd picks is up, and reacts with disbelief, then shock and grief. He and his Groupie exit.

The screen reads: “Pink Dead in Auto Accident. Substance Abuse a Factor?”

The Great Gig In The Sky

Pink starts out bewildered. The Groupie is lying lifeless nearby. As the vocal part comes in, The Company enters as angels. They “wake” The Groupie, and escort both her and Pink to heaven. They both look apprehensive as they arrive, but it’s soon clear that they’re both pardoned. They go off happily, trailed by The Company.

Wish You Were Here

Floyd is alone and dejected. All he has to express is his grief in a lengthy solo. He is alternately lit dimly and in silhouette.

At the end of the song, Floyd sits down and switches on a TV. He becomes cold and distant.

One Of My Turns

The Groupie enters, and, oblivious to Floyd’s feelings at the start, does her routine of being fantastically impressed by the house. She tries to get Floyd’s attention, but becomes crestfallen as all her strategies fail.

Floyd begins his part in a self-absorbed way, seemingly oblivious to The Groupie. However, as the song’s intensity rises. He begins interacting with her.

The key thing for this part is that The Groupie does feel threatened by Floyd, but not in the same way as Floyd was threatened by Daddy earlier. Floyd is not a creeping, psychological menace. In fact, he doesn’t mean to threaten her at all – he’s dangerous because he’s suddenly gone manic.

At the end of the scene, The Groupie runs off in terror.

Don’t Leave Me Now

Floyd is now alone, and not by choice. The Company enters, but stands in a semi-circle upstage, their backs turned to Floyd.

At the guitar solo, The Company suddenly turns and tries to get Floyd’s attention. They are now fans, people who desperately want attention from the semi-mythical figure they’ve constructed for themselves.

At the end of the scene, Floyd becomes enraged.

Another Brick In The Wall, Part 3

Floyd angrily chases The Company away, rejecting everyone and everything. He is, briefly a very intentional menace.

Goodbye Cruel World

Floyd, with very muted movement, expresses his alienation.


Floyd spends this entire scene down center, brightly lit, with his head down. He moves very little throughout the lengthy song.

In turns, everyone who Floyd has hurt enters and “has their say.” Mother first, then The Groupie, then members of The Company as fans.

Daddy enters as a ghost, and moves close to Floyd accusingly. Pink also enters as a ghost, and is clearly unhappy with what’s going on. It should be clear that he’s not really upset with Floyd. Concerned would be more accurate.

Near the end of the scene, one or two members of The Company (as recording execs) come on stage and force Floyd to his feet. They are demanding that he keep playing.

The screen reads: “Can The Show Go On?”

In The Flesh

Floyd is still alienated, but gets onstage to do the show. The fans are less animated this time. They’re even a little confused – especially as Floyd says “Pink isn’t well, he’s stayed back at the hotel.” (Pink is very, unambiguously dead, and they know it – but Floyd is in denial. If this can’t be readily expressed through movement, that’s fine. Sometimes a few unanswered questions in an audiences mind are perfectly acceptable.)

As Floyd starts suggesting that people who don’t fit be put “up against the wall,” the fans very quickly (and frighteningly) go along with him. They reject, threaten, and throw out anyone that Floyd points out.

At the climax of the song (which is the end), Floyd runs off by himself. He doses himself with drugs, and falls asleep in the silence.

Two Suns In The Sunset

Pink enters as a ghost. He presents Floyd with a vision of the future, much like Daddy did. In this future, the UK is destroyed in a nuclear attack. Pink is much more sympathetic than Daddy, although Floyd is a little frightened of him.

Although the presentation of this piece is concrete, the intention is that the nuclear attack is a metaphor for the self-destructive behavior that Pink and Floyd have engaged in. The trouble is that expressing a complex and non-concrete concept like that is probably impossible, so we just have to leave things ambiguous.

Comfortably Numb

The screen reads: “The Show Must Go On”

In the silence, Floyd wakes up. He doses himself again, and then, in a daze, goes onstage to do a show.

The Company enters as fans. They are facing Floyd, and interact with him, but they are strangely distant and move slowly. Pink and Daddy enter as ghosts and observe. Daddy is disapproving. Pink is worried.

Near the end, Mother enters. She has finally found Floyd, and manages to get close. As the song ends, in the silence, Floyd waits for the crowd’s adulation. However, he hasn’t done what they want. They become angry, and try to get their hands on him. Daddy is egging them on.

Run Like Hell

Floyd is now the target of The Company. Daddy chases Pink away. Mother is pushed down and out of the way. Floyd’s star has now fallen completely, and the crowd wants vengeance.

Floyd is finally cornered, and roughly pulled to center stage.

The Trial

Daddy stands up-center. The Company enters and flanks him. They join hands, and “speak” with one voice during the trial, becoming a composite character. They slowly close in on Floyd.

The final pronouncement of the court belongs to Daddy. He suddenly separates from The Company and gets right in Floyd’s face. At the order to “Tear down the wall!” The Company sets upon Floyd.

There are flashes as the explosion sounds.

Outside The Wall

As the lights come up we see Floyd cowering. Downstage, we see Mother, who has fallen. Daddy’s ghost enters, and angrily tries to get his hands on Floyd. Before he can get there, though, Pink’s ghost heads him off. Pink gently beckons to Daddy, and they move upstage right.

The Groupie enters, and tries to help Mother to her feet. Floyd looks up and sees them. He approaches, and takes their hands.

A change comes over Daddy, and he follows Pink into a strong light coming from offstage up-right.

Fade to blackout.


The band begins playing an instrumental version of “In The Flesh?” They vamp the middle part as necessary to extend the piece.

If at all possible, each member of the cast should be given the opportunity to bow as an individual. After the cast has finished, they part to allow a good look at the band, who takes their bow by way of playing the ending to the song.

Immediate blackout – main curtain, house lights.

Great Lighting = Contrast

If every light cue is an attention-grabbing extravaganza, you will very quickly fail to grab much attention at all.

Please Remember:

The opinions expressed are mine only. These opinions do not necessarily reflect anybody else’s opinions. I do not own, operate, manage, or represent any band, venue, or company that I talk about, unless explicitly noted.

I realized last week that I’ve been neglecting the “Lighting Strategies” category on this site. So – here’s an article for the lighting techs among us. The squints. Lampies. LDs (Lighting Designers/ Directors). You know.

…and I’m including myself in the “lighting human” group, because I currently run both audio and lighting for the shows that I do. I rather enjoy it, actually.


The older I get, the more I realize that art is primarily a game of contrasts.

In music, you create flow and interest within a song (or instrumental) by having passages that differ from one another. You create tension and release by adding a bit of dissonance in one area, and then letting that “clash” turn to harmony a touch later. You may punctuate a legato (smooth and connected) section with a phrase or two of staccato (sharp and detached) notes.

In audio, the same thing is true. If you’ve got two guitars to mix, it’s very helpful if one of them emphasizes a different frequency range. If the kick drum is going to be the low-frequency foundation at 50 – 100 Hz, then the bass guitar should probably live in the 100 – 300 Hz range. Overall, an audio tech needs to leave themselves some headroom, or else there will be nowhere to go when things need to get bigger.

What’s funny is that music and audio humans often talk about contrast in terms of “light and shade.” In doing so, they directly invoke the language used to talk about lighting. An LD creates different looks by incorporating a range of colors and intensities into their light cues. They might start with a “cool” wash, and then accent certain areas with “warm” colors. Some parts of the stage might be in shadow, whereas down-center might be as bright as high-noon.

The Volume War

Contrast is a huge piece of making great art, so it’s shocking that it will often go on the chopping block. The “volume wars” are a perfect example.

In a somewhat misguided attempt to make their recordings stand out, bands/ producers/ mastering engineers/ A&R humans decided that they needed to be “louder than the last guy.” There was just one little problem: They couldn’t raise the maximum peak volume of their delivery mediums, or the output devices that people were listening on. To get around this problem, heavier and heavier limiting was used.

As a result, the average level of their music was raised – but because they couldn’t also raise the peak level, the volume contrasts within the songs (at both the “macro” and “micro” levels) were greatly reduced. People started saying that music sounded “flat,” or too-loud, or tiring. The diminished contrast meant that people’s brains started to interpret the music as something more akin to noise – and tuned it out.

Here’s the thing.

Lighting humans are not immune to the volume war.

I admit, I don’t see many shows that aren’t the ones I’m working on. However, every so often, I will catch an example of a light design that has fallen victim to the all-too-common notion that “If it’s super-intense all the time, that means that it’s exciting all the time!”


I’ve had bands bring light shows into venues, and when mistakes have been made, they’ve almost exclusively been made in the “being loud all the time” category. You’ve probably seen several examples of what I’m talking about.

  • Different colors are flashing constantly, driven by the beat.
  • You get the impression that the LD had an unrequited love for strobe lights earlier in life.
  • You get the impression that the LD has just discovered what the “bump” buttons do, and has set out to put as many miles on those buttons as is possible.
  • You get the impression that the LD is gravely concerned that just hearing the kick drum is not enough. Every kick hit must be punctuated by a lighting event of some kind.
  • The movers are constantly flipping around, cycling their color gels and gobos.
  • The blinders are used every few seconds.

Here’s what I’m betting happened after a short while: You started to unconsciously “filter” the light show. Sure, you continued to be aware of it, but because it was “loud” all the time, it turned into nothing more than a bunch of visual noise. Without contrast, nothing can actually get any attention – all attentiveness gets spread out equally.

You know what’s beautiful, though?

The solution is easy. The way that you fix this is to hold back. “Do less stuff.” Turn the “volume” down.

Better Results Through Doing Less

Seriously, how often have you ever been able to solve a problem by working less hard?

I’m not always perfect in using contrast with lighting, but I think I can give a good, object example by how I light a Stonefed show. Every so often, I’m privileged to be able to work with these guys. Stonefed is a funk, jam, blues, and soul outfit from Moab. They have honed their craft to a razor point. When they play a show, it’s the ultimate party. Killer rhythm section + fun guitar work = massive win.

The temptation, then, is to run animated light cues all night long. Chases. Flashing stuff. Lots of excitement.

But that would actually end up being less fun than what really works.

On a Stonefed night, I try to stay basic as much as I can. I try to get varied looks with “static” cues, and only call one or two per song. I try to call only a small amount of attention to the lights.

And then, they play “Take Me To The River.”

I actually have an animated cue named that, because I always call it when Stonefed plays the tune.

“Take Me To The River” is an animated cue where the front light alternates between blue and green, and the other fixtures light up in sequence, all in blue colors. The overall effect is meant to be a sort of “underwater” look.

In my opinion, calling that cue feels much more like a major event, because it wasn’t preceded by a bunch of other, animated cues. For some shows, I’ve felt that the cue made the song stand out more, because the whole feel of the show was – suddenly, and very tangibly – different.

After that song is over, it’s back to the static cues. Again, we’ve got to have contrast with what just happened.

And then…DRUM SOLO! As Ed Stone gets cookin’ I get out all the flashy, animated, strobing cues that I’ve been saving up. I do have to remember to keep things varied, though. If I have one cue roll all the time, it just gets filtered out by people’s brains. If I just keep a strobe hammering away, it ceases to be fun and simply becomes annoying. If the drum solo is long, I need to remember to call and hold some static cues every so often, so that the animations will become interesting again.

The different feel of the lights also punctuates the different feel of the drum solo – but the lights wouldn’t feel different if I’d been going “full tilt” since the first song.

When the end of the show comes, and if I get the opportunity, I have a “roto-strobe” cue that flashes the lights around the stage in a chase. Once again, it only works as an “exclamation point” at the end of the show’s “sentence” if the lights have been relatively static beforehand.

Of course, this is just talking about the overall visual style of a show. The “macro” interpretation. There are very good reasons to have contrast in your cues, at an internal or “micro” level. Also, at a technical practicality level.

To illustrate, I’ll pose a question:

If you’re like me, and you love using haze to make light beams show up, in what situations will those light beams be the most striking?

A) With lots of other lights involved, which are at high-intensity?


B) When other lights are at a lower intensity than the “beam” lights?

Think about it.


Also, to provide an example of a well-constructed set of light cues, I’ve included this video of The Australian Pink Floyd Show playing “Comfortably Numb.” Yes, the light show does do some very huge things – but notice how the “super crazy lighting explosion” is limited to the end of the song.

(…and this isn’t even – in my opinion – the best version of the lighting for this song. If you can find the PBS special that these guys did, make sure to watch it. The lighting for “Comfortably Numb” at that show was even better.)

A Guide: DMX, Computers, and LED Light Fixtures

A walkthrough for building a computer-controlled lighting system from the ground up.

Please Remember:

The opinions expressed are mine only. These opinions do not necessarily reflect anybody else’s opinions. I do not own, operate, manage, or represent any band, venue, or company that I talk about, unless explicitly noted.

Back in 2010, or thereabouts, I was finishing a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology. To actually graduate, I had to prepare a capstone project – a cross-disciplinary work that would show that I had actually internalized my coursework. I decided that I wanted to apply my knowledge to the process of building a DMX lighting computer with a remote.

I did actually build and test a prototype system. Indeed, a simpler system based on my project is what I use to drive the lighting rig at Fats Grill.

At the time, my perception of the project was just that it was a way to finish my degree. The ironic result of this was that the manual, which was clearly written as a document to help lighting techs do things, was never actually given to anyone who would do something with it.

That’s changing today.

I went through the project, corrected some things, removed some overly specific bits, and saved it as a PDF.

It’s completely free – Click here to download.