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You might be thinking to yourself – what is a gobo?

Gobos_largeA Gobo is a physical template, most commonly on steel or glass, which is placed in front of a light source to alter the shape of the light onto a surface. Deriving its name from “Go Between” or “Goes Before Optics”, this piece of metal or glass is used to block portions of the light source. Bat-signal_1989_filmCustom gobos allow you to display words, logos, shapes, and patterns on a wall, floor, ceiling, or any other large flat space in your venue. They are usually used in front of a static light source such as a leko and are placed in a gobo holder to hold the gobo in place within the light.

A good example of this type of light projection is the bat-signal shown in the Batman films and comic books. The bat-signal has a circular light shining in the sky with an opaque Batman logo preventing light from shining through it, resulting in a circular light in the sky with the Batman logo cut out of it.



This diagram shows the basics of what a gobo is, how it ties in with a light projection, and how everything comes together to display your custom design on a surface in your venue.

Types of Gobos

  • oxidationSteel Gobos – One of the most common types of gobo is the steel gobo. These are the most durable type of gobo and are made but cutting the logo, words, or image out of a template of steel. Although they will discolor some due to oxidation over time from the intense heat of the lamps, steel gobos are still usable regardless of the discoloration. Since this type of gobo is cut out of steel, there cannot be any floating pieces of the design. For example, if there is text with an “O”, small bridges or tabs must be used to keep the middle piece of the “O” in place so that the piece doesn’t just fall out. Depending on the design and how much it changes the aesthetics of the design, this may or may not be something that you want. A steel gobo can project as a solid color if a color gel is placed in front of the projected light as well.
  • Glass GoboGlass Gobos – Glass gobos are made from transparent glass coated with a partial mirror over the portions that shouldn’t be displayed. This coating blocks light, allowing the transparent part of the glass to create the design that you want shown by the light. Since there is no restrictions in terms of using bridges or tabs in the design, glass gobos allow much more freedom and intricacy with design. Glass gobos can also add coloring to create a stained glass look while using a standard, static light source. This can allow for the gobo to display a design with multiple colors at the same time. The creation process of glass gobos makes this option a little more expensive, albeit more customizable. The materials that it is made out of are also more fragile than steel, so they need to be handled more gently.
  • Other Types – Plastic or transparency gobos can be used in less common lighting like LED ellipsoidal spotlights. These allow for coloration like glass gobos, but are much more durable.

Ways to Use Gobos

wedding goboThere are plenty of ways to utilize gobos to enhance your event! You can display the name of the event or the names of people. Displaying the name of the bride and groom using a gobo is a cool addition to weddings and gives it a personalized, upscale vibe. They can also be used at conferences and conventions to display company logos or the convention name all over the venue. Gobos with shape or textured designs can also be used to provide unique ambient and textured lighting along the walls, ceilings, or floors of your venue. Gobos can also be placed inside intelligent moving lighting to have the displayed design move on the surfaces of your venue.

Have you used gobos at one of your events? How did you utilize them to make your event truly unique? Comment below!

Image credit: Wikipedia, Backspin Productions, Control Booth, Mark Astrella, Elevate Production

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Matt Walker

Author Matt Walker

Matt has been involved in marketing and event management for the better part of the last decade, planning concerts and comedy shows of national and local scale, tour managing various brands on national tours, coordinating VIP experiential marketing, and developing marketing plans for entertainment and technology companies. When he's not writing blogs and event managing at Endless, you'll find Matt playing hockey, attending concerts, going on weekend trips, drinking IPAs, working on graphic design projects, and having a good time with his friends.

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