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Event lighting can make or break your event. If you get the wrong types it may not serve the purpose you were hoping for, set the wrong mood and much more. But when you see event lighting on an AV quote the terms might sound like another language. That stops today! In this episode of Whiteboard Wednesday, Brandt Krueger of Event Technology Consulting will be guiding you through the 4 most common types of event lighting and how they apply to your event design!

most common types of event lightingVideo Transcription: What are the Most Common Types of Event Lighting

Hi folks and welcome to another Whiteboard Wednesday. I’m Brandt Krueger and today we’re gonna be talking about the most common types of event lighting. Now I know Will has already covered extensively what a Leko is and how a Gobo works and all that kind of stuff, so we’ll do just a little bit of review on that before we get into some of the other types of lighting.


So first of all Lekos. These are these ones that are kind of long and skinny and they’ve got a little barrel on the front end and Will talked about in the other Whiteboard Wednesday how you can swap that barrel out and that affects how wide the light is gonna be. But let’s talk about some of the other features of these.

Lekos are Highly Adjustable Lights

The thing that you really need to remember when it comes to Lekos is that they are highly adjustable lights. You can adjust the focus, you’ve got shutters, you can put Gobos in them. And what that’s gonna let you do is we’re gonna do, actually, so when you’ve got that nice circle of light, you know you’re shining your light down onto your stage or whatever, you can actually make it really sharp and crisp like what we’ve got here. Or you can move that barrel in or out just like you’re adjusting a camera and it’s gonna make that a little fuzzier on the edge. So it just makes it a nice smooth transition from soft light into the light of the actual light itself.

Now what the shutters are gonna do is those are physical metal pieces that you can adjust by pushing it in this way or pushing it in this way. And that’s going to let you bring that metal piece in to block out part of that light. Now, why would you wanna do that? Well that’s because that’s when you wanna highlight just a podium or lectern, and I’m not one of those people that argues about which is which so don’t worry about that, you tell me podium I know what you’re talking about. So, you’re shining the light down and you wanna highlight just the person who is standing at the podium, perfect, no problem, this is exactly the kind of light. Or maybe you’ve got a logo or something like that, that you want to block out. So using a Leko because they’re highly adjustable and focusable types of instruments.

Par (Parabolic Aluminized Reflector)

A PAR on the other hand, a PAR can which stands for Parabolic Aluminized Reflector. Now most people think that PAR just stands for parabolic, you get extra credit and you can really impress your geeky AV friends by knowing it’s Parabolic Aluminized Reflector. The PAR, those are those more shorter squat instruments where they’re kind of rounded on back. And the only thing that PARs do is just a blast of light, right. And so when you go and look at those they’re already kind of soft and fuzzy blotches of light. And the only thing is, if you swap out the lens or swap out the bulb, what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna get what’s called like a wide flood or a narrow spot, or a donut no a donut is a totally different piece. So you’ve got that, then you can have like a medium flood. So it’s just gonna change how much that light spreads out. But it’s gonna be a nice soft fuzzy light either way that you’re projecting down onto your stage. That’s why PARs are generally used for like stage washes.

Leko Use VS PAR Use

So your Leko is gonna be used when you wanna focus in on something and highlight something or you know, so you’ve got a speaker standing again at a podium, you’ve got a lights coming in here, lights coming in here, you don’t want it washing all over the rest of the stage. PARs on the other hand, those are the instruments that you’re gonna use where you do wanna wash. You wanna just light up the whole stage and it doesn’t really matter how much it spills. Now you can actually adjust a little bit of PAR, so if you do need to get them off of a screen or something along those lines, you use what’s called a barn door. And this is really the brute force of focusing a light. It’s literally little foldy wings that you can put on a front end of the light to physically block off that light. Kind of like shutters do in a Leko, but it just sits on the front of the instrument. You see those when you look at television studios or something along those lines, you’ll see these big giant barn door things sitting on the front of the instruments.

You Can Put a Gel on Both

The other thing that you’ll have common amongst between both PARs and Lekos is you’ll be able to put a gel from in the front of them. And that’s literally just a little flat sheet of metal that you can sandwich in some colored plastic, and that’s the gel that goes in there. And this is how we change colors for decades in stage lighting, and theatrical lighting, and event lighting. You had to physically put this colored piece of gel in front of either a Leko instrument right on the front here, right on the front, or right on the front of a PAR instrument. And you just slip this gel into the sandwich of the two pieces of metal, put it right there.

Now all of that has started to change as we’ve started to deal with LED lighting. So just like in your home, or on signs and things like that. We’re using LED lighting to get different to be able to change the lighting on the fly. So I need to digress just a little bit, this is another one of those along the lines of a podium versus lectern, you know, is get to, “Oh well actually, technically.” So this is one that we have kind of in the deeper world of the AV instrument but I feel a little stronger about this one. Because this is about being specific.

Lights and Instruments

So in the lighting world, there’s a difference between a light and an instrument. And much light podium and lectern, a lot of people will use them interchangeably, and again it’s not worth getting upset about as to whether or not it’s technically. But technically what it is, the light is the physical light bulb that’s being used in the instrument. And the instrument refers to the type of housing.

Now where this comes in to play is that as LEDs have become more popular, and cheaper, and brighter, and all of those things, they’re starting to use LED lights inside various different types of instruments. So you can have an LED Leko versus the old incandescent bulb Lekos. You can have and LED PAR versus the old incandescent bulbs.

Now the advantages of Lekos and PARs that are LED instruments are that you get the power saving benefits of LED. LED uses far less power than the old incandescent bulbs, a lot less power. So, you’re actually able to save a lot of power which means you can use more of these lights in an area without blowing the circuit. So you’re able to actually get more of these lights all on the same circuits without overloading it. The other huge advantage is, by using LEDs in these you don’t have to deal with gels. So you’re actually able to change the color on the fly, just like we can do now in our houses with a Phillips Hue Bulbs and things like that. So we can actually, rather than having to go up on a ladder and say, “Let’s make those green instead of orange.” You can actually just go in through the light board controller and change the color that’s coming out of those instruments. So huge advancement when it comes to lighting, both in theater, and stage, and of course in our events is just the ability to have LEDs.

Now, the other fantastic thing about LEDs is that you’re able to, because they use so much less power, we’re able to put them in a lot more different kinds of instruments. So that’s where we start to get these square little ones on a stand where they’re just full of LEDs that you’re able to use on bars, or on backdrops. Or you’ll have really low ones with a lot of LEDs so you’re able to shine up on a backdrop or shine down from the top and change the full color of our stage backdrop on a whim. So, that’s been huge, battery power has been huge. So that’s why we kind of have to have that differentiation between a light and an instrument. But again you can really kind of use them interchangeably. So, that’s kind of our basic.

Intelligent Lighting

The last one that we’ve gotta include is Intelligent Lighting. And Intelligent Lighting is kind of that next level of lighting where we’re talking about instruments that can spin, and move, and depending on the level you can have all of this built into one of these. So Intelligent Lighting has the capability of having Gobos in them. The Gobos is, that’s the something where, again, Will kind of talked about in his Whiteboard Wednesday where you can just take a little pattern or an image and you can put that in the top of the Leko and then it shines through and projects that image down there. So you can have Gobos in there, they can have shutters in there, you can have the ability to change the color of the light, you have the ability to move the light. All depending on basically how expensive the lighting is. So there’s lights that can do all of that and there’s some that are more like DJ oriented where they just swivel and move to the music or something along those lines.

So there really is an enormous range of what we can consider Intelligent Lighting. But just know that that’s kind of that next level of lighting. And the good news is that the cost is starting to come down on those as well. So we’re starting to see pretty reasonably priced options for moving head instruments that can do all the basics of changing color, maybe change the size and shape of the thing of the light beam that’s coming down, and perhaps even bring in patterns and Gobos adjustments and that. Those are the most common types of event lighting.


Just remember, the easiest thing to remember is that if you’re just gonna do a stage wash, chances are probably what you want is a PAR. If you need to be able to focus in on something chances are that’s what you need for a Leko. If you need to be able to project a Gobo or a pattern, that’s gonna be along the lines of a Leko. And then when you really want to start getting fancy and being able to move lights and change things on the fly and change the color, and the shape, and the Gobo pattern, and all of those kinds of things, that’s where we’re getting into the Intelligent Lighting.

If you feel like I’ve missed one, these are kind of the most common types of event lighting there’s a ton other lights out there. If you feel like there’s one I should of included in here and talked to you about, let us know in the comments. If you think I did a great job hit the old thumbs up button, if you feel like you need to give me thumbs down button, please tell us why please tell us what we can be doing better on these Whiteboard Wednesdays. Tell us what you want to be learning about and we’re gonna make them for you. In the meantime please hit the subscribe button and let us know that you’re wanting to watch these and you’re gonna get it automatically sent to you as part of your subscription on YouTube.

Thank so much for watching, we’ll see you next time on Whiteboard Wednesdays.


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Brandt Krueger

Author Brandt Krueger

With over 20 years experience in the meetings and events industry, Brandt has spoken at industry events and seminars all over the world, been published in numerous magazines and websites, and teaches public and private classes on meeting and event technology and production. He provides freelance technical production services, and is the owner of Event Technology Consulting.

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