Theater Stage Lighting - An Intro to Theater Lighting Equipment

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Theater stage lighting can produce a wide range of effects, from practical to artistic. Technicians use theater stage lighting instruments to illuminate stage productions, concerts, live performances, TV studios, sound stages and more. Overall, theater lighting equipment falls into two main categories: floodlights and spotlights—each type includes a range of lighting instruments.

Floodlights illuminate wide areas with diffused light, while spotlights produce a more focused, narrower beam on a subject. PAR lights (parabolic aluminized reflector lights), strip lights, scoop lights and LED (light emitting diode) stage lights fall under the “floodlight” category.

  • PAR lights are lightweight, durable pieces of theater lighting equipment, and work well for those on a budget. For theater stage lighting, they are often used for special effects, and as top, back or side lights; they are also typically used with smoke or fog machines.

  • Strip lights consist of multiple lamps arranged on one piece of theater lighting equipment. Often used with color gels, these are typically used for lighting the back curtain of a stage, and are often installed for permanent use.

  • Scoop lights are lens-free, relatively inexpensive circular lights that cannot be focused. They may be used with color gels, and work well to light an entire stage from above, or to light a stage backdrop.

  • LED lights consume relatively little power for the amount of output they offer. LEDs can produce nearly any color needed for theater stage lighting through additive color mixing, combining red, green and blue at varying intensities. LED lights can be used in place of other halogen lamp theater lighting equipment.

Spotlights include any type of theater lighting equipment that produces a focused beam of light. Types include Fresnels and ellipsoidal reflector spotlights.

  • Fresnels work well when used at medium distances for theater stage lighting. They are commonly used to create soft shadows, backlighting, top light and side light.

  • Ellipsoidal reflector spotlights (ERSs) are flexible pieces of theater lighting equipment, and can be used to produce most theater stage lighting effects. Gobos are typically used with ERSs to produce a range of lighting shapes or patterns.

Christen Ronchetti is a freelance writer for PTS Theatrical Supply. PTS specializes in providing affordable supplies to theaters, schools, museums and other venues.To shop for theater lighting equipment, ben nye makeup kit for theater stage lighting, visit us online at

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