more and more LED fixtures.
If you will be incorporating LED light strings into your
lighting scheme, you will want to pay attention to whether
they are half wave rectified or fully rectified.
Fully rectified LED strings are considerably brighter and
do not flicker like the cheaper half wave rectified LED
strings usually available at your local big box store. Some
people can see the flicker that half wave rectified lights
produce. If this is a concern for you, pay the price premium
and go with the fully rectified sets.
For those of you interested in wiring up your own LEDs,
a handy calculator can be found at http://bit.ly/LEDwzrd.
This wizard will help you design your setup and determine
the necessary resistors required.
Just the Right Amount
There is a fine line that must be walked when planning
your lighting scheme. Too much light can be just as bad as
too little. It can distract from your primary scene. You want
to provide sufficient light to illuminate your display without
Certain situations lend themselves well to static or fixed
lighting schemes. Such things as illuminating an information
sign or pathway safety lights are a couple of examples
where you will likely want a consistent light source. These
lights will be turned on prior to your audience’s arrival and
will remain on the entire time your show is active. These
lights set the starting point for any additional lighting. I like
to take care of this element first and layer my other lighting
effects on top of it.
Flood vs. Spotlights
One of the biggest decisions you will have to make in
developing your lighting plan is the type and number of
lights you will need. Most displays will benefit from a
combination of flood, spot, and pin spotlights.
This choice offers its own set of challenges. Space,
budget, venue, mechanism type, and how it fits within the
rest of the scene are all important considerations. You may
need to consider in your planning the impact of any fixed
light sources such as street lights. The difficulties
these pose can be significant and take some creativity
to overcome. Rendering street lights inoperative is not
an acceptable solution!
For my display, I decided to include 16 DMX
flood lights for my primary light source (Figure 1).
They each include a total of 60 LEDs: 15 each in red,
green, blue, and white (Figure 2). Used in
conjunction with my DMX controllers, these allow me
to create virtually any color I desire!
I have yet to settle on a favorite spotlight. I primarily
rely on battery powered units that are easy to place where
needed (Figure 3). This frees me from the restrictions
posed by running electrical lines. However, it does mean I
need to constantly purchase and install fresh batteries.
The placement of my
pin spots is another area
where running wires is not
an option. I have modified
small AAA flashlights for
this purpose (Figure 4). By
using lithium batteries, I
am able to get a full night
of operation out of a
single battery. That is a
small price to pay for
highlighting the many
small details that make up
The inclusion of
auxiliary lighting sources
such as lanterns and
flickering candles can add
interest as well. These are
not primary light sources,
but they can be that
added detail that
compliments your design.
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Figure 4. Single AAA pin
Figure 3. 9V battery powered spots.
Figure 2. Yep, there really are
60 LEDs inside!