Welcome to the Learn Stage Lighting Podcast and this episode, we’re going to discuss the difference between cheap and expensive lights.
Troy will be joining us again today and we’re excited to have his perspective on the topic.
Main Segment (1:03)
When someone asks you what is the difference between cheap and inexpensive lights, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
How Will it be Used and by Who?
Troy: The two biggest things that come to mind right away is how is it going to be used and who is going to be using it? While we would all love to get the highest quality that’s just not always possible.
So, that’s a good starting point for me is considering the answer to those two questions.
David: That’s a good starting point, so from there what do you look for in quality and the building aspect? Where do you go from there?
Troy: First, I think about the build quality because I want to consider how the light is going to be used. Whether it’s traveling or more of a permanent install. Some lights can handle the road but most lights do not do well when traveling so often.
Then, it goes to who is using the lights. Is it the team I normally work with and I am aware of how they handle the equipment or is it going to be volunteers or stage hands?
Those types of questions allow me to decide what type and quality of light I should consider purchasing.
Finding A Fixture That Meets Your Needs
David: There are instances when someone will be looking at a less expensive fixture that the brightness is not very bright. You can see that often with less expensive fixtures but if that fixture meets your needs then who cares, right?
Troy: Absolutely, I completely agree with that. On the opposite side of that, there may be times when someone has to purchase a more expensive fixture because it has spot or color mixing.
Some setups will need certain attributes and that’s important to know when investing in a fixture. Generally, with more expensive fixtures the more attribute options you’re going to have.
David: A bonus tip for those who are shopping for lights, look at the color wheels because each fixture and brand set up their color wheel a little differently.
Troy: That’s something to remember and to know that you can find a less expensive LED par that may have less brightness but does exactly what you need it to do. You can invest in less expensive LED pars and then invest in that higher-end spot fixture that is able to do things in a powerful way.
With all of that, it’s so important to know what the rig and the venue needs. Also, it’s important to pay attention to the fixture attributes and decide what’s most important and what are some ways you may not have to buy the absolute best fixture.
The Dark Side of Cheaper Lights
David: One thing I have noticed more often is the number of cheap lights out there and this is where it gets to be the dark side of lighting. When so many people shop on Amazon looking for a light and there are so many options that really aren’t that great.
Troy: I have seen some of those lights at a venue. There was a venue that I had set up some of my lights on and the venue had its own. I had suddenly lost my DMX signal to their lights and their lights completely blacked out on the singer’s on core. You don’t want stuff like that to happen.
David: There always have been the version of cheaper lights but now we see it more and people using lights from Amazon. I’ve seen certain lights that had a color go out in less than six months. Or a moving light that the gobo goes out on.
Sadly, the quality is just not there in those types of lights and it’s a safer bet to purchase lights from the more common brands. They may be more expensive but the quality is there and the lights will last much longer than what would you get from Amazon.
Avoid the Amazon Specials!
David: Another piece to pay attention to is the fan noise. Some less expensive units are going to have a very loud fan noise. With the more expensive units, you notice that the fan is much quieter.
Troy: When I first started that was not something I paid attention to. But when there’s production involved and things being recorded you do catch that fan noise on a microphone and you can hear it in the audio.
It’s just one of those small things that not everyone even thinks about but I wish I had went with much quieter units for that recording.
Renting Versus Buying
David: Another route to consider is renting versus buying. Now, we’re in Nashville so there are rental companies everywhere and that might be much harder for someone located in a very small town.
But if you only need something periodically definitely consider renting it instead. Compare the costs of renting versus purchasing it and the upkeep costs of the unit.
Troy: That’s a great point because technology moves fast. You may have the best unit today but in the next year, it’s going to be replaced by something that is better and has more attributes.
That about wraps it up for us and the final conclusion is that don’t buy the Amazon specials but don’t overlook the inexpensive units because they may be a good fit for what you need.
Ask yourself how’s it going to be used and who is going to use it