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Buying Guide: Ellipsoidal lighting fixtures

Buying Guide: Ellipsoidal lighting fixtures
Cologne Cathedral employs ETC fixtures in its artistic lighting design

Buying Guide: Ellipsoidal lighting fixtures

There are plenty of reasons for HOWs to opt for ellipsoidal lighting fixtures but with that purchase decision comes a number of technical considerations. Ledetta Asfa-Wossen shines a light on what to look for

Ellipsoidal lights hold a diverse range of uses for HOW venues that feature live music as well as those aiming for a more theatrical or experiential worship service.

Eagle Brook Church in Minnesota, uses Elation Professional 156 ACL 360 Bar LED battens to light a performance
Eagle Brook Church in Minnesota, uses Elation Professional 156 ACL 360 Bar LED battens to light a performance

As an extremely versatile lighting instrument, ellipsoidal lighting allows you to control shape, intensity and colour, while providing a very focused, precise beam of light in the area you wish to light. This includes changing and manipulating the size of the circle of light depending on the level of impact you wish to create. In addition, unlike PARs or Fresnels, there is typically little side spill from these types of light fixtures, although some products still require a snoot accessory to avoid side light spillage. As with most lighting products, the key element to consider is its primary use to ensure the right level of technical performance.

‘First and foremost, you have to consider the position where the fixture is going to be hung and the distance to the object, as well as the desired area to illuminate. This will determine the beam angle of the lens. Next thing to examine would be the required brightness and lumen output needed at the point of projection. For example, when mounting a typical LED ellipsoidal fixture 40ft away from a stage, with a 19° lens you will get around a 13ft diameter circle and approximately 100fc of light output. If you have a shorter throw, then a wider-angle lens will give you a similar output and beam diameter at a shorter distance, while still achieving the same desired lighting output. Alternatively, if you want to cover more area with a single fixture, you can use a 36° lens kit and achieve the minimum luminance level,’ explains Eric Loader, sales and marketing director at Elation Professional.

Elation ellipsoidal lighting fixtures were used at Cascade Hills Church to create impact
Elation ellipsoidal lighting fixtures were used at Cascade Hills Church to create impact

Another important factor when deciding which type of ellipsoidal lights to use for your HOW venue is efficacy, states Loader. ‘Even if a fixture is listed at being 260W LED, that doesn’t mean it’s brighter or better than a fixture with 130W LED engine. Why? In short, optics. Optical quality can mean all the difference in the quality of light and the total light a fixture produces. The flatness of the field produced by the fixture should also be considered. The best thing is to do your own comparison in-house and ask your local dealer to bring you three options to look at – in your venue – and only then can you truly see what is best for your application and budget,’ he adds. Most cameras today are very sensitive and do not require that much output to read properly and give good contrast, says Loader. ‘Typically, 30fc is enough for most cameras today but there are many lighting techniques to consider when placing your lighting fixtures to achieve the desired results.’

Employing ellipsoidal light fixtures can also come with its own challenges. Offering some key tips for HOW venues, Luke Delwiche, entertainment market manager at ETC, shares some of the potential pitfalls. ‘As ellipsoidal fixtures can have sharp shuttering and image projection, it is important to make any system (for example, front light, side light, projected patterns and so forth) match focus across the system. Even the untrained eye will see differences in image projection, out-of-focus images or stray light.’

ETC ellipsoidal spotlights hone in on the centre stage at St Margaret Church in Munich
ETC ellipsoidal spotlights hone in on the centre stage at St Margaret Church in Munich

With LED fixtures, it is also crucial to understand that LED emitters are different from traditional light bulbs and use an integrated microprocessor for control. ‘This means that there are many cheap products that do not perform well when dimming. Additionally, LED emitters drop in output as they warm up’, adds Delwiche. ‘As a result, it is vital to look out for products that feature droop compensation, where the array temperatures are monitored and consistent levels (and therefore colours) are maintained throughout the minutes or hours of use. This feature is rare on the very low-cost fixtures. It is also hugely important to evaluate the warranty. Many lights only carry a very short warranty and that should be a strong indicator of the manufacturer’s commitment to quality and support,’ he advises.

Nevertheless, notes Delwiche, ellipsoidal fixtures make an ideal lighting choice for front-light applications across HOWs where the intention is to frame a specific area that should be lit. ‘From the smallest venue to the largest, ellipsoidals are perfect for drawing focus exactly where it should be. Beam angles from 5–90° are also now easily available, as are zoom options.’

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