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Best Practices for LED Color Wash

Best Practices for LED Color Wash

Current trends towards LED fixtures offer color options which can add an emotional depth to your productions when used correctly.

We've been chatting about video for a few articles now, so I thought it was time to change things up and move on to a lighting topic.

Unless you're in a rather traditional space, or haven't had much extra money to invest in more than basic white lighting, you may already be familiar with the concept of color washes. But even if you are, I may have some ideas for you, so please don't skip the remainder of this article!

A color wash is taking a set of lighting fixtures, changing them to a non-white color, and lighting an area from above, behind or the sides with those fixtures. This adds color to the area, but doesn't interfere with lighting faces, etc from the front with white light. (One could color wash from the front if you don't mind your people's faces to be the color of your color wash.)

The purpose of this is to add dimension, mood and a sense of time to the look of your stage. If you're doing drama, washing the stage with a deep blue lets people know that it's night-time. But it's more than about drama lighting.

Colors greatly affect the mood generated by an event, and gives an entirely new look to your stage. Bright colors in reds and yellows are exciting and help generate energy. Blues and deep colors are calming and introspective. And doing slow transitions from one set of colors to another helps lead the energy level in the direction you want to go.

You can add color to your stage by simply buying what is called "gel" (a plastic-like heat-resistant colored film) to traditional light fixtures. However, you need a new set of fixtures for each color you want to use, and changing the colors means you need to manually get to all those fixtures and swap out the gel.

If you're outfitting new space, or would need to add fixtures anyway to achieve a color wash, LED fixtures are the ideal way to go. Besides saving on power and air conditioning due to being more efficient and generating less heat, LED fixtures can change to virtually any color you want and be controlled from your lighting console. There are no gels that need replacing, so it saves your volunteers a lot of timeespecially if you need a ladder or lift to get at the fixtures over your stage or platform.

And now, there are easy ways of extending a color wash across your seating area as well, creating an environment where people will feel more like participants than attendees. Companies such as Chroma-Q have a line of architectural lighting pendants for use in lighting the seating area of your facility that are LED powered and change color (the Chroma-Q Inspire being a specific example).

When you want to calm the mood down and make it more introspective, you'd change not only your stage wash to a deep blue, but can also change your house lighting to match. Very cool, and very effective.

In the next article, we'll take a look at what to look for in LED color-changing fixtures.

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