Okay so LED is the way to go! How about that? You can now install 2 high output follow spots in minutes and plug them both into a single power bar! Amazing! No more heavy ballasts. No more pulling 208V, feeder and TL5 across the arena. No more funky phase configurations. No more expensive and hazardous bulbs to change. No more ''Why the hell isn't it striking?!?'' yeah! Groovy! But wait a minute... Just exactly how strong is this LED thing? What are we to expect in terms of output, color temperature and control?
It is becoming harder and harder to compare LED performance to old school bulbs. There are just too many factors involved. Then there is the question; What are we comparing to? Tungsten? Halogen? HMI, etc... The wattage of the LED itself is not enough to guestimate exactly how bright it is and what it compares to. Very often numbers provided by different manufacturers are measured in different manners and environments making them very hard to compare one another. Just like one can of beans can be measured in grams and another in milliliters.
This is why I like to do my own testing. Not only with my measuring tools but mostly with my eyes in a real life familiar environment. This post may or may not be relevant to you but I find the more information we share, the more we can make better decisions.
I had the opportunity to try out the new 700W LED follow spot from Spotlight. At first glance I really fell in love with the quality of this unit. Spotlight is a high end theatrical fixture manufacturer in Milan, Italy. Their products are built to last keeping in mind ease of maintenance throughout their life span. All sections of their fixtures are easily accessible and can be serviced on the spot. Operation is smooth. Practically noiseless and do not generate interference with com devices (remember that buzz in your headphones when you leaned up against the follow spot?). The LED is separated from the electronics compartment so no heat transfers over thus reducing the probability of failure. Actually the unit stays cool enough that you can put your hand on it without burning yourself. I also found that the 16 bit dimming is extremely smooth. The unit can be controlled locally with a clip-on fader or through DMX/RDM.
So we put the 700W Spotlight follow spot next to the well renowned Rober Juliat Aramis HMI 2500W to find out how they compared. In terms of output, they are very similar. The difference being that the HMI bulb and reflector on the Aramis create a hot spot whereas on the LED we have a much more even beam. So taking the measurement in the center of the hot spot, the HMI is about 15% brighter than the Spotlight LED but as we move toward the outer area of the beam, the LED is slightly brighter.
That is what the meter says but all in all to the eye we found both spots to be very similar (picture: LED on the left and HMI on the right). As far as color goes, without any corrector in place we read 5600k on the HMI and 4800k on the LED. Keep in mind though that there was ambient light in the room and my meter may not be 100% accurate.
All statements in this post are my personal observations as an experienced lighting director and not the specs from any of the manufacturers. For more information on Spotlight products please visit:
There are some 700w and 300w Spotlight Follow Spots demo units available for testing in Canada. To book a demo in your area please use this contact form:
Special thanks to Corey Kloda from LSM Montreal for providing the space and equipment for this shootout. Thanks to me for providing donuts and coffee for the team.