Lighting 101
August 23, 2007 10:27 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find an extremely bright light on a budget.

I've been recruited to help out a friend with some stage lighting. What I'm looking for is an extremely bright light that is used very sparsely. We're following a sort of less is more philosophy on this (think mostly black, no cheesy sweeps, some projections), but the less part has to be pretty big to make up for it. Unfortunately, I don't know much about lighting in general.
I think I want the brightest possible light I can get for a reasonable price. Bonus points if it can be adjusted with a high-watt dimmer. An industrial solution may be preferred over actual stage lights (I think - as anything intended for the stage seems overpriced to me).
Another option we talked about was wiring several flashbulbs up somehow. That's sort of the effect I'm thinking of. The color temperature, and an ability to color the light is totally irrelevant right now, the main concern is that the light is very, very bright.
The intention is to cause at least some discomfort in the audience.
Any other tips you have about causing sensory overload are welcome here as well.
posted by mike_bling to Technology (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Get a Q Beam.
posted by OmieWise at 10:33 AM on August 23, 2007

Halogen lights are very bright. They run at about 500w, and are fairly cheap too.
posted by Solomon at 10:58 AM on August 23, 2007

Q Beams are definitely the right level and price, anything similar that plugs in to a wall outlet?
posted by mike_bling at 11:30 AM on August 23, 2007

You might be able to find something cheap that steps down a wall outlet to a 12v car lighter adapter.
posted by OmieWise at 11:46 AM on August 23, 2007

You have a few options as I see it:

1. Go somewhere like HomeDepot and pick up some construction grade halogen lamps - very bright.

2. Pick up a halogen lamp somewhere like LampsPlus. Here is a decent halogen floor lamp with 4 50w bulbs with each bulb being aim-able.

Also, you didn't mention what your price range is, or how you want to mount the light, but here are more spot lights at lamps plus.
posted by TheDude at 11:50 AM on August 23, 2007

Thirding the construction halogen lights; I got a 500 watt one not that long ago for about $12 at Home Depot, with an extra bulb included. Almost crazy bright; just be careful about where you put them, since they get very hot when running, even for a few minutes.
posted by pocams at 12:09 PM on August 23, 2007

Musician's Friend has some really inexpensive lighting packages. I've ordered various things from them in the past with no complaints.
posted by jjb at 12:27 PM on August 23, 2007

OmieWise writes "You might be able to find something cheap that steps down a wall outlet to a 12v car lighter adapter."

You can roll your own with a PC power supply.
posted by Mitheral at 1:06 PM on August 23, 2007

My price range is under/around $50, I haven't decided how to mount the light yet. My main priority though is blinding brightness. This video has the basic effect I'm thinking of (only brighter).
posted by mike_bling at 1:07 PM on August 23, 2007

Cheap, reliable, effective - Pick two. Just remember that you don't get to do the performance over if it melts down. (I've melted three 500w shoplights personally, and blown boxes of filaments. They make good shoplights, but I'd never use one for an actual performance.)

The effect that appears behind the standing figure in the video looks like a PAR grid or what we used to call 'ACL's. I'm willing to bet you can rent a set of 1000w units from a local-or-semi-local rental house under $50, particularly if you've already got dimmers for them.
posted by Orb2069 at 3:48 PM on August 23, 2007

My answer is going to be more in the theatrical line of solutions for this problem, but any of the MeFites' answers would suit you. Light is light, and if the appropriate intensities are used is scenes prior to your effect, you'll achieve an uncomfortable reaction from the audience. That's the eye's job.

There are a few things you want to consider (or rather, a few things I would ask questions about) in order to solve this problem:

At what angle will this "fixture" be be hung in relation to the audience? This could affect which fixture I would chose to solve this problem.

What is the size of the audience? OmieWise suggests the Q-Beam, and that is an interesting and decent solution with a small audience in a small venue - I would possibly chose a fixture like that in a no-budget venue or found space. Perhaps with a silk or light frost placed in front of it for spread. Perhaps a cut of Roscolux 114 or 119 might help you to achieve this. Search for that text here.

The best way to achieve this source would be with either a bright quartz lamp source or an arc (high-intensity discharge) fixture. However, these are not cheap, and long-term exposure to arc light is not good for eyes. However, if you've ever been to a concert, you'd know that lots of arc light gets shone into the eyes of the audience. You're also probably going to be hard-pressed to find an HID source that will have hot restrike and that will accept 20 amps only, which will probably be your typical non-dim circuit location in a theatre. They do exist, but not for 50 bucks.

If you have a short running production and a rental house nearby, you could always rent a 9-lite or 8-lite, which are typically used for "audience abusers," per se. The links are to 4 and 20-lites, but the principal is the same. Another good choice would be to use a CYC fixture (or CYC fixture), which is a good hunk of non-lensed light that will be pretty harsh in the audience's eyes. These are typically available in 500W or 1000W cells or two or three at a time. A fixture that I've had a ton of luck with, especially in smaller venues, is an Altman Zip Strip, which is comprised of three circuits of MR-16 lamps wired in series. Together, all three circuits can be combined using a couple of two-fers or a three-fer into one circuit of 2250W. This is pretty darn bright and definitely effective, especially if coming out of a darker scene. After watching that video, you can utilize all three circuits independently as either bumps or a chase to get your desired effect. Granted, if you've got a rental house nearby, you might be able to strike a deal for one of these for your budget for a couple of weeks.

I hope that helps. Email if you have further issues, I'll be happy to do what I can to help.
posted by jimmyhutch at 4:21 PM on August 23, 2007

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