Washes, Beams, and Spots … How to Know the Difference

Venturing into the world of fixture selection can be overly intimidating, but remember that the goal is to choose the best possible fixture for what we're trying to achieve.

Washes, Beams, and Spots  … How to Know the Difference
In recent years, the Clay Paky Sharpy really kicked off the modern era of beam fixtures.
Washes, Beams, and Spots  … How to Know the Difference
In recent years, the Clay Paky Sharpy really kicked off the modern era of beam fixtures.

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In today’s lighting world, we have more choices than ever when it comes to fixture selection.

Beyond just the sheer number of fixtures, we’re often burdened by jargon and insider lingo that can make venturing into the world of fixture selection overly intimidating.

Good lighting design is when the designer makes the most of the fixtures he has.

At the end of the day, however, our goal is to choose the best possible fixture for the purpose that we’re trying to achieve. Thankfully, most lighting fixtures can be combined into just a few unique categories. These include wash fixtures, spot fixtures, and beam fixtures.

Wash Fixtures

These are the most common fixtures that you’ll come across in any church environment. They can range from simple PAR cans, all the way to high-end moving lights. They’re characterized more by their simplicity, than their elaborate feature sets.

When you need simple, bright, illumination, wash fixtures are the way to go. These fixtures will be the best at creating a nice, even wash of light across the stage.

It’s worth mentioning that even though no wash fixture will give you complete control of where your light goes, you can often accommodate different scenarios with different lenses on the front of the fixture. For example, on a Source 4 PAR, you can have Very Narrow, Narrow, Medium, or Wide lenses that can be swapped out, depending on the circumstance. A Very Narrow lens has a beam spread of about 15 degrees, while a Wide lens has a beam spread of about 51 degrees at its widest point. The same lenses can be found built in on standard PAR 64 and PAR 56 lamps.

LED PARs are also a common wash-type fixture that is becoming more prevalent as LED technology continues to become more affordable. Depending on the fixture, you can purchase these with a variety of beam angles and feature sets, including amber and white LEDs, on top of your regular red, green, and blue. Including these extra LEDs allows for a more rich color representation on stage.

Also included in wash fixtures are cyc lights, strip lights, and scoop lights. These all serve a different purpose, but are typically found in more niche setups and designs.

Spot Fixtures

The fancier brother to the wash fixture - is the spot fixture. One of the primary principles of lighting design is to only illuminate the things that need to be seen, and that is where spot fixtures really shine.


More About Greg Saffles
Greg Saffles is the Creative Director at Shoreline Church in Knoxville, Tenn. He has a passion for using environments in the local church to display the glory of God. Previous to Shoreline, he spent four years as lighting designer at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn. During this time, he discovered a passion for using production to bring glory to God, the use of technology within the church, and for the creative process as a whole.
Get in Touch: [email protected]    More by Greg Saffles
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Article Topics

Technology · Lighting · Visual Arts · Lighting Design · Beams · Clay Paky · Ellipsoidal · Fixtures · Lighting · PARs · All Topics

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