Frost Your LEDs

In honor of Christmas I’m posting up this great tip from Ryan Spencer at The Net Church in Chattanooga, TN.

Have you ever been annoyed when your LED fixtures shine in people’s eyes. It sort of kills the mood when you see the red, green and blue diodes shining in your eyes. To fix the issue, Ryan cut circles of plastic diffusing sheets (used for fluorescent lights) and put them 6″ in front of the diodes in their Par 56 LEDs.

The rest of their set is very portable because they meet in a movie theater. They have 1 hour to set-up and about 30 minutes to tear-down their stage area that fills the bottom of a movie theater.

Ryan created 2 custom built crank up truss stands that support 20′ of aluminum trussing with 8 PAR 56 LEDs providing back lighting, 2 PAR 36 LEDs for truss warmers, and 4 SCX500’s. They have a couple more truss pieces, grey curtains, 4 more PAR 36 LEDs, and 4 Wash Bar LEDs to complete their stage appearance.

14 responses to Frost Your LEDs

  1. Great advise Ryan! We experimented with different styles of diffusion for our LEDs as well and were really pleased with the results. We also found that cheaper, low-end LEDs that typically are unusable in our venue due to flicker issues on our cameras could be used by adding full-stop nuetral density gel to the fixture. This way we could leave the light at full intensity to avoid hz flicker and get the dimmer, softer look that we we’re trying to achieve.

  2. You can adjust your camera’s shutter speed to help with the flicker issue.

    • Shutter speed is a great place to start but struggles with different manufactures and even different models or color selections. We have decided on running our cameras with the shutter wide open. We found that helps pretty drastically with light input and overall image quality. Finally landed on a solution that works best with our systems.

  3. You can also pick up lens shifting diffraction sheets for LEDs pretty cheaply from various lighting vendors (like my company, CCI Solutions). Regular gel diffusion we use for conventional lights doesn’t work right on LEDs, but diffraction is the LED version of it. Sounds like Ryan found a home made version of it. Nice work!

  4. How exactly did you get the plastic diffusing gels 6″ in front of the diodes? Are you actually mounting them to the cans, or are you mounting them to something externally? Either way, what are you using to do it with? Thanks. Great idea!

    • Tracy – I didn’t use diffusing gels. I went to a home improvement store and bought stove pipe (~$8 for 3 feet) and plastic diffusing sheets that are used on standard flourscent lights (~$15 for a 2’x4′ sheet). I cut the stove pipe every 6″ with an angle grinder. I traced the stove pipe circles on the diffusing sheets and cut out the circles with a sharp edge tip on a soldering gun. These plastic sheets are somewhat robust compared to gels except for cutting. If you try to use any cutting tool, it shatters like glass. That is why I cut with the hot blade type solder attachment, in a slow and steady effort. If you look at the bottom picture, you see the stove pipe (comes painted black) and diffusing sheet circle cut out and ready to be taped to the LED next to it. I played with different distances to make the diodes colors appear to blend together, 6″ worked well for these 10mm diodes. Larger diodes or spacing would need the diffusing sheet placed further away to get the look.

      I also use that diffusing sheet on the Wash Bar LEDs on the back curtain, except I place them directly on the diodes to give a wider angle and blur the distinct edge of color normally present with just the LEDs alone. This allows pretty even coloring of the back curtain with just 4 LED lights a few feet away.

      The plastic diffusing sheets that I’m talking about are smooth on one side and diamond checkered on the other. I attach it with the smooth side out so that the light enters at an angle on the sheet and redircts through it. This also prevents other colors (or white lights) shining on the sheet from having any effect on the surface of the sheet and maintain the color you want. For my uses, this has been way better then gels that cost many times more.

  5. Craig Birchfield January 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm


    I like the set-up. What other challenges do you guys have with lighting in a movie theater?

    • The big challenges are making a setup that is easily portable in such a way that nothing gets broken and you don’t have to re-run all the cables every week. The actual lighting challenges are the fact we cannot hang anything from the ceiling, cannot (or don’t want to) cast a silhouette on that huge screen, and have even front lighting on all parts of the stage. Another huge issue we had for awhile was power. We had one 20 amp circuit for back lighting, power to the amps, and stage power (guitar amps…). The theater finally ran more power once we made it a serious issue to stay there.

      Small things that almost became big issues are things like how to you move everything? We started with crank-up stands that we just added casters to the bottom. Problem was the legs didn’t like the unstable surface of a caster and nearly caused the stands to fall over numerous times while moving and cranking up. Solution was a rigid platform to mount the legs to that kept everything fixed and more weight on that bottom platform. Speaking of weight, we try to keep everything on wheels or light enough for 1 person to carry.

      The nice part of being in a movie theater is: we leave our speakers and amps mounted behind the screen, we actually store everything behind the screen or in a closet by the theater, the harmonics of the room are perfect, and we have the best church seats in the city that we don’t have to setup!

      • Craig Birchfield January 31, 2012 at 2:46 pm

        Agreed on the seats! As far as front lighting goes, what has been the best solution?

        • For front lighting I use two crank up stands, one of them pictured here:

          These two stands are about 15′ away at a 45 degree angle from the front of the stage. On the insides are my incandescent white 750W PAR64 lights that I use during worship (lit in the picture, with a homemade stove pipe attachment to limit the light spread to the stage only). The next 2 center lights are high power PAR64 LED lights (look kinda green in the picture). Last, on the outsides, are more incandescent white 750W PAR64 lights that I use in addition to the other 2 incandescent lights for speaking (no front LEDs on for speaking since the camera doesn’t like it)(not lit in picture).

          The inside lights give more direct front brightness and soften the colors provided by the LED lights. The outside lights give more even stage light for the camera and helps get rid of shadows.

  6. For those who have gel frames for their LED fixtures (ie: Opti-RGB’s or other par-type housings use 5.25″ frames), Rosco #119 frost gels work wonders as well.

    I’m the Chief Lighting Technician/Rigger at Bethel Church of San Jose, CA, and we use four Elation Opti-RGB fixtures to wash the front stage (among other various static and automated fixtures). When I installed the Opti-RGB fixures for our last Christmas Spectacular show (2012), I noticed a “halo” light ring around the light area and decided to place frost gels in front of the fixture. Works beautifully and allows the light to wash more evenly.

    The gel sheets come a few sizes for a low cost at your local lighting or theatrical supplier, and can be cut to size by using either scissors or a razor knife. Stores easily in roll form or gel shelves. :-)

  7. If you get in a bind and don’t have the time to get the correct diffusing sheets, you can temporarily use wax paper. Granted it’s not as good at diffusing as the “correct” stuff, but it works in a bind. I keep a roll of it in our case for those types of emergencies. But, if you have the time and money, get the correct diffusing sheets, it’s much more even of a spread and the wax paper still doesn’t mix the RGB’s of the LED’s the best just enough to get you by. #imachurchnerd

  8. Can you send me a link to how you made the crank up stands?

  9. How exactly are diffuser held in place on the pipe, or the light. how have you stopped them from falling out?

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