How to Choose Inexpensive LED Fixtures

This post sponsored by StageLightCompany.com—professional lighting for churches.

In this article, Bryon Akerman talks about what type of fixtures you’ll need, and how to choose the right ones for your budget.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a creative look using LED fixtures. Determine your budget, what your space will allow you to use, and what type of fixtures you need to achieve your desired look. This will give you a good starting point.

The problem is, most churches don’t know exactly what they might need. When you start researching, it can seem a bit overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be if you break it down into a couple of key points.

First, figure out what look you want in the room. Are you looking to accent some back walls or build a focal point? Or are you wanting to cast color over the entire stage during worship? All of this can be accomplished with LED lighting, but it may take different types of lights to achieve your desired result.

There are three basic LED fixtures I want to talk about. Spots, floods, and washes.

Spots, Floods, and Wash LED Fixtures

Most LED light fixtures on the market today are considered spot fixtures. This means they have a very narrow beam. These would work great for highlighting a specific singer or prop, but would not be good for giving a nice glow across your stage.

A few wide flood LED Lights, on the other hand, would be great for putting an even color on your stage. They would not work well for drawing focus to a particular person or spot on stage.

Washes are just what they sound like. They wash a wall or area with light and are used more for accent lighting. These lights are more in line with the wide flood lights, but also come in what’s called a linear wash light. These lights are a long bar lights about 3-4ft wide and produce a long, thinner wash—specifically for lighting a back wall. There are other lights out there, including intelligent moving lights that move around or LED black lights. But we are going to focus on entry level LED lighting.

Now, when it comes to buying your lights, there are a lot of different options out there. Regardless of who you buy your lighting fixture from, they are all going to shine light. Your higher end lights will be made with higher quality and have more options. But cheaper lights can still work if you use them in the right environment and take care of them.

There are some things to consider when you are deciding where to purchase your lights. You need to consider how often are they are going to be moved, how far away the lights will be from the lighting board, and distance between the light and what it is shining on. Understanding these will help you select the best light.

Mobile churches, for instance, would probably want to steer away from getting the cheapest lights, because the lights would be moved in and out each week. It would pay to have some fixtures that are more rugged. A church that has lower ceilings and a smaller stage can get away with some lower end lights, because they aren’t needing as long of a throw (distance from light to stage) and the lights are probably going to be set and left alone without being moved on a regular basis.

The distance between the light board and the lights is a consideration for any LED lights, but especially for your lower end lights. The longer the distance, the more interference can affect your control signal from the board to the lights. Since, your lower end lights are usually made with cheaper parts, they are more likely to be affected by interference.

Remember, you often get what you pay for. But if you’re on a tight budget, you might consider these lighting sources that some of the CSDI readers have had success with:

  • PlanetDJ.com – Offer a large selection of lights and manufacturers.
  • StageLightingStore.com – Similar
  • StageLightCompany.com – LED Par Lights
  • Cheaplights.com – These are exactly how they sound. Cheap. But they work.
  • eBay – If you know what you’re looking for, some of the Chinese companies sell their products on eBay. (It’s important to look at seller rating if you’re planning on risking it.)

Upgrading your lighting doesn’t have to break the bank if you take the time to plan it out and choose the fixtures that will work best for your situation.

 

Bryon Akerman has run sound since he was ten. He now works for a production company and is planting a church in Oklahoma City.

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9 responses to How to Choose Inexpensive LED Fixtures

  1. Robert Walker June 11, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Your advice is spot on. We bought inexpensive chavet LED strips and the more we move them, the more “shorts” that seem to occur in the inputs/outputs. Also, we definitely had problems with them being so far from the light board. Some worked and some would blink intermittently, indicating some interference issues. Wish someone would comment on some inexpensive fixtures they’ve had great success with over long distances.

    • Make sure you have a terminator on the output of the last light in your chain. Also, and this is real important, make sure you use ONLY DMX cable. Also, some brands don’t play nice with one another, so if you have the ability to try another board, see if that fixes the issue

  2. We are building some lighted columns for our stage. Wondering what type of lights are best suited for being put inside them to give them a glow?

    • I am currently building light columns for my church stage and I’m using LED Par lights. They are perfect for light columns and you won’t be moving them

    • We use ADJ Mega Panels for lighted columns they lay flat are an older light and play nice with most ADJ and Elation stuff. They also lie flat and have a few extra programs on them that our youth group likes to use. Just be careful ADJ and Chauvet sometimes don’t play nice together unless your using something closer to a Jands console or program to control. They tend to conflict. So if your going to pick pick one or the other.

  3. Great article! What budget fixtures would you recommend for backlighting the worship team in a small hall where the stage is 20×10 feet? If I was narrowing down to Chauvet, I don’t understand the difference between the sub brands and which to go for. Thanks!

  4. We have ceiling lighting in a a 20′ ceiling that leaves the pulpit in a “shadow zone”. What type of stage lights are best to fill this shady spot on the Pastor? We don’t need to “spotlight” him or feature singers.

  5. Mark,
    All of the brands have their pro’s and con’s. Additionally, you have to separate the objective from the subjective related to the lights. A simple but generalized way to think about it is the following.

    1) Stuff on Alibaba or other direct to china websites: Cheapest cost. Warranty issues, break the quickest, have the least amount of QC so one fixture will differ from the next even when they are supposed to be identical. Ever wonder why china direct video walls always come with a few extra panels for FREE? You are gonna need them.

    2) Budget sold-in-America Companies: Proline, eliminator, colorkey, epsilon. etc. Longevity and build quality is okay but for permanent church installs please try and find mode budget. It is only a little more to get to a chauvet/adj.

    3) Chauvet and ADJ and Blizzard – These are companies that make some of the cheap but also extend into the professional. Chauvet was looked at as more high end in recent years than ADJ because ADJ used to be american DJ. However American DJ is owned by the same company that does elation (higher end respected). When they switched branding to be ADJ they got a lot of older high end elation technology passed down to ADJ’s new fixtures. ADJ is becoming quite competitive in the mid tier market. However, I personally think the optics on the chauvet moving heads make the spots and beams much tighter and defined and sharp.

    4) Martin, Chauvet PRO, GLP, ETC, There are so many to choose from. These get expensive but look great.

    5) Clay Paky, ROBE, These companies are the pro tour only 10,000+ for one moving head sometimes.

    That being said, here is how I pick lights. I need a fixture to backlight the 20X10 stage. The best idea for this is probably an LED bar light. I know we need to go semi budget friendly. Chauvet, ADJ, Blizzard perhaps. Lets look at the specs on their bars.

    Which one has the highest wattage of LED for max brightness?

    What are the price points for Tri, Quad, Hex LED versions of the bar?
    The more colors the fixture has in each LED, the more color combinations the light can create. If you mix RGB to get white it never looks white. Also, the shadows of people will be three and they will be in red, green and blue. If you have RGBW then you can make a real white. If you have RGBAWUVL Then you have an even better coloir mixing pallette. WW and CW fixtures also will be the best for video and photos.

    Company reputation – with adj, chauvet and blizzard they are all known mid tier producers, all would be fine choices.

    So now pick based on affordability and feature set. I am actually working on a lighting design for a church and was in these forums so I decided to respond. If you ever need help with lighting questions, I do church lighting for a living. contact me at rstern@gcpro.com if you need anyhelp.

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