As I sit here pondering the future of theatre and what new technologies will we see. I suddenly realise that we are seing at least one right now. LED lighting is appearing in the catalogues and in lighting company lists. But is this what it is cracked up to be. Will LED’s replace the humble lamp in many of today’s fittings. I think it will be a while before that happens. Admittedly they have come a long way in the last few years, but they also have a long way to go. To understand this let us first look at what makes up a LED light. A LED is a semiconductor not a lamp with a colour cap. So they are easy to make. The light that comes from them is a pure, single colour. LEDs are powered by direct current and the amount of current determines the brightness. So the more current the more light. You can use the additive colour mixing systems to obtain a large range of colours, you do this using red, blue and green LEDS. You can get white LEDS, these are are actually blue LEDS with a special coating of phosphorescent material that shifts some of the light into the green and red parts of the spectrum. This them combines with the blue from the LED to create white light. LEDS will last a lot longer than the traditional lamp.
now this makes the LED sound like a great replacement to the incandescent bulb. But let us look at a few problems with that idea. The incandescent lamp has a single filament source. Now if a single LED was extremely bright you would get away with only using one in a fitting. But due to the low output of a single LED in comparison with the lowest wattage theatrical fitting you need more than one LED. So you need to use multiple LEDS in a fitting. Now when you are using multiple light sources you will get multiple shadows. This may not be a problem in a PAR type fitting, but is not suitable for profiles. Profiles need a point source for them to work correctly. So it will be a while before we see a profile fitted with LEDS. Another problem that might arise is heat, if a group of LEDS are enclosed in a profile fitting, there would need to be fans to cool the LEDS down. LEDS do generate heat and they need to be cooled.
now this not mean that they will never develop a LED profile, I am sure they are working on the technology at this moment. But LEDS are still not bright enough to be used for stage lighting in the way that we use current equipment. But there are uses that they can be put to. Scenic lighting springs to mind, truss highlighting is another. And even as I write this article there are improvements happening in the field of LED lighting. They have many advantages, such as low power consumption, they are lightweight and portable. Also a lot of LED lighting units are DMX controllable, this means you just need a power supply and a DMX signal and away you go. So be willing to give them a go, you might find that they will do the job. This is an exciting time in lighting.
So the future looks bright for LED Lights.