LED Lighting Effects
The last ten years has seen LED technology advance at a massive rate, which has not only made them far more capable than ever before but also has dramatically lowered their cost, allowing them to take the place of traditional bulbs and lamps in effects units of all budgets.
There are huge advantages of this change, with probably the most significant to end users being the extremely long life they give, so no more bulbs burning out, which can be a nuisance on many effects as the lamps aren't alway easily available. The average LED lamp will last anything up to 15,000 hours of use, which for most effects unit applications equates to several years of solid regular use.
Another big benefit of LED for effects units is the lack of heat produced. Anyone that's in a band with par cans behind them, or a Dj trying to pack down after a gig will know that most lamp based units are not even touchable for a good 20 minutes plus after being switched off as the often metal casing will just burn you and melt the lining of any road cases.
LEDs do not radiate heat like a bulb as they are working on low voltage and produce their output in a totally different way, so this unique property has allowed unit size to become smaller, and many effects have moulded abs plastic casings in place of metal, reducing both weight and production cost.
In use this obviously has great benefits, as pack away is possible immediately and the overall heat from a full lighting rig is reduced to near zero.
LEDs are basically an electrical switch, so they are either on or off, with no need for warming up or any of the other bulb like behaviours. This switch like characteristic makes them perfect for the fast response and colour changing required to make an effects unit really impressive in its abilities to produce both solid colours and patterns, and especially the chasing or scrolling effect of a display panel or screen.
Power output has now equalled and in many cases exceeded the bulb based equivalent, leading to many manufacturers actually making the changeover completely across their ranges. This has been made possible with the introduction of COB (chip on board) LED technology, which clusters together a group of at least 9 surface mount LED diodes to function as one large unit which gives immense output.
A 10w Cob Lamp can have a lumens rating equivalent to a 100w halogen bulb, which gives you a fair idea how bright it will be. Its also worth noting that the raw light output of an led is far less diffused than a normal bulb, so will appear much stronger at both close up and distance. In basic terms, the LED beams of light spread out into the room far less, so remain much stronger to the eye and focussed, which again makes them perfect for effects lighting.
With the technology improving constantly, the possibilities of both functionality and features that using LED power gives will only get better over time, and its effect on the overall cost of pro lighting systems meaning they are already now available to a much wider range of buyers than ever before.