Everyone is looking to reduce their energy consumption, either to reduce costs or their carbon footprint or both. And there are grants available from organisations like the Energy Saving Trust to achieve this.

Working with a local community theatre, we knew we could benefit from this scheme to replace our old incandescent and fluorescent lighting in the communal areas with LED, reducing the energy consumption and solving the problem of replacement lamps which are no longer manufactured.

So, leveraging products from Ansell and LEDvance, we set about replacing the 80+ individiual fixtures in this tiny theatre, and replacing and improving the emergency lighting throughout.

The next stage...

We didn't, however, initially consider that this scheme could be applied to our performance lighting which - as well as saving energy - could open up amazing new opportunities in creative lighting design far exceeding the expectations of a tiny 70 capacity venue.

They were already very fortunate to have some old moving lights, these were donated but they could never have afforded to relamp them - when the lamps blew, these Clay Paky fixtures once worth many thousands - and a type once used on grand shows like the Eurovision Song Contest 2013 - would essentially be scrap.

The funding scheme allowed us to consider modern LED replacements for all these fixtures, bringing modern technology within our reach.

The previous rig comprised of Strand SL Profiles, ETC Source Four Jr Profiles, Selecon Rama Fresnels, and Selecon Aurora battens along with a small number of parcans, and smaller fresnels. Additionally, we had received a donation of ex-hire Clay Paky Alpha Spot QWO800s, and Mac 250 Entours.

These were all great fixtures, but very power hungry, and relied on expensive (and increasingly hard to source) lamps.

Budget LED Lighting

It is only recently that 'budget' LED fixtures have reached a quality I would consider acceptable for the theatre.

Low cost fixtures have historically been plagued with poor colour consistency, dimming 'curves' that have more akin to falling down a staircase, sometimes changing colour as they go, and noisy fans.

At the other end, fixtures like the ETC Source Four LED are incredible, but at £2k for a single fixture, well outwith the reach of a small community theatre.

eLumen8-ing Discoveries

After evaluating a lot of fixtures from ETC, Martin, Chauvet, and others, we found a surprising perfect fit for us from Prolight Concepts' eLumen8 brand, supplied by The Stage Group, a big supporter of local amateur theatre across Scotland.

We'd previously hired a number of eLumen8 MP75 fixtures from TSG for shows, and their newer profile - the Virtuoso 600 - compared favourably even with the ETC ColourSource Spot Jr (which surprised me) in output and both colour rendition and dimming performance.

Closely matching the profiles' colour, and providing comparable performance to the Selecon Ramas, we complemented these units with the Virtuoso 2000 Fresnels. These have an electric zoom, rather than manual, which I actually dislike - but otherwise are good fixtures and work well in the space.

These provide a good quality, high CRI, light that works well on skin tones and performers look natural as they would under incandescent lamps (not 'lifeless' as some of the budget LED products I've used in the past have!)

The old cyc flood battens are replaced with another eLumen8 product, the Virtuoso CYC 700 which I wish we could have afforded more of, as they would also be a perfect groundrow of footlights!

Colour From all Angles

These LED sources can all change colour, of course, but even at the relatively affordable price point compared to the competition they are prohibitively expensive to provide the all-important colour washes from top light and side positions.

For these we have turned to two unexpected fixtures that surprised us in testing;

The ADJ LP200ST, an incredibly punchy fixture with good colour rendering and a decent dimming curve (in some modes only, frustratingly in 'normal' mode they dim terribly!) - the non-rotatable barn doors let them down, but we were able to retrofit our Rama barn doors to offer more control of the output. ADJ or American DJ - as the name suggests - was very much a 'DJ' brand for many years, but recently have produced a number of products that are quite at home in a theatre on a budget, they even have a moving profile with framing shutters!

Secondly, from overhead, we settled on the Cameo ROOT PAR6. This is a true 'budget' product - made of plastic it wouldn't live through the rigours of touring - but an example of how far they've come. They dim surprisingly well, and provide a good wash of colour with an additional UV emitter which really makes the colours pop in the annual pantomime set. Looking at output alone, they hold their own next to more expensive fixtures.

Moving on Up

We were always incredibly fortunate to have moving lights in such a small space, although we could never get the best out of them due to their noisy and increasingly unreliable operation, but this opened the door to securing funding for replacements.

After evaluating a number of fixtures from Martin (The ERA WRM, great fixture but way too noisy!), ADJ (Focus Profile), and Robe the sweet spot for us was the Elation Fuze range, and The Stage Group were able to secure a great deal (thanks in part to B-Stock with just a few hours on them!) on three Elation Fuze Spots, and two Elation Fuze Profiles.

At the time of evaluating them, The Elation Fuze are the only fixtures of their class (size, price, and performance) that use additive colour mixing (Red, Green, Blue, Amber, and Mint) delivering over 10,000lm and a CRI of >92 as opposed to relying on a cool white LED with mechanical CMY filters - this made them ideal for a front light application and delivers beautiful pastel shades as well as strong, bright, vivid colour.

The Elation Fuze series are perfect for the space; the two profile units with their versatile framing shutters cater for almost every 'special' a visiting company requires without getting the ladders out to hang other fixtures, and opening up the full lighting setup to younger volunteers and those with mobility impairments that cannot use access equipment.

The three spots were selected because the gobos and colours match the profile units perfectly, and are installed on the last upstage bar providing gobo washes of the whole stage, as well as punchy backlights and great beam effects through haze.


Control of the new lighting rig is provided by an ETC Element running the latest version of the Eos software, most of the new fixtures are accurately modelled in Augment3d allowing offline design and plotting with the ETCnomad software.

DMX distribution on stage is now via a Showtec NET-8/5 sACN node, offering flexibility to add additional fixtures and to allow visiting companies to bring their own fixtures on their own universe without any addressing conflicts.

A Bright Future

The Little Theatre relies solely on dedicated volunteers, there are no paid staff and it receives no external funding. Since my involvement I have aimed to provide not only a place of entertainment, but a valuable learning experience and attract the next generation of technicians.

This new and diverse range of equipment brings the lighting capabilities into the 21st century echoing, in miniature, the technologies that can be found in larger theatres or even on the West End stage, with an industry-standard control system.

LED lighting not only reduces the carbon footprint of the theatre, reduces the operating costs, but also reduces risk and makes lighting more accessible to our younger volunteers negating the need for regular ladder use, or focussing lights with hot surface temperatures and provides a multitude of looks at the touch of a button.

I could only dream of access to technology like this when I started out and now, thanks to incentives like the Energy Saving Trust, it's accessible to almost anyone.

I can't thank the teams at The Energy Saving Trust, The Stage Group, and YESSS Electrical enough for their support in this project.

Full Disclosure: I am a former director (ret. 2018) of The Stage Group, but the procurement process of The Little Theatre is such that quotations were obtained from multiple suppliers. Whilst The Stage Group provided the stage lighting fixtures, other products to support this project were also sourced from Black Light, Thomann, YESSS Electrical, and Stage Superstore.