The History of Stage Lighting Source

Stage lighting, together with music, scenery, costumes, props, make-up, and so on, builds a perfect comprehensive stage art cooperation so that the audience can enjoy it.

In the beginning, it was only used for lighting up the stage, adjusting the brightness and irradiation distance of light, but now it has developed into brightness change, dynamic pattern, colorful pattern, and 3D equivalent effect. The function and control technology of Stage lightings are constantly innovating and improving, and the traditional analog control has been replaced by digital, intelligent, and networked control. To achieve safety, high efficiency, energy-saving, cost reduction, and colorful effects,

As a result, the stage lamps were continuously innovated and optimized, and new light sources, lamp structure, and light path design were adopted.

The earliest recorded stage lamps originated in Europe in the 15th century, at that time, candles were used to perform in western theaters, but the candle lighting was lampblack and not bright enough to meet the needs of requirements for luxurious stage performances.

In 1783, Ami Argand, a Swiss chemist, invented the Argand lamp, which was 10 times brighter than the traditional candle. At that time, only the nobles and could afford it, and then it gradually became popular.

Stage candles and Oil lamps gradually withdrew from the history of stage lighting after the invention of electric lamps in the 18th century.

In recent years, the concept of energy-saving and environmental protection has been deepened and LED light sources with low energy consumption and low heat have gradually revealed their advantages. With the improvement of power, photoelectric conversion efficiency, and chromatically, LED stage lights have developed rapidly.

The development of stage lighting has always been closely related to the light source. The invention of a new light source has made a great contribution to human lighting and greatly promoted the development of stage lighting.

 

Flame Light Source

 

The Candle Time

The era of the flame light source is represented by candles, oil lamps, and gas lamps. Before the late 18th century, candles were the most common light source for stage lighting, bringing breakthroughs in stage lighting design, forming a lighting design system dominated by stage footlights and sidelights, providing a practical basis for the modern stage lighting design. But candles have low illuminance, high cost, and environmental pollution.

Later, the Argand lamp with greatly improved light efficiency appeared, and the oil lamp began to be used on the stage. The subsequent invention of the gas flame lamp is the highest level of human use of fire as a lighting source. This gas lamp can fully burn to increase the luminous flux.

In the late 15th century, candles were used in Western theater performances. From 1580 to 1618, in the Olympic Theater in Italy, people start to hang the candles onto the objects within the scenery, such as streets, towers, and roofs, to enhance their stage performance.

Due to the needs of the performance, later came up with various additional devices to increase the functions of the candle lamps, such as adjustment for brightness, color, and direction of the light.

The reflector lamp appeared in 1640, placing candles in front of the tin reflector so that the candlelight would not directly hit the audience when illuminating the actors.

The spotlight prototype appeared in 1640 too. The candles were placed in the middle of three enclosed mirrors, and the light effect was gathered by the reflection principle of the mirrors, which greatly improved the efficiency of candlelight.

However, The candles are large smoke, strong smell, low light efficiency, and short lighting distance, which is urging people to look for new stage light sources.

 

The Oil Lamp Time

Oil lamps began to show up in the early 18th century. But the earliest oil lamps were mainly open type, which produced dense fog and odor when burned, and will be big affection to the actors.

Until 1783, the Argand lamp is developed, it is equipped with a glass lampshade outside the oil lamp, and is equipped with a hollow core wick. Argand Lamp efficiency is 10 times higher than that of the traditional open oil lamp. At the same time, the smoke and smell are greatly reduced. From that time, the candlelight gradually replaced from the stage by Argand lamp.

 

Traditional electric light source

The era of traditional electric light sources is the era of stage lights represented by incandescent lamps, tungsten halogen lamps, and gas discharge lamps.

In 1879, Edison invented the carbon filament incandescent lamp and created a new era of human electric light source lighting. However, the incandescent lamp is with high temperature and short life, which is hard to meet the stage requirements.

In 1901, the American GE company William D·Coolidge developed the tungsten filament incandescent lamp, which greatly improved the light efficiency and lifespan. Anyway, the tungsten filament bulb is high power consumption and is expensive.

In 1956, the American GE company invented the tungsten halogen lamp, which greatly reduced the volume of the bulb. The fluorescent lamp symbolizes the emergence of energy-saving light sources. Initially, the fluorescent lamp used halogen powder material and the performance was average.

In 1974, Philips developed the rare-earth RGB color phosphor, which has relatively high luminous efficiency, color rendering index, and color temperature. This kind of fluorescent lamp has a significant energy-saving effect, but this rare-earth phosphor was expensive.

 

LED light source

In 1962, the LED light source came out, but the LED light efficiency at that time was not high and could only be used for Indicator lights, can’t even be used for traffic lights. Until the end of the 20th century, that LED light sources began to be used for lighting and led to a significant improvement in human lighting history.

With time, semiconductor lighting has shown unique advantages. LEDs have high luminous efficiency and good dimming performance. The initial monomer power is small and the luminous flux is not large, so it cannot be used for stage lights. The power of a single lamp commonly used on the stage ranges from several hundred watts to several kilowatts, and the luminous flux reaches several thousand lumens to tens of thousands of lumens.

To meet the luminous flux requirements of stage lighting, light source experts continue to develop multiple LED modules. LED modules range from a single primary color, four primary colors, to seven primary colors. All visible light spectrums have corresponding LEDs. The new modular structure greatly enhances the lumen of the LED light source, and also increases the power consumption, which is more in line with the needs of stage lights.

In 1987, Chinese-American professor Deng Qingyun invented OLED. OLED has self-luminous characteristics. It uses very thin organic material coatings and substrates. The OLED display has a large viewing angle and saves more energy. However, it is a surface light source, and it is difficult to be a new light source for stage lighting shortly.

The power consumption of the LED lamp with the same brightness is only 1/10 of the ordinary incandescent lamp, but the lifespan can be extended by more than 10 times. It has the advantages of rich colors, energy-saving, lightweight, low temperature, long life, and high safety. Although the price of LED stage lighting is relatively high, But it is worth it. Because this LED Stage lighting is can play a much better wash effect, make stage performers more attractive, it is super suitable for stage lighting.

Of course, LEDs Stage Lighting also has a weakness, that is a single lamp bead power is small. To meet the requirements of large luminous flux required by stage lamps, LED stage lamps mostly use higher power LEDs or LED integrated modules. Besides, the integrity of the LED spectrum is constantly increasing. All visible light spectrums have corresponding LED light emission, which can directly control the stage color, without the need for color filters in traditional lights.

 

Optical characteristics

The flame light sources used in the early days such as candles, oil lamps, and gas lamps were all full-color light, and the light efficiency was very low. The optical characteristics of different electric light sources are now analyzed. Incandescent lamps have the lowest efficiency and the shortest lifespan, but the color rendering index is higher than most other light sources; high-pressure sodium lamps have the lowest color rendering index, which is less than 1/4 of incandescent lamps, but the light efficiency is the next highest; Among these energy-saving bulbs, only metal halide lamps and LED lamps are more suitable as stage lights.

Although the color rendering index of LED lights is not the best, it has low consumption, low heating temperature, wide LED color temperature range, and can emit any color light from infrared light to ultraviolet light, with the best overall performance. It is worth noting that under high-power long-term use, the actual life of stage lights is usually less than the factory-marked value.

 

So far, stage lighting has a history of more than 5 centuries. The development of stage lighting technology has always been to meet people’s higher spiritual and cultural needs.

Modern scientific and technological progress has led to the rapid development of stage lighting technology. Since the 20th century, new materials have continuously appeared, and human lighting methods have undergone important changes in the past 100 years. The lighting source has evolved from the first generation of incandescent lamps and halogen tungsten lamps, the second generation of fluorescent lamps, and the third generation of gas discharge lamps to the fourth generation of the semiconductor LED light sources. The lighting efficiency has increased by 100 times.

Currently, a wide variety of stage lighting is producing, which greatly enriched the dazzling patterns, lights, and dynamic functions of stage lighting. The development of science and technology is endless. With the new generation of higher luminous efficiency, energy saving, high color rendering light sources, and the development of new control technologies, stage lighting is bound to continue to usher in new technological revolutions.

Scroll to Top