March 2017

This month, I want to talk about moving heads. These versatile tools come in all shapes and sizes, which means that it doesn’t matter if you’re running a small mobile DJ business or huge production company, there’s one suitable for your every lighting need. However, since there are so many different moving heads on the market – in the ADJ range alone, we have over 30 models – choosing the right one for your unique situation can be a daunting task. So, in this article, I’ll explain the main types of fixture that are available and give examples of some of the applications for each one.

While modern moving heads come in a wide range of different shapes and sizes, there are some fundamental principles that run across them all. They all feature a light-source mounted on a motorized yoke that allows the light beam to be moved up and down (Tilt). This assembly is then fixed to a motorized turning base, which can be moved from side-to-side (Pan). The result is that the projected beam of light can be remotely positioned to project in (almost) any direction, making these fixtures extremely flexible.

The first moving heads to be created, back in the early 1980s, were Spot fixtures, and they are arguably still the most prevalent today. These units feature a lens that creates a sharply defined circle of light (a spot) and are also fitted with one or more GOBO wheels that can be used to place a choice of metal (or glass) shapes in front of the light beam (before it leaves the unit) so that is projects an interesting pattern of light. Additional features (depending on the model) such as color wheels, prisms, strobing, and dimming add to the versatility of these fixtures.

Compact moving head Spot units are used by many mobile entertainers for ‘spotlight moments’ such as a bride and groom’s grand entrance at a wedding or their first dance as a married couple. Larger Spot fixtures are used extensively for concerts to project GOBO patterns onto stages and backdrops to add interest at different points within a show. Impressive midair effects can also be created by projecting GOBO patterns from a moving head Spot fixture into the air in a haze-filled room. When multiples of these beams are programmed to move around in synchronized formations, the result can be truly stunning. Large nightclubs, TV shows, big concert tours, and even large churches, all regularly make use of these impressive effects.

The second most common form of moving head is the Wash fixture. In place of the Spot’s relatively-narrow, sharply-focused light output, Washes have a softer and, generally, wider beam. This means that GOBOs aren’t generally found in Wash fixtures, however color wheels – and on some models even full color mixing – and other features mean that they are still extremely versatile. Advanced models feature a motorized ‘zoom’ function which allows the beam angle of the fixture to be altered remotely, allowing very different visual effects to be created using the same light.

As the name suggests, moving head Washes are primarily used to ‘wash’ areas of a venue or stage with light. In other words, they illuminate a specific venue feature, performer, or scenic element with a subtler beam of light, that fades out at the edges instead of ending abruptly as is the case with a Spot. Wash moving heads are used extensively in theatres, churches, and for concert tours for illuminating stages, scenery, performers, and even crowds. They are also used in nightclubs and for EDM events to punctuate the sharp moving beams of other fixtures with atmospheric swathes of diffuse light.

A more recent addition to the moving head mix is the dedicated Beam fixture. This essentially involves a combination of the traits of the other two fixture types, but for a very specific purpose. Moving head Beam units have a much tighter beam-angle than Washes and, although their optics tend not to be as sharp as Spots, their output is focused enough to allow the use of GOBO patterns.

Moving head Beam fixtures are specifically designed for creating mid-air effects. Their extremely tight beam angles concentrate their light output into a very dense column that creates an impactful effect in a hazy atmosphere. Over recent years beam effects have been extremely popular for EDM events, concert tours, and musical performances on TV shows.

The latest new type of moving head to hit the market is the Hybrid. These complex fixtures combine the features of all three primary moving head classes into one single unit. This means that within an instant their output can be switched from the sharply-focused GOBO projections of a Spot, to the wide and soft output of a Wash, to the intense narrow shaft of light synonymous with a Beam fixture. Obviously, these units are more expensive, but they actually represent an opportunity for cost saving as only one fixture is required when in the past three would have been needed.

In addition to the fixture type, another important consideration when it comes to selecting a moving head is its light-source. These days there are two main options – LED and discharge lamp – each of which have their own advantages and disadvantages. LEDs require less power per lumen of light output, generate less heat, are less fragile, and last for tens of thousands of hours (eliminating the need to charge lamps). However, despite the constant improvements in LED technology, the most powerful discharge lamps are still significantly brighter. This means that for most small to medium-sized applications, LEDs are now preferable, however, for large venues and events, fixtures powered by discharge lamps are still required.

Across our Focus series and Vizi range, ADJ’s line-up of moving heads covers all the bases. We have Spot, Wash, Beam, and Hybrid fixtures – of various sizes – powered by LEDs and discharge lamps. So, whatever your moving head needs, here at ADJ – we’ve got you covered!

Check out our wide range of moving heads available for almost every lighting solution:

- Alfred Gonzales is the National Sales Manager of ADJ USA