Blinder Lights and Strobes: What They Are, and How to Use Them in a Production5 min read

strobe and blinder light used for stage concert lighting
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Your lighting design is a big part of your stage production. With the right lights, you can create drama, steer the audience’s gaze, inject excitement, and much more. Blinder lights and strobes are ideal for these purposes, creating unique effects that capture the attention of all attendees.

If you are wondering what a blinder light or strobe is, as well as how you can make them part of your production, here’s what you need to know.

What Are Blinder Lights?

A blinder light is a fixture that is positioned toward the audience. Originally a video light, blinder lights have since made their way into concerts and other productions, often to great effect.

Usually, a set of blinder lights is combined to create an array. It provides high-intensity light, generally in a single direction.

The fixtures are called blinder lights – as well as audience blinders – because they have the ability to functionally blind the audience to what’s happening on stage. However, they can also simply illuminate the area where the audience is, ensuring the surrounding space is bright when needed, such as during the seating period. Additionally, it’s possible to use a blinder light fixture to set a mood.

Like many lighting fixtures, there are several blinder light options available. Along with traditional lamps, you can easily find LED versions. There are also single- and multi-color versions, as well as units that can support a range of lighting effects.

What Are Strobe Lights?

A strobe light (stroboscopic lamp) is a lighting device that can create a flashing effect. Usually, each burst of light is incredibly bright and very short. When chained together, the bursts function and pulses, cycling between incredibly bright flashes and darkness.

Many strobe lights can be adjusted to alter the frequency of the pulses. You can make them incredibly rapid, with several light bursts a second, or slow them down, waiting over a second between each flash. However, the flash itself tends to be brief regardless of the timing, not unlike a single flash from a traditional camera bulb.

When it comes to the types of strobes, there are a wide variety of fixtures available. On the low-cost end, you can find party-style lights. Usually, those are smaller devices with a limited number of settings.

As for professional-qualify strobe lights, there are numerous options available. You can find larger fixtures, devices with customizable settings for enhanced precision, multi-color variants, LED versions, and much more.

How to Use Strobe and Blinder Lights in Your Production

blinder lights being used during a concert

Generally, strobe and blinder lights are used for special effect lighting. While many productions don’t technically need them, that doesn’t mean they aren’t a great addition to your lighting design.

With a blinder light, as mentioned above, you have the ability to illuminate the audience area. At times, you can do this for safety, such as during the seating period. However, you can also use this type of lighting to set the tone for the show or even alter the mood throughout the production.

One of the most beneficial uses of a blinder light for some productions is that you can use it to prevent the stage from being viewable for a moment. If you want to conduct a quick scene change discretely, a blinder light can let you do that without the audience being privy to the shift in design until the light is off. It’s a solid alternative to drawing curtains, as it may allow you to move more quickly.

With strobes, you can inject energy into a scene or even a sense of fear or anxiety. Strobes limit what’s viewable on the stage during the intervals when the fixture is off. It can create a jerky or slow-motion effect, show only fractions of an actor’s movement during an action scene, or create tension during horror productions.

With both strobes and blinder lights, it is best to limit their use. When overdone, the effect can be annoying or bothersome. It also reduces the impact of the effect since its use isn’t being limited. Essentially, it’ll feel less “special” because it’s being featured too often.

However, when used strategically, a strobe or blinder light is incredibly impactful. It can alter the entire feel of a scene or allow you to achieve effects that are otherwise out of reach.

It is important to note that, in the case of strobes, they can create health concerns for certain audience members. If you plan on using them in your show, you’ll need to inform prospective attendees in advance. That way, should a potential audience member have an applicable health concern, they can avoid the show.

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