If you’ve watched any of the viral videos featuring Christmas lighting then you’re sure to see sweeping beams of light through the air alongside the flashing, color-changing “regular” Christmas light pixels.
If you want to be the talk of your town, you might think that you need to get some of these lights for your display. This may or may not be true! – In this article, I want to show you the types of effects and features that beam moving heads have, and help you decide if they’re right for you and your display!
What is a Moving Head Beam Light?
Moving head beam lights come from the world of stage lighting, and have crept their way into the Christmas lighting hobby over time.
In the stage lighting world, most people attribute the popularity of the beam light to the Clay Paky Sharpy, which debuted in 2010. This was the first light to “break the mold” of traditional beam moving lights that were large, slow, and used a TON of power. It was small, low-power, and very fast-moving!
As moving beam lights moved into the Christmas lighting hobby, most people began using waterproof domes to protect Sharpy’s and similar units from the weather. Some waterproof units were also available, but were typically very slow and heavy.
What Kinds of Effects can a Moving Beam Light Accomplish?
Moving beam lights are characterized by a few key features that get used in Christmas light displays.
1) A Very Tight, Thick Beam of Light:
Moving beam lights are able to stay at a pretty low level of power thanks to a special beam. The lens on the front is wide, and the light fills it almost entirely. As the light leaves the lens, it spreads very little – typically anywhere from 1.2 to 3 degrees of spread.
This gives you the “pencil” appearance of brightness and the sharp edge on the circle of light allows it to be seen, even without the use of theatrical fog or haze.
The ability to change between a variety of different color options allows you to fit the mood of the song with your lights. Due to the size of the beam inside of the light, beam fixtures typically use color wheels which give a selection of different colors, but do not mix colors like RGB LED pixels.
3) Gobos and Prisms
Gobos are shapes that are placed into the light to shape the beam, much like a cookie-cutter. When combined with a prism, which scatters the light into a wider area, you can make some much more subtle effect or light larger objects in your area like trees or buildings.
Prisms also will generally rotate, allowing you to spin the beam of light as it moves.
Should You Use a Beam Light in Your Christmas Light Display?
Beam lights look really cool, but then can be fairly expensive. Like anything, there is a full range of moving beam lights, but for a quality light that will do these basic effects well, you are looking in the range of $1500-$3000 per light including the waterproof dome, or a light that is waterproof.
If you’re just starting your display, then this is probably not a avenue you are ready to go down! But, if you’ve hit the point in your display where you house is covered in pixels well and you’re looking for that extra “punch” to make your display unique, then beam moving lights can be a great choice.
How Do You Choose the Right Beam Moving Light For Your Christmas Light Display?
My advice – I’ve written deeper elsewhere, but the short answer is – you want to make sure you are avoiding cheap beam lights, while finding something that is convenient for you to use.
Cheap beam lights have a few big issues – poor reliability and poor light output make them not worth the cost of shipping them over from China!
Higher-quality, non-waterproof beam lights can work well, but often have expensive lamps and ballasts which need replacement periodically. They also need to be put into a waterproof dome, which is pretty expensive due to the shipping cost of such a large item. And don’t get me started on the trouble it takes to get all that on your roof!
That leaves us with waterproof beam lights. For most people in warm to moderate climates (no heavy ice or snow that will constantly bury the light), a waterproof beam light is a great answer.
And that’s why I created the Dominar Beam – what I believe to be the BEST light for Christmas lighting shows. It’s got all of the time, frustration, and money-saving features to make it the perfect light for the long haul of Christmas light shows.
Whether you go with the Dominar or another beam light, I hope this article has helped you to understand what beam lights can do, and how a beam light may or may not be the best thing for your display. Be sure to dive deeper, and consider if it’s right for you!