Over the past 24 months, there has been an explosion in the popularity of uplighting at weddings & upscale events. It wasn’t that long ago when it required a considerable amount of money, lots of electricity, a specialty lighting company & many hours of preparation to light an event facility. It seemed that at least for weddings this was something only for the super wealthy. This has all changed with the recent improvements made in LED lighting technology.
If you’re considering uplighting for your event, there are three basic technologies to consider; traditional incandescent uplights, wired LED uplights and wireless LED uplights.
Traditional incandescent uplights have been around for many years. These fixtures typically use a high wattage white halogen bulb as their light source. A colored filter, known as a gel, is placed in front of the light to change its color.
There are several factors that make the traditional incandescent fixtures impractical for lighting an event space.
First, these lights use lots of electricity. A typical fixture uses a 300w bulb and some use bulbs 500w or more. It doesn’t take many to blow a fuse or circuit breaker. It’s not such a big deal if your coordinator can get to the fuse box quickly but I’ve heard stories where it’s taken twenty minutes or more. What if your dj or band were on the same circuit?
Because these fixtures need to be plugged in, with these lights come lots of extension cords, unsightly tape and possibly tripping hazards. The cords also limit placement. Because of that optimal lighting designs can be difficult to achieve.
With the electricity and high wattage bulb comes heat. These fixtures get very, very hot – hot enough to be a fire hazard, or to burn little fingers. Because lighting fixtures are a magnet to kids special safety measures should always be taken.
These lighting fixtures do have some benefits, and it wouldn’t be fair to omit them. First they are cheap to purchase. A quick search on the internet turns up units to purchase in the $20 range. Second, they are quick to set up. Place them on the floor, attach a gel & plug them in, that’s it. Both add up to a quick and inexpensive ticket price for lighting services.
So to sum up the traditional incandescent lighting fixture:
- They use lots of electricity & extension cords
- They are limited to one color
- They can be a fire & burning hazard
- They don’t always allow for ideal placement
- With proper planning (and some risk), nice lighting can be achieved on a limited budget
The wired LED fixture fixes some of the issues found in the traditional incandescent fixture.
First they use very little electricity, so blown fuses or breakers are unlikely. They also do not generate enough heat to pose the threat of catching fire or causing injury.
Wired LED fixtures can also change color. When properly connected, they can theoretically change to any of almost 2 million colors (1,658,1375 to be exact). The big but is the “when properly connected” part. To change colors each fixture requires a control cable that runs back to a controller responsible for color changes. So to be properly wired, each fixture requires two cables (one power, the other control). That’s a lot of cabling. Think about it 20 fixtures means 40 cables (hundreds of feet) snaked and taped around the room.
All this extra cabling takes time (possibly many hours), and limits the location of the lighting fixtures. Because of this most companies, especially those offering discounted rates, eliminate the data cable and the benefit of changing colors. Without the cable only a limited number of colors (generally 8 or less) can then be selected by miniature switches on the fixture. It also means that the lighting design generally won’t change during the event.
- They use lots of cords
- Placement is limited due to wiring constraints
- Limited color choice & no color changes - unless properly connected
- Proper connection takes a very long time & will increase the cost of service and time to setup
- They don’t use much electricity or generate heat
- When properly connected can allow for color change to any of almost 2 million colors
- With proper planning, nice (but unchanging) lighting can be achieved on a limited budget
Wireless LED fixtures are the latest technological advance in uplighting. These fixtures address and overcome the limitations of both incandescent lighting fixtures and offer benefits not found in either.
First like the wired LED fixture, the wireless LED fixture does not generate heat. It has a built in, self-contained battery power source, and does not require a power cable. Instead of a control cable, each fixture has its own mini antennae and is controlled by wireless hand held remote. Any of millions of colors can be achieved quickly and easily with the press of a button. So as the name implies these fixtures are totally wireless.
The wireless LED fixture can basically be placed anywhere without regard for cabling. Optimal placement and beautiful lighting design can be achieved quickly and easily almost without limitation.
As you might expect, these fixtures are more expensive to purchase than either of the alternatives. Average cost per unit is roughly $1000 vs. $20 for the traditional incandescent fixtures and $100 for the wired LED fixtures. However they may not be as expensive to rent as you might think. Because they are so quick and easy to set up, labor is significantly less than with the other two products.
A quick survey in the Boston market find both incandescent and wired LED fixtures priced from $30-$40 per fixture. Wireless LED fixtures can be rented from $60-$100 per fixture.
I worked a wedding over the weekend at the Union Club of Boston. It’s a beautiful, older facility with lots of nooks & plenty of detailed trim & wood molding – perfect for event uplighting. Thankfully, the wedding was beautifully filmed by Jeff Brouillet and his team Jeff Brouillet Video Productions. Jeff has given me permission to embed his “same day edit” video here so you can see wireless LED in action. Thanks Jeff!!