How to Create Movement (Without Expensive Moving Lights)

There’s no doubt that moving lights are cool.

Really cool.  And a lot of fun to play with.

But the fact is, moving lights aren’t in everybody’s budget.  Adding to that, if you want to really make interesting looks out of your moving lights, you need a minimum of 4 heads.

So what’s a person to do if they don’t have moving lights at their disposal?  Just sit in boredom with their conventional and LED lights and do nothing?

Of course not!

Here are 5 things you can do to add movement to your lighting without moving lights:

1 – “Chase” Around Like Crazy

Chases are the best way to get some movement going across your lighting rig – without having moving lights!

A chase is when you turn the lights in your rig on and off in a pattern.

Depending on how your specific lighting console works, you’ll either be creating an effect, a chase, or mashing your fingers around on the bump buttons – but the outcome is the same!

Par Can - Conventional LightingWhen you create a hard chase, you move peoples eyes around the stage, creating the look of movement.

While you may start with chases by just creating a simple left-to-right chase, there are almost infinite possibilities to how you can chase your lights around.

You can chase them around in a random order.

You can chase them backwards.

You can chase them in groups – like 2, 4, or 6 lights at at time.  You can even do a chase that’s the 2 halves of your lighting chasing against each other – this can be very powerful looking!

Or maybe you’ve got 2 different types of lights.  Let’s say some of your lights are LED pars, and some are DJ effect lights.

You could then chase the par’s intensity against the DJ effect lights in a 2-step chase – how cool would that be?

When your chases are getting boring – change up which lights you chase, and how you chase them!  Remember that you don’t always have to use every light in every scene or chase.

And then, when you’ve exhausted your intensity chases, you can begin to chase with colors.  Whether you’ve got LED fixtures or old-school par cans with gels, you can create chases that only use 1 or 2 colors.

Think for a second about how that would effect the mood on stage.  Think about what if your whole rig was chasing from red to white.  Or blue to red.  Or yellow to magenta.

And then think about changing up the groups like we did with the intensity above.

And then think about creating chases that only go from 50% to 100%, or just 0% to 50% – you don’t have to use the full intensity range that the light has to create a nice movement!

And then, while you’re doing a color chase, think about doing an intensity chase at the same time.  Now we’re cooking with gas!

2 -Do a Nice, Soft Fade

Chases are cool, and we covered them well in #1.

But sometimes, a chase is just a little much.  On a slow, or even mid-tempo song, we want to save the big movements for the big songs, so using a full, hard intensity chase isn’t ideal.

Doing a nice soft chase – as many consoles call a “sine chase” – can be ideal and bring some movement to your stage while still keeping it tame.

While not every song calls for movement, some songs do call for a little something and a nice soft fade can really bring a lot to the table.

And, of course, you can experiment with color and different groupings just like in the chases in #1!

3 – “Ramp” It Up

Hazy Band LightsI would be missing a crucial type of movement if I didn’t talk about “Ramp” chases.

What’s a ramp chase?  

It’s a hybrid of the sine chase and the hard chase above.  It’s got a quick fade at the start, a quick fade at the end, and a bit of a sine fade in the middle.

It occupies the space between the sine chase and a hard chase above…and if your console offers the ability to create movement via a ramp chase, it’s a great way to pump up the intensity of your show without over-using the hard chase!

4 – Add Some Strobes

Strobes are the one-hit wonder of the lighting world…or are they?

Turning the strobes on, or adding strobe lights to your show adds a whole new dynamic…especially when you combine them with a chase!

If you’re an American, you may remember the 2016 Superbowl Halftime Show featuring Beyonce, Coldplay and Bruno Mars.

Not only was it well done, especially considering it was in full daylight, they had an awesome wall of strobes!!!!

While you and I may not have the resources to acquire over one hundred strobes as a killer backdrop, there’s a lot more to do with strobes then just turn them on-and-off like a bad haunted house!

5 – Make Something To Add Movement:

Last, but certainly not least, if you don’t have any (or much) lighting, you can create something on the cheap to add movement to your show.

This is where I love the posts over at Church Stage Design Ideas.

At this link, you can see a number of church stage designs that include various types of bulbs that are able to chase with a dimmer pack or DMX decoder controlling LED’s.

And since the designs submitted over there are from churches – you know it’s doable without spending a lot of cash!

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