The Complete Guide to Spot Fixtures

We started off our guide to basic lighting fixtures with the wash fixtures.

Today we will overview spot fixtures or fixtures with a hard-edged beam.

These fixtures are best for creating a “special” or using light to mask off a small, precise area, and also are the fixtures to use if you want to project a pattern, or “gobo”.  Let’s dive into the different types of spots:


The ellipsoidal reflector spotlight, or ellipsoidal is a hard-edged fixture used for spotlighting just about anything.  It is a versatile fixture, capable or hard and soft beams, colors via gel, gobo pattern projections, and shutter cuts to shape the beam.

The ellipsoidal is also known as a leko, spot or Source Four- the latter being the name of the most popular product in the ellipsoidal market- The Source Four by ETC.

Ellipsoidals are used to manage light in areas where you don’t want spill onto surrounding set pieces, lighting positions, walls or the house.

Gobos can be used for textured effects on walls and scenery, and for aerial effects in haze. (Though Beam Fixtures, discussed here, look the best in haze!)

Ellipsoidals are popular for front-lighting bands, speakers and actors because of the control of the beam- you can restrict the light to go exactly where you want it to go!

Follow Spot

The Followspot is a yoke-mounted fixture that is operated by a technician or volunteer in order to “pick up” actors.

It is often used from a front-of-house or truss position, and the operator usually wears a communications headset to receive instructions.  It consists of a large barrel with a lamp inside that shoots through colors, an iris and possibly shutters.  Spotlights have handles for easy control of the position.

Followspots are able to adjust to a different sized beam to target an actor or special set piece.  Followspots are typically turned on and off by the operator, though some newer models allow the lighting console to operate the spot’s dimmer.

This is good in a well-rehearsed situation, but may not be best on-the-fly.  However, a seasoned spot operator can make life easy for the lighting person running the console no matter what the show is!

Moving Light Spots

Last, but not least, moving light spots shoot a hard-edged beam of light and often also have the ability to change colors, gobos and other parameters of the light.

These can often take the place of multiple non-moving spot fixtures, and they also can move!

Spot fixtures in haze

How to Use Spot Fixtures In Your Lighting

In short, hard-edged lighting fixtures are useful for many things- and are much more versatile and flexible than their wash counterparts.

This makes them great for spotlighting people and objects and masking off areas of the stage that you wish to keep dark.

However, their sharp beam and hard edges make them less than ideal for applications where you need a smooth, perfectly even beam of light.  And that’s why we have wash fixtures!

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