Classification and types of spotlights for Film and TV.

Spotlights are classified according to their design, power, colour temperature and type of light generation.

Daylight lamps are metal halide gas discharge lamps (HMI). HMI lamps achieve a high colour rendering index (CRI) of up to CRI 96 and have a very high luminous efficacy. They are operated with a ballast unit. After powering up, they will take some time to reach full light output and the final colour temperature (approx. 5,600K). The service life of the burners is up to 30,000 hours, the colour temperature decreasing with age. Before using the lamp, it should be calibrated with a colorimeter.

Artificial or tungsten light lamps (halogen lamps) generate their light with the help of a filament (tungsten). The typical colour temperature for film recordings is approx. 3,200K. The service life of incandescent lamps is limited (usually to over 2,000 hours). Due to their low luminous efficacy of about 5%, they emit UV radiation as well as a great deal of heat radiation, which has to be dissipated at great expense, for example in studios. One advantage is that they are dimmable (please note the change in colour temperature).

LED spotlights are spotlights in which light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are used as a light source.

Depending on their design, different lamp types can be distinguished.

Panel lights

This makes it possible to illuminate large surfaces and areas. Due to a wide beam angle, flat surfaces such as buildings and scenic backgrounds can uniformly be illuminated at short distances. They are available both as daylight and tungsten spotlights. A distinction is also made between symmetrical and asymmetrical surfaces. Asymmetrical surfaces are particularly suitable for uniform illumination of backgrounds or horizons, as they can be used suspended from the ceiling or standing on the floor.
[font="Arial", sans-serif][font="Arial", sans-serif][font="Arial", sans-serif][font="Arial", sans-serif]Panel lights (sample photo: ARRI X 60 - source:

[font="Arial", sans-serif]Fresnel spotlight
The Fresnel spotlight is one of the most commonly used spotlights in the film and studio area. You can find it in a power spectrum from a few 100W up to 24,000W. The Fresnel spotlights are available as tungsten light lamps with halogen bulbs or as daylight lamps with HMI bulbs. Meanwhile, there are also Fresnel spotlights that work with LEDs. The light passes through a lens with a stepped structure (Fresnel lens). The light field is round and soft at the edge. The diameter of the illuminated surface can be changed by turning a knob. Thus the lamp with the reflector is pushed towards the lens or pulled backwards. This is called "focusing". If the surface is to be enlarged, it is called "flooding" and if the area is to be reduced, it is called "spotting". The Fresnel spotlight is particularly suitable for directional, flat illumination, especially if you want to achieve clearly defined shadows.

Fresnel spotlight (sample photo: ARRI Compact 200, source:

PAR lamp

PAR (parabolic aluminized reflector). The parabolic reflectors, PAR for short, produce a very intense, bundled, almost parallel light cone of very high intensity. Different beam characteristics can be achieved by using different lenses on the attachment discs. PARs achieve very high illumination intensities over long distances.

Due to the strong bundling, there is an acute fire hazard when using PARs, therefore never ignite them without an attachment lens if there are obstacles in the light beam. There is also a high fire hazard with low-scattering attachment lenses. PARs are also available in both daylight and artificial light.

PAR (sample photo: ARRISUN AS18 - source:


The series of the ARRI Max-spotlights presented by ARRI is a special form of the PAR, which more and more replaces the classical PARs in the film area. Compared to the Fresnel spotlights, the PARs have a much higher illumination intensity and are therefore much more efficient. But they are less suitable for clear shadows and not very efficient in large-area illumination. The PAR is about twice as bright as the Fresnel light with the same burner - the MAX in turn is twice as bright as the PAR.

Arri Max 12KW ARRI Max with special PAR reflector (Source:

LED spotlights

LED spotlights are increasingly replacing other spotlights because they are more durable and about two to three times more efficient than incandescent lamps, and they emit less heat radiation. Depending on their data sheet, LEDs have a service life of up to 100,000 hours, which they can easily exceed if they are not wired incorrectly or used without protection. Their life is very temperature-dependent. LEDs in light sources are operated at higher temperatures, which reduces their service life to 15,000 - 45,000 hours. LEDs are increasingly used in film and television productions due to their advantages (bi-colour LEDs allow infinite change of the colour temperature, dimmability without any change of the colour temperature, high efficiency).

Felloni LED panel light

Fluorescent lamps

Fluorescent lamps are widely used in film production, especially for brightening up or extensions. The most famous lamp is the KinoFlo.

Fluorescent lamps produce a completely undirected light. This makes them suitable for virtually shadow-free illumination of objects and people. Limiting the light is difficult .

Fluorescent lamps are not only used as brighteners and for extending or area illumination on the set, but also in the studio for illuminating studio backgrounds.
Kinoflo (Source:

Dino light

Dino lights and Brutes are artificial light floodlights composed of burner groups. The individual groups - sometimes even the individual burners - can be swivelled. They are a special type of pane lights, as they are made up of coupled individual burners.

Dino lights are very popular in film production, for instance to simulate sunlight.

Dino light

Profile spotlights (ERS) and followspots

Both profile spotlights and followspots can only be found in very rare cases in film production. They are more likely to be used in stage areas.

The profile spotlight produces a hard-edged light beam resulting in very hard shadows and a high contrast range.

[font="Arial", sans-serif]The followspot is a profile spotlight that has an even narrower exit angle.They usually have a much higher performance than profile spots. In most cases profile spots are used to illuminate people over long distances and to follow their movements with the light beam.[/font]

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