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Gel colors I like

Gels and dichroics might seem antiquated to the new kids on the concert lighting scene, what with the abundance of LED sources floating around the stages these days. The fact remains, however, that as wonderful as LED lights are for their electrical efficiency, it remains very difficult to get certain colors from them because of the narrow-bandwidth nature of their output spectrum. This makes them prone to the phenomenon of metameric failure – where two materials that look the same under one light source (tungsten, say) look very different under a different set of lighting conditions. (Say, the sickly white emitted by an RGB-mixed white.) For the sort of design that I’m normally involved in, this isn’t an issue – I like a raucous, saturated bold color palette, and LEDs are very good at doing this.

However, there are times when a more subdued set of colors is desirable: when lighting the faces of performers, or just toning down the song a bit. LED fixtures have gotten better at pastels and paler colors – especially with the addition of white LED emitters in the source, but certain shades remain tricky. Today I’ll look at a few gel filters and discuss what I use them for, and why I like them.

Rosco 351

This is my go-to front light color when using tungsten front light sources, typically ERSs. (Lekos for those playing the home game.) Tungsten can sometimes have a sort of muddy brown quality to it, and for this reason many designers like to throw a CTB filter in front of it. This is okay for some applications, a designer for a theater in Canada turned me on to Rosco 351, Lavender Mist as an alternative. It pulls out some of the ugly browns and cools things a bit, while preventing the light from being too cold. It also works better with green light than bare tungsten, reducing some of the red output and keeping things from becoming a reddish-green mess on stage. It’s a regular in my toolbox now.

Rosco 73

Peacock Blue. A delightfully watery light blue, this makes a wonderful backlight, and it works particularly well combined with a bare tungsten source. I’ve also used it for water effects on ceilings for a dance I designed once, projecting the color into water pans with mirrors underneath and fans blowing across the top for ripples. It’s great for an icy cool feeling or rainy moods, and I’ve been known to use it as a front light for crunchy rock and roll songs with a punchy primary red in my concerts.

Rosco 08

This is a warm straw color that I used extensively for a coffeeshop-themed set I designed for a house of worship several years ago, along with Rosco 99: Chocolate. (Oh yes. Look up that color.) It adds some nice yellow overtones to the light reminiscent of sunshine, especially as its dimmed, which made it perfect for my uses. I haven’t used it since designing that particular set as the opportunity hasn’t presented itself, but it worked so well in that particular instance that I mention it here.

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