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Stage Lighting Effects Dimmers

Whether you're bringing the lights up at the beginning of the show or down at the end, you're using a dimmer. Dimmers have been an important part of stage lighting effects since the very beginning. The biggest advantage of dimmers is that they enable smooth lighting transitions; you can bring one light or set of lights down while you bring the others up so that the audience doesn't lose the mood from a sudden flash from one setup to another. No effects controller setup is complete without one.

How Dimmers Work

Fundamentally, a dimmer is nothing more or less than a rheostat. It lets you adjust the voltage to your lights so that they dim or brighten accordingly. More voltage means a brighter light; less voltage means a dimmer one. You can use a dimmer with incandescent lights as well as some fluorescent lights. They are not necessary for LED setups.


One thing that dimmers do need is a lot of power handling capacity; you can't just plug them into a single power point and let the mains handle them like an ordinary light switch. Most power points are rate for 10 Amps, which translates to 2400 Watts, or enough for two 1200 Watt stage lights. If you're running six channels with 1200 Watts per channel that's three power points, and they can't all be on the same circuit because very few circuits can handle 30 Amps. In many cases, you need a licensed electrician to ensure your venue has enough power for the job.

Features to Look For

Features to look for on a dimmer start with the number of channels. The more channels, the more single unit stage lighting fixtures you can control. A portable dimmer pack can handle up to 24 channels, though most have six or twelve. Larger installations need dimmer racks to handle ever larger amounts of power.

Choosing Dimmers

The first factor to consider is whether you want a portable or permanent solution. Once you determine that, you can see about other considerations such as power draw and the number of channels. It's important to remember that most dimmers do not have enough total power capability to run all channels at full power simultaneously.

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