As far back as 1997, musicians, like U2, have used LED lighting during their shows. Not only did they lower the tour’s power costs but had a powerful environmental awareness message. According to an article written by David Kushner, the lighting designer for Nine Inch Nails explains “LEDs evolved into household lighting fixtures and are very power-efficient. The bulbs run as a cool medium. The only thing that gets hot is the processor. It changed the face of the entertainment industry drastically”.
In the last ten years environmentally friendly products have become increasingly popular, with more celebrities and bands embracing the responsibility. Bands like Radiohead have used LED lights to cut carbon footprints and costs, without compensating on a beautiful bright light, and it seems their popularity is taking over the use of the outdated fog machines and hot spot lights.
During their goal of a “carbon neutral” tour during the promotion of their In Rainbows album, Thom Yorke and his fellow band members were insistent that they reduce their carbon footprint while on the road, and teamed up with a company called Best Foot Forward to track and decrease their emissions.
By only using LED lights on stage instead of the energy-hungry dimmable incandescent PAR-64 theatre lighting, which consumes about 31,997 watts of electricity during the 2 hour concert, Radiohead reduced the total power consumption for lights to a mere 6399 watts (that’s one fifth of the energy cost).
All this talk about energy saving might leave you wondering about the performance. Besides the music, the lights put on a spectacular show. Not only do they provide a stunning lighting effect, they can also enhance mood – which is very important when promoting music or to include the crowd during a performance.
Interestingly, LED’s (Light Emitting Diodes) actually emit a blue light – in the visible light spectrum this is interpreted as creating a cooling atmosphere. If the performers wish to ‘warm things up’ they use LED lights with a yellowish tint (hence the nickname ‘yolk lights’) that create a warmer glow at the other end of the spectrum). This created a fuller, more memorable experience for both the audience and the performers.
Andi Watson, a long-time collaborator with Radiohead, commented on his ground breaking design for In Rainbows from 2008. Watson used a 100% LED lighting and video system. This time, it had to be environmentally friendly. “Having started on that journey, I wanted to keep that ideology alive so looked at ways we could improve upon last time,” he says. “I reached the conclusion that we couldn’t gain much by getting in fixtures that were only slightly more efficient as their environmental cost in terms of fabrication outweighing the marginal gains.” He explained that he initially wanted to rely on only video sources without any lights. However, his goal was “to create a unique, beautiful environment for the band to perform within that synaesthetically represents the music as much as is possible”, and so it became necessary to use lights with the minimal power usage.
Another function the LED lights provided was the dimming ability and the wide range of colour and hue options available. “I think the biggest challenge is the number of songs and their seeming random appearance in the set,” said Watson. “With 100 unique songs, there are 100 unique visual responses. That is a truly staggering amount of programming, and there is never enough time to do that in rehearsals, so sometimes it feels like a continuous game of catch up. Having said that, I feel happy that we have achieved what we have… Most fixtures in the performance execute double duties. “Nearly all of the lighting is used both as structural elements and also as key lighting”.
The fact that the LEDs did not let such an environmentally friendly world famous band down, they should serve you with as much reliability and beauty.