A spotlight (or followspot) is a powerful stage lighting instrument which projects a bright beam of light onto a performance space. Spotlights are controlled by a spotlight operator who tracks actors around the stage.
Spotlights are most commonly used in concerts, musicals and large scale presentations where highlighting a specific mobile individual is critical. Spotlights are sometimes located overhead on catwalks. In some theatres, they may also be located in the control booth or purposely built “spot booths” in addition to the catwalk.
Spotlights may be arranged in a variety of patterns for coverage. For example, they can be located to the back or rear of a theater and aimed at the stage in front of them. This location can become problematic due to the audience being distracted by fan noise or the spot operator speaking into his headset microphone.
Spotlight, device used to produce intense illumination in a well-defined area in stage, film, television, ballet, and opera production. It resembles a small searchlight but usually has shutters, an iris diaphragm, and adjustable lenses to shape the projected light. Coloured light is produced by a mechanism for sliding or rotating coloured gelatin filters, called gels even though later made of acetate, into the beam. The first theatrical spotlight was the limelight (q.v.), which gave way to such light sources as the arc, electric discharge, and incandescent lamp. The practical lensed spotlight was developed in 1879 by Louis Hartmann of the United States.
In circus and sports, spotlights may be arranged around the facility covering both sides and the ends. In a concert setting, they may be in a position Front of House (FOH), while other positions may have the spotlight upstage used as back or top light. Some concerts use truss spots on a truss downstage, but closer than catwalk spots in an amphitheater-style catwalk layout. In other places, spot locations are at the mercy of the architect who designed the space.
Characteristics of a typical spotlight include:
- A strong light source, often a high-intensity discharge lamp with a high colour temperature.
- A lens which can be manually focused.
- A manual device to change the intensity of the beam, especially when an HID source which can not be electronically dimmed, is used.
- An “iris” to adjust the size of the spot/angle of the beam.
- A color magazine or “boomerang” consisting of several gel frames which can be swung in front of the beam.
- Some sort of physical sight to assist in aiming is sometimes added onto the lamp by the operator.
Perhaps the best known brand of spotlight is the Super Trouper by Strong Entertainment Lighting, made famous by the ABBA song of the same name. Other well known spotlights include the Altspot line from Altman Lighting, and the Aramis and Ivanhoe lines by Robert Juliat.