1/3/2012 8:16:00 PM

RoomUplighting.jpgUplighting is a huge trend in weddings today... But what is it, really?

Fundamentally, it's scattering special light fixtures around the room, to add some color and personality.  In recent years, the popularity of uplighting for weddings has increased dramatically.

In terms of hardware, there are really three major types of fixtures used: Flood, Halogen, and LED.  Each of the three has some distinct characteristics in terms of power, color, heat, and control.

Flood Lights: These types of fixtures (and bulbs) are by far the least expensive to purchase.  Flood lights typically have a wide "spread pattern" of light, as they were originally designed as outdoor flood lights.  A typical flood light fixture will have a wattage of about 250W-300W.  In terms of brightness, this will typically be adequate for a dim / dark room; but will be disappointing in a medium / bright environment.  In a day-lit environment, they will be practically invisible.  Flood lights require significant amounts of power, and as such, you should plan your circuits accordingly.  Hypothetical power calculation: a 250W bulb draws 2.2 amps of power on a 115V (standard household) circuit.  A standard household circuit is rated for 15 amps.  That means that you can only run six fixtures per circuit (provided nothing else is using the circuit).  Some flood light fixtures can accept gels, for a specific color.  Flood lights are prone to be hot, but not quite so much as halogen lights.

HalogenUplight.jpgHalogen Uplights: Halogen uplighting fixtures are typically purpose-built to "be" uplighting units.  They're professionally manufactured for the purpose, and far better suited to wedding uplighting than flood lights.  Halogen fixtures come in a range of power ratings.  The industry standard is 500W-600W, which is quite powerful.  Halogen uplighting units are some of the most powerful available on the market.  A standard 600W units will be enough power for all reasonable situations.  Halogen uplighting units are almost always equipped to accept gels for coloring.  As they are very powerful, halogen lights do have two major drawbacks... Heat and electrical load.  A halogen fixture can easily burn an errant guest.  Hypothetical power calculation: a 600W bulb draws 5.2 amps of power on a 115V (standard household) circuit.  A standard household circuit is rated for 15 amps.  That means that you can only run three fixtures per circuit (provided nothing else is using the circuit).  More powerful fixtures, such as 1000W can only be run one-to-a-circuit.

LEDUplight.jpgLED Uplights: LED uplighting fixtures are the newcomer to the market.  Only in recent years, have they been making serious inroads in the wedding lighting business.  LED fixtures work differently than traditional units.  They use many (if not hundreds) of small LEDs to provide the lighting effect.  The LEDs have integrated colors, and are "programmed" rather than gelled.  One longtime criticism of LED uplighting units was that they were underpowered.  Only recently have LED units come on the market that can rival a 500W or 600W halogen fixture.  LEDs are convenient in that they do not require gel sheets, and can easily be adjusted in the field.  Most LED fixtures create their various colors by mixing red, green, and blue LEDs. Drawbacks for LED uplights include color mixing, and cold colors.  Color mixing is the effect that is visible before the three colors converge.  It often appears as "fringing" at short range.  The word cold, in "cold colors" refers to color temperature.  As most people are used to seeing incandescent bulbs (halogen and floor are both incandescent), LED uplights may appear blue-er than expected.  Some newer LED units intentionally include amber LEDs to counter this criticism.  LED fixtures draw very little power.  As such, electrical load is negligible.  Additionally, LED fixtures run cool to the touch; so risk of burns is entirely mitigated.

DMXCable.jpgA word on wiring...

Traditionally, an uplighting setup requires lots of extension cords.  These are needed both for positioning, and to distribute the electrical load.

Some new generation LED uplighting units are actually battery powered, and can operate completely without wires. These types of lights are still quite expensive to purchase. (Barnyard Photography uses these lights exclusively)

A word on control...

Some higher quality fixtures (halogen and LED only) feature something called DMX.  DMX is a control system popular in the lighting industry.  It allows the lights to be controlled remotely.  This will allow the operator to change colors at will, or even have the lighting react to the music.  A DMX controlled lighting setup will typically need an extensive amount of cabling to interconnect all the fixtures.  One company does manufacture a wireless DMX system, but it is not yet commonly seen at weddings.

Some questions to ask when considering an uplighting company:

  • What type of lighting units do you use?
  • What type of environment are they rated to cover?  Will they be adequate for your specific situation?
  • How hot do the lights get while in use?
  • What cords / cables will be deployed at the event?
  • What colors are the lights capable of delivering?  Are they limited to gels, or are they programmable?
  • Do they feature DMX control?
  • How much setup time is required?