Theatre and Stage Equipment Glossary

Whether you have just begun your stage and theatre career, or you are a seasoned professional, our glossary will provide definitions of old and emerging stage equipment terms to make sure you stay ahead of the curve.

15 amp cable

A 15 amp cable is a high current cable suitable for high current applications and often used in stage lighting. This is used as an alternative to the standard 13 amp mains plug because it can draw more power. The sockets used with 15 amp cables are also a different design to ensure high current devices do not overload the 13amp circuitry.

Barndoors

Barndoors are flaps which restrict the amount of light emitted. They are not as precise as shutters but are usually used to prevent spilt light.

Control cable (named DMX512 cable)

A control cable is a conduit between the lighting desk and the various dimmers which control the lights. This is performed using a serial digital link as opposed to more expensive parallel systems employed in the past.

Colour Frame

A colour frame is a piece of coloured folded metal, designed to hold coloured gel. The frames are designed to sit outside of the fixtures.

Colour Scroller

A colour scroller is a lighting accessory which is used to change colour gels on stage lighting instruments. There is a scroll of colours inside the colour changer which means that a single fixture can rapidly change between colours when required.

Church Sound Systems

Church sound systems often pose challenges because of the nature of the acoustics in this kind of venue. The style of the speakers and sound system also need to integrate seamlessly with the style of the church. Sound systems might include fill in speakers, a PA system (especially for larger venues) and automatic mixers.

Communications Systems (COMMS)

A communication system allows several people to take part in one conversation. Everyone involved in the conversation can talk to one another and hear everyone else’s voice. This is similar to a telephone system and compromises a power supply, two (or more) outstations and belt packs. More complex systems can involve different channels.

Dimmer

A dimmer provides a variable amount of power through the cabling to the lighting to control the brightness of the light. This is done automatically at the light deck.

Filament

A filament is essentially a thin piece of metal which is heated using a current that produces light in all directions. These are found in your average everyday light bulb.

Flats (Scenery)

These are flat pieces of theatre scenery, which also may be called backdrops. They are painted or decorated to impersonate buildings or other backgrounds. They are usually around 12 feet tall, but can be shorter or taller.

Flood

A flood light provides a large area with illumination. It is uncontrolled, has no lens and works as an efficient and cheap light to run. With a flood light, the area remains evenly lit even from further away.

Followspot (spotlight)

A followspot is also known as a spotlight, and it projects an intense beam of light onto the stage, usually illuminating one character in performance. The spotlight has a high-intensity discharge lamp and a lens which is manually focussed.

Fresnel

A Fresnel light takes after the name of its lens, the Fresnel lens. The Fresnel lens uses a series of concentric glass rings which focuses the light in a certain way. The Fresnel light gives the effect of a beam of light but with soft edges, meaning it is not that precise but allows a greater spill of light onto the performance area. It cannot project gobo images but is a great tool on stage when used close up on a subject.

Gel (or Colour filter)

A gel is a piece of plastic which fits in front of the light. The gel is coloured, and this can help to create different moods and atmospheres on stage. For example, a red gel might be atmospheric in a murder scene on stage or when a character is annoyed. Many technical directors use gels to create different effects in performance.

Gobo

A gobo is a piece of metal or glass which blocks some areas of light so that a pattern or silhouette is created on the projected surface. This could be the company logo, shape or text and they can be used in conjunction with intelligent lights and projectors.

Halogen Lamp

A halogen lamp is an incandescent lamp with a tungsten filament, which contains a small amount of halogen. The light is bright and gets very hot.

Hazers

Hazers, also known as haze generators, are similar to fog machines in that they produce clouds of unobtrusive and safe smoke which are suspended in the air. This creates subtle diffusions with light beams and so produces excellent effects in any performance space.

House lights

House lights are lights which illuminate the theatre before and after a performance so that the audience can find their seats. These might be incandescent lights or fluorescent lights, and they are controlled by dimmers under the supervision of the stage manager.

Hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide lamps

Known as HMI, this type of lamp is used in the entertainment industry. These lamps are more efficient than incandescent bulbs and provide a very high light output.

Induction Loop

Induction loops aid those who are hard of hearing also referred to as hearing loops. It is essentially a loop of cable which is put in a room that generates a magnetic field picked up by a person’s hearing aid. This means the person can hear the sound more clearly without any other interference.

Intelligent lights (Moving lights)

Intelligent lights are an automated type of stage lighting, also known as moving lights. They are versatile, multi-functional and economical. You can pre- programme the lights for different effects which can be played back using simple controls. They can also be operated live if required. These types of lights are often used as a way of quickly changing and controlling moods and effects in larger venues and performance spaces.

Iris

This is a metal frame with a shutter assembly. The iris is put inside a focal plan or a fixture just before the lens assembly, and it reduces the width of the beam emitted from the fixture itself.

Lecture Theatre Sound Systems

A lecture theatre sound system has a challenging job because lecture theatres often pose trouble with echo as space is vast. In some lecture theatres, microphones may need to be provided; automotive mixers may also be used to control the sound from the mic

LED Lights

LED stage lights use “light emitting diodes” as a lighting source. These act as alternatives to traditional lighting used on stages such as halogen bulbs. The benefit of LED lights is that there is a high light output but low energy consumption.

Lens

A lens is a thick piece of glass which redirects the light rays as they pass through it. Most lenses are curved to give an accurate image, although some other lenses work differently. See Fresnel lens for another type of lens.

Lighting Desk

A lighting desk is the control desk which houses various switches that are connected to lights in the theatre. Modern lighting desks are computer controlled where scenes are saved into the computer’s memory so that the light can automatically change.

Live Music Club Sound Systems

There are many different types of live music venue which are why sound systems can differ from one to the next. Venues need to make the sound of the music consistent throughout the venue, especially when the club is not an open space, but has various corners or is in an “L” shape. An air-conditioned room is required to keep the equipment cool in this type of setting, and the amps need to be of an appropriate size, too. Other equipment used may include microphones and automatic mixers.

Mixing Console

Also called a sound board or mixing deck, a mixer is an electronic device which can control audio. It can be the volume or dynamics of audio systems. They are used in many different types of venue, from theatre to a lecture hall.

Moving Head Light

Moving head lights are also known as intelligent lights. They can be remotely controlled through a signal cable. These lights are versatile and powerful as they can rotate to illuminate any area of the stage by the control lighting desk. Moving lights are usually available in two types, profile and Fresnel.

Multicore cable (named Lectroflex)

A multicore cable has six 15amp cables inside it. This is beneficial as all the cables can run alongside each other in a neat package, as well as having the advantage of double insulation. This reduces cost and allows for an easier connection.

PA Systems

A PA system is an electronic amplification system which hosts loudspeakers, amps and mixers. This is most commonly used when a person is giving a speech, addressing an auditorium or where a DJ plays music. It means that everyone in the room can hear the sound clearly.

Parlights (Parcan)

A parcan or parlight is a robust lamp which consists of a lens, a filament and a reflector component in a sealed lamp. It produces a bright white light and is a lighter bulb in weight. This is a very cheap yet powerful lamp.

PC (Pebble Convex)(Plano-Convex)

This lamp is a cross between a profile lamp and a Fresnel lamp. It used a rough reflector which is used to diffuse light beams. This type of lamp produces less spill of light and acts more efficiently than a Fresnel light.

Power Amplifiers (Audio)

Power amps boost a low power signal and provide power to drive a loudspeaker. Every kind of speaker requires a power amp, right down to the use of headphones. Some power amplifiers use limiters to protect the speakers from overloading with too much power.

Profile

A profile lamp is an efficient light which focuses the light into a sharp beam with a little light spill. This means that the profile lamp can be used with gobos to project a bright and sharp image. Using a fixed beam angle, it can also produce zoom profiles.

Projection Screen

A projection screen is designed to display a projected image so that a whole audience can view it. This might be projecting something like a document, a spreadsheet or a hymn sheet. For this reason, many different venues use a projection screen, and they can be permanent, semi-permanent or mobile.

Recording Studio

A recording studio is a studio used to record sound or for mixing purposes. Voice over artists will use a recording studio, as well as other vocalists or bands. They are designed for the best acoustic tuning and the clearest sound possible.

Reflector

A reflector is a surface that is reflective, directing the light in a particular direction. They are most commonly in circular or oval shapes.

Scoop (ellipsoidal reflector floodlight) (ERF)

A scoop’s technical name is an ellipsoidal reflector floodlight. It is a large and dome like reflector. It does not have a lens and has a large, high-powered lamp. The metal around the lamp is large and curved and acts as a reflector. Many theatres and large performance spaces use this lamp to flood the stage with down light.

Shutters

A series of metal plates which can be used to shape the light coming out of some types of lights. A circular shape can be created when the shutters are fully retracted, and a more rectangular or square shape can be made when the shutters are pushed in.

Sightlines

A sightline is a line in which people can see the stage, for example, in theatres the seating is designed so that each can see through the heads of the two individuals in front. This allows everyone to get the best view of the stage possible, as well as the orchestra pit and any other key features of the theatre. It is important each person can see well to get the best experience in the theatre.

Signal Processors (Audio)

Signal processors offer the technician the chance to manipulate auditory signals or sound. This may be in a digital or analogue setting. The most common place for signal processors is in audio broadcasting. The most common audio processing takes place just before the transmitter. The signal audio processor van correct errors in the sound wave, adjust volumes and prevent over-modulation.

Sound Reinforcement Systems

Sound reinforcement systems allow larger audiences to hear the sound louder and more clearly, by using equipment like microphones, signal processors, amplifiers and other loudspeakers. This allows the sound to distribute more efficiently in venues like theatres and music venues.

Stage Lighting

Stage lighting is the use of light on stage like theatres, dance halls and so on. There are various types of stage lighting, like spotlights. You can have different colours and intensities, too. Depending on the kind of performance, stage lighting can be manipulated to create effect and symbolism.

Stage Drapes (Stage curtains)

Stage drapes are large, heavy pieces of cloth or velour type material that block out backstage areas. They can also be used in performance spaces to divide the space accordingly. They are usually dark in colour and hang from above.

Striplight

A striplight is a stage lighting instrument with multiple circuits. It is a primary light fixture, and it usually consists of three rows of lamps. These types of lights can be found in churches, schools and performance venues. More recently, LED striplights have been created for a more efficient lighting fixture.

Theatre Rigging (Fly Systems)

A theatre rigging system is a system of lines and blocks which allow the staff to hoist curtains, lights and scenery seamlessly onto the stage during a performance. They need to be professionally assembled to ensure maximum safety.

Theatre Sound Systems

A sound system in a theatre may consist of a PA system, amplifiers, microphones, and mixing control decks. A sound engineer or technician needs to monitor the sound system to get the best sound at the right time during the performance.

Video Projector

A video projector displays video images or static images onto a projection screen. This is useful during presentation sin lecture halls or even on stage to set the scene of performance. They are used in many different venues and can be a permanent fixture or a mobile accessory