Lighting Equipment & Systems

There are eight main functions and qualities of stage lighting:

  1. Visibility: If the audience can’t see the actors, everything else the lighting designer does is a waste of time. 
  2. Mood: (or “atmosphere”): “Mood” is the evocation in the audience of the appropriate emotion. Many designers err in paying attention to mood to the point where visibility is sacrificed.
  3. Composition: The act of painting a picture, in this case, with light.
  4. Plausibility: Sometimes called “realism”, but that’s not always accurate, since not all plays – and certainly very few ballets, modern dance pieces, and operas – are realistic. 
  5. Reinforcement: What are we reinforcing? Everything.
    • Reinforcing the playwright’s text and reinforcing the work of the set and costume designers.
  6. Revelation of Form: Determine the level of 3-dimensionality you want the audience to see. .
  7. Punctuation: The blackout at the end of a climactic musical number. 
  8. Telling the Story: Advancing the narrative, through the use of the other seven functions.

Stage lighting is, quite simply, the lighting that is on a stage. Stages are lit through equipment that use electricity to create photons, which illuminates the stage for the audience to see.

There are roughly two categories of lighting fixtures: Spot and Wash.

Spot lights normally cast a single beam of light no wider than 45 degrees. The light from a spot tends to reach much longer distances than most lights, and it is quite easy to point and control. 

Stage wash lighting is a general lighting effect where a broad beam is used to generally light up an area on a stage. Typically floodlights are used to create wash lighting. Wash lights are essentially the opposite of spot lights. The wash casts a wide area of light that does not reach a very long distance. Typically a wash light has a path of 130 degrees, much larger than a spot. 

Spot Fixtures produce a focusable, tight, extremely controllable beam of light. These fixtures tend to have shutters that allow you to reshape the beam. 

    • ERS – Ellipsoidal Reflector Spotlight- This fixture utilizes an elliptical reflector to redirect the lamp’s photonic energy so that the beam actually creates a secondary focal point which allows the designer to use gobos, lenses, and shutters to create/shape the light beam. Examples would be the ETC Source Four, Altman 360Q, Altman PHX, Strand Selecon. 

Wash Fixtures produce a focusable beam of light through the use of lenses but do not have the ability to precisely control/shape the beam of light. Instead, they generally send light outward of the fixture. This can be shaped using accessories such as barn doors to reduce the amount of “spill” light, but these fixtures do not a secondary focal point, therefore they will always produce some spill light. 

  • Philadelphia Theatrical Supply sells a variety of wash light fixtures, including Fresnel, Cyclorama lights and Parcans. Click here to shop these products.

Special effects stage lighting is created by different lighting systems that are combined to add color, mood and other visual effects to the stage.

Philadelphia Theatrical Supply is an authorized dealer for all major lighting equipment and systems. This includes:

Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC)

As an industry standard in non-moving fixtures, ETC offers lighting fixtures, lighting control consoles, dimming equipment, power distribution, networking equipment, & rigging systems.


For over sixty years, the Altman™ name has stood true as one of the leading innovators of theatrical, architectural, film and video lighting available on the market today.

Philips Strand Selecon

Philips Strand Selecon develops high-quality products that meet the demands of modern theatre, film, and TV, as well as themed environments and architecture.


Chauvet DJ

City Theatrical

MBT Lighting

Pathway Systems

CBI Cables

Chauvet Professional


TMB Lighting

Philips Color Kinetics


Apollo Design

ELO Touch

Times Square




The Light Source

Doug Fleenor Designs

Rosco Laboratories

Stage Junk


Lex Products

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Our onsite staff can assist you with training and repairs for various lighting systems, including but not limited to:

ETC Unision

ETC Paradigm

ETC Sensor

ETC ION Trianing

ETC Echo

ETC EOS Training (Level 1, 2, and 3)

Contact us today to discuss how Philadelphia Theatrical Supply can assist you with your Theatrical lighting equipment & systems needs.