Moving heads are some of the most exciting lights a DJ can add to their arsenal. Whenever people picture big concerts and large festivals, dozens upon dozens of large moving heads are what spring to mind. Moving heads of all shapes and sizes for mobile DJs are becoming more affordable and more powerful each year. But a lot of DJs are unaware that moving heads come in 3 main types – beam, spot, and wash. And even among those that know about the three types, fewer still know what each type is and how it should be used. In this short guide to moving head types, we’ll break down the three main types of moving heads and talk about what each is best for.
Moving Head Lights – A Refresher
If you’ve never heard of moving heads, here’s a quick recap of this awesome light type. Instead of a static, fixed light that is aimed at one location, a moving head sweeps around a space to cover a much larger area. The housing containing the LED or bulb sits in a motorized yoke and can carry out quick, punchy zig-zags or slow, graceful circles. It can highlight different performers and moments or be constantly shifting positions. Moving heads are an extremely popular type of light and are used at events from small weddings to large stadium-filling concerts. At their core, each light has similar components. These include a base housing the electronics and a motor, a yoke with additional motors, and the head itself which contains the light and gobos. The head itself is the topic of today’s article – without any further ado, let’s talk about moving head types.
Moving Head Types – Beam
Of the three moving head types, the beam is by far the simplest. A moving head beam light projects its light source through a lens to form an intense ray. These beams are often narrow and can cover large distances easily. The majority of lights of this type project only a single beam. Some, however, contain prisms that can split the beam into 3, 5, or even more individual rays. Apart from the occasional prism, there is nothing else between the light source and the lens. This means that, when the beam hits a surface, there is only a single point of light. There is no pattern or design that is projected.
Beams almost always require some sort of atmosphere to look good. Whether it is fog or haze, the beam passing through the air itself is the effect, not the light that eventually hits the crowd, wall, or ceiling. With atmosphere, moving head beams can create mesmerizing, laser-like effects. Higher-end moving beams have adjustable zoom lenses that allow users to narrow or widen the beam. This allows for additional effects and increased show customization.
Best used for: Concerts, college parties, large school dances, club and bar events
Moving Head Types – Spot
The moving head spot is probably the moving head you are most familiar with. It is similar to a beam but with a few key differences. The biggest of these differences is the addition of a gobo wheel. A gobo is similar to a stencil that, when placed in front of the light source, shapes the beam into a unique pattern. There are hundreds of different gobo types, ranging from stars and circles to spirals and polka dots. This adds an additional element to the light, causing the final image created when the light hits the surface to be interesting and eye-catching. Additionally, moving head spots typically have wider beam angles than moving beams. Due to this, they can cover larger areas more easily, requiring fewer lights for those on a budget.
Of the three moving head types, the spot is by far the most universal and versatile. If you are going to add a single type to your inventory, a moving head spot is the best first choice. The addition of gobos makes the light better suited for events where fog or haze are not appropriate. Their wider beam angle allows smaller DJ companies to still fill larger spaces with fewer individual fixtures. Plus, by using an “open” gobo (i.e. no pattern), a spot can practically function as a beam. This is especially true if you can adjust the beam angle to a narrower dispersion.
Best used for: Weddings, Sweet 16s, school dances, corporate events, college parties, club and bar gigs
Moving Head Types – Wash
Finally, we come to the moving head wash. In our opinion, the wash is a hidden gem among moving heads. Instead of being fitted with a lens or gobos, a moving head wash is basically a par can on top of a motor. It projects a powerful, wide, and diffuse beam of light that covers the largest area of the three types. No need for fog or haze with the moving head wash – the effect is great without either. The light projected from a moving wash isn’t confined to a single spot on the wall or ceiling. Instead, a good moving wash can fill an entire side of a venue with rich color.
Some moving washes amp up the effect with pixel-mappable LED diodes. In essence, this allows for full control of each individual diode to create eye-catching patterns when looking directly at the light. Other moving head washes have adjustable beam angles for further crafting the ray of light to your liking. Giving up gobos is definitely a trade-off, but it can be a smart one if you complement your moving head wash with another effect lighting. While a spot is a safe option for a first moving head type, the moving head wash is honestly a bigger bang-for-your-buck for small DJ companies and bands.
Best used for: Solo-op DJs, Sweet 16s, weddings, small bands, school dances, corporate events
No matter which type you choose, a moving head will definitely level up your lighting game. If you want to go the traditional route with a super versatile fixture, opt for the moving head spot. If you want to buck tradition, be unique, and get the most bang for your buck, a moving head wash is worth a try. And if you want the uber-cool laser-like effect you see at your favorite EDM festival, you can’t go wrong with a moving head beam. What’s your favorite moving head type? Let us know in the comments!