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the canto usa blog

How to Determine the Followspot You Need for Your Space

Canto Followspot Action 02

Jason Reeves


July 10, 2018

Followspots are a staple in schools, churches, theaters, sports arenas, and convention centers. They help focus the audience’s attention on speakers and onstage action. Followspots come in many different shapes and sizes, and it can be daunting to start the search process for what would work best for your space.

Step one is to decide upon the physical location of the followspot. Finding your “throw distance” (the distance between the followspot and furthest upstage pickup) is one of the first steps. You can find this with a laser tape measurer or good old-fashioned algebra, aka the Pythagorean theorem.

  • Will the followspot be in a spot booth, back of an auditorium, or up in a catwalk? If you’re in a catwalk, what kind of mounting will be needed? Is it okay to stand alone, do I need wheels, or will it be mounted to a truss?
  • If you’ll be in an enclosed spot booth, is it an open booth, will you be shooting through glass? Does the glass slide open?  If you are projecting through glass, you will lose 12-15% of your light output due to reflection of the glass.
  • Is noise a factor? For example, when lighting a symphony hall, as little extra noise as possible is ideal since the audience is focusing on sound.
Calculating Throw Distance for a Followspot Graphic

Step two brings lighting design into the picture. The designer needs to decide how many footcandles they want for the followspot when it’s shining onstage. When considering output of the followspot whether the FOH lighting is all conventional fixtures or LEDs are being used or a hybrid system. Color temperature needs to match. You do not want to mismatch tungsten with MSR or LED. Determining how much light will be onstage will help refine your followspot requirement.

Step three is about power. What kind of power can be allocated to the followspot, 120V or 208-240V in single phase or three phase power. Knowing the available power will determine your followspot output limitations and will also help you choose what type of connector to use. Do you need L6-20, L5-15, 15amp Edison, or 20amp Edison for your outlets?

CantoUSA followspots can operate either left or right-handed. They are the only units that are made of lamp modules, which means you can upgrade from incandescent or MSR to LED when the need arises. Our units are geared toward ergonomic function and form. We are the only company to offer three-year warranty on all of our tungsten and MSR based fixtures, and a five-year warranty on our LED Followspot fixtures.  Please call us to discuss your needs in equipping your venue with the correct followspot to fit your needs.