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Converting a Stage Follow Spot to Accept a Strobe

Why? My view is why not?! A few years ago a friend asked if I wanted an old Leko stage follow spot. Being a bit of a lighting pack rat I said “Sure!” I originally used it so I could apply light shaped with gobos in my still photography for dance. It also allowed me to create lovely rays of light using haze combined with different gobo shapes. In its original state the Leko was a 1000 watt constant tungsten light. Plenty powerful for stage applications, but completely overpowered whenever I used it in conjunction with my Einstein strobes. Even though the Steins can go as low as 2.5WS doing simple math shows you that at 1000 watts shot at 1/250th of a second yields about 4WS, not a ton of power.

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Leko follow spot modified to accept a PCB Einstein strobe

So when I used the Leko in its native state it became very difficult to balance the power of the 1000 watt constant light with my strobes. So I decided to try to ‘modify’ it to accept an Einstein to keep all of the benefits of the Leko (glass lenses, gobo use, etc) with the power of a strobe. Also the ambient light created by the Leko’s constant light meant that keeping a low shutter speed to retain that light can create motion blur unless some of the strobe’s light freezes the motion on the parts it illuminates. And why even use a goboed follow spot unless I can see the pattern or light rays I want in the image!? UGH!

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Leko using its native 1000w tungsten bulb combined with an Einstein for fill camera right. But I had to pump my ISO up to 1250 and lower my shutter speed to 1/125th to keep the Leko’s rays visible.

The tough part was figuring out ‘how’ to do it. Yes I’m handy and like to tinker and fabricate in the garage, but I don’t own a lathe, band saw, etc. After taking the Leko apart and doing some measuring I found that if I used a PCB Umbrella Reflector it would fit perfectly where the Leko’s tungsten bulb resided as long as I cut off the back half of the Leko

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Back of the Leko cut away to accept the PCB Umbrella Reflector. You can see two of the four internal blade doors in the Leko that allow you to adjust the circle of light.

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Side view to show the cut away section of the Leko

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The wonderful glass lenses of the Leko

The tough part was the cutting and measuring. I don’t have a angle cutter so instead I used my trusty Dremel with their thick cut off wheels. Yes I went through an entire package of them and yes my little Dremel got so hot I wore gloves and had to take an hour break between cuts, but in the end it worked

I had written a previous article about making a ‘travel gobo spotlight‘ and no I won’t be ditching that one. The Leko is damn heavy and I’ll never use it when I travel, but it presents a very real benefit. I can use the Einstein modeling light all I want because the lenses in the Leko are glass. My ‘travel spotlight’ uses three plastic lenses and using the modeling light will melt them in short order. Plus I now have the ability to use two gobo capable ‘spotlights’ in any local session which presents new possibilities for my lighting needs.

Is it worth it? Only you can decide that for yourself….

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Practice: Using a tree gobo with “Bob”

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Practice: by adjusting the focus of the Leko I am able to create a soft or hard spotlight on Bob

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Practice: Using a Venetian Blind gobo with “Bob”

1/250th f4.0 ISO 400. Leko/Einstein with circular hole gobo as the accent light, Einstein through an Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octa camera right as her key light.

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1/250th f5.0 ISO 400. Leko/Einstein with circular hole gobo as the accent light, Einstein through an Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octa camera right as her key light.

5 thoughts on “Converting a Stage Follow Spot to Accept a Strobe”

  1. Hey Mark,

    I really like the spot w/ gobo look for some work (particularly how you’re using them) and the Leko conversion is attractive with the added power.

    Forgive me if you’ve written on this before, but have you looked at the Light Blaster (by Spiffy) projector? Seeing your love of creative tweaks and such, I’d love to get your take on it.

    It would require adaptation for use with a monolight, but it uses Canon/Nikon lenses for focusing/projecting. This sort of tool seems more creatively flexible than a fixed spot fresnel, especially if you can boost its output with more watts than a flashgun. What say you?

    • Love the concept. Would need to get one to determine if I could adapt a strobe to it for more power. Thanks for letting me know about this product!

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