Lighting for Events: What is a Gobo?

Each week we aim to demystify the world of audio visual equipment and event services lingo and reveal exactly what those techs are talking about. In this week’s Techie Tuesday we take a look at the event lighting effect the 'gobo' and the many different shapes, patterns and logo’s they can replicate. The possibilities are endless but first we look at the history of the gobo and what you need to know before creating a customised gobo.

  • Audio Visual Discipline: Lighting for events
  • Audio Visual Event Category: AV Effect
  • AV Jargon: Gobo, Batman Signal

What is a Gobo?

A “Gobo” is a small stencilled circular disc, and used in lighting fixtures to create a projected image or pattern.
The term Gobo is short for “Go Between Optics”, describing the location where it needs to be positioned in the light path of a lighting fixture. Whilst Gobo’s are not a new technology they are still being used on events the world over. In today’s event market they have taken on a more creative role as technology advances allow for more detailed and impressive shapes to be created.

Gobo’s come in two main types; steel and glass. Steel gobos are very basic, generally have a short life span and are typically described as “black and white”. Glass gobo’s are more detailed, generally have a long life span and are typically described as “coloured”. There is an emerging third type of Gobo, which is designed specifically for LED fixtures, and is made from plastic.

Gobo’s come in many different diameters, ranging from approx 20mm through to approx 150mm. The diameter of a gobo is dictated by the fixture, so it is very important to ensure you know what fixture the gobo needs to be used in prior to manufacture. If used in a static fixture, the projected image will be stationary, however if installed in an intelligent fixture the image can be moved anywhere around the event space.

Gobo Patterns
Source: Staging Connections | Learning and Development

What events are Gobo's used on?

Events such as gala dinners, product launches, award ceremonies use gobo’s to support the event branding and to provide visual interest. A growing trend in weddings is to to use ornate glass Gobo’s featuring the bride and grooms name or initials which is presented as a keep sake from the event.

What is needed for a customised Gobo?

A few specific items are required for an effective gobo display:

  • Profile Fixture: a profile light which is designed to take a gobo in its light path is required to focus and zoom the gobo.
  • Gobo Holder: a specific accessory that holds the gobo in place is required for insertion into the profile light.
  • Projection Surface: a dedicated surface such as a wall or drape upon which the gobo is projected upon is required.

Why use a gobo?

A gobo is an effective alternative to banners and signage on corporate events, providing something visually different for the audience to absorb. They can also be used to create patterns, imagery and shapes to support the event theme. Check out some images below of gobo’s of all shapes and sizes.

Up next week...

Next week we hear about 'in ear' monitors and the benefits they bring to your audio visual event solution. In the meantime if you have any AV terms or words you would like our AV experts to tackle leave a comment on the blog post below or join in the conversation on Twitter @stgconnections #TechieTuesday.

Written by Andrew Thorne, ANZPAC Trainer & Assessor, Staging Connections.

Andrew Thorne is ANZPAC Trainer & Assessor and drives our training programs at Staging Connections, including our Certificate III in Live Production and Services Program for our new trainees.



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