Splitting Light with Prism

Dispersive light prisms are typically used to split white light into its respective color wavelengths. In stage lighting, this concept of a prism is typically used to split a single gobo image into multiple copies that can orbit each other in a linear or circular arrangement. I was given the task to implement this functionality into our lights with the capacity to dynamically set the number of splits and arrangements. I started off by familiarizing myself with the concept of prisms being used to refract and disperse light today.

Dispersive Prism Splitting White Light:

One of the main utilities of refracting light through a prism seems to surround bending the light to observe specific behaviors. In the case of triangular prisms, the refraction of different light frequencies allows us to see the full spectrum of color compacted into visual light. As for moving head stage lights, prisms are often used to split the light into separate copies of the same beam. Allowing the light emitting from one head to cast the same image over 20+ times. This is done with specialized prisms that interrupt and refract the beam as it leaves the light fixture.

Moving Head Prism Components:

With a better knowledge of prisms implemented in real life, it was time to integrate these behaviors into our own system. Luckily I was able to work off the early research developed by one of our other engineers, so most of the circular arrangement framework was already drafted out!

Circular Prisms:

ADJ – VIZ160 – Vizi CMY 16RX Spot-Beam-Wash Hybrid – Circular Prism

Using this system in Carbon, we have free access to a dynamic range of prism functions, allowing us to control the offset, scale, spin, and the number of split images. It was a particular challenge to allow these splits to orbit a center point while maintaining their local rotations, but with some time and effort, our team figured it out and the results are exciting to see!


Linear Prisms:

ADJ – VIZ160 – Vizi CMY 16RX Spot-Beam-Wash Hybrid – Linear Prism

Need to convert your circular prism arrangement into a linear? Not a problem! After some fine-tuning to our material, Carbon now allows both arrangements while maintaining the local rotation offsets and granting us free control of image scale, split and spin.

To top it all off, if any particular light in a show has no need for prism functionality, we can cull the material instructions directly from the editor, saving time and performance. Every millisecond counts!

I hope you enjoyed taking a small look into the Prism functionality of Carbon, and I’m excited to show you more as new developments are made!

-Joe Bonura