A Complete Guide to Monogram/Gobo Lighting

Written by Nate on January 3rd, 2015

What is a Gobo?

So what exactly is a "gobo"? A gobo is a small, thin, circular piece of metal or glass that is cut with a specific design and then inserted into a light which then projects the design.

This lighting effect is commonly used to project company logos, names of a wedding couple, or patterned designs to create decorative lighting effects (leaves, snowflakes, stars, etc).

Some Background on Different Options

When I first started offering my wedding clients custom gobos to project their monograms, initials or wedding date, I was using a traditional gobo light made by Martin. I think it was the Martin PR4. This fixture has since been discontinued and now I can't find a link to verify that was the name (I sold the 2 of them I owned a few years ago). This fixture worked great, but cost about $400 to buy and I had to get the gobos cut which would run $59-$99 each. It also got very hot and was pretty heavy.

The newer gobo lights they are selling advertise the ability to print gobos at home on transparency paper. This sounded like a huge development since I had to pay $59-$99 just to have the gobo cut, so printing them myself would be quite a nice money-saver. I ordered a few different units to test out, but honestly, I'm not at all impressed with the results. You have to cut these tiny little circles out just perfectly or light will leak through creating a less-than professional look. Not only that, but I had trouble not getting fingerprint smudges on them which you can see when looking at the projection. Still, this is a much cheaper option if you want to invest the time to come up with a good process for cutting out the circles and inserting the gobos. These newer fixtures are LED so they don't get hot, and they are much lighter making them easier to hang.

Advantages to Using a Video Projector

ProLightingRental.com spent about 3 months and nearly $15,000 testing out all the various gobo fixtures, learning how to create custom gobos in-house, and finding the best way to offer our rental customers this effect. We worked with CNC machines to cut aluminum and sheet metal, chemicals to try and "etch" custom gobos similar to the way circuit boards can be made, and even 3D printers to "print" gobos out. We spent lots of time on the transparency paper option ordering different types of paper, several different printers (both laser and inkjet), and trying different ways to cut out that perfect circle to ensure a consistent quality every time. Sara even started going to these electronic hack nights and inventor meetups in Chicago to find someone to basically design and manufacture us a new fixture that would be perfect for renting. It was after one of those meetups that an American DJ gobo unit got taken apart and it was realized that hey, wait....these are just "projectors". Video projectors have come down in price quite a bit, why not just use those? After ordering a couple different projectors and trying it out, we all loved this option.

The advantages are many:

1) Brighter and bigger projection!

2) No physical gobos to make! We create photo files out of our customers monograms and transfer them over to the projector.

3) Ability to use color (although white on black still looks the best)

4) Option for video as well. This opens up a whole world of creative possibilities.

Options for Set-Up

The hardest part about Gobo/Monogram projection is setting it up. You want people to see your image, so you can't just stick the projector on the floor. You've got to come up with a solution to position the projector so your design can be clearly seen on a wall or screen. We've come up with some good options for you:
Projector Stand with a Standard Mount: This is basically just a speaker stand plus a speaker stand attachment which is a simple flat surface. Let's you project on a wall.

Projector Stand with a Tilting Mount: If you want the option to project on the floor, ceiling, or walls then you'll want to upgrade to a tilting mount. This package comes with stand + tilting mount.

Since lots of our customers already own plenty of speaker stands, we can also rent you just the mount by itself and this saves quite a bit of money:
Tilting Mount
Standard Mount

Make sure to include one of those with your rental, and you'll have an easy way to set everything up. Instructions for setting up a monogram projection with the stand

If you don't have a speaker stand and don't want to rent our projector stand, then you can simply set the projector on a table. The catch is that you want the projector positioned higher above your guests heads. That way, your image won't get cut off when guests stand in front of it. This is why venues that have a projector built-in hang them from the ceiling.

Technical Difficulties

When I setup a gobo/monogram projection for my DJ clients, I always, always, ALWAYS make sure to have a back-up projector with me. You just never know whats going to go wrong. It could be working perfectly at home, then I get to a venue and it won't power on. Or the projection looks funny and I can't figure out how to fix it under the pressure of setting up a big event. Personally, I'd rather just be prepared, so that's why I bring 2 with me. Yes, this adds to the cost. But as a professional, I can't risk my reputation. If you're a DIY customer and you just think it would be cool to have a monogram or logo projected at your event, then you can probably get away with just renting 1 fixture. In the event that it doesn't work, we'll be sure to get you a refund. However, if having this projection is critical to your event decor, or if you're a professional offering this as a service to your clients, its highly recommend to rent 2 projectors. We will load up your custom design in both units so if you have a problem with 1, you can just switch to the other. Since we can put 2 projectors in 1 box to save on shipping to you and back to us, renting the 2nd one will only cost $55.

Renting a Gobo Projector

Here's the full process for renting:

1) Reserve the equipment online. Rent the Image Projector. For easier set-up, also rent the Projector Stand. Rent a second projector if you want to have a back-up in case of technical difficulties (or if you just want to create multiple effects on different walls). If you are looking for some uplighting too, we've got some package deals that will save you some money.

2) Email either the completed design you want projected to [email protected] or let us know the design number of one of our pre-designed wedding monogram gobo templates. We'll get in touch with you after we get your reservation, so don't worry about remembering to do this.

3) We'll ship you all the equipment you rented. Guaranteed to arrive at least 2 days prior to your event date.

4) Set everything up at your event. View the instructions

5) Pack everything back up, attach the pre-paid return shipping label to the box, and drop off to UPS.