Guerilla Light Projection—Techniques and Discussion

Gear List for one light plugged into an AC outlet

You are going to use a standard theater spotlight from a theater/lighting production company. We use:
Initial Production Group (IPG)
5762 Lamar St, Arvada, CO 80002
(303) 420-7406

1 ETC Source 4 with a 10° lens—or 15-30° zoom
2 Gobo Pattern Holders B Size
1 Floor Bases – Wood Large 12 x 12
1 Edison power cable 50’—or 25′
1 Adapter Female Stage Pin to Male Edison
1 HPL 750W Plus 115V Lamp
1 Spare HPL750W Plus 115V Lamp
1 Big black bag (supplied by you)

Rigging (if you want to hang the light)
1 Mega Swivel C Clamp Black
1 Safety Cable Black

IPG rental charges for the items above are about $17/day or about $45/week.

Getting mobile using DC power

Easiest way is to grab a 1000 watt DC to AC inverter from an auto parts store or Amazon and connect the light directly to the battery of your car. The source four lights can use either a 575 watt or a 750 watt incandescent bulb so your inverter has to be 25% above that. If the car is running you are golden, if not, you have about 20 minutes before the voltage from your battery starts to drop and the inverter powers off, which is enough for a photo opp. When you buy the inverter the efficiency rating is important. The Bestek inverter is modified sine, has an efficiency rating of 90%, is good quality and will protect itself in all situations. Its not the cheapest but worth it at about $90 on Amazon Prime.

If you want to power two lights from your car be careful. You will need a 2000w inverter and it should be hard wired to the battery. I have not done this.

You can also use a deep cycle marine battery to power the light. Deep cycle batteries are designed for the longer continuous draw as opposed to bursts for starting like your car battery. You can attach your battery and inverter to a luggage cart or two-wheeler and you are ready for foot traffic only locations. I have not done this yet but, the Backbone Campaign has an excellent video here.


Your protest message must be cut on a B size gobo—which is a stainless steel disc—a water cutter or a laser cutter is used. Local places charge about $100 each to cut these, but I recommend that you get them from the Backbone Campaign—for a $50 donation. Just tell them what you want it to say—about five words max and give them one week to produce the gobo. Contact Eric at the Backbone Campaign to order gobos. Contact Phil at the Backbone Campaign for further mentoring on this tactic. Tell them the Suede Light Brigade sent you.

The Backbone Campaign also has a gobo lending library—and you can contact the holder of these gobos and ask to borrow them. I had two made for our recent campaigns, and I borrowed six from Birdman in Detroit. Gobo library here.


Scope out your target—look for power sources, check to see that they are live. Walk out the distance from your light to the target wall, and draw a map (long step is 3 feet and a regular step is 2 feet)—you will need this to figure out which lens to put on your source four light—also measure the width of your target—see chart at left for distance, field diameter and illumination. I have found that a 10° lens gives me the brightest image and longest throw, I hit the top of a 30 story building with that one. Phil at the Backbone Campaign recommends a 15-30° zoom, that’s a wider image and less bright, but more versatile.

I will caution you that light protest is a powerful tactic and you should use it wisely with discretion.
Strategy: How will the tactic move us toward achieving our goal?
Message: What will the tactic communicate? What will it mean to others? How will it carry a persuasive story?
Tone: Will the action be solemn, jubilant, angry, or calm? Will the energy attract or repel the people we want to engage?
Timing: Can we leverage unfolding events and new developments as opportunities? Does the political moment hold potential for us, or vulnerability for our opponents?
Audience: Who do we want to reach with our tactic? What response do we want our action to inspire in them?
Allies: How will the tactic affect our allies or potential allies? How will they receive it? Will it strengthen the relationship or jeopardize it?
Resources: Is the action worth our limited time, energy and money? Can we get more out of it than we put in? Do we have the capacity to pull it off effectively?
Target: What message will the tactic send to the people who have the power to meet our demands? Will it pressure them to capitulate, or enable them to dismiss us or retaliate?

I highly recommend the book Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution, for a complete discussion of tactics and related principles and theories.

Press and Education

Decide what you want to accomplish with your light protest. Is this just to get pictures for use on social media? Do you want to educate the public—how many flyers do you want to hand out? Do you want the local newspaper to cover your action—they will want to know in advance so they can send a porter and photographer? Do you want to motivate you fellow activists—this is a great way to do it. Here is a zip file (edit in Illustrator) of the flyers we used at our actions on Pearl Street—we wanted to educate the public on some basic facts and provide then with some simple actions they could take.

Legality—The beauty of protest with light is that as long as you are standing on public property you are exercising 1st Amendment free speech and its legal. There are exceptions—for example in Washington DC it is illegal to project on a monument. Discussion here.

I have never been bothered by a cop in Boulder County but if they do come:
• Start with a smile.
• How is it going?
• Oh, we’re just doing some art.
• We’re doing a light show.
• We’re just trying to get our photo, and then we’ll leave.
• We’re almost done.
• We’ve done this many times before and haven’t had a problem.
• First Amendment protected free speech.
• Can buy time so team can finish up just by talking a bit.

That’s it. Go get it.

Please contact me if you have any questions.

More resources on the web

Using a theater light is the easiest and cheapest way to make your mark, but there are other technologies if you want to up your game.
Try this.