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3 Ways to Do Stage Lighting

by Newfeel Lighting on Aug 24, 2023

Table of Contents
  • 1.Choosing the Appropriate Lighting Style
  • 2.Tailoring Your Lighting for Optimal Performance
  • 3.Setting Up Your Lighting Arrangement
1. Choosing the Appropriate Lighting Style
Different performance genres require specific lighting approaches to enhance the overall experience for the audience. To excel in stage lighting, you need to understand and apply these principles. Conduct research to grasp the lighting fundamentals for your chosen genre, which will guide your lighting decisions for the upcoming performance.
- For theatrical plays with dialogue-heavy scenes, prioritize front lighting to ensure clear visibility of actors' facial expressions and dialogue delivery.
- Concerts thrive on vibrant colors, effects, and atmosphere. While spotlights can follow performers, most lighting aims to create dynamic color schemes, movements, and special effects. Focus on symmetry, bold colors, and wash lights.
- Musicals blend drama and dance, necessitating a fusion of lighting principles from both genres.
1.2- Assessing Venue and Determining Lighting Quantity
Understanding the venue's size and layout is crucial in planning your lighting setup. Identify potential positions for lights, considering available lighting bars and other rigging options.
Evaluate these five fundamental lighting positions within your venue:
- Front Lighting: Primary illumination for faces, eliminating shadows and ensuring facial expressions are visible.
- Side Lighting: Emphasizes performers' bodies and facial profiles, particularly advantageous for dance presentations.
- High Side Lighting: Highlights the upper part of performers' bodies.
- Back Lighting: Creates separation between performers/props and the background, adding depth to the visuals.
- Down Lighting: Illuminates the entire stage evenly through overlapping lantern beams in a grid pattern.
Mastering these lighting positions will allow you to adapt your lighting setup to various performance needs, enhancing the overall visual impact.
1.3 - Employ Ellipsoidal Reflector Spotlights (ERS) for Precise Illumination
Utilize ellipsoidal reflector spotlights (ERS) to effectively light up subjects. These spotlights generate a focused and sharp light beam. They are ideal for illuminating individual subjects, such as an actor's face or a lone singer on the stage. ERS can also be employed to project images and patterns known as "gobos." These patterns are found on stainless steel or glass discs that can be placed over the lens to project images onto the stage backdrop. ERS spotlights are typically used for projecting light across medium to long distances.
1.4 - Create Distinct Lighting with Fresnel Spotlights
Utilize fresnel spotlights to illuminate subjects and produce distinct shadows. Fresnel spotlights offer softer lighting compared to ERS spotlights (think of the large spotlights at movie premieres). Adjust the fresnel's zoom setting to achieve a narrow diameter for spotlight effects or a wider diameter for floodlight effects. Fresnel spotlights are usually employed for projecting light across short to medium distances.
1.5 - Illuminate with PAR Floodlights for Backlighting and Side Lighting
For backlighting or side lighting, consider using PAR floodlights, also known as PAR cans. These lights create either a narrow or wide oval-shaped light beam. They are user-friendly and are commonly used in various performances, from concert backlighting to dance performance side lighting. PAR cans are particularly favored within the rock and roll industry. Although they don't offer extensive control over beam size (which depends on the lens size), they emit a substantial amount of light, making them ideal for concerts.
1.6 - Light Up Wide Areas with Strip Lights, Border Lights, and Ground Rows
Illuminate expansive, flat areas using strip lights, border lights, or ground rows. These types of fixtures incorporate multiple lamps and can be used to light up backdrops, curtains, or provide basic stage lighting. Strip lighting can also be used to alter background colors by adjusting the colors and intensities of the lamps.
1.7 - Employ Follow Spots for Performer Tracking
Utilize follow spots to track performers as they move across the stage. A follow spot is a mobile and bright spotlight that requires manual operation. These are suitable for tracking solo performers during their stage movements. Operating a follow spot usually requires a dedicated operator.
1.8 - Check Available Lighting Equipment and Understand its Characteristics
Inquire about the lighting equipment available at the venue. Most venues have a selection of lighting equipment that you can choose from. It's important to conduct research to familiarize yourself with the available options and their functionalities. Stage lighting characteristics typically encompass intensity (brightness or dimness of lights), color, distribution (light direction), and movement (changes in light over time).
2.Tailoring Your Lighting for Optimal Performance
2.1 Collaborate with the Director or Show Supervisor
Engage in discussions regarding the script, choreography, or concert theme to develop a lighting design that suits the performance. Inquire about the desired focal points from the director, choreographer, or band to determine your lighting approach.
Conceptualize your lighting as if it were a camera, aiming to capture and accentuate the performance for the audience.
Consider factors such as the atmosphere, movement, texture, and realism (such as depicting daytime or nighttime scenes).
For instance, varying lighting techniques can emphasize a fast-paced, chaotic scene versus a slow, solemn scene in a play. You can also employ warmer or cooler lighting to signify shifts in time of day or ambient temperature within a scene.
Tip: Attend live shows or watch recorded performances to observe and take notes on stage lighting for creative inspiration.
2.2 Determine Optimal Angles for Your Lights
Select appropriate angles for positioning your lights. Employ a compact directional light, like a powerful flashlight, to experiment with illuminating the stage from different angles, generating distinct moods. Assess how different angles can complement the performance, considering when to apply them during the show.
Angles hold significant importance in stage lighting; distinct angles should be utilized for varying types of performances. For instance, when lighting a play and desiring to spotlight performers' faces, front lighting directed downward at a 45-degree angle to the stage is crucial.
Conversely, in a concert setting, emphasis should be placed on backlighting to distinguish performers from the backdrop, alongside incorporating special effects and colored lighting to establish the appropriate concert ambiance.
2.3 Employ Colored Lights for Atmosphere Enhancement
Utilize colored lighting to evoke specific moods and atmospheres. Deep blues can convey nighttime scenes, while yellows can evoke warm and sunny settings. During impactful moments in a concert, experiment with imaginative color combinations. Merge these colored lighting elements with your prior considerations to amplify the visual impact of the performance. Acquiring a color swatch book from a theater equipment supply store will enable you to select suitable colors for configuring your lights.
3.Setting Up Your Lighting Arrangement
3.1 Position Front Lights at 45-Degree Angles
Set up front lights at a 45-degree angle to the left and right of the subjects. Each highlighted subject requires two front lights positioned to their left and right, both directed downward at approximately 45 degrees. This adheres to the standard three-point lighting technique commonly used in most productions.
This lighting arrangement effectively eliminates harsh shadows while imparting three-dimensional definition to the subject's form.
3.2 - Backlight Placement and Angling
Position a back light at a 45-degree angle directly behind the subject. This constitutes the third component of the standard 3-point lighting arrangement. Situate the light directly behind the subject and tilt it downwards at an approximate 45-degree angle.[9]
Feel free to experiment with the lighting to achieve diverse effects if you desire something less conventional. For instance, you can employ single-point lighting, involving only a single front light, to simulate sunlight and produce striking shadows. Alternatively, two-point lighting, utilizing one front light and one back light, is also an option.
3.3 - Grid Division for Stage Wash
Divide the stage into sections that encompass a diameter of roughly 8 feet (2.4 meters). Each of these zones needs to be covered by a light fixture, generating a comprehensive illumination that blankets the entire stage.[10]
Expanding Entertainment Horizons in Laser Shows
Certainly, you have the freedom to amalgamate diverse entertainment elements such as fireworks, videos, water fountains, LED walls, and artistic performances. The creative possibilities are boundless, as long as stringent safety regulations are observed. These multidimensional showcases thrive in dimly lit indoor settings or open-air venues during evening hours. Furthermore, blending various ShowBiz elements is a trend that injects dynamism into the performance.
As an illustration, if your stage dimensions measure 25 feet by 25 feet (7.6 meters by 7.6 meters), you should divide it into nine 8-foot (2.4-meter) zones, and for each zone, utilize a distinct lighting fixture to establish the general stage illumination. Nevertheless, additional lights will still be necessary to illuminate backgrounds, scenery, or objects not encompassed by the area lighting.
3.4 - Diagramming Light Placement on the Stage
Craft a diagram delineating the stage and the intended light placements. Ensure to incorporate the positions of any fixed lighting bars intended for light suspension. Provide precise details regarding the placement, orientation, color, and other pertinent information about each light source.[11]
Should your venue allow, you can augment the fixed bars or employ floor stands to introduce supplementary lights. If your venue lacks sufficient lighting resources, consider exploring options to rent additional lights.
3.5 - Installation and Control of Lights
Suspend the lights as per your diagram and connect them to a dimmer rack. Dimmer racks enable seamless fading in and out of lights via a lighting desk or console. If you lack experience in using such equipment, training is necessary.[12]
If your lights are DMX compatible, you can set up a DMX controller subsequent to hanging them. A DMX controller facilitates pre-programming of light configurations and effects, switchable via a single slider on the lighting console. Connect the lights using a DMX cable and program desired light scenes, enabling swift transitions during performances.
Prior to each performance, ensure to recheck the positioning and angles of all lights, as inadvertent movements might have occurred. Discovering malfunctioning lights midway through a performance is best avoided.
Tip: Adequate technical expertise is indispensable for safe and accurate light installation and connection. Formal training or collaborating with an experienced individual can greatly assist in this aspect.
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