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STAGE LIGHTING The aim of this workshop is to give an introduction to stage lighting: to develop your knowledge of basic skills and to improve your confidence in this field. The workshop is for those with or without experience who wish to learn more about the technical and practical aspects of theatre lighting It includes the study of: - Theatrical Lighting Equipment - Technical aspects of Stage Lighting - An Introduction to the Principles of Lighting Design This is a hands-on workshop on how to light a basic show and avoid common lighting pitfalls.
LANTERNS There are many different types of theatre lantern and each type gives a different effect. A lighting designer will know what is available in the venue and where s/he can hire or purchase additional of specific lanterns. The following are the four most common lanterns one will find in most theatres.
FLOODS are used to provide large area washes of light. They come equipped with a gel frame and are especially useful for lighting backcloths. The beam cannot be shaped, so generally other lantern types are more flexible.
PROFILE SPOTS will give you a sharply defined image in outline of any object placed within its focal range. They are fitted with shutters , usually four, which can be pushed into the light beam, shaping its appearance on stage. They have focus knobs , which allow the beam to be defined through a range from very hard-edged to very soft. The beam can be further controlled by an iris – which provides a variable-diameter circular beam. There is usually a slot cut into the body of the lantern, which accepts Gobo’s – cut out metal patterns whose image is projected onto the stage.
FRESNEL lanterns give a soft-edged beam with large size variation. Used to create large washes of light (like the flood), sometimes highly colored, but as beam size and shape can be altered it is preferable to the Flood. They have external barn doors , which shape the beam but don’t sharpen it like the shutters on the Profile.
PARCAN is simply a shell holding a Par lamp, a sealed bulb with a fixed beam angle that produces a powerful narrow beam. Par lamps come with Very Narrow, Narrow, Medium and Wide beam angles. Great for use in Rock Concerts or by using banks of them to create curtains of light, especially in heavy colors. Their drawback as theatre lights is that they cannot be focused – i.e. their beams’ size and shape cannot be changed.
Lighting Boards or Desks Generally speaking there are two types of Lighting Control Boards, Manual and Computer Controlled. Simple desks consist of a series of faders that control a channel each and by using two sets of faders, the lighting controller can change from one state to another by using a crossfade control. Although this is simple, it is very time consuming and so modern desks use computer control to set up the lighting with each scene being saved into memory and then outputted as the lighting controller requires. Memory-based boards have become very popular in almost all larger installations, particularly theatres. This type of controller has almost completely replaced preset boards as controllers of choice. Memory boards are preferable in productions where scenes do not change from show to show, such as a theatre production, because scenes are designed and digitally recorded, so there is less room for human error, and less time between lighting cues is required to produce the same result. They also allow for lighting cues to contain larger channel counts due to the same time savings gained from not physically moving individual channel faders. Many memory boards have a bank of faders often called sub-masters. These sub-masters can be programmed to control a single channel (a channel is a lighting designer's numerical name for a dimmer or group of dimmers) or a group of channels. The board may also have provision to operate in analog to a manual desk for programming scenes or live control. On some more advanced boards, sub-masters can be used to control effects, chases (sequences of cues), and moving light effects (if the board can control moving lights).
GELS A color gel or color filter, or a lighting gel or simply gel, is a transparent colored material that is used to color light and for color correction. Modern gels are thin sheets of polycarbonate, placed in front of a lantern in the path of the beam. Gels have a limited life, especially in saturated colors. The color will fade or even melt, depending upon the energy absorption of the color, and the sheet will have to be replaced. In permanent installations and some theatrical uses, colored glass filters or dichroic filters are being used. The main drawbacks are additional expense and a more limited selection.
WHAT IS THEATRE LIGHTING? Illumination: The simple ability to see what is occurring on stage. Any lighting design will be ineffective if the audience has to strain to see the characters; unless this is the explicit intent. Revelation of form: Altering the perception of shapes onstage, particularly three-dimensional stage elements. Focus: Directing the audience's attention to an area of the stage or distracting them from another. Mood: Setting the tone of a scene. Harsh red light has a totally different effect than soft lavender light. Location and time of day: Establishing or altering position in time and space. Blues can suggest night time while orange and red can suggest a sunrise or sunset. Use of gobos to project sky scene, moon etc Projection/stage elements: Lighting may be used to project scenery or to act as scenery onstage. Plot: A lighting event may trigger or advance the action onstage. Composition: Lighting may be used to show only the areas of the stage which the designer wants the audience to see, and to "paint a picture" . While Lighting Design is an art form, and thus no one way is the only way, there is a modern movement that simply states that the Lighting Design helps to create the environment in which the action take place while supporting the style of the piece. "Mood" is arguable while the environment is essential.
Stage Lighting has three main functions: 1. To make the actors clearly visible so that their expressions and emotions can be easily projected to the audience 2. To give actors and action a suitably dramatic appearance within the play’s mood and setting 3. To compliment and highlight the sets and costumes.
Four Questions: 1. Where are we going to hang the lantern i.e. what angle of light are we using? 2. What amount of light – i.e. what level – or should we use the light at all? 3. What gel are we going to use – i.e. what color do we want the light to be? 4. How shall we use the lantern – i.e. what shape is the beam of light to be? To answer these questions we have to know what kind of lighting we want and what atmosphere we wish to create. When each question is answered for each lantern a design takes shape.
MCCANDLESS METHOD Although there may be no 'one' method of lighting design, there is however a systematic approach that was proposed by Stanley McCandless (Yale University School of Drama 1925-1964). It is this approach that is the foundation for modern stage lighting design today.
ACTING AREA LIGHTING McCandless proposed that the stage setting be broken up into a number of Acting Areas , each with two (2) fixtures. The fixtures were to be positioned overhead as front lights at approximately 90 degrees to the area. Further the fixtures were to be located approximately 45 degrees horizontally. Next McCandless proposed that each lamp have a different color filter, a 'warm' from one side, a 'cool' from the other. Each area was also (ideally) given individual dimmer control. An 'open' stage would be typically broken into 9 areas (more or less as required), each having an 8-12 foot diameter. Areas might be arranged; 3 downstage, 3 center stage and 3 upstage. The two fixtures provided visability to the actor. The dimmer controls allowed areas to darken or brighten as needed, providing selective focus , composition and mood to the overall stage picture. The position of the two fixtures, allowed an actor to 'play' to either his right or to his left, and still be in a KEY light. The angle between the fixtures provides excellent plasticity and form to the human face. The opposing warm and cool colors assist in providing interest, contrast and naturalistic lighting.
BLENDING and TONING Light the actors first for visibility, then light the surroundings separately for mood and atmosphere, was the McCandless's approach. Sometimes no additional lighting is required, letting the 'flare' from the acting areas illuminate the walls of a set. Alternately, scenery may need wash or flood lighting to help integrate and blend it into the entire lighting picture. BACKGROUNDS and BACKDROPS Backgrounds, backings, backdrops and cycloramas should all be illuminated separately from the actor and from the scenery. EMPHASIS and SPECIALS McCandless recommended additional fixtures (if needed); (a) to provide 'acting area specials' (entrances, furniture, etc). (b) to provide motivation (sunlight, moonlight, firelight). (c) to provide projection or effects.