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45 degree rule?

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by DCATTechie, Sep 2, 2008.

  1. DCATTechie

    DCATTechie Active Member

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    Is it "essential" to good lighting? For a high school theater with limited fixtures, does it make more sense to focus the fixture at 90 degress straight at the zone? (not sure if thats the correct degree, its been a while since geometry:)) Just thinking about it in my head, say I have 2 lights per zone each at a 45 degree angle, one cool and one warm. If i wanted just cool on the zone, wouldn't that give an uneven wash on only one side of the persons face? While a straight on approach would give more of an even wash. Or am I wrong and just made a complete fool of myself? I need to have a decision by tomorrow morning so a quick response wold be greatly appreciated:grin::grin:

    thanks!!!
     
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Yes, you will get some weird shadows. The 45 Deg rule otherwise knows at the Mcandles (I know I spelled that wrong...) method, which has been talked about here before, is basicly taking a warm and a cool color from 45 deg in both directions of the stage and running them at different levels to achieve different looks.

    On the other hand, "flat, front" light which takes two seperate colors and mixes them straight on is another option. This tends to flatten out the person onstage. You will need to add in some backlight and high side light to even out the stage. The 45 deg method requires less fill. Flat front light is there only to light faces, thats it. If you have limited lighting, I would go with the 45 method. Its not the best, but it works in a pinch.
     
  3. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    The 45 degree rule is more a rule of thumb than a mandate.

    Now, I'm making an assumption that you're looking to use these fixtures as area fronts rather than as a color wash. As for whether it makes sense to do a straight on shot with a single fixture per area, usually the answer would be no, as this will wash out the faces of the performers. The purpose of the warm key and the cool fill is to accentuate the three dimensions of the performer, specifically the face, though it works just as well for the rest of the body. This combined with light from other directions such as top, back and side lighting, helps to separate the performer from the background. Your idea of a straight on shot can be affective if it is combined with, for example, warm sides coming in from stage left. It's not the traditional 45/45 method, but if you have the capability of compensating for the inherent weakness of the straight on fronts with another lighting angle, I don't see why it can't work. Just make sure that this method is right for your show, because it won't be right for every show.

    Will it make for a more even wash? No. The wash would be no less even coming in from an array up stage right. Using lighting instruments capable of covering the area you need will make far more of a difference in regards to the evenness of a wash.
     
  4. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    ah' dogmatic training instead of getting the "method" of lighting as a goal. Yes you have two parts of it as a broad goal but not the top rear fill, but not it's concept understood.

    Take that naturaliztic look if appropriate to your intent and blend and fill so as to get to that in doing so. Say some high harsh sides, are there other positions you can supplement this from in blending?

    Goal not dogmatic intent for such an image on stage. This said, believe I recently also spoke about spinning that concept on its head a few degrees. Say you at best get 23 degrees, than the other lights in dogmatically following that 90 degrees cool and hot from the front and fill from the rear can be achievavle from an opposed spinning but from a seperate direction - this given its appropriate for the scene and otherwise in cheating the angle and filler, you can't get what's needed if needed for what you can achieve.

    Don't sell short the naturalist look to the stage for a base. That said, throw it out the window once you design where it more matches with your design and look. Can get that look thru cheating but otherwise it's about your look in other than this base.

    A start not a rule.
     
  5. Nikgwolf

    Nikgwolf Member

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    A 90 degree angle is actually from directly above. Any angle begins at 0 degrees, also known as horizontal. So a 30 degree angle will is more frontlight than toplight and will wash out the face easily while a 60 degree angle is higher and will create more shadow.

    Nik
     
  6. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    Ship makes an excellent point here. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to take the textbook method and throw it out the window. While the McCandless method of lighting works for a wide range of genres and shows, it is not the only method of stage lighting. Sometimes going an unconventional route will yield surprising results. 12 years ago I designed lights for a production of Glen Garry, Glen Ross. (Hopefully I spelled that right.) The venue was a club and they would not allow me to alter their existing light plot. I had a grand total of 6 dimmers available to me, and a handful of fresnels to light the show. This forced me to abandon the McCandless 45/45 method. I don't recall exactly what I did, but the show got rave reviews with the lighting specifically mentioned as a standout feature. This would not have happened had I done a more conventional lighting design, and had it not been for the venue limiting my options, I would have done a more conventional design.

    Now at the Pageant, we take the textbook and use it to prop up a table leg because that's about the only use it has in tableaux vivant (living pictures). If used the McCandless Method, we'd have gone out of business decades ago, because it doesn't work for what we do.

    So don't be afraid to experiment a bit with your lighting design. Embrace the limitations of your space, because limitations force creativity.
     
  7. Nikgwolf

    Nikgwolf Member

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    Oh, right...forgot about the top view! Doh! :rolleyes:
     
  8. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    Here's what I've figured out in my (relatively few) years lighting the stage:

    Step 1 - Learn "The Rules", in particular the McCandless Method. The bulk of high school theatre in my experience has this as a goal. You put a light Here because The Rules say "Though shalt put a light Here and color it thus".

    Step 2 - Learn to break The Rules. Throw the book out the window or use it to prop up the back of your console. Sometimes you're happy with the results, sometimes you're not. The goal is to experiment.

    Step 3 - Become free to follow The Rules sometimes and break them at other times, often in the very same light plot.

    Me, my first big attempt at breaking the rules was lighting Fiddler at the high school. I saw a photo in one of my lighting books that I thought really encapsulated my lighting concept, and so I studied what they did to make it look like that, and then adapted that concept into my design. It was great. I didn't use McCandless fronts; I went with straight warm fronts and then cool 45-deg sides, with tops/backs. It was one of my better designs.

    The very next show I lit at the high school was Our Town, and I had what I thought was a neat lighting idea, but I somehow got it in my mind to use the stock plot and just color it. Worst design I've done. I let The Rules dictate how I lit it, and it wasn't right.

    Get a design concept in your head, and then put the lights in the places that let that concept happen. And (probably the best advice I've heard over the years) make every light have a reason for being.

    Not that McCandless's method is good or bad; it is simply one (well-respected) method. I usually don't use it, at least verbatim, but it's about the best you can do with a minimum of fixtures.
     
  9. Sony

    Sony Active Member

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    If there is anything I've learned in college and the real world...it's to use the rules as a base to start and anything more...throw it out the window. I don't think I've used a McCandless plot more then 3 times in my college shows. I've found that Jewel Box fits my personal style a lot better, I used McCandless all throughout high school and those shows always seemed to look boring to me. The point of art is to make something uniquely your own...and you can't do that if you're following someone elses guidelines to the T. Learn to take the "Methods" you learn with a grain of salt...and don't be afraid to bend the rules or even completely break them how you see fit. Whats the worst that can happen? Especially in school...you have more freedom to experiment in school when you're not burdened with the need to make a profit or deal with unions. However, while like myself you may find a system that works best for you...don't discard all other systems...be familiar with the basics of all systems as they may become useful at some point. For instance if you ever have to light in "The Round" for example...make sure you know how to properly design a plot using 3-Point or 4-Point Method (depending on how many lights you have available.) The McCandless Method usually works really well with Shakespeare...it all depends on what style you are going for.

    Don't be afraid...school is your time to experiment without the pressures of professional deadlines and the need to make a profit. However, don't use it as an excuse to slack off...use your time wisely, act professional, have passion for your work. Prospective employers in the future are often impressed when they interview someone with incredible passion for their jobs...it's how I landed many of the jobs I've had to date. If you don't enjoy what you do...it shows, and there is no point to hiring someone who just doesn't care.
     
  10. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    This topic has been pretty well covered but I want to build off of what CW said and give you some homework... go pick up a couple books of Art History at the library. Find some good examples of Romanticism from the early 1800's... I like the Revolutionary Art the best... stuff like this or this . Study the light in the paintings. Where does it come from. What does it do to the subject? How would the picture look if it was lit McCandless? How would it look if it was lit straight from the front. You can learn a lot by studying how great artists use light to emphasize a scene.

    Remember the title to McCandless' book is "A method for lighting the stage"... not "THE method for lighting the stage". On the other hand it's an excellent starting point that if done right is pretty fool proof.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2008
  11. DCATTechie

    DCATTechie Active Member

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    I only have enough fixtures to do one color from each side. So, one 45 would be cool while the other would be warm. Does that change things?
     
  12. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    These days, the only place I really use the McCandless Method is for the house plot on my second stage. The reason I use conventional lighting methods there, is that the house plot needs to be adaptable to any number of different shows. That is really the strength of McCandless. It's a fairly versatile method of lighting a stage. But that strength is also a weakness, as following the textbook rarely addresses the specific needs of one show.
     
  13. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    That will work just fine.

    Depending on the shape of your theater, the negative of doing it with only one light per side can be that the areas to the extreme right and left end up a little too warm and cool. It's really nice to add a third set from head on in a neutral color to help blend the two sides. The next step would be to double hang all positions so that you can really tweak and blend things out evenly. But you don't have the instruments so go with what you've got. If you have a few extra instruments and you notice that the edges are too warm/cool double hang the extreme left and right positions and gel them the opposite color of what should be from that side. It'll help blend things out a little

    Also I don't think I would go with a true 45 degrees from center. I think I would go somewhere around 35-40 degrees from center. Just to help blend the faces a little better since you don't have that straight on neutral.
     
  14. DCATTechie

    DCATTechie Active Member

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    So I've decided on a 35 degree angle. All of my fixtures are 26 degrees and the throw is about 25-35 feet. About how far apart should I hand the fixtures to achieve the 35 degree angle? And another thing, the teacher decided he no longer wants cool light and think all zone lights should be gelled in an amber. Is there any sense in doing this? Once again I am in a rush as these need to be focused by 6:00 TODAY. Thanks!!
     
  15. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    If you have a side elevation and a floor plan of the space you're designing in, get yourself a piece of tracing paper, a protractor, and a straight edge. Use the protractor and straight edge to draw your 26 degree beam spread on the tracing paper. Overlay this tracing paper on your side elevation and floor plan. This will give you a good estimate of the coverage you'll get out of a single fixture, and you'll be able to answer your own question on how many instruments to use.

    As for whether there is any sense in gelling your front lights in amber, there doesn't have to be. If the director wants amber fronts, give him amber fronts. That having ben said, yes there is sense to it. I have found that most directors would rather have you err in the direction of warm front light than cool front light. Try to bear in mind that your design should always support the director's vision of what the show should be, so don't be so stuck on what you think the lighting should look like that you're unwilling to adjust when the director has a different idea.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2008
  16. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Of course, there's no law that says both sides must be the SAME amber. R02 from one side and R17 from the other will still give you some plasticity, or three-dimensionality, (the textbooks call it revelation of form: Function of Lighting #2). The deeper color becomes your warm, and the less saturated color becomes your cool. You could also leave one side no-color, which will appear either warm or cool depending on the other color. The lavenders, R51-R57 are wonderful in this regard as they always take the opposite of what they are paired with.

    More advice: until you get really experienced with The McCandless Method, always pick very pale tints for your frontlight. Favorites are R02, R33, R60, R51. Even an innocuous combo like R34/R64 can easily become quite garish.

    In refuting The Method, McCandless' contemporary Howard Bay asked "Why should an actor be blue when he faces left stage, pink when he faces right stage, and pied when he turns front?" [Stage Design. Howard Bay. Drama Book Specialists, 1974.] He had a good point, even fifty years ago. (I assume by now you read that book, [user]gafftaper[/user]?)
     
  17. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    About the distance between the centers of the frontlight areas.

    Another trick: put your fixtures on 18 inch centers. Makes life easier. I try to make the 18" centers be the Places That Lights Can Go, so if you add a fixture in between two others (where there's a gap), it's also on 18" centers with the rest of the world.
     
  18. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

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    You can do it if you consider such things as intensity and distribution.
     
  19. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    and color temperature and movement!
     
  20. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    I agree with the cheating and the at times cheating in colors from wide angles but also with doing what's necessary for cutting in the angles for the acting areas of the stage. If short on fixtures, do what you need in reserving persay if nessary say wash instruments to do that to get what you need but hold in reserve your main and important acting areas plus specials.

    Hmm, anyone had limited amounts of lighting equipment before? Believe that's in part where the art comes from in making that turd really shine well as one of my current mentors would stay.
     

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