Abandon teaching incandescent ?

SteveB

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Brooklyn, NY
As the title implies, the theater department lighting program where I work is contemplating no longer teaching color and design based on incandescent lighting and color theory, as the primary method to create a lighting design.

Instead concentrate on developing design based on the inherent color mixing in LED and other CMY/CYM mixing methods.

An article recently by Justin Townsend in Live Design somewhat outlines his thoughts on the subject. If you are subscribed, the article is here:

https://www.livedesignonline.com/gear/what-s-trending-led-revolution-justin-townsend

I can also post a pdf as needed.

Thoughts ?. Are still in need of designing AND teaching our up and coming designers with old fashioned gel's ?
 
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MNicolai

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There used to be safe gel colors students could resort to before they really became accustomed to the different shades of ambers and blues and such. Then the show is tethered to those gels for the entire duration of the show. Now that you can throw any color on stage at any time, every cue requires a decision on color and in many cases the decision needs to be "don't touch that!" Students will need a more solid foundation of color theory because faking it til you make it is harder than it used to be. There are more decisions to be made and they need to be rendered faster.

Control theory of consoles is more important than ever. The ability to experiment is great but I've seen students fall into the trap of putting off most of their decisions until the first day of tech and then tech gets burned entirely on basic lighting looks and getting the student designer and student programmer together on the same page about groups, palettes, etc. and sometimes they never get into a groove and the show becomes a LSD trip without any cohesive color theory or consistency of looks throughout the show. Workflow is key, and it's getting harder to just walk up to a console and throw faders.

You might not need to teach about scrollers and dimmers as much, but putting gel books in everyone's hands at least provides a foundation for vocabulary to describe colors that are subtly different. If you're going to teach CMY or scenic painting, you would still be teaching subtractive color mixing even as your lighting becomes more incandescent. It could also be another 5-10 years before tungsten really gets absorbed by LED as existing venues make the $$$ investment in LED instead of replacing their incandescents, so I wouldn't throw that side of the curriculum out of the window quite yet.
 

TheaterEd

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How are your students going to feel when they have graduated and have to turn jobs down in older venues?

Kinda like knowing how to drive a manual transmission. It might not come up every day, but when it does....

Knowing how to light using incandescent and then shifting to LED is not a rough transition. Going the other route is going to be rough. You can use the basic theories and properties of light that you learn with incandescent to better understand LEDs. It's important to know where we came from, to better understand where we are going and how we got there.

Like Mike said, you might not need to teach how to use scrollers, but it's still important that students understand what they were and how they were used. If for no other reason, so that when they find a box of 4-pin xlr their brains don't explode!
 

Lextech

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Dec 2, 2013
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Virginia
While LED and CMY fixtures are now common in a lot of venues they are still, by my regional experience, not everywhere yet. Too many smaller theaters have not made the switch nor have the government owned one. Even at my rather well off institution of higher learning we are conventional for everything but wash lights. Who knows when the everyone will switch over but for now gel is still a product we use in this business. That being said the end is coming, there now are no PAR lamps being produced outside of China. How soon will FEL and EHG lamps follow. I don't see HPLs going away soon but at some point this tiny little market will become unprofitable for manufactures without becoming unaffordable for the end user. So I guess my point is, I think it is premature to stop teaching with gel. It gives us a common language with which to discuss design and unless the graduate is working at a high level right out of college they will be lost.
 

EdSavoie

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Windsor, ON, Canada
Some basic colour theory and getting used to at least common gels and filters is a good idea. Even if that person never works with incandescent fixtures again, I think lessons of subtracting various colours from "white", even in subtle gels like everyone's favorite surprise pink is valuable in and of itself.

It's also nice when you're in a colder venue, or at least one where facilities refuse to turn up the heat ;)
 

DrewE

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Vermont
How many places with LED fixtures have (at least some) white-only LED fixtures and still use gel on them? I would have guessed that was fairly common, but it's only a guess.
 

macsound

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Jun 15, 2018
Location
San Francisco, CA
I think abandoning the foundation of lighting design, regardless of how the fixture lights up, is a bad idea.

There are audio schools on both US coasts that have long abandoned teaching how analog audio processing works in favor of teaching only using the newest, most expensive digital consoles. Those students get dropped into their first corporate gig and cant get 1 microphone wired and working in a meeting room.
 

RonHebbard

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SteveB

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Brooklyn, NY
I think one BIG question in my mind is do new designers need to be able to visualize from experience, what color filters do in incandescent units ?.

I think that Justin has it mostly correct that we will be seeing, faster than we think maybe, the significant increase in all LED rigs, in place of incandescent. Thus I'm certain he's pondering what's the best way to teach students about color mixing in the new systems.

I think the dialog of how color is perceived by the human eye and what emotions it calls up, is the same whether you get that color thru a semi-infinite mixing system, or choose it out of a swatch book. Part of the question is do we still need to teach what gels/filters look like on stage, as we are all aware that what a gel swatch color looks like held up to a desk lamp is not what it look like on a stage, so there's a learning curve in that respect and I think students need to be able to have a memory of what gel derived colors look like in real world.

But possibly not and as per Bill's original; post, maybe no longer a need to teach hand drafting either, for the same argument, nobody will ever do it that way !.

Note as well, that teaching about gels and incandescent is likely to still be covered as it'll be years before the all LED system is the norm everywhere, so students will need to learn some of the old skills.
 

macsound

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Location
San Francisco, CA
Another way to look at this is using gels in ways besides theatrically designed lights. We commonly use gels for practicals that need to "feel" a certain way in the show. We use gels for music stand lights, footlights, windows in set pieces etc.
Without that foundation of knowledge, you wouldn't know how to color any non-color changing fixture.
I think even when LEDs are common and hung in every theatre in america, there will still be lights in the building that need a gel related solution. Even if it's just in the booth.
 

RonHebbard

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Jun 12, 2004
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Waterdown, ON, CA
Another way to look at this is using gels in ways besides theatrically designed lights. We commonly use gels for practicals that need to "feel" a certain way in the show. We use gels for music stand lights, footlights, windows in set pieces etc.
Without that foundation of knowledge, you wouldn't know how to color any non-color changing fixture.
I think even when LEDs are common and hung in every theatre in america, there will still be lights in the building that need a gel related solution. Even if it's just in the booth.
@macsound Possibly I've been in my cave too long. Are there still 4' and 8' fluorescents in the wild? If so, does Rosco still make gel in sleeves to slip over fluorescents?? The sleeves used to be popular in museums and dressing areas. I'll crawl back in my cave.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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RonHebbard

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