backlighting help??


Active Member
Soon I hope to have pictures of my school's stage...basically, we have 16 Parcans. 12 are mounted out front, like...

1 2 3456 78910 11 12

about 20 feet out from the stage, on truss, unmovable (not with clamps, they are screwed to the truss, like on a light tree) I also have four cans bolted to the...I think it is called the proscenium. basicaly, RIGHT behind the front curtain. These will probably be aimed crossing, like

/ \ / \

across the stage, and gelled with either a very ilght lavender, or a very very light blue (rosco is mist blue I think) The front lights will be bastard amber and lavender or mist blue (the lavender is a very light lavender, I forget Roscs's name though, and a buddy has my gel book right now. Anyways, I powered up thel ights a few days ago, without any of the new gels, but I noticed a few things: the few mist blue gells we had on the lights have almost a harsh white look to them, the lamps are 600 watt DYS bulbs. So, I am wondering if using the very very light lavender would be better than the blue, (we are doing the importance of Being Earnest, ,just to tell you) or if I need to have some backlighting too. On the stage, the stage is a rectangle shape, none thrust or anything, but they have a back wall, built like


on the stage, and there is a few feet between that wall and the real stage wall. Old stage, no curtains except the front one. I could possibly mount a fresnel on the top of the wall, it just ends, the stage is higher than it, so I could do that, justscrew them to the top of that. Then, I have to have more dimmer....basically, the dimmer packs for the system are somewhere up in the ceiling. I cannot get to them to change anything. It's all done so nothing is ever I would have to rent a dimmer pack, and a few fresnels. Would this help me? What gel should I use? and, the audience woudl be able to see the light, that's not too good I think....

plese give you advice! thank you! (I've been talking with one member of ocntrollbooth over email but I figured I would post the problem here to before I getpictures because it might take me a week, my cmaera is acting wierd.


Active Member
It sounds like you have the front and top light covered. I'm not sure what you mean by "back light". I'm not entirely sure i understand what you're planning to do with this fresnel, but, I have this mental picture of it pointing towards the audience. I don't see the utility of this, but I also don't ahve the faintest clue what happens in this play.

Either way, just screwing a fresnel into the wall is not a great idea. You're going to first need to find the stud (shoudl be every 16" from either end. You'll need a studfinder to be sure. If you have steel studs in the wall, you'll need to anchor the fixture into the drywall such that it won't fall out. If it's a cinder-block wall, you'll need tap-cons or a masonry drill bit and the proper anchors to match.

Either way, you have a fire hazard here with a fixture which becomes extremely hot as time progresses. You'll most likely be anchoring the yoke to the wall - that's goign to give you perhaps a few inches of lcearance between teh top fo the fixture and the wall. I wouldn't do this.

My advice is to make do with what you have. Perhaps it would be possible to add additional fixtures on the pipe behind your curtains for some additional top light as a compromise.


Active Member
um, it's a comedy.

the's like, a freestanding wll. It has supports behind it, but it has 5 feet between the top of it and the actual celing. If I mounted a fresnel or two on the top of it, not on the plane of the wlal that is perpendicular to the floor, but into the 2x4 beam that makesup the top of the wall, then I wouldn't have any issues with heat, and the lights' only purporse would be for a backlight. Some people tell me that I need one, I have never used one, I do not konw of any advantges really to speak of, I am jus asking if there is or not..

and I cannot move any lighting aruond. The bulding it wired stupid. Basically, thelights are mounted where they are mounted, I can aim them, but the cord goes out the back, is pigtailed to longer cords that run through the roof to the dimmer packs, and no one at the church whose bulding we rent knows where the dimmer packs are. They are not in the attic space where the amplifiers are, they must be up in teh roof somewhere, and the roof is 16 feet up, and no lift. Nothing I can do to add or subtract sucks.

thanks though!


Active Member
Ok. My reocmmendation to you is to moutn the fresnels up there, see how it looks, if you like it, well then make sure it's safely secured and the heat won't be an issue and keep it. If you don't like it, take it down. There isn't really a right or a wrong in art - e.g. lighting design.


Active Member
I would love to do that, the problem is, the bulding's lights are all mounted on things, they have no extras' or anything. If I were to do this, I have to convince the school to rent the fresnels, and a dimmer pack, and another board, because all the channels on our NSI are full.

The more I tink about it, the more I think I shouldn't do it :)


Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
Bolted fixtures.... Man’ that’s harsh.

Front lights are using DYS lamps, .... let me get this straight, you have ray lights (basically flash lights with round beams of light) providing the front light for your stage? Who designed this place, some backwards rock and roll DJ? While I love Lavender, it’s a color for magical instances and not normal lighting. A Lavender/light blue and amber gelling ha as the only two colors ha? No color blue and surprise pink pop up in my head as a start on other white light colors. What color of amber are the lights also?

Time to start saving up money for a new - professionally done lighting package. Done so the system does not change ha? Theater done by maintinence people for a lecture hall purpose.

Consider this your repertory plot - something that does not change in the use of it for auditorium lecture purposes. Given this truss up front, save up money and invest into a show lighting package independent of it. Go especially for a truss in a back of audience position that you can raise and lower by way of hoist to make it easier to change out fixtures. If possible also get the rep. truss so mounted given it’s strong enough to mount more fixtures. Have drop boxes installed on the FOH two light bar trusses for the new circuits, and run backstage to at least a 48 way dimmer pack. I have no doubts this theater if older was designed without front of house lighting, much less to save money, someone at some time dead hung a truss and mounted some permanent fixtures to the truss so that they would stay fixed to the positions required. This is the group think type front office or maintenance staff over riding any actual theater program. It’s not unusual to see, nor is it unusual for such a layout not to have real front of house positions and electrics, than stuff added but out of liability, such equipment made so that students were not allowed to play with them as a theory. Lighting and sound up until about 30 years ago was part of stage setting design still for the most part, much less even at this point, the director and a helper did it all. Sound design is probably only a 15 year old field of study in fact.

Over the stage, you have not spoken of dead hung pipes, flown pipes and electrics etc. not all lighting is best as a front light even if on an angle unless your stage depth is only 10' deep. Side light, top light, back light and overhead specials have their place in design also. Much less most theaters will have had some pipes installed for boarders or tormentors. (Tormentors I think of by term as a soft flat that’s covered in fabric as opposed to a hanging drape though there is a lot of grey area.)

Your back wall by drawing seems to be forced perspective in terminating, it’s also a cyc wall in that it is no doubt a smooth surface for projections of things like sunsets.

No curtains except the main drape. How deep is the stage?
Normally when you describe a stage, you describe the proscenium opening by way of width and height, than depth of stage. I assume you also don’t have a fly system, much less since you don’t have tormenters or legs, you don’t have teasers or boarders in drape overhead for masking. Must be a really shallow stage, or someone thought that all the settings would be box set style that would provide it’s own masking. Given the back wall, you might be able to find in searching the building your missing legs that were provided with the install no doubt. Normally such things will have been provided in even the most idiot architect designed place. Given your up stage pass behind of the cyc wall, this place had at one early point been designed decently. Let me guess about your schools’ theater age.... before 1954? Such drape if you can find them or they did not get tattered and thrown out would if found, need to be cleaned and re-fire proofed but probably be in good condition. My guess is that someone took them down at some point to make way for a box set. Normally such theaters will have had such equipment provided with the initial install especially if it has a cyc wall with a sloped end to it.

Ok, onto advice, you have ray lights in the front of house, no Lekos and Fresnels, just wide beam flashlights. Assuming that you can’t swap lamps out for normal PAR lamps which have an oval beam at least, covering your stage with an even field of light across the entire stage might be difficult. Go with some heavy silk in addition to the gel to orientate the beam of light more into an oval and better wash coverage. Importance of Being Earnest (was board by it) but it’s a parlor wing and drop or at least box set show with lots of doors and things to hide behind. You might need various specials also to light the actors in hiding. (Been a while since the last time I saw it thus details escape me beyond falling asleep.) If you only have two colors to gel with, sure, perhaps amber and lavender as colors in the lavender adding some coloration to the stage at least, but it’s more a magical quality color in that it’s not something you find in a natural lighting environment. This is a problem as there is no magic to Importance. I might go amber/pink from the front and some cooler blue from the rear in this realism type play. At least you are not lighting it with gas lit or candle foot lights and chandeliers as it will have otherwise been done.

This could also be a design element however. Think the harsh bad lighting done by this classic style of lighting the stage when this play was written. Think even the blue/white carbon arc harsh lighting angles which in harshness might be able to have an effect by way of lighting design on the show over just lighting the stage. Your intent so far is McCandless in 45 degrees from each direction from the front - given two colors, than something from the rear. Given your theater space and lack of lighting, perhaps a general wash of light from the front top, even dead on from the truss for the stage without any lighting angles to the fixtures. Go harsh, make them amber from a candle. Use 8 fixtures or if possible 6. Put four more on the floor from the down stage, or better yet, use eight fixtures as side light in a blue/green color. Better yet, do away with all FOH lights and go wing and drop/boom side stage lighting - as well might have been the way this theater was designed to light from.

Say two or four instruments from the floor down stage and 12 from the wings. Coloring in white/pinks and ambers and light blues would do well in matching this show to how it will have classically been lit.

If more of a box set, why not interrupt the walls going upstage to downstage without a seam and have the walls interrupted with a doorway or offset of the flat in allowing space for the lighting to project from in covering the stage.

But on the subject of down lighting, assuming you mounting fixtures to the box set or cyc wall, is it possible to mount a pipe spanning this cyc wall across the stage so you can get the fixtures more upstage of it in giving less of an angle the audience can see? Yes backlight shining in the audiences eyes when they are not paying for rock and roll audience blinders is probably not a good thing. What ever the case, think tormentor as I describe above. A soft flat with duvetyne covering on it hanging across the ceiling and masking the lights from the front row of the audience, yet still allowing room for lights from the rear to light the stage or at least their zone. Raising this lighting pipe mounted to the cyc wall might also be of use for doing this, or at least masking off the cyc wall at it’s upper end given directly mounted fixtures.

In renting/buying given the no doubt small budget, I might instead of renting, do at least away with some of the 12 fixtures at the house position. Invest your money into spot or medium flood lamps for the front of house - depending upon the throw distance. These at least oval if not much wider beams of light will allow you to do more with less fixtures. Are you sure all fixtures are mounted with ray light kits?

A PAR is some mis-opportunity connivance of a combination between a Fresnel and Leko in providing a light beam that is sort of both. Given a rental budget, instead invest in better lamps for the front if not all fixtures in making what you have more useful as a long term solution both for this show and especially ones to follow where you will no doubt have more budget to rent or perhaps buy fixtures to supplement the trash cans.

Go wide flood for instance for the proscenium mounted fixtures. Too bad the halogen 600w PAR 64 lamps are no longer sold. The incandescent 500w PAR 64 lamp will be a pale comparison to the dichroic halogen ray light lamps where brightness and color temperature is involved. If you have the power available, perhaps you can go with three instead of four fixtures per circuit in using 800w PAR 64 “Power Saver” lamps from GE. These lamps are 117.5v instead of 120v which means that above it’s 3,250°K color temperature, due to operating over voltage but not quite as much as a Leko by way of voltage, it will have a very much blue/white similar color temperature to that of a S-4 fixture. In other words, you will get a very hot and seemingly bright source of light. The output also is going to be just about as much but not quite as much as a 1,000w PAR can fixture.

The beam of light than becomes as opposed to just about 12° from each fixture between 9x9°, 21x26° and 21x44° in beam spread of the beam angle which is 50% of the field angle or light beam’s edge. Get the point? Given your DYS lamps within a reflector, unless some modern version of the Ray Light in being available in wider beam spread reflectors, it’s probably going to have about a eight degree beam angle to it in looking like a huge flash light. Go with wider lamps and while you loose general intensity which is probably too bright for the shaft of light, you disperse the light outwards in covering more stage with less fixtures.

Cover more of the stage, you need less fixtures to do so and can use more of them elsewhere. I have no idea how wide the stage is, but given 12 very narrow beams of light from the front of the stage, it’s probably not much over 20'. My goal would be at most half the fixtures from the front if not at most 2/3 of them given I was not wing and drop (side light) that the PAR fixture might be better off in as a position. Put some wide flood ambers in your proscenium fixtures with the same color of warm amber. Go with the rest of the 12 fixtures as a side light, two from high, one low each side on two booms. Low color should be perhaps some form of light pink, the above some form of light amber and perhaps medium blue.

In taking fixtures away from the front pipe, but the same number of them (granted three instead of four per circuit, or one instead of two - dependant upon the dimmers) you than could run extension cords to the FOH empty circuits and power up as normal. If this house has a fire curtain you are not allowed to break the fire curtain line by stringing cords other than upon the floor/stage where the seal would cover it. In other words, given a fire curtain, it’s going to be a long length of a lot of cables running backstage. Given an other than at ceiling run from FOH to the stage, you will need to rent or buy more dimmers.

bdesmond’s reply, the intent was to screw the fixtures to the top plate of the wall not the individual studs. Given a lumber double top plate, or even single one, anywhere would be sufficient for a lighting fixture to lag into the wall. The yoke also is sufficient as a heat sink to prevent the fire hazzard as long as the top of the wall is painted and fairly well dust free.

By the way, find them dimmers. Should a circuit be overloaded, a thermal breaker on them will pop. It would be good if during intermission you can get out a ladder and re-set the dimmer pack.


Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
Given the church, it might differ from my mental image of a small stage in a school if it’s the main hall dias you present upon. In any case, find them dimmers, loose the ray light lamps and do your best. I would recommend some masking or teasers given the show in hiding overhead lights and go from there. Don’t spend money on renting stuff when your inventory is as you describe. Bank as much as possible for real improvements, until than go with what will provide more coverage in light in saving fixtures and dimmers for other things.


Active Member
wooo....that was alot Ship!! :)

anyways, in a day or so I will have pictures, this is NOT the normal stage. Ok, stage is about 25 feet wide I think. 10 feet proscenium height, like, it's 10 feet up. There is no cyc curtain, the back wall, this "fake wall", is the back. Borders, tormentors, teasers? none. There is 1 curtain, the main one. It opens side to side. The lighting? yes, ,all raylights. The school has no budget for things like this, right now they are working on buying their own property and building buldings. Rigt now, we use this crappy stage. I am trying my hardest to find the dimmer packs, but they keep gettng mad at me beign on laddres. The dimmer board is locked in a closet, and one day I got the youth pastor (friend of mine--note, this is not the chuirch I go to) to get it out for me, I got in trouble for it with my drama teacher! I am not allowedon ladderrs unless she is in there too now. The lights are unmoveable. Yes, an idito designed the place. All the lights, they are pigtailed to the extrension cords, not just plugeed in. I cannot unplug the lights! to do that, I would have to cut the cord, insteall plugs on both end, then I could do it. But my school nor the church would let me do that. No one kows where the dimmer packs are, very annoying, and stupid. me? I have read the manuals for everying they hve and understand it better thanthe church or my drama teacher.

I think you could see all this better with some photos...I am pretty busy the next day or so but I ope to get some by monday. Then you can give advice that is a little more relevent...this is not your standard theatre, this is a barebones floor called a stage! :)

thanks though ship!


Active Member
well, don't have the new pictures of just the stage up yet, but I realized that on my bands's site we have some from a show we played on it.

that big green thing behind the drums is a carpet pad draped over the wall to help with drum noise reflections off the wall. Hopefully this will give yu an idea of the stage...

PS: I'm the guitarist, male, in the white/gray shirt with the tobaccoburst LP[/url]


Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
Now that's a gymatorum or in this case a event hall atorum.

One good thing about it is that if you make magic here, a mainstage will be ever so much more easy.

You know, I can about see some booms set up between the tables along the side walls for FOH supplemental lighting. Your FOH truss is too close and does not offer enough angle to do much anyway. Abandon it. You won't get the best angles with booms but certainly get some controlled lighting without ladders and re-tasking out of the deal.

Look at it this way also, you shoot off a confetti cannon and it's an easy clean up.

Now as for shows, I'm thinking Brecht in breaking the third wall is most of value here. Audience is already disassociated and broken enough by this third wall, put them actors into the audience, if not just use the hall with a stage in the center of the audience if not a long thrust stage and you make this hall into a theater. A long platform into the center of the audience and perhaps the fashion design elements of it in renting the space will pay some in faculties improvements.

Final note, track down the architect of the space and presue him as a goal in your life into making him by way of donation request letters donate money towards equipping the theater sufficient to cover for his shortfalls. he he he.

If it's any help, imagine your stage but with two 18" square posts located 36" from the edges of the procenium ends and two feet down stage of the apron and that's the stage I will be lighting next week. Sure it's a similar 25' or so stage but now it's down to 14' of usable space between posts beyond even site line issues. Place does not even have drapes and we will be tripping the video/movie screen so it is able to get out of the way after the video without some stage hand having to go before the audience with a hook. Than comes convincing the place that drapery blocking out the stage is useful.... I'm also doing a church show next week on a similar stage in addition to local classrooms, the gym and other sites for a alternative Halloween.

Hey, no problems here, I'll be there at 6AM on a Saturday converting what dividers and walls (hack) constructed two years ago for a similar show for the gym, than installing the lighting next week. I requested some things to be rented but don't expect much. Contacted me a week ago about the future production, this week I was told it opens next weekend. - so much for pre-production. Lights will be installed by Friday and only after the ever changing script and program in general is worked out to completion. At least this time they have a theme instead of locations and subjects covered in general in this religious alternative to a haunted house. Most of the second production meeting was devoted to just making the misc. storyline where the audience moves between many rooms into something more simple and dramatic.

Anyway, find your dimmers and all other hidden ascets, than make the best of what you have and best friends with the maintinence staff. Don't forget the magic you need to make as the goal, than do your best. It after you find the ellusive dimmers is your home, nobody can work in the space better than you can. Skimp where you can in budget to save up for the department's own gear as time goes on but in the end as a school, what you learn to compromize will educate you into the real world where a few grand is at stake but you still don't have what you want. Coming from nothing in budget and space will have distinct advantages over those spoiled by high tech or big budgets than pout when they no longer have them.


JahJahwarrior said:
I am not allowedon ladderrs unless she is in there too now.

That's the problem with being a minor (I'm assuming you're under 18 )....the people running things really can't have you climbing around in dangerous places. But sometimes you need to break the rules and bend some arms to get things to work your way. If they keep complaining about you being on a ladder, then just tell them either they can go up there and find what you're looking for, or the quality of the production will suffer. If it's your drama teacher, you may be able to get away with playing the production quality card. If it's someone in management...forget it...all they care about are dollar signs.


Active Member
:) I am thinking this:

I can get four lights per gel sheet, I'm gonna try to get two bastard amber, 3 GAM Mist blue (prtty sure that is the anem, not sure of numbers, and my rosco book is elsewhere too) sheets, and enough silk to cover every ight. Do you think I can work with maily amber for the outdoor act, and mainly blue with one or two amber lights for the indoor stuff?? I cannot set up booms or anything, the FOH truss and those two side trusses, along with four lights over the stage (RIGHT behind the proscenium wal thingy, bolted onto the ceiling) is what I have to work with, no buts about it. :(

also, I do not want gels melting together. I already consider it necessary for any gel to have holes in it, maybe you alld on't, I don't know, but that is my rule, you poke some holes in them with a tack before they go up. Now, how can I do anything to kkeep the gels apart????? it's like, wit the heat sheild gels, you are supposed to have one inch between them and the gel, right? h ow do you do that????


Well-Known Member
I think the gam Mist blue is 830.

The plot sounds like it would work fine.

About the gels melting together. I believe you are asking if the gel and the frost will melt together, since you said that you are going to gel and frost each instrument. If that is the case, you don't have to worry. if you are poking holes through the gel, you should be safe from melting gels.


Active Member
yeah, I was worried about that....usually I poke each gel seperately, should I put the two gels together then poke? or does it not matter??

my next step is fundraising $120 or so for gels, lamps, tape and some music for the play....the play budget can't handle it very well, so the techies have to find some way....suggestions? :)


Well-Known Member
I don't think it matters very much how you poke the gels.

Hum, $120. Bake sale? For that amount of money, maybe get the school to have a bake sale and have parents donate food and stuff.

Have a talent show, charge $5 a head?


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The two gels probably will melt together either way. Especially if they were in a fresnel so close to the lamp. With other lights, I would guess that the chances of them not sticking together would be better. If you place the Frost infront of the colored gel, the gel color will also bleed onto the frost. (Happens in my cyc lights at the theatre). If your Gel frame allows, try putting them in two separate frames. This will atleast keep an air gap in between them.


Active Member
" While I love Lavender, it’s a color for magical instances"

I have not had time to read the rest of Ships post because its extremly long .... but This qoute kinda stuck out at me. Allot of designers use an Lav as a front wash along side a cool or warm colour because lavender can be both so it gives you your warm and or cool for what ever colour you choose.

Lavender is such an great universal front wash colour so dont be dissing the lav.

On the other hand im the guy who hates washes so what do i know. I love specials and i hate general washes. Weird i know but thats how i operate.

but dont be saying bad things about the lavender it can be your freind in a pinch.

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