Backstage Lighting


Active Member
I need to light the wings of the stage. I was thinking pars with blue gels.

What pars would you suggest and with what type of bulbs?
The reason I was thinking of pars is that I want more control over the lights than the incadescents can give. I also want to point them into the wings so that you don't see them from the audience.

Would a par give me enough coverage?
It's kind of hard to know whether something's going to cover a space you've never seen before. 8) My guess is that some mltiple of par cans will work, though.

In any case, you can dim an incadescant just like you can a halogen. Just because it has an Edison plug doesn't mean that it has to be plugged into a normal wall socket. Edison to stagepin converters are readily available, or can be made pretty easily. Fundamentally, it doesn't work any different than a dimmer switch on a light in your house.
Black light provides very limited visible light you can work under, makes things with phosphoress content glow which can very much make the backstage have a glow to it that can be seen during blackouts, and will give some headaches over time. I would tend to avoid using black light lamps. On the other hand, just as there is black light and more commonly found black light blue lamps, there is also blue phosphor coated lamps that are not giving out light in the blacklight spectrum. Anywhere from a compact fluorescent lamp in blue, red etc, to a normal fluorescent in colors. Same with lamps, black light incandescent lamps are available in 60 and 75w, but the amount of visible useful light from them is minute. For instance, you would not be able to see the legs masking the back stage off the light of a black light. This would be counter productive as part of the purpose in back stage lighting is in ensuring people are not shaking the legs when they bump them. They need to see the leg in order not to bump it, black absorbs and definately does not reflect black light.

Any fixture you have can light a wing. Security lights - the double ended lamp halogen fixtures designed to light up a wide area such as around a pool would work well in that you can go down to a 50w lamp installed in them. Similar yellow work lights when adapted to hang from a lighting pipe would also work with similar lamps. Problem with both fixtures is the glass in them is safety glass which is good but also fragile. If the glass breaks it's going to shower down hot glass everywhere. You need to use any screens provided with the fixture or introduce your own. Such fixtures however given a small wattage lamp are very easy to install gel into the frame with the lens. Such fixtures between security lights perminantly mounted, and work lights that are more portable will also be cheap to get and once lamped down to a useful wattage would have the proper intensity and a very good and direct beam spread. L&E makes a very nice work light like fixture that is UL listed for stage usage. Unfortunately the lowest wattage of lamp you can install in it is 400 Watt so it's use as a run light would be limited. Old cyc lights on the other hand can be useful when lamped down. Old fixtures in general such as 4.1/2" Plano Convex fixtures or ground rows can be useful. Rope light when dimmed very low is also a good option.

Should there be too much coverage on stage fixtures you have that are extra, for instance on a Fresnel, you can remove the lens and even reflector. On the security light removal of the reflector should cut down on the amount of light coming out of it also, dimming such a thing would be a better solution however.

Clip lights with taped on gel work but are a pain, it's cheaper and easier to just use colored lamps in them. Try to avoid transparent blue "party bulbs" as they are much less effective than a true dipped colored lamp. Wattages range from 7.1/2 to 100w, I find 25w and 40w to be most useful. Clip lights are quick, cheap and easy to install and are frequently used. Should you be installing a perminant lighting system however I would install the back stage lights on a circuit to ensure that when you go home at night they are all found and turned off. Otherwise it's necessary to turn off each fixture. It can also be required by code that if it's perminant it needs to have perminant wiring and circuiting to it. Clip lights might be fine for a show, but the major lighting back stage should be perminant and only supplemented by clip or portable lights.

Index lights over the pin rail system are useful for this for instance as one type of light. Get them in two circuits, one for working on the rail, the other for shows. Such fixtures are much like a cyc light except that the beam of light is much more directional.

Par fixtures would also work well if you have extras, but you might have trouble getting some that are low enough in wattage if colored. On the other hand, if you have spare par fixtures about than you can gel them as needed. Again, the lowest wattage lamp possible for visibility but little spill would be good. A wide focus PAR can could do this. The wider the lens in size on a par, the wider the dispersion will be at it's start. You might have a MR-16 lamp with a 36 degree beam spread, even one with a fifty degree beam spread, but the overall beam is going to be less than that of a PAR 30 to 64 lamp with say a 24 degree beam spread where intensity and area covered is concerned. A birdie as the MR-16 can is called might be good for confined spaces, but it's overall illumination would be very limited even at higher wattages. 36 degrees off a 2" lens and short throw is less than 24 degrees off a lens twice that size, and for the most part the wider PAR lamps are just as available in wide focus for an even wider directional beam yet.

Halco used to and probably still makes track lighting PAR fixtures in smaller size cans than normal fixtures. Track lighting fixtures are very easy either to modify for stage hang or purchase stage haning adaptors for. This will with a wide PAR 46 flood for instance allow a very short throw distance and compact fixture but necessitate dimming due to the wattage. On the other hand a PAR 30 fixture while available in lower wattages would not have as wide of a beam spread given the size of the lamp. PAR 56 lamps you can also find in a 200 watt version.

PAR 30 would be the smallest lamp I would think for overall lighting that might be useful. they are available in down to 35 watts halogen. Unfortunately the lowest wattage colored lamp in this size is 75 watts which is fairly bright. PAR 30 and PAR 38 lamps would be the lamps of choice given the wattage range available. Their beams are still more round instead of rectangular and even across the field I find to be more useful.

True Pinspots being a mirror ball lamp with a PAR 36 5.5-6.4v narrow beam 30w lamp on the other hand as described have a wee bit narrow of a beam. You can get even colored medium focus roundells and even wider focus lamps for them that will have wider beam spreads, but in general the life of a pinspot is very short in not making it an economical solution short of putting a 12w lamp in a 6.4v transformer which would be tremendously long life but also very amber. The high output lamps are not very shock or voltage spike resistant however what ever the type.

On PAR lamps, a PAR 38 fixture might be the most usable. It's not going to have the wide and very refined rectangular wash of a work or security light, much less a stage lighting fixture with or without lens, but it would still be a good solution. In this case you can get silicone coated for safety, blue watt miser lamps in 85w which might be just a little more light than you need without a dimmer. Could be useful for the first dress to have the lamps up a bit more without needing the work lights on, and this lamps 60 degree beam angle would make it decent for close projection. Otherwise PAR 38 lamps are available in down to 45 watts. Given the wide lens in addition to beam angle idea, a PAR 38 would probably be a good solution especially if it's silicone coated to catch the glass. This is something any other fixture would not be able to do as well in lower wattages.

On the other hand, for best results, you might be best off looking into a low voltage system, this way if you have fixtures strung out where ever and cords all about, there is no chance of sparks in the dark. Track lighting can be installed either on portable bars or on individual pipe hanging clamps and sockets in addition to perminantly installed on the walls. Transformers can be remote for the wiring - at it's own distribution system or at the plug to be low voltage in the cord. In the case of a low voltage system, I would not be opposed to gaff taping the cord to the deck without any protection over it. Otherwise such fixtures on perminantly installed bars could be easily focused to where you need them. There are for instance little three inch square wash light fixtures available giving off a rectangular beam as opposed to the commonly known round little MR-8 to MR-16 lamps most known. You can also get such track lighting if perminantly installed as line 120v or low voltage with shutters to mask the beam where you need to. Such lamps can be as simple as a clip in light bulb to a wall socket at about three watts to a 250w wash fixture with barn doors. Both line and low voltage track lighting would be a good solution for perminant install.

Next things to think about would be red versed blue back stage lighting. Red is every bit as useful and has less reflective powers or spill on stage. It also hurts the eyes less in going from black to lit areas. Some places use red instead of blue. Another thing to consider is places for the actors to gather should have a bit more light than those closest to the stage, along with any stairways needing minimum lighting levels. The talent is attracted to the most lit places naturally. Provide them with an area out of the way with a bit more lighting and they will tend to stay out of your way a bit more. In this way they also won't be leaning over you to read a love letter or section of the script in your light.

Another detail is lighting obstructions. An actor coming off stage from somewhere brightly lit to somewhere that's for the most part dark needs obstructions lit. Move towards the light is a real thing to try to do in the off stage area thus lamps mounted on the back wall of the wing and pointing twoards stage in a low light can give them somewhere to head towards if the bulb is visible at a low intensity. Light their path but also provide them somewhere to head towards. Make such lamps dim enough that they won't blind those looking at them, and other sources not as visible from the direction of the stage. Also it might be a good idea to make such a source to walk to in a different color such as red or green to make it stand out from other lighting.

Hope there are some useful ideas above. Another reason I would tend to stay away from baby pars, such as the line voltage PAR 20 or it's little brother the Birdie MR-16 can, along with baby 3" Fresnels - Inkies (which you can go down to 35 watt lamps for) is that such fixtures are cute and have a high theft ratio.
hang one par from a corner and shoot it to its opposite corner(hit the walls, if they are black then it will reflect light but it wont be too bright)the purpose of shooting to the opposite corner is by the time the light gets to the corner it will have a big diameter and it wont be as bright. just shoot two into opposite corners.

3D (Derek D. Deiterman)
If you have any old Strand boxfloods around they are a great backsgage light. at my school we seem to be breading them, so all we do is put an "old" blue gel in it, patch it into our dimmer and of we go. they work relly good on the floor in a corner behind a flat. if there is any spill you just tilt them down
At my school we use the fly rail's low level work lights (not a wing light), lights from power conditioners (think furman pl8), and we have dual gooseneck littlelites rackmounted in all the racks back stage, and blues (bulb with transparant plastic covering) attached to the stage walls. They're patched into the dimmer system, each have individually have a switch, wired in paralell and have a convience ac outlet incase power is needed for some strange reason. For the most part it is plenty bright enough back there, the fly work lights really light up the wing, and it isolates itself from the stage/house quite well. The blues however, they're some located towards the edge of the cyc/scrims, all it takes is a flip of a switch.
Um, why not just buy 4 or 5 clip lights from the hardware store. Put normal household lamps in that, and put some blue gels over them. Its cheep, you can aim the light where ever you want, and you can focus it. Plus, its cheep.
We use cliplights extensively. The only drawback seems to be finding a good place to clip them. Of course it all depends on the set design and masking or lack there of. Overall, they seem to work best for us. Before we got our spiffy newnew lighting system, we simply did not have the dimmers to use for run lights. I guess we could integrate them into the system now, but nobody has really thought about doing that. Perhaps I will mention it to the ME.

Can you get low wattage coloured lamps in the US? We have them primarily for outdoor entertaining areas, in strings of 20 or so and the lamps are available in 25W and 40W. They are the same size and fitting as a standard household lamp, and can be used with great effect.
I just did a show outdoors, where we had toset everything up, and we used those red floodlights that hardware stores usually sell at around the Christmas season (for people who want to light ther houses red and green). This wasn't in a confined and controlled theatre environment, but they worked really well in that case. We didn't put them through the dimmer rack, but I'm sure you could do so, with a converter.
I just did a show outdoors, where we had to set everything up, and we used those red floodlights that hardware stores usually sell at around the Christmas season (for people who want to light ther houses red and green). The mounts they came with let us point them wherever we wanted, and they also had a convenience AC outlet. This wasn't in a confined and controlled theatre environment, but they worked really well in for us. We didn't put them through the dimmer rack, but I'm sure you could do so, with a converter.
Mayhem said:
Can you get low wattage coloured lamps in the US? We have them primarily for outdoor entertaining areas, in strings of 20 or so and the lamps are available in 25W and 40W. They are the same size and fitting as a standard household lamp, and can be used with great effect.

Ok, you got me this time. I'm not aware of any medium screw E26/227 based colored lamps available to the lighting market world wide. Given 20 or so in your 240v range, I expect we are talking about a 12v medium screw A-Lamp with a color to it. And you can only imagine how such a lamp rocks my lamp nerd world. While in gerneral such lamps for us are line voltage, this means for you two lamps per 240v circuit when wired in series. When one goes out you than loose a good portion of the backstage lighting instead of a single fixture at line voltage.

Rope lights, individual lamps etc, while low voltage is much more safe to use in a backstage environment given the amount of carts and platforms at times running over cables, this for me at least requires one transformer per circuit or a single transformer in giving that voltage but sufficient in huge ness to power up all things plugged into them.

In any case, the low voltage units would require an alternative plug type to ensure you don't go super nova by way of lamp with a line voltage power source by mistake. 20 fixtures would become a challenge thus if in series in saving the cost of a transformer in that once it's dark by way of bad lamp, it's really dark. Even a rope light once part of the circuit goes out lets other circuits provide light given the fuse did not blow.

So you have some low voltage colored A-Lamps ha? Ok, give who makes them along with any other info you can give on them.
For the color problem I always just taped some blue gel to the side of the light, and then then we had a blue light backstage. Its cheep, its easy, and you can re-use your burt out or scrap pieces of gel.
Osram make them (amongst others) and are available in either B22D (our standard) or E27 bases (we use them, but not as common). They are 240V incandescent lamps.

This is from the Osram catalog:

Product details

Product description DECOR A BLUE 25W 240V B22D 10X10X1
EAN Shipping Unit 4050300480220

You can get to them at the following url:

and then following this path: Lamps for General Lighting --> Incandescent Lamps --> DECOR (Decorative Lamps) --> DECOR COLOR Coloured Lamps
Ah, 240v I expect that there will have to be some in either the non-screw based or 240v screw based line voltage variety at some point I have not noted yet but will eventually. I was more interested in the low voltage type of colored lamp assuming 20 per circuit or 10 for me.

As for the link:
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