Design Mediums


Hey everybody, I haven't posted here in almost a year or so, I've just finished work with five conescutive off-broadway shows.

Anyways, I was curious to know what mediums your designs are in. So far all I've seen are watercolorists or computer renderers when it comes to lighting, (Though Colleges will NOT let you use computers to do your drafting, trust me.) and I was just wondering what you use? I myself am a watercolorist, and I find it pretty tricky to do. Fortunately my family is big on visual art so I've had some help. I've wanted to experiment with air brushing and even maybe some pastel work but it might not be subtle enough.

Anyways, post your mediums and tell me what you use!
I'm assuming since this is in the lighting section you're talking about lighting and not set. In which case - why air brush, why bother?

Ok anywho, either sketches of the particular lighting concept one is trying to portray (since you don't need to do them all) or like you said watercolor. Watercolor seems to be the easiest to work with but now with the rending programs such as WYSIWYG people have started gravitating towards that since it doesn't require you to be as much of an artist.

Also, if you're going to portray concepts and what not also do one not only in watercolor or what not but also in... dare I say it... words. Sometimes a director can grasp your ideas even better by saying what you're going for. IE the light from above signifies the change in character making him appear more stumpy and lost. Ok I totally just threw that out there (the example that is) so don't correct me if you see some error. Nothing like putting something down in words to help further your meaning and concepts.
It would have to be my strand stencil and a notepad for wordy stuff.

Having attended the Broadway Lighting Master Class this past June, I do not recall any of the speakers - Jules Fisher, Peggy Eisenhauer, Brian McDevitt, Don Holder, Bev Emmons, Clifton Taylor, Viv Leonne mentioning using any paint/sketch system (as created by the designer and/or assistant) as an attempt to get across a visual concept to other designers and/or directors.

Perhaps they do, but I would suspect not as it most likely would have come up. Brian did a terrific lecture about using established visual works of art as a helpful tool to get an idea across.

I also suspect that none of them use any sort of pre-vis tools either, WYG, etc... at this stage. Ken Billington has use WYSIWYG for the City Center series, but never mentioned using it with a director. I would suspect that Broadway designer don't use pre-vis as - even though they complain about not enough time, they essentially get enough time in theater to do it all live.

I would also state that pre-viz on the computer is the way of the future and that drawing/painting skills for an LD will fall by the way side. It;s not taught at our Theater Dept., in any event.


I agree with you about using pictures for a lighting design (which is why I was un-sure if this was th right forum...), as a scenic designer the use of pictures or models or what not are a must. For a lighting designer however, there isn't much you can really do. I personally don't do any hand pictures of my lighting designs.

As for WYSIWYG, I can see how broadway designers might have no need for it since they are experts at their trade, however lower level designers may find it useful to use to make sure a concept is going to work. Obviosuly the program wasn't made for no reason - I'm sure thousands of designers use it and find it useful though they may not be broadway designers.

As for writing out what you're doing that is usually a way to help sell your idea to a director, nothing more.
First question - Air brush seems able to portray more subtle tones and hues, it was just an experiment I may try for fun, not as a serious commitment.

Second - WYSIWYG is very very very good for directors. Broadway lighting designers that have been in the business forever may be able to get away with words and other people's artwork to portray their ideas, but not many are gifted with that confidence. WYSIWYG is a tremendous help for lighting designers because it SHOWS the director exactly what the designer sees and leaves the director options to change certain aspects before the hang. I would not expect broadway lighting designers for 20+ years to render their ideas out at all. As long as they know what they're doing the producer trusts them.

In the real world, however, most directors (and producers more importantly) are quite suspicious of design work and enjoy trying to control it. This is why I've found it better to be an artist as well as a designer to create works that the producer can see. As long as the producer thinks he's in control of the design, I'm free to create what I see.

Hence me wondering what other designers use.
And as an added note, what theatre department are you a part of that doesn't teach you artistic rendering?

Juilliard, Yale, Calarts, Carnegie Mellon, all the schools known for lighting design FORCE the students to do it for 2-4 years. It seems obvious there's artistry needed for design work on the more professional levels.
Either WYSIWYG, VectorWorks or AutoCAD or a stencil by hand. I've become a computer drafting adept, but sometimes a hand draft is quicker.
Ship shoud reply with him having hs drafting table in his living room and all. I'm pretty sure he's the hand drafting type as well ;)
Sam_ said:
And as an added note, what theatre department are you a part of that doesn't teach you artistic rendering?

Juilliard, Yale, Calarts, Carnegie Mellon, all the schools known for lighting design FORCE the students to do it for 2-4 years. It seems obvious there's artistry needed for design work on the more professional levels.

I guess I should not here that I'm kinda confused, are we talking plot drafting or scene drafting? That said, plot drafting is pretty standarized and a very technical sort of thing. I wouldn't really call it artistic. Scene drafting is purely artistic on the other hand.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and state that I think learning how to render a lighting scene in an artistic medium on canvas - watercolor, oil, airbrush, etc... is a waste of time for a Lighting Designer.

Why ?. It's a medium most designers are not going to have time to master well enough to be proficient at getting a design concept across to another designer. Unlike costume and scenic designers, who are going to spend their careers working in these mediums (for very good reason), the LD will not likely be carrying painted sketches to a design meeting. I've literally have never heard of this and I just asked my wife - who worked at a major Opera house for 10 years and attended most of the design meetings, she had never seen this.

It's my belief that Lighting Design as a medium is far too fluid and ever-changing to be able to capture it on canvas. I understand the desire on the part of the design teacher at school to want the students to be able to learn to express a concept, but Purchase taught this a verbal communication, which well may have better use.

Yes, I'm aware that a painting is worth a thousand words, but not when the first time you turn on the stage lights and it looks very little like those sketches you labored over.

WYG does a far better job as it allows images to be created in a timed enviroment, where you are able to actually see what transitions look like, in a non- static format. Right now the limit is the viewing enviroment - small screen, etc... This will get better with technology and will be the method of choice.

One of the ways I've sucessfully able to convey design ideas to directors, especially those that have little understanding of the tech side if lighting, is by using pictures, photos, computers images that I've gathered off the web. Example; I wanted to convey how light would look through a leaf breakup gobo in a generic fixture... so i plugged a few variations of that theme into google image search and came up with an awesome picture of light shining through a tree and casting shadows over the side of a cottage. The director took one look at it and said that was exactly what he was after. Bit less time consuming than drawing even though it may be a bit more abstract. Other than that, WIG rendering works wonders especially on those directors unfamiliar with such programmes.
Since its somewhat on topic,
Does anyone know a good tutorial (like a PDF of HTML document) on how to use vectorworks to render a lighting design? I've looked at it, but it goes way above my head (I just currently stick to basic 2D plotting and use Virtual Light Lab as a basic guide for myself).

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