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Design Method

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Kevin Rogers, Sep 5, 2018.

  1. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    It's sort of a question if do you want to follow a recipe, or design the lighting. If you cook something and follow the recipe competently, it should be fine. If you choose to experiment and create an entirely new culinary experience, well, there's risks and rewards. Unlike cooking, where it may take a while to start from scratch from a failure, you can sample a bunch of other lighting looks in minutes at the control board.
     
  2. macsound

    macsound Member

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    I think my structure came from working in theatres with rep plots and then going into schools that didn't have them and was utterly confused how they never started with a base, but instead had 100 "specials".
     
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  3. Kevin Rogers

    Kevin Rogers Member

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    What I'm gaining from this thread is a general trend toward experimenting and finding what works for me. The reason I think in areas is because I like to use light to tell the audience where to look and to shape the space. Since I've designed mainly musicals, I've usually had the freedom to only light the area of the stage that is in use as opposed to straight plays where there's generally less flexibility. Given that I'm largely a freelance designer, I get nervous about experimenting too much because I don't want to mess up a show and lose jobs because of it.
     
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  4. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @Kevin Rogers While you're thinking of increasing the intensity of areas where you want to pull focus, keep in mind you can have essentially the same effect by reducing the levels of areas where you have lesser need for focus. Slowly reducing other areas by 5% over 40 seconds, when you have the time, can often create effectively the same effect without burning the filaments as hard, causing patrons to squint, or spinning the Kw Hour meter as quick. Two sides of the same coin so to speak.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
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  5. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Yes - it's about the audiences focus. Just as the director's choreography and blocking can cause the audience to look at a specific performer, and features of set and costume design in their ways, that is what lighting should do. Whether you do that by just following with areas or a follow spot or a special, that's it. A sharp back light might do it, or just warmer opposite rest cooler. This along with "beautiful" is what I think the lighting designers goal is, and beautiful is where the warm and cool come in, to reveal form and not flatten everything; to remove wrinkles from "mature" performers as suitable; to enhance the composition. Much more than the star is in area A2 so make that brighter than the rest.

    But build in safety. Know you have lights plotted and focused that provide a front wash and so on. You can have both - 4 or 5 or 6 wash systems - like 2 fronts (McCandless), 2 sides, top, and back -but also use each unit as a special. (A lot easier today with natural individual control of each unit, and possibly the color, than with patch panels and relatively few dimmer channels.)
     
  6. macsound

    macsound Member

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    I used to have a director who was also the musical director, and was blind. So she had 4 music stand lights on her conductor stand, a special on her in the pit and then would look up during an intense moment in West Side Story and yell back to the tech table that the stage was too dark and moody.
     
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  7. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @macsound O.K. I'm ready for it. Was she deaf as well?
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
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  8. tjrobb

    tjrobb Active Member

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    No, that was the A2 you're thinking of.
     
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  9. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    Just please, as a TD, please reset the plot back to the recipe once your show concludes :).
     
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  10. microstar

    microstar Well-Known Member

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    Another great book in the same vein as Steve Shelley's but preceding it by several years is Ian McGrath's "A Process for Lighting the Stage". Allyn and Bacon 1990. ISBN 0-205-12043-1. Covers the entire process thru the viewpoint of an Australian lighting designer.
     
  11. macsound

    macsound Member

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    I worked in one space, and then continued the tradition in other spaces I designed in, that the rep plot was bolted down. No refocusing, even shutter cuts. Any changes had to be made by adding fixtures.
    In the theatre, they would use the space during the week with the midstage or main closed for lectures.
    In schools, the first time I got burned by the orchestra teacher for all the Les Mis front light being R54 and the tuxes looking dingy for their concert (that wasn't on the calendar.)
     
  12. Backlight

    Backlight Member

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    Very helpful! Thanks! I'm a community theatre LD and it's nice to know that I'm on the right track!
     
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  13. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    I try to build in lots of flexibility to my rep plot. 11 areas (3, 5, 3 - odd shaped stage & thrust) plus 8 open ellipsoidals on the FOH catwalk to use for whatever. Then 12 ellipsoidals in the alcoves that are completely flexible in their use and four Torm positions with 3 fixtures each. I also have a rack of Source Fours ready to be hung, yet they still move something off the rep plot. You can lead a horse to water...
     
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  14. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @Les You can lead a whore to culture but you can't make her think. (I believe that's a Dorothy Parker quote)
    I'd like to pass along a technique the Stratford Festival's lighting designers came up with in the late 1970's.
    At the time the Festival had three venues;
    The main stage at the time was a thrust wrapping around 220 degrees, I believe the Festival only wraps 180 degrees these days.
    The Avon which was a proscenium venue.
    The Tom Patterson / Third Stage which was a civic Kiwanis badminton court during the winter and the Festival's third venue between approximately May and October.
    Back to rep' plots and not adjusting shutters. If you're going to finesse shutters to work with different sets in a repertory plot then you need to wait until the next set is on stage before you can send the electricians up to illuminate lamps and finesse the shutters. It's one thing to change colors and possibly exchange break-up gobos while the previous set is being struck under work lights but once you're going to permit refocusing of fixtures and finessing of shutters you've pretty much got to wait until the carps have finished erecting the incoming set.
    Here's the method we came up with at Stratford in the late nineteen seventies.
    This was back in the days prior to Auto Cad and plotters. Stratford commonly drafted in D and E sizes and had one of the standard print copiers utilizing masters on translucent vellum which were carefully aligned with sheets of photo-sensitive paper then rolled through a copier housing a fluorescent UV lamp and smelling of ammonia fumes. I believe there was a liquid involved as well but I had nothing to do with the copier other than it was located about 15' outside the main door to our electronics and audio shop where I spent much of my time.
    Back to how they dealt with maximizing their repertory lighting plots.
    Stratford had MANY spare gobo holders for each type of ellipsoidal.
    Junior lighting designers invested much of their time cutting rectangles of photo-sensitive drafting paper to fit precisely in spare gobo holders. Once the set and lighting was absolutely set in stone for a given production a crew would go in for several hours insert a photo-sensitive gobo holder into a lamp, shine a hand-held 300 watt R-40 flood in the ellipsoidal's lens and hold it in place for approximately 30 seconds to effectively take a photo of the specific fixture's shutters when correctly focused for a given set. This procedure was carried out for all FOH fixtures in all three theaters for all productions once the positions of all sets and shutters were deemed LOCKED by all the relevant designers and directors.
    Every gobo holder complete with its photo-sensitive paper was meticulously labelled with its metal handle color coded with tape for a particular production then transported to the blue print copier out side my shop where bleary eyed junior designers would meticulously cut the photo-sensitive paper with a razor sharp Xacto knife then use the photo-sensitive paper as a pattern to chemically etch a precisely matching gobo from thin sheet brass using the print copier and its chemicals as part of the process. The end result was for the remainder of the season every FOH ellipsoidal in all three venues had a pile of labelled custom etched metal gobos either laying beside it or dangling from lengths of tie-line attached to it along with a pile of colors, often split or quartered. Once all the custom etched gobos were completed, all shutters were opened wide and change-over electricians could effectively refocus the various FOH's under work lights while props and carps were striking the previous production and erecting the next production. Granted, producing all of the custom gobos took many hours but in the end it proved to be a major time and labor saver for the remainder of the ever lengthening season.
    There you go, make of the technique what you will.
    EDIT: To add additional information and credits.
    Chemicals and photo-resist for etching thin copper, aluminum and brass plates initially came from a range of products intended for creating small runs of custom PC (Printed circuit) boards and were sourced from our main electronics components supplier Electrosonic Limited in Toronto.
    Gil Wechsler was the Head of Lighting Design who later went on to LX design at the New York Metropolitan Opera and gave me a deluxe personally guided tour of the Met' one time when I was sitting on Broadway for a few months with 'Buddy Holly The Musical' at Broadway's Shubert.
    Michael J. Whitfield was Gil's right hand and primary assistant who I last recall seeing at the end of constructing the 11 story, 3 below grade, Four Seasons Opera and Ballet Centre in the heart of downtown Toronto, home to both Canada's National Ballet and the COC, Canadian Opera Corporation.
    Harry Frehner was the junior LX designer at the time and the person who initially did all of the etching and eventually relocated to Calgary, Alberta in western Canada. I long suspected Harry departed to escape the intense fumes of photo-etching and breathe Alberta's fresher air.
    Christopher J. Wheeler was the Festival's Electronics Technologist whose schooling and shop provided the initial photo-etching concepts and chemicals.
    After the technique was a proven success and time and labor saver the majority of the etching became IA work initially under the direct control of IA 357's Neil Dennison who I believe is still active with IA 357.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2018
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  15. StradivariusBone

    StradivariusBone Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    That's funny. I don't think my music teachers even notice the lights. We had one middle school group renting once that was doing the warm up stuff on stage and just started playing their program without warning. Got finished with their first piece and into their second before my techs and the audience even knew they had started. House lights up and all.

    That's our mantra, especially when we're busy. I've had some "LD's" come in and want to rearrange everything, but come to find out all they really want is something we can get from the rep by maybe adding a special or two and dropping some gel. I've had some LD's that come in and recognize that there's a decent plot in the air and then work with that and we do cool stuff. Those are good days.
     
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