The above Ad will no longer appear after you Sign Up for Free!

Footlights?

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Charc, Dec 10, 2007.

  1. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,850
    Likes Received:
    46
    Before I go on my little rant, I'd like to get some opinions from CB users:

    Footlights.

    What is their place in theatre? Are they commonly used? What are the pros and cons of their implementation? Any other information I should know? What are your personal feelings on footlights? All responses welcome.

    ~Charlie
     
  2. ZJH90

    ZJH90 Member

    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    0
    I too would like to know the answer to these...
     
  3. meghan

    meghan Member

    Messages:
    74
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Foster City, CA
    FOOTLIGHTS are striplights placed on the floor, along the downstage edge of the stage. Used sparingly, they can provide excellent low 'fill' light to a performer's face and can help eliminate shadows from overhead lighting, from hats, roofs, etc. My school has never used footlights but I'm sure some places still use them for something.
     
  4. SHARYNF

    SHARYNF Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,911
    Likes Received:
    157
    if you look at lighting for TV live performances they are used quite often to give a more even natural light to compliment the down light and front light

    Sharyn
     
  5. Scrumptusbrisket

    Scrumptusbrisket Member

    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    0
    i saw a production of rent and they used some pretty intense footlighting during one of the songs to create a larger then life shadow effect on the back curtain. Very effective.
     
  6. TupeloTechie

    TupeloTechie Active Member

    Messages:
    296
    Likes Received:
    16
    Location:
    New York City
    yes, I saw a production of rent a couple of weeks ago, they had a full stage of strip footlights, along with a good many birdies also used as footlight. It seemed that they used these in many scenes, not just the ones with weird shadows.

    Also, I think this is kind of on a similar subject, what is the point of booms places in from of the arch with lekos on the very bottom pointing up and to the side? (this was also used in the production of rent)
     
  7. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

    Messages:
    4,061
    Likes Received:
    655
    Occupation:
    Controls Technician - TAIT Towers
    Location:
    Lititz, PA
    it depends on the show. Some shows can make very good use of footlights. They can create a very "theatrical" feel to shows. When you uplight a subject it makes them look taller, just like downlight makes a figure look shorter.

    Footlights are also useful when lighting dance and dance heavy shows. The goal of designers who light for dance is to reveal the figure of the performers, and footlights can give an interesting perspective.

    Footlights do not need to be striplights and in theory don't need to only be on the DS edge of the stage. Many fixtures can be use as footlights. They also don't have to be used sparingly.

    I have used footlights on many shows, it all depends on the effect you want to create.
     
  8. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

    Messages:
    4,349
    Likes Received:
    486
    Occupation:
    Prop-tart
    Location:
    Chicago
    The Historical Role:

    The edge of the stage was one of the earlist places for illuminants. Candles, oil lamps, gas jets and later electric lamps have all served as footlights. Why here? It was convenient, and in many houses one of the few places lights could be placed that they would be easily accessible. Remember, with candles and oil, someone would have to come by to trim wicks and refill the oil. As technology progressed, this lighting position stuck. Footlights, and all striplights for that matter, are really just a carry over from the olden days when rows of flammable illuminants would be used. Theatre, always being heavy in tradition, continued to build theatres with footlights. Striplights were effective in the older theatres. Why do you think so many older installations have permanently wired Xrays? Remember this is a world before DMX dimmers or even computer control. The Fresnel as a stage instrument has only really been around since the 30's. It was far easier and effective to have rows of lamps instead of same number of Plano Convex spots it would have taken to fulfill the roll. Footlights evolved into the built-in strips we can still find in many older theatres. The earliest styles were the "open trough" design, with a row of RWB lamps hooked to dimmers. Footlights evolved in the early years of electricity into a number of style - the reflector-roundel-A-lamp style still found on many older strip lights, the "compartment" type that used either sheets of colored glass or gel, along with a lamp and reflector, and the "dome" type that used glass domes over the lamps for colors. A trip through the archives on the websites for the Strand Archive and KlieglBros will reveal many distinct styles. Footlights, and all striplights for that matter, are really just a carry over from the olden days when rows of flammable illuminants would be used. The old strips and footlights refuse to die for two main reasons: tradition and the fact that, for some people, that is the best they are going to have in the forseeable future. In the "historical" period of footlights, they were still used as one of the main sources of stage illumination. Many permanent footlight installations can still be found in odler theatres using RWB, RGB or RAB configurations.

    As dimmer and instrument technology progressed, and it became more affordable and practical to use several individual spotlights (P/C, Fresnel or ERS) to illuminate a scene instead of using the "floodlight" that is a footlight, footlights fell out of favor. They were seen as old fashioned and unnecessary in the "modern" theatre. I would place the beginning of this trend around the 1960's. For the most part, they were right, footlights had outlived their place as a main and standard source of illumination. The effect it had on a performer was harsh, casting large shadows and making a performer look "flat".

    However, footlights live on, why is this?

    Well, first there is the "art imitating life" thing. Designers today may use footlights when they want that "feel" of turn-of-the-century lighting. Perhaps they are doing an older musical. I spoke with an acquaintance a while back who was tracking moving lights for the current Broadway production of Chorus Line when it was pre-Broadway. He said the designers goal was to recreate the lighting of the original production, hence in photos of the current production, you will see alot of footlights. It's a design choice and something the creative team must agree upon.

    Many older theatres continue to use footlights as curtain warmers, and a few still use them as main a main illumination source. The Oriental here in Milwaukee does just that.

    The real role of footlights today is as a supplimentary or "fill" light. The days are gone of universally installed RGB mixing footlights. Zip strips and Birdies are commonly used today as footlights. They're useful to selectively fill in under a hat, highlight an actor, create dramatic shadows, or even-out the lighting on a performer. Ever watch stand-up comedy or The Chappelle Show on Comedy Central? You'll notice they use ungelled zipstrips as footlights.

    In summary, footlights are simply another tool in the lighting designers bag of tricks. Used properly and consciously, and not neccesarily sparingly, they are of great aid to any designer.

    I'm sure the others will elaborate even more, but I hope this serves as a good basis for the evolution and modern roll of the footlight.

    EDIT: I know alot of people beat me to a post, but hey, I'm a history nut, when I'm not in a theatre I'm probably in a museum. And on that note, have you SEEN museum lighting these days?
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2007
  9. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

    Messages:
    4,061
    Likes Received:
    655
    Occupation:
    Controls Technician - TAIT Towers
    Location:
    Lititz, PA
    Once again, this has a lot to do with how the designer wants to reveal the human form of the actors. Low side light is used often in shows that have a lot of dancing (think: Rent, Chicago, Cabaret, etc.). The proscenium boom position is a very useful for sidelight downstage.
     
  10. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

    Messages:
    5,779
    Likes Received:
    1,077
    Occupation:
    Project Manager, Stagecraft Industries, Inc.
    Location:
    Portland, Or.
    Great Post! Well done! I just wanted to comment on this one aspect. Not only do footlights make some performers look "Flat" but also they have the effect of making actors look Fat. By Highlighting the underside of the jawline, they tend to give people the appearance of a "double chin".
    As an addendum, to gafftapegreenia's excellent history lesson. The term "Wet Blanket" arises from the use of gas footlights. Often actresses in large skirts would venture too far downstage, as a result the would light themselves on fire from the open flame gas lights. By law the Stage Manager had to have a hamper of soaking wet wool blankets close to the SM stand, which could be used to extinguish the flaming actress.
     
  11. Logos

    Logos Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,079
    Likes Received:
    88
    Occupation:
    Retired
    Location:
    Launceston Tasmania
    Why?

    Compulsory extra keystrokes
     
  12. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

    Messages:
    4,349
    Likes Received:
    486
    Occupation:
    Prop-tart
    Location:
    Chicago
    Hahahaa, took me a second Logos. Subtle.
     
  13. Pie4Weebl

    Pie4Weebl Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    2,438
    Likes Received:
    339
    Location:
    New York City
    The production of kiss me kate I am on right now uses foot lights as side light. For all of the scenes that take place in the actual show he uses them to help differentiate that from the "real life" scenes. Peter also used them in too darn hot. The stage is a 3/4 thrust so they are a great way to do side light and not obstruct the audiences view of the stage, and still sculpt the dancers some.
     
  14. len

    len Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,709
    Likes Received:
    204
    Location:
    Chicagoland
    The current tour of Annie is using them.

    Also, I sort of use them in rock and roll all the time for one band. I use single cell cycs downstage and to the sides of the lead vocal. I put a dark amber in one and a dark red in the other. Coupled with his 1960's vintage Gibson sunburst it looks very cool. He hates the heat since he's only 2 feet from them, but loves the look.
     
  15. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

    Messages:
    4,061
    Likes Received:
    655
    Occupation:
    Controls Technician - TAIT Towers
    Location:
    Lititz, PA
    If you could see the actors clearly with your eyes then the fault was in the filming. Who filmed the show? If it was a parent with a consumer camcorder, that was probably where your issues started. You have to have a lot of light for video, especially with consumer grade cameras. Walk into a TV studio and you might wonder why so many lights, but without them the set would appear too dark and due to the need to shoot at a wide aperture there would be quite shallow depth of field. Video cameras and digital still cameras just don't have as wide an exposure latitude as film, and neither film, video or digital stills come close to the exposure latitude of our eyes. We can see things that are very dark and very bright in the same scene, whereas with a camera, depending on how you set your exposure park of the scene may come out under or over exposed.

    So chances are, in your case, it was bad video, not bad lighting.
     
  16. SerraAva

    SerraAva Active Member

    Messages:
    361
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    Southern New Jersey
    I agree with the use of footlights for specific effects and dancing shows. I use them every year during dance season. They are, however, an unrealistic form of lighting. I don't know the show in question Char, but remember that in realistic shows like Miracle Worker and Dairy of Anne Frank, they don't have a place. I say this because a good friend of mine, long time director, actor, and voice actor, said, "God did not intend for light to come up." Meaning, when you go outside or even in a room, the light just about always comes from the front, side, behind, and/or overhead. Sorry for the use of that name, couldn't think of a better way to put it, plus it is also the original quote too.
     
  17. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,958
    Likes Received:
    692
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    I can say that I have never seen foot lights - I.E. the "traditional" set of striplights across the downstage edge of the stage, focused dircctly upstage, used in any of the many, many (and many more) dance companies I've worked with in 30 years. I can also say that I've never had a request for them, nor have I ever seen this used in any light plot as sent by a touring dance company.

    That's not to say it isn't used on occasion or for a particular purpose, but to say it's "useful" for dance and dance heavy shows, would be a new one to me.

    Note that I am not talking about side shin busters/kickers and or floor located side lights. Nor am I talking about the occasional downstage special(s) as needed for a particular dance, just that this is certainly not part of any main light plot of any dance company I've ever seen or worked with.

    Steve B.
     
  18. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

    Messages:
    5,779
    Likes Received:
    1,077
    Occupation:
    Project Manager, Stagecraft Industries, Inc.
    Location:
    Portland, Or.
    Think of it in the same light as the fact that you can't cook a wombat. Nobody but a few, very specific Governmental Bureaucrats and bleeding heart animal rights groups really care. :twisted:
     
  19. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

    Messages:
    697
    Likes Received:
    47
    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    A year or two ago a saw a national tour version of Marriage of Figaro where a single footlight at center stage was occassionally used to project the singer's silouette on to the set in the back. The look was very good.

    (I'm not a big opera fan - it was an anniversary present for wife.)

    Joe
     
  20. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

    Messages:
    4,349
    Likes Received:
    486
    Occupation:
    Prop-tart
    Location:
    Chicago
    Really you first need to know what those taping/photographing the show are using. The shows I've lit that have been taped/photographed by professionals have needed no altering.
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice