Footloose lighitng


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My Technical Director just put me in charge of doing the lighting design for our production of Footloose and I don't know where to begin in designing it. I can't get my hands on a script yet, but I may be able to get a cd of the music, I'm not too sure on that yet. Anyway, where do I begin handling this and is there any suggestions on what I should do with only 24 dimmers and a Leprecon 624 console (DMX input)?
Hi Falcon

Getting the script is a priority. Read it through once without making any notes. Then go back and read it again this time make notes of lighting directions included e.g. Daylight, Moonlight etc. Also look at how many actors are involved in the scenes e.g is all the cast on the full stage or is there a scene where only two people are on stage and are they close together. Obviously some of this may change when the director blocks out the musical. Are there specials such as a pool of light from a street lamp etc that need to be there to help carry the musical.

What is the directors vision for the show? Does the lighting have to be realistic or can it be a bit more abstract. For example do you need to wash the stage evenly with lights or can there be pools of light where the scenes will be played out.

You will also need to find from the set designer what they intend to do. Will there be a lot of set or minimalist. There are practical considerations to take in as well. Is the set designer going to put a piece of set somewhere that blocks your use of a light bar?

It will be hard to light this show with only 24 channels but it can be done. One of the first things to find out is what budget lighting has got for this show. If you have a budget, can you hire another dimmer pack? Although your board appears to only have 24 channels if I have read the Leprecon 624 brochure right you can softpatch. This means that for example a colour wash that will use more lights then one dimmer can handle per channel can use extra channels on the extra pack while only taking one control channel on the desk.

Talk to your TD about what they have done in the past. Do they know where you can borrow more gear from? Is the school looking at buying more lighting equipment, maybe you could get a dealer to loan you some gear on trial.

While you are waiting for the script, get an inventory of lights off the TD. Then make sure they are all still there and working. If you haven't before take the time to play with the lights and make sure you know what each one can do. For example how wide can you make the beams go before you loose to much light. As you have only a few channels you will probably need to use fewer lights but with wider spreads so you don't run out of channels.

Have a look at your stage, can you divide it up into workable acting areas for general lighting. A small stage may only need three areas across the front and three across the back . A bigger stage may need to be divided into five areas or more, across with a front, middle, and back row of areas.

Once the set has been designed you may find where you might have put an acting area you don't need to. Depending on the types of lights you have you may be able to light each area with only two lights for the area, one in a warm colour eg lavendar, straw etc and a cool colour eg steel blue etc.

Add a couple of whole stage colour washes, throw in some specials, a bit of imagination and you should have a good show even with your limited gear.

I hope you find some usefull bits in this post. Good luck with your show.
Hi Falcon

I saw from another topic that your school use to have 20 analogue dimmers. What happened to them? You may have already thought of this yourself so please forgive me. My idea is this:

I take it when you talked about now having digital packs as opposed to analogue you mean't that the old ones didn't use DMX protocol. Am I correct?
If so does the theatre have enough power to run the 24 new ones plus some of the old ones. I know some of the old ones maybe broken but by getting a qualifed person to service them could you at least make one working pack out of them? Also the three channels of on/off only control can be useful for some of the specials you may need.
For all this to work you would need to buy a DMX512 to analogue convertor. They should be easy to find for maybe two hundred bucks.

Properly serviced old analogue packs to can still work well. Two community theatres I have been involved with still use a mix of analogue packs with DMX gear. In fact one one theatre only got it's first DMX pack in 2004. And these analogue packs we use range in age from twenty to thirty years old.

If you can do this you might get some Kudo's from the school for your iniative.

This all depends on whether there is enough electric power for more packs, and whether the old packs are still there. Still it could be worth checking out. You might also want to check hire places, other theatres that are getting rid of their old packs.

I would be interested to hear how you get on.
Well recommended, though I would read it at least twice without notes, than the third time start thinking about my own role in the production.

This all also given you can't make do with 24 control channels, in cross fading between scenes. If not even 24 dimmers given an economical use of them and perhaps some specials controlled in another way.

Depending upon the light board, a 24 channel board can be either 24 two scene channels or 48 single scene channels. This with or without programmed memory backup. Otherwise if quailty and before memory and single scene 48 way board, some older boards allowed a way of doing individual channels off the two scene board by way of indipendant mode for them. This in the hands of a skilled designer and operator about amounted to a second light board to control with.

While more dimmers would no doubt be nice, it's often best as a long term goal for the building than something as a prerequsite for the production that otherwise limits the design within it's bounds if you must have more. First get the show out the door, and if absolutely necessary ask for more, but first try to work within the limits of the gear you have on hand.

Given you don't have the script yet, nor have bought your own copy, perhaps getting a book or ten on lighting design might help otherwise fill the time between than and now in helping you help yourself.
The analog dimmers were upgraded to digital ones, however they did that, i have no clue. So we don't have them. Our entire system consists only of the 24 dimmers and the leprecon board. We have to hard patch our circuits into the dimmers to the channel. so our system runs, board to dimmer to light, using only 24 dimmers and 50 circuits, although i only now where 40 circuits are, the rest are a mystery to all of us. and we have no way of finding them. anyway as for other places, i was thinking of rental equiptment from Christie Lights, but i don't know how much our budget is. I was thinking we could get a new board, dimmer pack, and iq lights. But i highly doubt i will get those.

I have jsut gotten the cd of music, but no one has been able to get me a script yet, and we have no clue how much our budget for lighting is. I was just informed of all the sets we have yet to build which include a six foot high platform that needs to be danced on with the band underneath so this takes away 20 circuits whihc i could have used.

I am soo confused of what i will end up doing.
Hi -
We have 12 dimmer channels. What you need to is look how many specials the show will have. For example, if it is 4 before interval and 4 after, you could swap them over at interval = 4 more general illumination channels. Also, don't forget that orchestera lights (and house lights) can be plugged into powerpoints directly without dimming to save channels. Also, get the script ASAP. Talk to the director directly, rather than stuff round with the TD. Or if you know some-one in the cast...
TheHeadHunter makes a good point about replugging during the show. Depending on how desperate you are for channels you may even have to do it between some scenes.

How big and what sort of stage do you have? Is it a proscenium or a thrust stage?

What lights do you have in your inventory?

I was in a similar position last year when I did the lighting for a High School production of "How The West Was Warped". I had 24 channels just like you.

In the theatre it had a flat floor acting area with rasised seating for the audience. The downstage width was about 10m. This was lit with five 1k fresnels/pcs. I would have liked more but this was quite bright. The stage then narrowed in as you went upstage because of flats angled on both sides. There was gap at the back of about three metres for entrances and exits. About 2-3 metres back from downstage thee - four 1k fresnels were hung. Then to light the gap where some of the action happended two 500w Fresnels were used. These were geled in an Amber to simulate desert Sun. I needed a blue wash and this was achieved with two Selecon Pacific 90' 1k's that as their name suggest have beam angle of 90 degrees. It would have been nicer to have four for the wash to do the stage deeper.

I forgot to mention the fresnels were hung facing almost straight on to the stage but it didn't wash out the faces to much.

There were a few specials:-
For the voice beyond the grave a 1k PC was hung directly over the actor in open white.
A 500w profile did the spot for the heroine.
We had a set of stairs with a landing, a 500w Fresnel lit the top while a 500w fresnel with it set fairly wide but with the gull wing barndoors closed up tight so the light was just on the stairs managed to cover it nicely.

There was mobile flat that had a saloon setting on the back complete with real shevles with bottles glued on. The teachers provided the bottles, there was plenty of bottles lol.
On the back it opened up to a desert mountain scene. A 500w fresnel was mounted at a steep angle to light the bar and it gave a nice scalloped light on the wall. When the desert scene was turned around and the bar light just touched it off nicely. There were a couple of other specials but you get the idea. Some cyc lights lit some canvas stretched across the backwall this was lit with sky blue for outside scenes and left blank for inside scenes.

There was no backlight but that wasn't missed. So this was done with about 25 - 30 lights on twentyfour channels. Each of the main fresnels were on their own channel which let me use them as area lights.

Depending on what lights you have you could do similar. If you have enough profiles for two to an area you could put a warm in one and a cool in the other, you can also use fresnels . Depending on your stage size you might need 6 or more. If you can't spare the channels and they are only 500w you can pair them together on a channel. The two colours help accentuate the face. If you can spare the channels separate them and use a blue that is also suitable to be a night colour eg steel blue.

Do you have battern lights they can help with colour washes. Do you have a Cyc and if yes will this be visible during the show. A well lit Cyc done with three colours allows you a lot of variation.

Once you have worked out what specials you need you may find that one light may cover more then one job. This is where it pays to be on good terms with the director. Because you can say to them if you set that three feet further forward I can use that light I have up there.

Falcon I reckon you will do a great job on this show. Get along to rehearsals as soon as they start and you will find the ideas coming to you.
Isn't it curious how teachers/directors come up with so many empty liquor bottles all the time?
I just did Footloose at the end of last year. we had 108 dimmer channels, 8 technobeams, 40 par 64, 18 1.2k fresnels, 3 2k fresnels, 4 4way cycfloods, 8 multipars, 2 1.2 pc's the odd profile for gobos and a jands 408 control desk. :lol:

The production was done in a school hall, we hired portable seating (300 seats) laid carpet on the basketball court and built a set on it.

I have some pictures of the rig but nowhere to post them, if anyone has somewere to put them let me know.

Don't mean to brag but thought you might be intrested.
well, i just got the script and a copy of the cd for the play :D . reading over the script most of hte lighting will be just general lighting with "funky" colours (as my TD puts it). We will be using specials for certain scenes like a chicago skyline and a stained glass window. As far as i know, i can only rent up to 10 lights or $500 which ever is cheaper. But my TD as asured me will be going over the lighting as soon as the main parts of the set is built (this includes a 10' by 10' platform thats 6' in the air).

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