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Gobo placement

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by zac850, Mar 25, 2004.

  1. zac850

    zac850 Well-Known Member

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    New York
    OK, well I'm pretty sure I know the answer, but I just wanna make sure...

    where do you place gobo's? You can place them in lights in-front of the stage, right???

    I was talking to a friends dad whos an actor (professional) and he says that you can only place gobos above the stage.

    I don't think this is true, but just in case..... is it???

  2. digitaltec

    digitaltec Active Member

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    President of CRU design, LLC
    Pittsburgh, PA
    If you are asking where to place a fixture with a gobo in it then I would not put it in a place where when an actor stands in that beam of light it will alter the gobo pattern. It's just like a projection, if you stand in front of it your shadow will show up on stage. Your best bet is to place the fixture somewhere above the stage and aim it on a backwall or something. It all depends on where and when you are going to use the gobo. But do keep in mind that it may get in the way of your actors or as I like to say the actors get in the way of my lighting effects. :)
  3. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Than again, as with all things if you make any hard fast rules, it's time to break them. What if there is enough light from other sources on stage so as to block out the shadow effect, or more especially if the pattern is not intense enough to show up on the stage as a blocking of the beam? In any case, your actor type is right to some degree, it’s safest if your pattern is scenery if it’s top light so as to minimize shadows, or projected into areas the talent does not wander. Nothing more distracting in breaking the fourth wall than a follow spot shadow on scenery. That said, here is my go at it.

    Another purpose of the gobo is to just break up the stage both the talent and the set from reality as needed at times past the look this is the shadow outline of clouds, trees and windows. Having the talent inside the pattern adds difference by way of abstraction from reality - this is your star, he is standing in the light thus you need to watch him - Not always, some times the point is not the talent but their competition with reality! This can be an as opposed to a these people are on stage therefore we are lighting them so you can see them clearly, or in a form of super reality. Macbeth creeps down the stairs in hiding amongst the shadows. Steps into his light when he needs emphasis, or when he is musing and fearful, perhaps he states his lines in the dark shadow of the tree of fate. At times perhaps his mouth is in shadow, but his all important eyes hide from our view - this would say a lot more than just projecting patterns as per scenery.

    It adds breakup to the three dimensions normally seen on stage as if a Isben reality. You can’t play Sam Shephard in simple reality, just does not work unless that bad lighting for what is going on is part of the statement than you still go beyond it in making your point.

    Say you want something to pop out of reality. Having the actors cross in and out of minor shadows when still for the most part lit will help them break from a otherwise photographic picture. Also, in shows such as "The Emporer Jones" - highly recommended reading, you have a character in a jungle. What by the stated logic of gobos they are only used to simulate scenery and not to give the impression of what the sun or moon is doing to the people in the jungle as the light is filtered thru the trees? The pattern effect does not only have to be scenery, and shadows don't have to be avoided. If you stand in front of a double hung window you do create a shadow just as the mullions create a shadow on you. It’s just a question of the ambient lighting and other sources of reflection or projection in the room washing it out - just as on stage with lots of sources washing out the shadows.

    Certainly you don’t want a pattern effect with a human sized black spot in it, but with careful placement of fill lighting and projections you can at times use the pattern for the effect it will have given a trained talent to use it. If they don’t like being in the light, or don’t know the difference in being in spot or shadow, than it’s probably best to go Isben in just providing a pattern as a scenery effect. Otherwise, patterns add to the effect both on the stage and the talent’s immediacy. You just have to ensure your angles are proper in the balance of fighting harsh shadows with the effect desired.

    Place a spider web as down light with another lamp to wash out the direct shadows and you get the non-shadow effect. Spider webs as down light can be distracting if otherwise the stage is not washed in color or the shadows washed in color. But for other purposes, that effect of say follage above making lines and shadows on the talent - sometimes hiding them partially, sometimes frightening can add to the effect. “The Little Prince” perhaps at times needs stars from a pattern placed on him, perhaps even needs the spot light shadow effect on the scenery in making him pop out at certain times.

    Lots of things to do with “Placing Shadows” that’s it’s own book also. In developing what’s right it takes experience, play time and a feeling of what’s right. Your actor advisor is right to a certain extent given it’s scenery and not effect or mood design. Play careful however with what extent of mood you try to provide beyond general illumination. Shadows placed upon those not able to take advantage of it, much less at the wrong times will just be distracting and not artistic.

    Back to my “is he Hitler, or is he not” concept with a certain one act play I forget the title to. Had this actor that could find his otherwise washed out and invisible perfect Hitler light anywhere on the stage when it was appropriate. The other person both by script and also by talent somehow while in it never was effected by it. This one light at the proper beam angle and intensity to match the lighting angles most found in Hitler footage. Perfect color temperature, perfect intensity, but washed out in the stage lighting up until he chose to find his light to make a point. When inside of this beam of light, he was Hitler, when on it’s edges, we safely could see him as a feeble little old man thus the prolonged question. That’s projection and talent as opposed to the “talent” I once had who avoided the light and it was necessary to just wash the stage to get him lit. If you can’t see them, you can’t hear them and the eyes are the key to the soul. Yet for those that are trained and able to walk in and out of it playing with immediacy, soul and intent, a few well placed shadows especially well placed patterns can put their performance over the top. For others it’s going to kill the show with distracting shadows. Judge your abilty/mission well in balancing it to the talent you light with the shadows. Form follows function no matter the artistic intent. If the talent can’t take advantage of your art than scale back to the essentials and wait until you find talent that can. It will serve the entire show and your overall concept better. If possible and with time you, the director and the talent rehearse with finding the light and playing to the shadows, otherwise lite them and avoid the harsh shadows of your question.

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