Design Issues and Solutions Help with Musical Lighting Design

Ryan S

Member
Hi all -

I'm a freshman in High School, and I've been assigned as chief of lights for the big spring production of the theatre company: The Scarlet Pimpernel.

While I was on lights crew during the fall, the previous lights chief didn't do a masterful job of teaching everything -- and so far I've been overwhelmed, confused, and basically winging it the whole time.

Now, I have a week and change to get everything done. I've had my crew work on plots, and I know conceptually what the scenes should look like, but currently I'm stuck at having to compile all of the individual scenes into a single, final light plot.

I can confidently program, hang, and focus lights once I get everything designed. It's just the plot that's stopping me.

I've attached everything I have. Can you help me out? I'm afraid that I'm going to let everyone down.

Thank you very much!
Ryan
 

Attachments

  • Scan 2016-2-11 0007.pdf
    1.8 MB · Views: 331
  • st2.png
    st2.png
    229 KB · Views: 282
  • stsg-1.png
    stsg-1.png
    16.2 KB · Views: 225

Ryan S

Member
Also: a fixture list as to what our high school has. Renting is always an option -- anything that isn't too crazy is an option for the theatre company. Thanks in advance!

I could offer payment for this plot if anyone is interested in contracting this work.

Thanks.
 

Attachments

  • lights.txt
    1.2 KB · Views: 216

TuckerD

Well-Known Member
It looks to me like you have at least a workable plan together. The best way to learn is to do something. If you can't sketch out a perfect plot right now but have an idea of where everything goes then start putting it up. When you encounter problems solve them. That's how you learn how to do better next time and how you learn what situations to avoid. Just make sure you are safe. And if you are ever unsure about whether or not you are, ask someone.

And after you are done then draw a plot of what you actually did. That will help you next time. It will also help you if you are the lighting designer for the next show. I know that's probably not the help or advice you were looking for, but you are in high school. It's a perfect time to try to work it out. If you mess up. It's okay. Life will move on and there will be other shows down the road.

As @gafftaper says, "I've screwed up bigger shows than this"
 

JChenault

Well-Known Member
I think you are asking a process question here - so let me outline my more or less typical process for a show. I think you may be closer than you think.

1 - start out by drawing a ground plan of the space as accurately as you can. Show all dimmers in the ground plan. Ideally you would have an elevation as well, but this is not mandatory. Get the inventory you have available. It looks like you have done this in your first attachment.

2 - Start by asking what is the most important look / system of light you want. If there is no 'most important' just pick one. You seem to be approaching each scene as a separate exercise. You might want to see if the lighting systems for one scene could be re-used in part or whole for another scene. This will make your inventory go further.

3 - On your ground plan - draw a symbol for the fixtures for your first look/system. Decide exactly where you want it to go. Write down what dimmer it will go into. Update your inventory with what you have left. Now you don't have to get fancy about this. The simplest way might be to draw a circle and put the dimmer number in the circle. Write the purpose of the fixture next to the circle. etc.

4 - Do the same for each look / system you have. Make sure as you are placing fixtures that you have enough room ( you will probably find times when you want to put four fixtures in the exact same location ) AND that you have a dimmer available for each fixture. You can share dimmers among fixtures if you expect that they will be at the same intensity ( For example, and amber front wash could be on the same dimmer assuming that the total number of wattage is not greater than the dimmer can handle).

5 - As you keep adding, you will find that you have run out of something. Fixtures, Dimmers, space - so you will have to simplify, combine, compromise. This is just part of the process. The goal is to figure out ahead of time where you want every fixture to go, what dimmer it is in, and what color it will be.

6 - When you have this rough plot, you will probably want to re-draw it so your crew can more easily follow what you want. The easiest way to do this is to re-draft the plot. Instead of numbering each fixture ( circle) with the dimmer number - just start at one end, and increment so each fixture has a unique number. Then put together a spreadsheet so that for each fixture you have the purpose, dimmer, color etc. You can also note this information on the plot. Doesn't really matter.


One thing I noticed on your sketches is that you seem to be expecting a fixture from the front of the house to light most of the stage. ( for example your first drawing indicates two fixtures in pink that would wash the stage). Remember that the fixture may not cover that large an area. Additionally if you want to light things farther upstage, you will probably have to hang a second set of fixtures further upstage. Visualize what each fixture will do - what areas it will light.


Hope this helps. Have fun.
 

Ryan S

Member
It looks to me like you have at least a workable plan together. The best way to learn is to do something. If you can't sketch out a perfect plot right now but have an idea of where everything goes then start putting it up. When you encounter problems solve them. That's how you learn how to do better next time and how you learn what situations to avoid. Just make sure you are safe. And if you are ever unsure about whether or not you are, ask someone.

And after you are done then draw a plot of what you actually did. That will help you next time. It will also help you if you are the lighting designer for the next show. I know that's probably not the help or advice you were looking for, but you are in high school. It's a perfect time to try to work it out. If you mess up. It's okay. Life will move on and there will be other shows down the road.

As @gafftaper says, "I've screwed up bigger shows than this"

Thank you very much for the advice!
 

Ryan S

Member
I think you are asking a process question here - so let me outline my more or less typical process for a show. I think you may be closer than you think.

1 - start out by drawing a ground plan of the space as accurately as you can. Show all dimmers in the ground plan. Ideally you would have an elevation as well, but this is not mandatory. Get the inventory you have available. It looks like you have done this in your first attachment.

2 - Start by asking what is the most important look / system of light you want. If there is no 'most important' just pick one. You seem to be approaching each scene as a separate exercise. You might want to see if the lighting systems for one scene could be re-used in part or whole for another scene. This will make your inventory go further.

3 - On your ground plan - draw a symbol for the fixtures for your first look/system. Decide exactly where you want it to go. Write down what dimmer it will go into. Update your inventory with what you have left. Now you don't have to get fancy about this. The simplest way might be to draw a circle and put the dimmer number in the circle. Write the purpose of the fixture next to the circle. etc.

4 - Do the same for each look / system you have. Make sure as you are placing fixtures that you have enough room ( you will probably find times when you want to put four fixtures in the exact same location ) AND that you have a dimmer available for each fixture. You can share dimmers among fixtures if you expect that they will be at the same intensity ( For example, and amber front wash could be on the same dimmer assuming that the total number of wattage is not greater than the dimmer can handle).

5 - As you keep adding, you will find that you have run out of something. Fixtures, Dimmers, space - so you will have to simplify, combine, compromise. This is just part of the process. The goal is to figure out ahead of time where you want every fixture to go, what dimmer it is in, and what color it will be.

6 - When you have this rough plot, you will probably want to re-draw it so your crew can more easily follow what you want. The easiest way to do this is to re-draft the plot. Instead of numbering each fixture ( circle) with the dimmer number - just start at one end, and increment so each fixture has a unique number. Then put together a spreadsheet so that for each fixture you have the purpose, dimmer, color etc. You can also note this information on the plot. Doesn't really matter.


One thing I noticed on your sketches is that you seem to be expecting a fixture from the front of the house to light most of the stage. ( for example your first drawing indicates two fixtures in pink that would wash the stage). Remember that the fixture may not cover that large an area. Additionally if you want to light things farther upstage, you will probably have to hang a second set of fixtures further upstage. Visualize what each fixture will do - what areas it will light.


Hope this helps. Have fun.
Thanks!

Unrelated: paying for the plot is not something that I will be doing anymore.
 

jcslighting

Member
To add to what has been said already..

For a musical, usually the set is constantly changing from one location to another either through wagons, flown pieces of scenery, or drops. Because of this combined with the normally limited
inventory you tend to find in high school theatres it is often easier to start with any full stage scenes and work down from there.

I would usually start with the maximum area I need to cover for the largest scene, develop an area grid from that and work down. The area grid is based upon the beam size of your
front of house ellipsoidals - usually somewhere between 8-12' beam size per fixture - any larger and the brightness tends to suffer. This same number applies to your downlights such as overstage
fresnels. So once you have a basic wash for the whole stage figured out you can then move on to the smaller scenes. If you have enough inventory you can individually light them as with the full stage
plot or simply use elements of the stage wash broken up. Essentially use the front light areas to cover each scene and use specials to fill in the rest.

Attached is a light plot from a high school production of "The Addams Family Musical" that I did last year. If you look, you can see how the areas are assigned to the fixtures as well as colors/gobos.

There are several schools of thought or theory for lighting. McCandless uses a warm and a cool front light into each area usually focused from 45 degree angles from Ctr. If fixtures and circuits don't allow, use a
single front light focused directly in front of each area.

Hope this helps...

Knowing the beam spread of each ellipsoidal will help in formulating your plot. For example a 50deg will throw a much larger beam than a 19deg will from the same point. Larger area coverage is usually never the goal.
Things are better when it is split up in smaller sized areas - you have more individual control that way.

Here is a link to a basic explanation http://www.vls.com/lighting-101

Hope this helps!
 

Attachments

  • Addams Light Plot.pdf
    323.6 KB · Views: 206

Ryan S

Member
To add to what has been said already..

For a musical, usually the set is constantly changing from one location to another either through wagons, flown pieces of scenery, or drops. Because of this combined with the normally limited
inventory you tend to find in high school theatres it is often easier to start with any full stage scenes and work down from there.

I would usually start with the maximum area I need to cover for the largest scene, develop an area grid from that and work down. The area grid is based upon the beam size of your
front of house ellipsoidals - usually somewhere between 8-12' beam size per fixture - any larger and the brightness tends to suffer. This same number applies to your downlights such as overstage
fresnels. So once you have a basic wash for the whole stage figured out you can then move on to the smaller scenes. If you have enough inventory you can individually light them as with the full stage
plot or simply use elements of the stage wash broken up. Essentially use the front light areas to cover each scene and use specials to fill in the rest.

Attached is a light plot from a high school production of "The Addams Family Musical" that I did last year. If you look, you can see how the areas are assigned to the fixtures as well as colors/gobos.

There are several schools of thought or theory for lighting. McCandless uses a warm and a cool front light into each area usually focused from 45 degree angles from Ctr. If fixtures and circuits don't allow, use a
single front light focused directly in front of each area.

Hope this helps...

Knowing the beam spread of each ellipsoidal will help in formulating your plot. For example a 50deg will throw a much larger beam than a 19deg will from the same point. Larger area coverage is usually never the goal.
Things are better when it is split up in smaller sized areas - you have more individual control that way.

Here is a link to a basic explanation http://www.vls.com/lighting-101

Hope this helps!
Thank you very much!!!
 

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