Les Mis


Active Member
My school is doing Les Mis. I really want to do a lighting design that everyone will always remember at the school. the Inventory is below. I want to have alot of high sidelight, and use alot of templates, then have about 12 s4s for s general area light. i want them to be dicided among 2 elecs. with 3 on each side of the stage, both side facing the oposite way. For Highsidelight On the first 2 elecs, (out of 4) I want and S4 PAR and a S4 on each side. I then want 4 S4 PARS as backlight.

What do you think, Any Ideas?


Lighitng Inventory:

The FOH and Box Booms are already set.

28 Source Four 26deg
Possibly, 8 More S4 26deg
12 Source Four PAR
4 6-Color Border Strips (already hanging on the 4 elecs.)

130 Dimmers (Pre- Patched 1:1 w/ circuits)

ETC Express 72/144

***I might be able to take some old lights (from before the renevation) and see if those work, then just change the plugs**


Active Member
When I helped out with Les Mis a couple years ago, we wove little red and blue lamps through the barricade to make it really pop. All the lamps and cords were hidden and the everything was on a dimmer. If I had to do it again, I would do it with LEDs to make any color as well as the ability to mix and match areas or do one solid color. Looked really sharp with the way it was painted, little R57, and those lights made for a really cool look. Don't know if you can rent LEDs or can get some red and blue lamps like you find at Home Depot. Good luck and have fun, you can do a lot of interesting and cool effects with Les Mis.


CB Mods
Premium Member
My school is doing Les Mis. I really want to do a lighting design that everyone will always remember at the school. the Inventory is below. **

Here's the basic problem I have with this thread. A great lighting design is one that enhances the show without over powering it. If you're setting out to do one that everyone will always remember you're inherently going to make descisions that are over the top and will overwhelm the show making it about lighting and not about the performance.

That being said what you have laid out as a plot should work to create a good if not great lighting design that people will appreciate but doesn't overwhelm the show.


CB Mods
Why is Les Mis such a phenomenon show? Everyone always feels it has to be huge... I agree with grog, you don't want to overpower the show, you want to enhance it.

One of the best pieces of advice that I was given with regards to designing lights for a musical is that you don't design with your eyes, you design with your ears. It is all about finding how to evoke the emotions that the music has through light.

If you have ideas like you want high side light and a good template wash, what you should do is sit down with a drawing of your theatre and figure out how many units you need to make the wash even. All you need to know is how high your elecs are off the deck and how to use a protractor (for the beam angle of the fixture).

It sounds like you have the right ideas, so run with them!


Sr Product Manager, Chauvet Professional
One of the best pieces of advice that I was given with regards to designing lights for a musical is that you don't design with your eyes, you design with your ears. It is all about finding how to evoke the emotions that the music has through light.
This is good advice.

Once you've established your plot, consider internal Q-ing as well. a few well placed cues, tying into the musical dynamics can have great impact, without making it about the lights. Remember you're there to service the entire production.

Finally, Sometimes less is more. Being able to focus attention is sometimes more effective by taking light away from the less important areas than by adding it. Rather than adding a special, consider keeping an area lit, and lowering the surrounding light levels. This can be very...well...Dramatic.:)


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Hey Lighttechie, as a former high school teacher I know where you are coming from. I've had students with similar ideas. You've developed some skills and knowledge and you want to use them to do something big that goes along with the big show. But unfortunately, as you just heard from several pros, the truth is "big lighting" can be distracting if not ruin a show. Remember if the audience leaves saying wow those lights were cool they weren't concentrating on the action. Have you seen the Broadway version? The vast majority of the lighting is very subtle. They do a few cool things in the sewers, with the occasional gobo, and some nice night lighting, but other than that it's all very straight forward.

As has been suggested remember the power of the show comes from the music. Let the music guide you. A few musical lighting conventions to help you. Often there is a subtle light change as a song begins, either in intensity or color. You don't have a lot of instruments to work with so that may be tricky. But if you can find a way to give your stage a good basic wash then have some alternate color washes from above and behind, you'll give yourself something tow paint the canvas with. Songs that should feel small and intimate, like "on my own" you want to bring the lights down and add color around the singer while keeping the intensity the same on the singer. I like to keep my overall intensity for the show down around 85%-90% for most scenes of for a big songs like "one day more" I can punch the whole stage up just a bit. Keep it slow and subtle so it doesn't distract, I really like that idea of designing with your ears.

Finally, special effects lighting is one way you can do something that really does pop. The idea of LED's in the barricade is an interesting one. You don't want to over do it, but it has some definite potential. Check out www.goldengadgets.com for cheap bulk LED's for wiring up things yourself. Also consider just having some lights hidden in the back side of the barricade that flash in some smoke... I think that's what they do in the Broadway show.

So keep it simple. Don't distract, look for ways to use color to accent.

If I remember right "Icewolf" recently did a production of Les Mis at his theater... and he's got a little bigger budget with more toys in stock than you have. Alex, or anyone else who may have done a pro/semi-pro production of Les Mis, it might be helpful for this discussion if you shared a little bit about where you did do use "cool tricks" and where you didn't in your production. Restraint and simplicity in design are difficult things to teach so thoughts from personal experience could be helpful.
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Active Member

-A few months ago I designed and executed a very adventurous plot for my high school's rendition of Les Mis. I second both Gaff's and Icewolf's sentiments both about designing with your ears and Gaff's approach to color and intensity for this show. It is EXTREMELY dynamic in terms of the plot line, which is echoed strongly in the score. I can't remember a cue from my show that was triggered by the music--as it is, there are very few lines spoken without some sort of music at least in the background--it is an opera after all!!!

In reference to a few tricks and things that I used that worked well as Gaff was hoping we would mention, I'll offer a few.

Haze or Fog (or both) is a must if you can afford it and you can assure it won't set off your alarms. The Broadway version is notorious for the amount of atmosphere they use during their performance. I used both a hazer running continuously for general atmosphere as well as a fogger placed behind the barricade to give a billowing, battle-like effect. I also positioned lights (ACLs to be exact) be behind the barricade to appear like muzzle/cannon fire during battle scenes--they also acted as a great backdrop for the final battle--sort of like rays of sunlight cast over the fallen solders. If you can't get ACLs, some of your 26 degree Source 4s with some kind of break up in them would work great in the fog/haze positioned on the deck with pigeon plates behind the barricade.

I think you have the right idea with your plot, however I would make a few changes in terms of positions of instruments. Personally, I think that lekos work better as a high side instrument because they can be shuttered and controlled better to avoid spillage onto the cyc or out into the house as opposed to a PAR. Also, the quality of the light is flatter and can sometimes simulate sunlight or moonlight better than a par could--it will also look better in the haze I believe.

I would use all your PARs for top/back light. They will give you a broader, smoother coverage than lekos would. Depending on the size of your stage, you might be able to use 4 instruments per color wash (might I suggest red, blue, and white for your washes--really jives with the show).

I think using toplight/downlight lekos for each acting area is a great idea--divide the stage into sections and work that way. I would also save a few fixtures for specials on top of the barricade (a key light straight down center looks great when certain flag waving happens or people die dramatically). You might also want to save a few fixtures to do a full stage gobo from the pipe-ends--looks great in the haze and adds tremendous texture--can save you the trouble of wanting to paint your whole stage floor with cobble stones!

My plot employed nearly 200 fixtures with several moving lights, LED was units, and scrollers for my side light. I know we all aren't so lucky--but you can really do this whole show with those three aforementioned colors and a few, well placed specials. Be creative--see what you can beg/borrow. Try and go as saturated in terms of the color as possible--you'll be happy in the end. That's all I got for now. If you would like to see some images from the my version of the show to spark your creative flame, I would be happy to send them along. Email me.


Good Lighting should not be noticed.

Lighting is there to enhance the show, not make it. Leave the "over the top lighting" to the Rock shows.

Best of luck to you.


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Good Lighting should not be noticed.
Lighting is there to enhance the show, not make it. Leave the "over the top lighting" to the Rock shows.
Best of luck to you.

Welcome to the Booth Mike. Be sure to stop by the New Member Board and introduce yourself so that you can get a formal welcome.


Active Member
While I do agree with the above statements, I think he should try to make the most of it as its a learning experience for him as much as the actors, it is still high school. If he is "Going over the top", it would be the director's job to say its too much. Possibly the director doesn't tell you and when watching the show, you see something that is too busy or too much. Or maybe someone after the show says they watched the lighting more then the actors. That would be when you can look back and think where you went over the top. This is how I learned when something is too much and how to control myself. Learn it early so you can better yourself.

Also, sometimes lighting is meant to be distracting or attention grabbing to hide something else going on or highlight a key part of the show. This is again another learning experience. All of these things also depend on the show, the cast, set, and the over all concept for the show.


Hi lighttechie5948

When I was Ass. LD for Les Mis, one idea i had was stick some S4's on H-Stand, 36degree's were best when i tried it, I had some breakup gobos coming from the side and that enhanced alot of the dark and gloomy scenes "so basically the shole show;)" but it was very effective. Hope this helps.


Well-Known Member
I think the coolest effect I did was hang 8 source fours (2 stands of four) on each side of the stage behind the proscenium wall. They were focused at the rear traveller (blacks) and projected window gobos as Eponine walks during the first half of On My Own. Here's some pictures of the show I did. I used mostly Strand SL's, Altman Fresnels, and Strand Iris CYC Lights for top light. For gobos, what I was really going for was the mid-air effects through the haze, so I just threw in the most random gobos, while keeping it symmetrical. If one was looking at the stage from above, they would see windows, trees, palm leaves, etc. Luckily we didn't seat in the balcony. The sewer scene was also fun. Four to six grate gobos is all you really need for that. Maybe I went overboard. If so, it was just to compensate for the talent onstage. hahaha.


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