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Design Issues and Solutions Let's talk about area lighting

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by TimMiller, Mar 17, 2009.

  1. TimMiller

    TimMiller Well-Known Member

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    When making a generic plot with areas, do you create round pools of light, or square areas? Also how do you keep from making the entire show look like several areas lighting up throughout the show like a big 70's disco club.
     
  2. TheDonkey

    TheDonkey Active Member

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    The way our theatre is built, 75% of out light comes from the Second FOH (for the thrust) and from the catwalk(for past the prescenium arch).

    When doing general plots, I usually just draw circles/ovals that outline the areas, if tehre are specific specials that focus on specific set elements, I draw out a basic set outline(ours usually stay very static)

    As far as actual lighting, we use Altman Leko's(trademark conflict there?) for out actual areas, focused to a very soft ring effect(so ALMOST a wash, but still a little bit of defining ring) then I fill the spaces between rings with fresnels(with a little bit of venn-style overwash)

    Now that's just for past the thrust, for the thrust itself, we just have 7 or 8 S4's that are actually in very terrible focus right now.
     
  3. Chris Chapman

    Chris Chapman Active Member

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    When doing area lighting, I use pools and have a soft focus for all edges. That way the areas blend into each other so you don't have the "wacky disco lighting" effect. :) Softening the focus is the key to either method. By softening your focus, you don't have to worry about hard lines from shutter cuts. Nothing worse then one a performer walks from area to area and you see a bright line across their face from a hard shutter cut.

    Some people don't like circular pools because if not focused properly, or laid out properly, you can get dark spot spots in the "corners" between areas.
     
  4. ScaredOfHeightsLD

    ScaredOfHeightsLD Active Member

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    I think it is definitely a major design decision. For example, I worked a show once, a few shows actually, where it was incredibly important to 'draw' a straight line down some area of the stage, so for this I went with more rectangular cuts that were still softened. I will again put in a vote for soft focus and maybe even a bit of frost. For me personally, there are few things I can't stand more than really harshly cut front light. Just my general thoughts and musings...
     
  5. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    The real trick is in the cuing, more than the focusing. When you focus, you have to make sure that each system blends well across the stage. Which, as has been mentioned, is usually achieved through combinations of soft focus and frost, unless you need hard lines.

    However, making it not look like a "Disco" all comes in the cuing. You have to think about the motivation for your cues, and not just put cues in for the sake of it. You also have to think about motivated sources. Consider when you turn a light on that is in the corner of a room. it will be bright right near the lamp, but not a black hole on the far side of the room, so when you crate a motivated look like this on stage, you still need to blend out the idea.

    The other major factor is cue timing. When you create cues that are designed to shift the focus, many times they are not a natural lighting shift (daylight hasn't changed, the same lamps are still on, etc.). So you have to take slow fades for many of these ideas, let the actors draw attention and the lighting change be in the background. Even when you have a scene where an actor opens the shutters on a huge window, you can't jut pop on the lights. You need to have the lights through the window up, but you will want to fill in the rest of the stage on a much slower count.

    Now, if you are lighting a show that is set in a more non-realistic setting, you may have more motivation for faster cues and unnatural lighting changes. This is not a bad thing, just make sure that you are consciously aware of the design choices you are making as you will evoke completely different responses from the audience (which may be the desired effect. Also, musicals are an entirely different beast as many times for musicals the lighting changes are driven by the music.
     
  6. beachcombah15

    beachcombah15 Member

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    I agree. For my most recent LD for Polaroid Stories, most of my cues ended up taking place over a long period of time. Since the play is set in the streets of NYC, it made for a very fun experience finding motivations for cues. for example, Philomel is a character who doesn't know how to express herself in any way but song, so I ended up using her songs a great transition periods. This combined with a consistent time scale came out to be a spectacular LD.
     
  7. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    I will only add one thing as far as focus. I generally focus with a hard edge and then use diffussion instead of running the barrel.

    As far as cuing, remember, less is more. Use only what the show is asking for. I just cued Heaven Can Wait with 22 cues and I may still cut 5 or 6 cues during tech. I cued A Dolls House with 12 cues. I count house cues as light cues by the way. Overcuing is a plauge in today's theater (along with over hanging, just because a space has 300 lights doesn't mean you have to use them all!).

    Mike
     
  8. Chris Chapman

    Chris Chapman Active Member

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    Mike, why do you prefer this method? Using a hard cut with diffusion seems to be more difficult to control spill with than running the barrel. Do you like it for the brighter intensity of the hard edge instrument? I've never focused that way and am intrigued. Seems that your gel order goes up with all the diffusion though.
     
  9. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    See this post:
    from this thread: http://www.controlbooth.com/forums/lighting/8629-blue-edge-brown-edge.html.

    And for an opposing view:
    Do you mean when:
    1)Determining fixture type and placement,
    2)Drafting the light plot, or
    3)Focusing fixtures?
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2009
  10. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Great article Derek!

    I do it for several reasons...

    1. That is the way I was taught.
    2. You get more even light over a larger area
    3. You get better spill control
    4. It takes less time (important when you are paying IA guys $24/hr)
    5 You don't lose intensity because you are using the unit at its proper focal length

    Mike
     
  11. Chris Chapman

    Chris Chapman Active Member

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    I'm going to try it when we do our next refocus. I hang a rep plot and modify that plot based on the show. The weird thing is I was taught the opposite way. Further proof that there are 10^6 different ways to do things in Theatre. :)

    Derek, also thanks for the EXTENSIVE info on the focus history. :)
     
  12. awhaley

    awhaley Member

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    The other advantage to frost over running the barrel is that the frost hides the chromatic aberation at the edge of the beam (the edges of the light turning red or blue) which helps with the blending of one area into another.

    Something that plays a factor as well in which beam edge method you choose is how you overlap beams. If you use the old rule and overlap lights so that the edge of one area light falls at the center of the next area, you may well want to consider running the barrel out from sharp instead of using frost... because this method of focus counts on the falloff of the beam to make the light even across the stage; getting the beam perfectly sharp and using diffusion gives a much 'flatter field' meaning more even light from edge to center. If you're overlapping the beams by much, this means that the edges are actually TOO bright as they get bright light from two instruments.

    If you're trying to overlap your area lights much less (which is the more modern trend) then you may want to take advantage of this flat field by sharpening the lights and using diffusion.

    There are good designers who use both methods. My preference is to use sharp barrel and frost on S-4s and to run the barrel out from sharp on Altmans. I do this because I think the Altmans, focused this way, give a really lovely quality to the beam, and it has some natural variations which contribute to the believability of the scene. I've never liked the way S-4s soften... so I use frost.

    Now, to the original question... For focus, my personal preference most of the time is to do my photometrics so that the beam of the light is aproximately 12', then put shutter cuts in to cut my area down to a roughly 8'X8' square (at head height.) I do this because I don't want to think about where someone's standing on the floor and how that relates to a mess of overlapping circles... when I'm cuing I want to think of the stage as a grid. On a 40' proscenium, there would be 5 8' squares and it's very quick an easy for me to figure out which light to turn on for that area.

    If I've got less instrumentation, then I have to leave the shutter cuts wide and make do... so I can get the maximum amount of light from the unit.

    Someone mentioned earlier that cueing is an important part of making the show 'fit' together, and this can't be overstated. The biggest advice I have for softening the effect of cues, is: Learn your console's advanced timing features!

    Almost every console can at least handle split times.. cues with a different up time and down time. Usually the uptime needs to be shorter than the down. My standard times for cues are 3/8 (Very fast) 5/12 (Moderate)and 7/20(Slow... often the correct timing for an actor to make a cross entirely from stage left to stage right.) Splitting these times means that the eye moves with the action (and the uptime) and the fadeout is slower, giving more time for actors to exit the area, and more importantly, making the two moments overlap in time for a moment. We're not just leaping from the couch to the table... the eye moves to the table with the actors and then the light on the couch fades out slow enough that we don't really notice it, because by the time the lights are going out on the couch we're firmly in the bit at the table.

    The next step to getting smoother cueing is to use, and be fast and efficient at handling, part cues if your console will let you. Part cues (or independent fixture timing, on some consoles) allow you to set different up,down, and wait times on individual channels or groups of channels in one cue. So if the cue is 'lights up, while a person comes through the doorway Left and crosses to center to deliver a monologue... I'll write two cues:

    Cue 1:
    Part 1: Doorway Backlight, Doorway Frontlight and Full Stage Blue backlight up in 3 seconds.
    Part 2: Stage Left Frontlight and Side Light into Stage Left and Center up in 5 seconds.
    Part 3 Center stage Frontlight up in 7 seconds.

    Cue 2: (Call when actor reaches center, or auto-follow on 7 second delay)
    Warm up Cyc, and fade out Back and Front lights for Doorway and Frontlight Stage Left Uptime 7, Downtime 20.

    With these two cues, the light moves incredibly fluidly, and when the timing is right it tracks the actor through the scene, every change motivated by his action.

    I disagree with the comment that the theatre is overcued... but the audience shouldn't know most cues are happening. I often cue straight theatre very densely, but anyone other than a VERY obserant lighting designer will never notice. The lights move by VERY small degrees throughout a dramatic scene, on very long times, but I'm CONSTANTLY adjusting the composition of the scene to keep the audience focussed where I want them, and to provide just enough variety (and keep the overall intensity level lower) to minimize eye fatigue.

    I DO agree that theatre is often over-hung... But I've seen more designs ruined by high channel(or dimmer) counts than by high fixture counts. Eventually you get to the point where you can keep 300 channels straight, but this is an acquired skill! Inexperienced designers will do better design with 32 channels than 128 because they are forced to think in terms of big, strong ideas. Turn on the pink... now switch to blue.... now just the backlight.... Having fewer channels to mess with mean that each change is likely to be simpler, stronger, and better thought out!

    Art
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2009

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