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Need some lighting design help!

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by jh008j, Jan 23, 2004.

  1. jh008j

    jh008j Member

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    I am a band director at a large high school, and I have just inherited all of the stage managing duties as well. We have a large music program that performs on the stage quite frequently, and we have lots of assemblies that take place in the auditorium. There's not much of a drama program to speak of, but we're in the process of starting one up. We have an excellent lighting board and plenty of lights on the stage, but none of them have any gels in them. I think that the band and choir look really bad on stage because of the light and I want to remedy this situation. Can someone suggest a basic lighting design that will work for our music concerts, assemblies, and give us a good starting point for our drama program when we get it up and running? Thanks!
     
  2. wolf825

    wolf825 Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Hiya,
    A lighting design--or house plot for what you are asking, requires some more information. First--stage size and type...width, depth, and hieght to grid, plus if its a proscenium thrust or black box etc. Do you have a cyc or backdrop--or is it an open wall etc? Second--need to know your lighting inventory--# of dimmers, # of lighting instruments and what types (Fresnels, parcans, Ellips/Lekos--and what degree they are), Manufacturer would also help--altman 360, ETC source 4 or s-4 Jr, or Strand--and what lense degree they are etc. Third, need to know placement and position in relation to the stage of your electrics, grid or pipes you hang from. Is your FOH position 45feet from the front of stage edge--or is it 100'? Do you have a FOH grid or catwalk, or a front pipe etc..where is the first electric pipe located over your stage and where are the others etc? Last--what is your console--is it a submaster or two-scene preset, or is it a console that you can set cues and looks? Will this stage light looks be programed into a house-light system that sits on the wall for anyone to use, or will it be used from the console only when events happen on its own?

    As for gel selection--that needs a base understanding of the events that go on, the attire folks on your stage tend to wear (street clothes,black suits etc), and what they need to see while on stage (like sheet music)--or do they simply need to BE seen and see the audience better? Finally, the ethnicity of those on stage will also help in gel selection so you can choose colors that will balance the skin tones on stage and not make people seem too pink or blue or green or shiney or washed out etc.
    Since you say this is not for drama at this time--it sounds like everything is ungelled... Varying wattages and color temps will give you blue-white to yellow color temperatures. Gel and color temperature correction filters can help...but moreso it sounds like the wrong instruments are in the wrong place, focused unvevenly, and not being used to the best of their ability.

    In very general description to state stage lighting 101--you should consider your stage in AREAS. Draw out your stage and, given the size and distances, make circles downstage, mid stage and upstage. The size of the areas will depend on the instruments you have, the distance they are shooting from because of the beam size and the foot-candle and beam size they will project light onto. For example--if a 19 degree Source 4 fixture is FOH and FOH is 20feet from the stage floor, you will get a beam size that is smaller than if you used a 26 degree fixture from the same distance. The Foot candles will also change as well. Usuallly you can have anywhere from 3 to 8 areas on a stage in each of those positions (down/mid/up) depending on the size and grid height. Ideally in each of these areas, you will want to have at least two down lights, and at least two front lights and at least one back light--and they all should blend to the other areas with no shadow drop outs between areas. Also--high offstage side light can also be helpful for general light, but is more common used in dance. Fresnels make great top and back lights, as do Pars or some lekos. For front or side light--you want leko's so you do not have any spillage into the audience areas and can shutter cut the light off of areas like walls, drapes and stuff. Additionally, you will want to mark out "SPECIAL" areas..areas that may be used by conductors, podiums etc-usually center stage or at quarterlines. (You find center and quarters by taking your stage width, half of that distance at center is your Centerline, and half the distance from center to offstage edge is your quarterline). These special areas get a spot or solo light to augment--usually with no gel.

    For General gel color selection--no-color blue (Roscoe 63 type), and a no-color pink (Rosco 33), a no-color amber (Like rosco 02) or neutral base chocolate (Rosco 99) are a basic starting place, and this should be from the front and top or side light to catch the facial features and skin tones--so people don't look flat and shiney. Down light and back light will help to add depth as well, and you can also do this in pink, blue or amber.

    This should give you a lot to think about... Please post back with information I listed and that should help others help you in your endeavor.

    -wolf
     
  3. BenFranske

    BenFranske Member

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    Sorry, I worte this earlier today and didn't get it posted due to network problems...

    I have no idea about the quantity or types of lights you have, the locations where they can be hung or the stage layout but I can offer a few general tips about stage lighting for musical concerts and assemblies.

    For Band/Orchestra Concerts and Assemblies the best thing to do is divide up the stages into at least six areas upstage and downstage left/center/right focus at least two lights at about a 45 degree angle to the left and right from the center of each area. These lights should be in a catwalk and one should be a very light pink gel and one a very light blue gel which when mixed will bring out skintones. I like to fill from above and slightly forward with scoops in similar gel colors. If you have band "shells" I like to hit them with Pars.

    Choir concerts are a little different because there is typically little depth as the singers are usually on risers. In this case instead of six areas on stage make them just across the risers and add some slightly in front for small groups. You probably also want to put a light on the piano and two at 45 degrees from the conductor/director/podium.

    If you have side taps availible these make excellent fill positions and can pretty well cover the opposite side of the stage.
     
  4. jh008j

    jh008j Member

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    Thanks for all the help so far. Here are the answers to all of wolf's questions (which I'll answer to the best of my ability - keep in mind that I'm a musician and all I worry about is whether or not the lights are on!).

    The stage at my high school is a standard proscenium theater. There are four electricals hanging above the stage. Two are very close together near the front on the stage. One is about 1/3 of the way backstage and the last is about 2/3 of the way back. The is a large white cyc that we lower down for all of the concerts and there are no band shell or anything like that. There is a also a set of 20 lights in the celing of the auditorium that are focused down on the very front of the stage that is thrust out a little bit into the house (it was susposed to be an orchestra pit, but was covered over and became part of the stage). Finally, there are 10 large spotlights in the back of the house in the balcony.

    The lighting controls are relatively new (about 4 years old) and do the job really well. I don't know the exact manufacturer, but there are 100+ channels that I can control by making cues and submasters. It is a computer controlled device that can be programed however I need it.

    As for the lights themselves, I can't really tell who the manufactures are, but I'll do my best to describe them. There are four sets of strip lights, each one about four feet long with about 12-15 lights in each one. There are four scoops, about 20 fresnels, and 10 ellipsoidal lights. As for the height of the lights above the stage, I have no idea. We have a really nice setup, so I would assume that they are a standard height.

    And finally, my high school is largly African-American, and we wear red and black band uniforms.

    I hope all of this information helps and I really appreciate the help from everyone! Thanks!!!!
     
  5. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Good work on the description of where stuff is located, I can almost see it. Little more details into the specifics but for the most part, we get the idea in providing help in the broad sense. Also sking tone and costumes will play a factor in gel selection to make them "pop", so that’s good to mention. Your instincts are there, this should be easy to pick up.

    First, I would probably contact the local college TD or Lighting teacher and have a chit chat. Never too many local friends around anyway. Subject might be about a “star” student that might be interested in class credit or some pay to design you a repertory plot or perhaps a few shows for now. Otherwise, how about a college lighting class extra credit project or something where by the students compete in the best layout for your uses? Another option would be other local theaters or theater suppliers and renters. Lots of times if your budget is too low to get a real designer, much less the company to do the work, they might pass the gig on to an employee to do as a personal side gig. It gets the employee more experience, Gives him or her more money, and gains for them the respect and continued shopping from the customer. Lots of places will provide you designers cheap.

    I say get a designer because at least initially it’s better to have a basic design for all around use - the Rep. Plot designed by a professional - or trained person than to stumble thru it at the same time as managing the place. The designer and Tech director of the lighting should not if possible be one in the same, much less also band leader initially. At least not until each is mastered in their time. Trying to remotely gain an understanding than stumble thru it in addition to dealing with the rest of the program will probably be more effort than it’s worth for a while. Instead get a Rep. Plot going with some fixtures and dimmers held in reserve for you to design “specials” with. Stuff like X-Mass Trees, the bird that gets lowered onto stage, the mirror ball, or even the podium on a wing where poetry is read during a piece. Easy stuff to get your feet wet is usually a good start until the rest of the stuff you do down pat. If I place this light hear with this color, and that one here, it’s going to do this type of thing to learn with. Plus with someone in there, you get on site advice and training to learn from. So say cue list one for the podium events, and say a few lights to change gel with or refocus. Cue list two for the band concert etc. Cues written and stock pre-focused and gelled so it’s done, all you have to do is add specials to it in making it unique. Projections across the back screen etc. is also much more fun to be doing than that in addition to starting from scratch with the whole show.

    I might recommend some books to read while getting your feet wet. The basic McCandless system of 45° angles from the front and a rear top fill is out of “A Method For Lighting the Stage” by the above author, but it’s principals are laid out in all other design books. Three more modern ones would be “Stage Lighting Step by Step” by Walters, “Stage Lighting Revealed by Cunningham, and A Practical Guide to Stage Lighting” by Shelley in no particular order. They should add to your base of knowledge and fill in more details on the purpose and what to do or look for. Next year, perhaps look to re-designing the plot in a more refined way, or doing a show from scratch. Take it easy on yourself however is what I would advise, it’s a long term thing with lots of tinkering.
     
  6. wolf825

    wolf825 Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Hiya,
    Ok...I can roughly work with what you have provided for info for the most part. Here would be my rough syggestion to get you started. The strip lights you have--those should be for your cyc, hang those 4 evenly accross the electric closest to the cyc and farthest upstage. They are either R40 or MR16 strips...3-4 circuit usually. I would suggest for the strip lights, the color selection of Red, Blue and either Green or Amber for the cyc--that will give you basic color mixing ability on the cyc. I would next space out your fresnels evenly in pairs on the 3 remaining pipes over the stage. Put in a no-color amber as I described in my first post, and a no-color blue, and then have a pair that are without gel for work-light. As for your FOH--the 10 leko's...what you want to do with those is focus them evenly down stage and mid stage--give yourself 4 areas accross the front with about a 1' overlamp between beams. That will use up 8 lights. The other two--I would leave them open to focus for specials like a conductor or soloist etc. I would also suggest you soft focus them so you don't see the spot lines. Gel for the front, given your school is largely african-american, I would suggest you do a no-color blue or a light amber as I mentioned in my previous post, and match it with nuetral base filter--Rosco 99. Note--the down and mid stage face light should overlap well up to down. Have one set be blue or amber, and the otehr set be in the neutral base. Pink, green and deeper saturated colors of blue or red do not work well for darker skin tones and will often reflect those colors, so I dont' reccommend them for face light. I have often toured with groups from Mozambique and used Rosco 99 (Neutral base Chocolate filter) and a light blue (Rosco 64), and they have commented how natural and well balanced the skin tones were when I lit them vs when they went other places (they only used pink and blue before and were never happy with it--and I showed them how to use a neutral base color filter mixed with a very light blue to get better tone results).

    That should get you started--its not a set-in-stone rep plot by any means, but its a start. Ship mentioned a good piece of advice--find someone--like a student or local drama person, and have them help you with getting a rep plot down for your space. Until you can do that, I hope you will find the information I posted helpful to get you by until such time.

    If you have any other questions or concerns, please post!

    -wolf
     
  7. zac850

    zac850 Well-Known Member

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    My 1 sugestion is to figure out what everything dose. Go into the theater one day, angle some lights, gell them differntly and see what happens. Lighting is a very visuial art, and you really need to be able to have the visions in your mind of a leko angled like this with this gell in it to file away. Then, for the next show you will have a better idea of how the lights work visuially.
     
  8. Garen

    Garen Member

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    If you just want some "normal looking" light, but still gives texture these tricks might help..(i dont know if they have already been said)

    -cross your beams, dont have them all just going straight forward
    -pick some lavendars or light pinks to get a warm feeling, and then pick a light blue to get your cool, and focus them on the same spot. warm + cool = pretty lights
    -make sure you're light angles are not too flat. If you have 100+ dimmers to work w/ then you should be able to cover quite well. If you shine a light from straight in front, or less than 30 degrees, your person will be 2D, flat, no texture...personally i would not focus anything from lower than 40 degrees frm your zone.
    -play around....lighting is play, thats what make sit so fun!, try and see if you like it, if not...change it!

    hope this helps
    ~Garen
     

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