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Pink or Amber?

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by kiilljoy, Mar 22, 2009.


Do you use a particular color for area lighting in theatre productions?

Poll closed Apr 6, 2009.
  1. Yes, Amber.

  2. Yes, Pink.

  3. Yes, Other (explain).

    0 vote(s)
  4. No, I use both.

  5. No, Other (explain).

  1. kiilljoy

    kiilljoy Member

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    Seattle, WA
    I was talking to an SM friend of mine the other day about styles of lighting. I had noticed that most of the other designs I had seen in town tended to use a straight front area lighting supplemented with side lights and not a McCandless approach as I tend to favor. She pointed out to me that not only do most of the lighting designers down here use the three-point method, but they also are either amber or pink designers. As one well-respected designer put it (second hand through her) "I hate that I use pinks all the time, but I think they just look better."

    Personally, I use a mix. I pick one or the other as a primary area lighting (with the accompanying cool) based on the tone of the show and the color choices of the set and costumes. I will also often use the other color pair in the same show to indicate a different location, idea, etc, etc.

    Reading through some of the color threads that have gone up recently made me curious what the thoughts are from those here.
  2. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Dallas, TX
    I use both. Depends on what the show wants, but as a general rule (if I had to make one) I use amber in straight plays and pink in musicals. But I use a combination of McCandless and three point (the Campbell system I think I will call it).

  3. Omega

    Omega Member

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    Usually I'll go with no color pink for dance concerts and bastard amber for plays and musicals. Sometimes I'll put up both a pink and an amber wash, but usually one or the other depending on the desired mood.
  4. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

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    Screw gun for hire
    On a show by show basis by what, through the use of the creative process, I use whatever selection of colors I feel is most appropriate for the show, arrived at from a variety of standpoints, examinations, resources, and reasons.
  5. sk8rsdad

    sk8rsdad Well-Known Member Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    I have used pinks and ambers in washes. I've also used straws, pale blues, lavenders, bare whites, and strong complementary colour blends, and whatever else comes to mind to accomplish the look we are after.

    A comment on McCandless lighting:

    Art's post which follows covers the method. It should also be noted that Stanley McCandless had a much smaller set of tools to work with than we do. His challenge was providing a sense of depth in theatres equipped with a relatively small number of dimmers capable of handling rather large loads. Often all the lights for a particular zone would share a common dimmer. He was trying provide depth and contrast using color and angle because he could not vary the intensity independently.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2009
  6. awhaley

    awhaley Member

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    There's no right color for every situation. The choice between pink and amber can be as simple as the tone of the play, but I also consider what cools I'll be using with it. If they have a strong green component they often play better with ambers, which also has a more pronounced green component. If I plan to use 'warmer cools' that have less green and a little more red in them, then I will often pair them with pinks so that they blend together better. If the ability to actually mix to a truer white were important to me (which is almost never is) then I would make sure that I was using either amber with warm blues or pink with cool blues (blues that contain more green) to make sure that I was bringing all three primaries to the subject.

    As to your other question... There are a lot of good designers who have had great careers with the McCandeless Method... and it was a revolution in its time to be sure - both of which should be acknowledged every time we get ready to rail against it....

    The task of a lighting designer is always to balance the technical with the artistic, and I think a designer who says "I am a McCandless style designer" (which you didn't say in the OP... you stated a preference, which I understand is different.) is stating that they value technique over art, and that doesn't work for me personally. McCandless is a single technique to get a certain look, and properly executed it will give adequate lighting almost every time... and there's value in that.

    My principle argument against it, when I lay out a plot for most of my shows... is that it takes too much instrumentation for not enough effect. I don't like front light. I doubt I'm alone in saying that here.... but I don't. I hang it. I use it. I probably turn it up higher than many designers ( but gel it a little more saturated than many designers... so it balances out.) But I never like it. And McCandless uses two thirds of my hang for front light. And the last third of the plot is for straight in back light in a (to be properly McCandless) light enough tint to halo the shoulders and separate the actor from the background.

    I'm sure someone wants to tell me now that you can add sidelight on TOP of McCandless, and you can... but why? Why do I use two thirds of the plot to provide facial visibility? Yes it's important but I can get facial visibility with one straight in front light to each area and I've freed up 20 or 30 instruments for other tasks... this might be enough to provide two or three colors of sidelight, or template washes on top of my frontlight, or diagonal backlight which separates the actor from the background AND creates a strong sense of direction.

    Several things have changed since Stanley McCandless was working (1932)...

    1. Set design has become more creative. We're spending a lot less time trying to get light into naturalistic box sets... and when we do it, good scenic designers have now figured out how to give us architectural breaks to sneak sidelighting into these sets as well.

    2. The philosophy of lighting scenery has changed some too... from 'Don't do it' to 'point a light (preferably several of different colors and textures) at every visible piece of scenery so that we can control composition and separate the actor from the scenery in ways OTHER than dumping a mostly white backlight on them.'

    3. The purpose of lighting design has changed from 'reveal the scene in a less than boring way' to 'emotionally grip the audience and drive them through the theatrical experience.'

    4. The aesthetics of lighting design have changed from 'lights aren't noticed unless they screw up' to 'Wow that deserves a Tony! I don't know how they did that!'

    In the end... for me... the process of deciding what angles lights come from is something I go through each and every time I design, and I try to start with no preconceptions - with the idea that I know what the play should look like. What is the dominant source of light in the world I'm creating? Where does it come from? Now what does the rest of the world I want to create look like? Is it in harmony? Is there a visual argument? How do the characters relate to their background? How MUCH do they need to stand out and how much do they need to 'fit in?' Only after I have some strong ideas about what the lighting should look and feel like will I let myself consider the technique of it... the 'where else do I need some amount of light coming from to satisfy the technical requirements of this particular play in this space for this audience? Sometimes I'll arrive at a very McCandless plot... sometimes I'll arrive at a more modern 'Broadway style' plot with straight in fronts, sides, and backlight in stronger colors... and sometimes I wind up deciding that the dominant light in the scene will be from a back diagonal window and that the light from the front will be from 180 degrees to that and in the same color as the floor to feel like 'reflection.' In each case, I've provided for visibility but in each case I've also designed what was right for the play, not what was right for me as a designer, just because I have one style or another.

    Art Whaley
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2009
  7. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

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    New York, NY
    Like others have said, it really depends on the show and what the show wants. A favorite warm front color of mine is L154 Pale Rose, which I find myself using a lot - it can dim to a nice amber color, while still putting out a healthy vibrant pinkish glow at higher intensities. For straight plays, I tend to use ambers more than pinks, but that's because most of the straight plays I light call for amber - no magical formula behind it. I think that any designer who says "I use Amber" or "I use Pink" will be very limited in what they can do.

    As for the McCandless discussion: I view McCandless as a compromised system that is useful when you don't have a large enough inventory to go all-out. I'm gonna throw out some generalizations here: Front Light = best for facial visibility; Side Light = best for modeling. So if you put lights halfway in between front and side light, in theory you would have a decent amount of both (thus, the McCandless Theory). Like most compromises, however, it performs both tasks adequately, but performs neither of them well. It works great when you don't have an enourmous instrument inventory, but when I have the opportunity to do so, I much prefer to use side light as my key light and fill in with straight-in fronts. Combine this with the fact that most of the theatres I design in physically cannot accommodate McCandless, and you have my general philosophy on design.
  8. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Denver, CO
    I chose no other...which I only chose because my answer to this, like so many other design related questions is:

    It depends on the show.
  9. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Dallas, TX
    1. There are still some of us lighting designers out there that do not light scenery (I am one of them). I light actors. If the scenery gets lit, then good, otherwise I am not worried (unless the show specifically calls for scenery to be lit or for light to be the scenery).

    2. To me the purpose of lighting is to provide a well balanced, visually attractive space for the actors to tell the story in. No more and no less. There are still some of us out there that do not attempt to "tell the story of the show through light."

    3. For me, the best lighting designs are still the ones that the audience does not notice.

    Note these are only my opinions and like noses everyone had them.

    I am a student of a man who was a student of Stan, so maybe this all makes sense.


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