Design Issues and Solutions Run Light Color- Blue or Red?

natedogg08

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Jan 28, 2012
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Wisconsin
Quick question here.

I am helping design a play that opens in a couple weeks, and was wondering what the difference is between red and blue run light backstage. For this show, the audience is seated onstage, the SR and SL wings are masked with walls for the set. The audience will however be able to see into the wings when doors are opened on either side occasionally. I was wondering which color is better to use in the wings. I know we usually use red, but I've read the blue is harder to see when run at low levels.

For run lights, we use a couple of scoops or sky cycs on the ends of our electrics, pointed almost straight down in the wings.

Thanks for your help.
 

shiben

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Jun 25, 2009
Location
Chicago, IL
Quick question here.

I am helping design a play that opens in a couple weeks, and was wondering what the difference is between red and blue run light backstage. For this show, the audience is seated onstage, the SR and SL wings are masked with walls for the set. The audience will however be able to see into the wings when doors are opened on either side occasionally. I was wondering which color is better to use in the wings. I know we usually use red, but I've read the blue is harder to see when run at low levels.

For run lights, we use a couple of scoops or sky cycs on the ends of our electrics, pointed almost straight down in the wings.

Thanks for your help.
I have seen blue ropelight run along the wing in a situation where having high intensity light will be an issue. Realistically, whatever color you put on the end of the pipe is going to be an issue if you do not want to see into the wing. Especially in the dark, the human eye is quite capable of picking up incredibly miniscule amounts of light and making images out of it. If you do not want people to see in, either black it out and use glow tape to mark pathways, and keep them clear. If you need to see things, PAR16s with R74 run at 50% can provide enough light to see something like a prop table, and use blackwrap to make barndoors of sorts to cut the light away from the doors. It wont be perfect, but it will help. Same principal applies to using red lights, just use R27 instead. If the actors need to see a lot in the dark, then red lights will not interfere as much with their night vision capabilities, but either light will be quite visible to the human eye. At night or in the dark, the eye will have its best sensitivity to a blue green sort of color, so if vision backstage is at a premium, then a blue green might be the best choice. However, a nice Red will probably be the least noticeable to an audience, as a night adapted eye is not at all sensitive to reds moving towards infrared. . The whole thing is kind of a theory game that ends up going out the window in real life, the basic idea is always keep all light away from what you dont want seen and use non-reflective surfaces or masking to keep light from where it needs to be there.
 

icewolf08

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I think you will find a couple things. First of all, blue run lights seem to be the "standard" among the theatres that I have worked in. I don't remember ever being somewhere where they used red run lights.

Secondly, As far as being more or less visible, I don't think you will notice a real difference between red or blue.

You might notice that using red lights is very common for astronomers and telescope operators. This is because red light (supposedly) has a less detrimental effect on your low light vision, thus making it easier to trasition to looking through a telescope eyepiece at some dark distant galaxy. For theatre though, we are not concerned with ruining people's low light vision, especially since the actors are coming off a bright stage and going back to a bright stage, the last thing they really want is to have their eyes have to make a severe adjustment when they make some running entrance.

While the human eye is capable of seeing quite a range of light to dark, typically you won't notice run lights except in very dark scenes or blackouts. If you are building walls and your actors are entering and exiting through doors, then we are talking about very momentary glimpses of backstage that will probably go un-noticed. If you need to have many entrances/exits in a dark scene or blackout then just turn off the run lights for that scene/blackout. This is a pretty common practice, in fact in some theatres they just put the run lights on a dimmer.

Another option is to build returns or hang blacks to mask behind the doors. This way when the door is opened, instead of looking straight into backstage through the doors, you are looking at some form of masking wall. This is also a very common technique.
 

TheaterEd

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I generally go with r68 or whatever unlabeled dark blue I have on hand. Depending on the circumstance.

I remember reading that it is better for the eyes to go with a dark red. Anyone here do that?
 

LavaASU

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I generally go with r68 or whatever unlabeled dark blue I have on hand. Depending on the circumstance.

I remember reading that it is better for the eyes to go with a dark red. Anyone here do that?
I'm a fan of dark red. Using whatever color of blue my chinese $20 led pars produce this week though as they make the spike tape glow.
 

StradivariusBone

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Not sure where the blue party bulbs fit into that spectrum, but that's what we use for our lock rail. I also have four of the "Apollo-Gafftaper Memorial Clip lights" that feature the circular gel frame with whatever gel came with those. These are apparently an endangered species with the advent of the updated product that features a blue CFL.

I like red too in areas where nightvision is important since it doesn't kill your eyes- SM podium, etc.
 

gafftapegreenia

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I have used: transparent blue party bulbs (least favorite, as most brands fade out fast), blue CFLs (great for tons of light and makes UV reactive spikes pop), ceramic blue party bulbs (my favorite, soft and subtle), and regular clear bulbs dimmed way down or at low wattages (great for prop tables and quick change booths).

I really hate to gel work lights that aren't meant to be gelled, which was a problem I thought we solved with the gafftaper memorial clip light. I understand it didn't sell that well, so guess I'll be taping gel to clip lights and bare bulbs till global warming destroys us all or something. When I do have to gel, I usually use R80, as that color is plentiful in most theatres.

Also, @Kelite, you should have made this a poll!

And whatcha workin on, LED clip light? ;)

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TheTheaterGeek

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Makes my neon sharpies work wonders. Also have a ton of it laying around. Though we have a whole roll of 27 maybe I should start using that.
 

JD

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I have used: transparent blue party bulbs (least favorite, as most brands fade out fast), blue CFLs (great for tons of light and makes UV reactive spikes pop), ceramic blue party bulbs (my favorite, soft and subtle), and regular clear bulbs dimmed way down or at low wattages (great for prop tables and quick change booths).

I really hate to gel work lights that aren't meant to be gelled, which was a problem I thought we solved with the gafftaper memorial clip light. I understand it didn't sell that well, so guess I'll be taping gel to clip lights and bare bulbs till global warming destroys us all or something. When I do have to gel, I usually use R80, as that color is plentiful in most theatres.

Also, @Kelite, you should have made this a poll!

And whatcha workin on, LED clip light? ;)

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Yea, those blue CFLs have just the right combo of visible light and UV to make reactive stuff pop. Cheap too.
 

JohnD

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techieman33

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Maybe green edition because he's GafftapeGREENia?

I don't really understand the need for the cfl version, I could walk into any hardware store and get the same thing for a lot less money. The only thing the first version had going for it was a gel frame, but with the cfl that's not needed. I think most of us couldn't care less about a black reflector, and if someone really wanted it black 10 seconds and a can of spray paint would fix that.
 

Les

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I think the best improvement that could be made to a cliplight would be a stronger clamp and better ball joint. The little wire clamp seems to slip off everything and never quite stays where you want it, and the ball joint seems to fatigue and allow the light to droop.

*I'm referring mostly to the hardware store type. I've never used the Apollo units.

While I'm on the subject, if you don't like taping gel to cliplights (I don't because it looks tacky and can turn in to a gooey mess), maybe you could drill a few holes along the outer rim and use brads to attach gel. You'd just need to be methodical about it to keep light leaks to a minimum.
 

techieman33

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We normally use the blue coated bulbs, we also have red and black light blubs available if requested. Our fly rail uses standard 60w bulbs on a dimmer and they get dimmed down for shows.
 

StradivariusBone

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Maybe green edition because he's GafftapeGREENia?
It works on a lot of levels. :rolleyes:

I think the best improvement that could be made to a cliplight would be a stronger clamp and better ball joint. The little wire clamp seems to slip off everything and never quite stays where you want it, and the ball joint seems to fatigue and allow the light to droop.

*I'm referring mostly to the hardware store type. I've never used the Apollo units.
One issue I noticed with the Apollo clip lites (old style) was that the reflector thread eventually wears the plastic thread on the lamp holder. We fixed this by putting a band of spike tape around the plastic thread to act as a spacer, but I found all four of mine with reflectors dangling off the lamp. Not sure if this is just unique to the batch I got.

While I'm on the subject, if you don't like taping gel to cliplights (I don't because it looks tacky and can turn in to a gooey mess), maybe you could drill a few holes along the outer rim and use brads to attach gel. You'd just need to be methodical about it to keep light leaks to a minimum.
I bet if you really wanted to get fancy you could even take some baking sheet foil (the thick stuff you can also make your own GOBOs out of) and cut circles to act as gel frames. The Apollo ones are thicker gauge, but I'm certain that foil would be hardy enough to keep a gel flush to the reflector.

I might have to go play with this....
 

gafftapegreenia

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Interestingly, I have never used green as my backstage work lights.

Hmm, the Apollo-GTG-honorary-LED-clip light. Make it selectable red white or blue and I'll endorse it Billy Mays style.
 

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