Simulating a table lamp


Hi, we're going to be using a table lamp in our play and I'd like to get some ideas from people who've used such prop in the past. This lamp will be centrally located and should give the illusion of lighting up a circle around center stage, leaving the rest in the dark.

The trick is that this lamp will be moved and pointed stage-right to light up a portion of the wall. Their original idea was to plug in the lamp, along with a majority of supporting light from above. Is that a good idea, are lamp-props actually used that way? If not, what are the best ways to create the illusion that it is lit along with lighting a descent area around the lamp?

Yep, avkid is right. Think of the table lamp as your key light of soruce of light in the room. By stage convention the audience will accept more lighting from other sources, but it’s still good to have the table lamp as a easily referenced source of light. (clear lamps have more graphic output for the intensities on a lamp shade, but if the lamp is seen you will need to go frosted and lower wattage. After the main light from the lamp, what lighting reflects off the walls and ceilings will provide fill lighting in addition to the shadows of blue as another stage convention from the lighting not provided from the room given it’s the only source and it has a key role in the story to design around.

Table lamps are low thus you might have to balance the supporting lighting from above with what you can position to light from below or low angle without being blocked by actors on stage. Light up a table lamp only on someone and study what effect in shadows and harshness or softness it has on who you study. Than re-create that intensity, direction and effect on stage as possible reasonably to do.

The eyes and shadows on the face and body are the primary focus and goals of lighting. If the talent cannot be seen, they will also not be heard. Should the actor be down stage of the table lamp, than in order to hear them you will have to either top rear light them well in addition to ambient lights on them as reflected off the fourth wall, or break with motivating source of light and light the talent so they shine as necessary.

Than look at the actual light from the table lamp. Perhaps some high and side soft wash lighting will provide the soft look thru a lamp shade, but what’s reflected at them from below is a bit more directional and harsh. Thus Fresnel types from above and the sides, but Lekos or PARs from below to provide a similar look to the lamp in sculpting those around it. That’s a realistic approach at least to the key lighting provided by the source. At some point lighting the talent in at least blue will have to override it in visibility and getting the idea of a source, but still being able to see what’s going on.

Do the best job you can if the motivating source is a table lamp, but once you show it’s general location with key lights, don’t be too locked into having that as your primary source. Remember that light reflects even off a single light source room from all over the place. It reflects off the ceiling, walls, carpet or varnish of furniture. The primary source of light is from the table lamp, but the wash plus the blue stage convention shadows are from other directions still unless the goal is only to light from the shown source.

Do a study in your parent’s living room with one fixture and one actor revolving around it, than really look again upon it’s effects. Once you get those, you can increase, color and decrease the intensity upon what’s watched, but you will still have the more important beam angles needed.
If the light from the lamp is not bright enough and you have some spare rubish lights laying around that still have the electronics intact on the inside. Simply change the bayonet (i think you guys have that) to one from a theatre fixture and use a proper lamp in it...
Nephilim said:
Stupidly, 99% of household lamp fittings are screw-type in the US. Bayonet is so much better.

Depends upon what you are going for, I'm sure all lights have their problems such as warn bayonet lug lamp bases and lack of wide availability in lamps of that type. Heck, we even have LED lit bulbs with those screw bases now. Also on the glamor of the Bayonet Lug, Our BA-15d/DC-Bayonet lamp base is far different than their single contact ?BA-27 dual contact base if I know the lamp type you are thinking about. It's no better than our screw based ones in the end, only there is lots more styles available in screw based lamps than with bayonet types.

In swapping out the lamp base for a stage lighting lamp base, given you also swap out the wiring and the fixture itself is able to handle the extra heat, sure why not, but is it necessary for an effect? Supplemental lighting might be more useful. More power is not always the best solution or necessary.
Lack of availability in Australia is not the case; and wear isn't much of an issue for household duty sockets; they aren't getting changed as often as in a commercial setting. My personal problem with screw mounts is that they break far too easily, and you are never sure if you have the lamp in properly until you try to power it.
Thanks all! Very informative. Two Fresnels from above and providing a little juice to the actual lamp (I like that realistic effect) along with scenery and acting area lighting should do the trick.

And yes, Ship, I'll have to do some hands on experimentation, bug you guys are pointing me in some eductated directions and saving me valuable time! thanks!
just screw in a 2400 watt scoop bulb .......

or do the whole key lighting thing they were talking about.

we had someting like this last year, where an actor walked into a dimly light part of the stage and turned on alight switch on the wall .... but the cue got screwd up almost every night and it went so badly
Maybe this is a complete n00b comment/question, but I have wondered about this before and it might help manu: Could you rig up a very small second switch that is pulled/flipped at the same time as the prop light by the actor. Could the second swtich could be wired into you light board as the remote cue "go" button? That way, when the actor hits the switches (although they look like one switch to the audience) they both turn on the light and hit the cue for the overhead lights? Someone tell me I am right or just being really stupid!
No knob, very practical in solving a problem. Respect your base of what works advice and trust it to often as the best solution. Details follow the solution.

This forum is for all and best off when all describe their view point instead of waiting for others or thinking others of more value than not expressing for the fear they will be shot down. You are never the knob for expressing what you think no matter who or what amount of detail has preceeded you, or the idea you present. A tech person is a tech person no matter the age or experience.

I might question a 2.4Kw lamp in a table lamp, but the idea of sheer intensity and wattage is well expressed as a valid concept to consider. Only point of dispute on my part would be a 20 amp loaded table lamp's intensity as something that will blind the audience and distract from the actors on stage. Can be something but generally, you want to use the table lamp as the key source but down play it's effects on the audience and harsh lighting angles, than supplement it by way of stage lighting design in using it as a key but not much of a source. It however is not unknown to cut away the upstage parts of a lamp's shade so it will produce more intensity out of the audience's direct view of.

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