Street Lights


At the start of April I'm doing the lighting for a play called Passing Places.

This sounds kinda stupid but how would you imitate street lights. What type of lantern would you use and what gel? Also how would you position them?
(It's a scene at night in a street)

It's in a school so here's what we have:

18x Strand Fresnel Quartets
8x Strand Profile Quartets
Strand really old cheapy battons (3 cell) with red/white/blue gel (No offence to any strand lovers.)
If you want the streetlight from above effect, I would try a fresnel with it's bulb adjusted to give a somewhat focused beam(but not too much)aimed down at an angle.
and use a slightly yellowish gel(very pale yellow)
You could try using a street light gobo if you had something flat behind it.
no no, he is trying to simulate the light a streetlight puts out!
You looking for a traffic signal or a street light as in a overhead lamp?

You might be able to arrange to borrow either from your town/city/suburb/etc. I know traffic signals generally run on a simple 110V system, only a hundred twenty watt lamp or something to that effect.

I'm not sure about the overhead lights. I have an inclination to ebelieve, looking through my window that here in Chicago they may be sodium bulbs, probably int he 400 to 500 W range, not sure on the voltage.

Should you manage to secure yourself a couple of authentic ones, have the city electrician wire the connectors on for you. :)
Depending on the style of streetlight required, you could simple take the base of the luminaire (with just the lamp and the power cable) and place that in the casing of the streetlight so the bulb shows through the glass of the light. This would work for both upright and upside-down streetlight designs. Then simply dim to the appropriate level.
I agree with the other posters a downlight will simulate a street light. If this play is set now then you could get an idea of what colour to use by going outside and looking at you nearest street lamp. If you find the downlight to harsh on the actors faces, as it will cause shadows use a small touch of front light. This will lift the faces slightly but only a small touch as this will let the downlight still be the dominant light.
This is OT but we have a street light from the city, got hit by a car so was bent at a slight angle shimed it up and changed the bulb (it was folecent so it took a bit for it to get warmed up, slaped a stage pin plug on it and that was that.
wow. thats increadible. i think tomarow ill contact my township and see if they have any streetlights that have been damaged and that i can have.
i would too, but our streetlights wouldnt fit on stage, they are the huge ones that go on telephone type poles, and the huge ones on metal poles that you see on highways...
Streetlights. What kind, gaslight, sodium vapor, incandescent, mercury vapor, tin hallide, multi-vapor, gas?

What era is the play might be useful in determining what type of color this say down light, grainy directional beam of light should best be.

The street light is a directional beam of light motivation for the scene. If you use a actutal fixture as a practical in showing where this light comes from, you will with out a doubt need to modify it to operate it on stage. Don't expect for instance you have a 277v outlet on stage. This can cost time and money much less in modifying a actual fixture, will require a expert in doing the modification. Fine as long as it is desired by the designer to use a fixture as part of his or her set design and it's a period fixture. If not, I would not waste time on it when not a necessary element to the stage picture. In other words, verify that the designer wants such a thing because a actual fixture when visible than becomes part of the set design more than lighting design.

What most people are saying in having some form of overhead lamp is that the street light beam of light is a motivating color temperature and intensity for the scene. It's also a source of light for those within the scene in a directional type of way.

Let's say there is one street light on a street placed every 100 feet on a street. In placing a say Fresnel or Wide Flood beam of light as a downward beam, we are than saying that there is a street light overhead providing a downward key light to all those in the area of it. This is not all the light on the stage, just the primary motivational lighting for it as far as intensity and a directional source of it goes.

We in addition to this have various lights at lower angles from houses and from other street lamps up and down the street that while less intense still are providing some light on the target. On a stage, perhaps a wide beam of light representing that street light in beam spread, than high side beam angle lights to representate other street lights, if not some side beams from all around from the houses and buildings in the area.

All supplement each other as light is collective from sources. In addition to this, as opposed to a actual person at night, on stage, we normally as a stage convention replace a lack of light with dark blue to help the visibility but still represent night time. Can be a warm verging on lavender or cold steel blue dependant upon the time of year as long as it's fairly dark blue and representing shadow. Cyc lights are really good for washing a general color.

Say 100% from above, and 40% from the high side other street lights, than 20% from the lower all around as far as some form of white light. This supplemented by a wash of blue night.

This might be what we would see in a photo, but given we are only representing what we see but still attempting to put light on the subject, and a down light in general makes the shadows on the face, much less visibility especially towards the edge of the beam rather dark, we than take this motivation for the light and modify it as necessary to get the job done. Say as opposed to a single overhead source, we now hang a bunch of fixtures from the basic center all using their beam spread to motivate this center of light source but cover the stage. - This given our streetlamp is center and directly overhead as a design choice for the primary source of light.

So we now have some form of hub of light covering the stage and supplement it with other more normal lighting to fill in the shadows and gastly looks you other wise would get from a down light or high side source. Designed visibility is the thing, those other sources of light might be necessary to boost up their intensity to help see the actors or at least make them seem more natual at least at night as opposed to ghouls. Such a bad look can be appropriate given the situation, but otherwise in using these motivational sources including moonilight in replacing the sun as a wash of light, you might boost up certain while motivated sources to supplement the look desired.

This all given and after the period and type of lighting in color temperature by design is to be represented for the feel of the look you figure out. A gas light as opposed to sodium vapor as opposed to incandescent as opposed to mercury vapor in look will be much different. These all also directly opposed to the moonlight and house ambient lighting already out there which will have their own color temperatures or gel colors you represent.

Finally, beyond the real perod of time and fixtures you want to reproduce the look of, what is the reality of the scene elements you wish to add to this night scene? If fantasy, perhaps blue, white, amber, you wish to do something completely different beyond even determing a warm or cool blue light to the scene. Perhaps in say MacBeth, you wish to introduce more red into the scene to make the blood pop more.

Perhaps otherwise you wish to introduce a more white light theory into the scene either by choice or by lack of fixtures available where by as opposed to similating shadow with blue wash, you need to use real shadows. Given otherwise the blue lighting allows for less intensity on the other lights, you than very much would have to re-adjust to compensate by re-adjusting not only intensity but also possibly color if not fader levels to compensate for the lack of other lighting. Yes you will have shadow, but without more white light making half a face say grey, the half a face or half actors not seen completely won't be heard either.

Jumping in and out of dark shadows can be useful especially at night and under a street lamp motivational source, but it also can be distracting to the audience if the actors are not able to find their light while playing their role. Someone speaking an important role while in the dark or wrong lighting shadowing effect in these cases can at best give the wrong mood to what they say, at most cause the lines not to be remembered in being thus not heard.

Old westerns and other old movies were not able to film at night for fairly obviously technology reasons. Instead they simply filtered the lens to make the scene a little more hard to see. This than is the intent in such situations as per a stage convention. After initially you realize that it's daylight but say the black and white film is not refined to see in the dark, you than accept as a viewer what look representing night is presented. In most instances for us, we use a blue like Rx80 to similate night as opposed to the harsh shadows otherwise. In the case of such blue wash not available, than a more brad wash of white and fill than is necessary to get at least the shadow down to a level you can still see.

Final note, if going from day to night, one might do a very bright night at first, and dim down in compensating for the audience's eyes. If you jump too fast from lots of light to little light, it will take a while for the audiences eyes to compensate. During these moments, any lines spoken in the dark will be lost.
Well arnt you guys lucky.... at least your town has street lights!!! lol I am really trying to think, but I dont think our town has ANY street lights! lol (I live in a VERY small town in the middle of nowhere) We actually have one flashing yellow light in the middle of town where the road forks, but no actual street lights that pop into my head (maybe up at the town garrage, but if there are any they arnt really over the "street," more like over the parking lot for the sanders getting refilled)

Anyway, I guess i would just recomend overhead light, and maybe trying to keep the rest of the stage as dark as possible (for contrast) while not making important things happen in the dark.
Ok, ya, so Ship just set us all streight (Actually I think he just went into ALOT more detail then any of us) Just wanted to let you all know that my post was made BEFORE reading Ship's :)

Anyway, I completely agree with ship, I think this kinda comes down to what kinda stage you are working with, and what lights you have to play with. I know that personally, my auditorium doesnt have much flexability with light placment, so i would probably try to go with a broader wash (the probablity of me being able to get the right position for where specific lines are being spoken is next to nothing) and this is all stuff you'll have to take into account, obviously you know your venue alot better then any of us. (this is REALLY not to discourage you from trying to achieve the best look you can get, just remeber to consider what is pratical too)
Peter has a good point in that when he walks out side his house the motivating sources for light for him will be much different than someone that walks out of the house onto a big city street. This is a design element to factor in.

Given we would as stage convention need to factor in general visibility as a requirement modifying these key light sources of light for the scene he still has a very important point. Even if given a street light lamp intent, what if it's 50' off to the side, or balanced as to location between two street lights? Is such a thing not possible, or if desired by design intent, how than can one light with such a situation?

As opposed to the single on center overhead motivational lighting source, and given we don't wish for zombies on stage, perhaps instead given the proper angles and color temperature of the lighting we re-produce in some way to convey the intent to the audience - given a street light light is the chosen source, what if there were two lighting fixtures instead of one. You than have the advantage of instead of just one overhead source of key light, more than one that at least helps to balance that whiteish light given out.

As with normal day light with sources of light from two directions, given two lighting fixtures at night as it's key, we than can more easily balance the angle and source of light provided as opposed to this key light having to center around one specific source. Now granted you would have to balance this ease in design for providing light with the audience's own expectation with if a street light, that it's directly overhead, but this is part of being a designer.

We as designers at first think - street light, therefore it must be directly overhead as motivational. Same with the audience perhaps because as designers we are thinking as to what we as an audience member would see. On the other hand, with a little more work in beam direction and color plus design, it still might be possible to represent street light while other than directly under the motivated source. Very careful work as to color and angle, but still possible.

In Peter's case, I'm sure that the store fronts and houses he gains light from would be balanced by what light the moon gives off. Completely different and multi-directional look as opposed to 60% street lamp from one side of the stage and 40% street light from the other in providing some form of say McCandless base of light to the scene given even the same fixtures for daylight now tasked for a night scene's visibility. Just lot's more blue or lack of fill used and intensity of these daylight sources now at night. Just about the same overall intensity used, just less fill in amber and more in shadow or blue.

Back in college we would have taken one of our photo morgue pages and did a study on the magazine add's lighting in an effort to determine upon what we see what direction, intensity and color all lights on the picture are coming from. Such a thing became a good challenge in that if in a picture if you can figure out light sources, much less represent this picture in a magazine's lighting on stage, you than had the idea of motivational key and instead at night of fill but supplemental lighting, you than could make your own studies.

First walk out of the house and study both direction and angle of light. Than study different colorings to these sources. Than attempt to represent this on stage. Than take a photo out of a magazine that's inspiring, and attempt to reproduce it on stage directional with intensity and color wise.

Once you master these percentages of what reality looks like and what it looks like in photo, you than have it easy in reproducing this same light on stage.
ship, you never cease to amaze me. thanks for that information
"In Peter's case, I'm sure that the store fronts and houses he gains light from would be balanced by what light the moon gives off. " Ship

haha, forgot to mention: only one store in town, (general store) and it closes at 5:30 or 6:00 (before dark). Ya, basicly when I walk out of my house it is pitch black except, like you said, moonlight or star light, except when it's cloudy, and it's really black.

That kinda brings up another idea. Again, this really depends on what you have, but when i think about it, a hazer might be good for this look. Especially if you end up going with a consentrated light(s) from one or two areas overhead. The hazer might add a bit more of murkey/dark/gloomy/night feeling (if that is what you are going). I have never used a hazer, but i just got to thinking about it, and it might help the look. I am interested to hear what others think about the use of a hazer in this situation!
Sounds like a good idea to me especially if it can be localized to the overhead street light area. Otherwise if too ambitious with the haze, the blue night lighting might gain a more rock and roll look than a night scene look.

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