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Understanding McCandless

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by NateTheRiddler, Feb 13, 2019.

  1. NateTheRiddler

    NateTheRiddler Active Member

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    So, I may have spent the last 10 years in lighting, but I’ve finally decided to make a 120% effort into self-teaching myself critical concepts in lighting, since I cannot afford to pick up a theatrical degree at the moment.

    I’m studying the textbook Stage Lighting: The Fundamentals and I’ve been introduced to a concept known as the McCandless method. I believe I understand the intent: to provide neutral, even coverage on subjects or targets on stage by using opposing cool/warm or complementarily tinted colors.

    A few questions:
    1) Say I currently use a default front wash of 750W 36º Lekos, directly opposed, eliminating most undesired shadows. Why would I use McCandless instead? Situational?
    2) The textbook states that McCandless is only one of several methods used to achieve “naturalistic lighting.” What are some examples of those alternatives? I can’t find any in the textbook, although I might be blind from reading too much. o_O
     
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  2. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @NateTheRiddler We've thrashed this out before here on the Control Booth Forum; that said I'll type a few thoughts and I'm sure several others will jump in while I'm typing:
    You may want to augment something a set designer has already provided. For instance, if there's a decent sized window on stage right, and the dialogue speaks of the blindingly bright sunlight out side, you may want to make your FOH sources from the SR side more intense and / or less saturated than your FOH fill sources from SL. Expand this thinking to exterior night scenes, interior scenes when a performer enters an unlit room from a lit room and then turns on the interior lights in the formerly unlit room. I could drone on with examples but several others have likely posted while I've been typing and utilizing the Control Booth Forum's search function in the upper right corner of your screen should provide many relevant posts.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
  3. NateTheRiddler

    NateTheRiddler Active Member

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    :wall:I feel a bit stupid to admit that I didn’t consider this. I apologize for rehashing what’s been written before. I’ll scour the forum and search for some answers there. I do appreciate you taking the time to give me a practical example, though. Thanks @RonHebbard!!

    FOLLOWUP: Scoured the forum, found plenty of textbook recommendations, but I’m already inducing brain cramp in myself with my current one. If the moderators don’t mind, I’d like to leave this up and pick peoples’ brains on the topic. I’m looking for more practical answers than a textbook will necessarily provide in a single paragraph.
     
  4. josh88

    josh88 Remarkably Tired. Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    Mccandless is just one way to get a general, well lit stage wash. It's a starting point. I would say don't overthink it. 45(ish) degree angles, you eliminate all of the actual shadows and then paint them back in using cool light to make people think the face is in shadow while being well lit. It doesn't work in every venue, it doesnt work for every show.
    Here's a couple good reads. We used to have an article about it but the links to it are 404'd these days.
    https://www.controlbooth.com/threads/design-method.44351/#post-386171
    https://www.controlbooth.com/threads/mccandless-across-a-big-stage.16900/#post-157339
     
  5. NateTheRiddler

    NateTheRiddler Active Member

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    I’ve bookmarked both of those links and added them to a “lighting design toolbox” that I’ve attached to the textbook, for logical connection reasons. Thank you for those, didn’t show up in my forum search. Also, thanks for the “don’t overthink it” tip. Since I’m simultaneously experienced/inexperienced (tons of practical, no theory), I tend to overthink theories that make me wonder if I’ve been doing it wrong all this time. Nice to have some theory to solidify my foundation though.
     
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  6. cbrandt

    cbrandt Well-Known Member

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    In practice, I generally describe Mcandless as one place to begin approaching the problem, but you should never finish there. It does provide nice naturalistic light, but it is the most basic way to do that. Part of the reason that there isn't another stock method is that most things after that are based on experience and the needs of a production. Experiment a bit with your lights and a dummy, if you can. Try doubling your front light so you can swap warm and cool. Try adding down or side light. Often the limits for a show are what exists in the theater that you're working in. Figure out how many areas you need on stage, and figure out how many lights you can put in each area.
     
  7. NateTheRiddler

    NateTheRiddler Active Member

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    I’ve made a note of all of your suggestions, and made a couple more out of my own curiosity. I’m going to play with those this week when I’m in my PAC, see what happens. I’ll have a live person with me, which ought to help me imagine the effects. Thanks for the great suggestions! I’ll post a followup on what I learned here because of your help once I’ve tried it!
     
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  8. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    I always thought of the McCandless Warm/Cool naturalistic style as what you would almost see outside on a sunny day - I.E. keylight from the sun and fill from the blue-ish sky. Great for when the scene takes place on a sunny day outside.

    I recall reading about a design that used all the front/key lighting to be naturalistic in that it was what a single hanging incandescent light bulb, over the central acting area of a kitchen, would look like if that lamp's photons were bouncing and reflecting off the missing 4th painted wall of that kitchen. The author said it kind of worked.

    Bottom line is lots of ways to go about stuff, though I've always liked Pilbrows Key light systems.
     
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  9. NateTheRiddler

    NateTheRiddler Active Member

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    *holds pen ready to take notes* :idea:
     
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  10. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    I believe it is first to reveal form, and not flatten or make performers more two dimensional, especially at distance. Perhaps it was in reaction to foot lights and xrays (borders) that were common. Dance of course takes it to the extreme - 180 degrees apart rather than the 90 degree range of McCandless - but same goal - reveal three dimensions. Is revealing three dimensions naturalistic? Perhaps. Or ask if you are lighting it to appear naturalistic or are you lighting it naturalistically to appear more three dimensional.

    I did learn from Mac's students so it's only a second hand opinion.
     
  11. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @derekleffew What's the title of the little blue and white hard-covered book that you own and I used to; the book with the chapter entitled: "The first ten lights". We've posted of this before and I recall you having ISBN reference info' for it; I suspect it's out of print but likely still in libraries and possibly available used.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
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  12. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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  13. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @NateTheRiddler This may take you to a thread here on the Control Booth Forum where in post #six (6) @sk8rsdad correctly identifies the souce of arguably the best illustrated text I recall reading on the subject. Here's hoping this enables you to find the concise and illustrated text.
    https://www.controlbooth.com/threads/lighting-design-instruction-videos.42993/#post-372654
    @derekleffew Now that I've identified the book, can you offer further identifying info'?
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
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  14. JonCarter

    JonCarter Well-Known Member

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    Talk to your director--what is his vision for the "look" he's trying to achieve? Hot & sultry? Murky? Mysterious? Spooky? Happy? Talk to your set designer. Are you lighting an exterior, and if so when? Morning, mid-day, evening, night? An interior? If so are there any light sources in the scene (lamps, windows, etc.)? In short, what motivates the light? Once you get past that, remember that the audience's stereopsis only works for close objects and you need to "help" the apparent depth that they will see by "slightly over-doing" the effect by means of light, shade & backlight. And of course appropriate colors for all of the above.

    As other have mentioned, McCandless' Method is a great start. Also look at Lee Watson's and Jean Rosenthal's and Joel Rubin's books.

    Now of course all of this will probably be limited about 75% of the time by the mounting positions and instrument inventory of the plant you're working in and budget of the show you're doing. Good luck.
     
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  15. NateTheRiddler

    NateTheRiddler Active Member

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    Thanks a bunch @RonHebbard and @derekleffew. I will check out your books link; it appears incredibly comprehensive, so I’ll be bookmarking that. As for McCandlessbook, I’ll add that to my Amazon list although at this point it will have to wait until I finish my current Stage Lighting textbook series. Want to focus on basics, first, and my brain already has another degree occupying the other half outside of theatre.

    I’m starting to owe you a beer tab, @RonHebbard. I will be definitely looking that up, since I have challenged myself to do what I called the “6 light challenge” before, and I’m curious if I was even remotely smart with my choices. I like making a lot from a little- it’s a fun/frustrating/fun puzzle to solve. :D

    You make outstanding points, @JonCarter, and I will be heeding all of those on my next design. My question at the moment pertains more to base level theory and head knowledge, things I lack despite my experience. I agree with motivated light choices. Stage Lighting: The Fundamentals hammers that point hard and it’s a personal CDO peev of mine, so I will always keep that in mind. I will take a closer look at the authors you mentioned and add their books to my collection.

    Thanks to everyone thus far for the input! Also, thanks to @BillConnerFASTC for his input as well, since I was rude and didn’t thank him for his suggestions earlier. Sorry man! :doh:
     
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