Which Should Go First!?!


Active Member
This goes out to anybody who can answer it: My director asked me to fix all of the lights on stage so that every part of the stage has some source of light on it. Now this might seem obvious but when the set gets constructed, that means I have to fix all of the lights all over again! Because when the set or the flats are put up, shadows will appear!!! And then when I have to fix the lights when the set is up, it will be harder because I can only lower the light poles so far until it hits the flats we have up! So what do you think? What should be done first?
Eliminate shadows from flats

A great way to eliminate shadows from flats and other vertical/flat set pieces is to aim a parcan, fresnel, or ellipsoidal(leko) almost straight down at the flat... this light will overpower the other shadows from the other lights on stage. (except for really powerful lights, like a spotlight, for example)

The hard part of this trick is to decide whether or not you want the flat to be uniformly lit... the use of strategically placed shadows can add a lot of atmosphere and mood to the current scene of the play.
Don't forget using Stage Braces

Once the set is in, your lights should be generally hung where you need them already. Frequently it's just a question of doing a shutter cut or moving the light a bit so it's focus is slightly off the scenery. IF your theater has stage braces - the long oak poles that can adjust in height, and that have a sort of hook on it's tip, it's very easy to use it to adjust your lights.
Using the hook, you can grab and move the fixture slightly, even rotate it. If your shutters have holes in their handles, you can also grab them.

It's also very normal to use a stage brace to remove gel from fixtures in between scenes of a show just by reaching up and grabbing the gel frame. Being very careful of course that you don't bang someone on the head with a falling gel frame and the fixture doesn't have gel frame locks.
stage brace refocusing

ship said "It's also very normal to use a stage brace to remove gel from fixtures in between scenes of a show just by reaching up and grabbing the gel frame"

However I would not attempt this with any instrument like a source four that has a gel frame lock in place.

I would reccomend against this style of refocusing for a couple reasons. To get an instrument to move means it isn't locked down appropriately and you may have issues with instruments dropping focus. It also puts the instrument through a lot of unneeded abuse. I would always recommend getting up in the air and doing it right every time it is possible.
fog for focusing

When we did Starmites two years ago, we had very hard focused lights... when we were focusing lights on the FOH, we used a fog machine to allow us to better see exactly where the lights were aimed at and determine the whether or not the lights completely light the actors. It also helped us cross two beams of light exactly thru each other to create a neat looking X. (the starmites musical had the potential for a lot of fog :) )

Fog can be a useful tool for focusing when you have to be very precise... but the easiest way to focus is have someone stand right where the actor will be or where the set piece will be and look at the light until they are seeing the center of the light.

:arrow: its' best for them to have a dark colored gel to look thru so they don't really blind themselves!
Well put Dave interesting idea with fog I'll put that one on file.
Also want to point out with fresnels put it in spot mode focus to the point you want on the stage and then flood out until you reach desired coverage. But you still want someone to walk the wash to make sure that everything needed to lit is lit.
Another way to focus that saves your vision is to turn around and watch your shadow as it looks in the beam of light.

I also have been known to look at my nose while focusing the lights when there is more than one up at a time. Difficult to explain but by looking at how it is shadowed or colored while you face the audience you can kind of get an indication of what it will look like from the audience or how it's focused. But again, difficult to explain and I havn't designed any real shows much less by using this method in... 2 or 3 years.

Another thing you want to be able to do while focusing is to "Flag" the light. That's passing your hand slowly over the front of the light so the person looking at it can see where the beam is or pick it out amongst other beams.

As for stage bracing, no it probably won't work so well on a S-4 for focus unless you at least in traverse, have a fiber washer in the C-Clamp bolt to allow it to be turned by hand or stick. I used to use it on Altman 360Q and 65 type fixtures (Lekos and Fresnels) that most of the time did not have the pivot lock ring. You could tilt them and slightly adjust them in traverse/pan. As long as a gorilla with a 10" C-Wrench was not up there tightening down the light, it would give a bit without needing to worry about it dropping when normally tight.

You don't want to do the original focus on a show with this method, much less when there is time and ability, of course it's best to get out the ladder. But there are times when time is short, something is bumped like a few seconds before opening or during the show or fixtures that cannot be reached short of repelling in from above. Having such an option open as a way to do it, is a good thing in knowing about the other use of stage braces. You can also pick up or move cable that has draped down onto fixtures with the stage brace and set it elsewhere in additon to other uses for the tool.

As for grabbing the gel and frames, that's an old trick for a quick scene change. You would need to not use the gel frame locks on newer equipment and the goal is to grab the gel frame in the hook and set it down on the floor while it's held by the hook. Or at least put the stick thru the hole and let it slide down the pole so it does not damage the frame of floor by falling. If the gel frame does not move, it's also possible to put some gaff tape on the stick and just grab the gel in many cases.

Can't say I did this everywhere, much less all places have stage braces available. But I have used this technique for a quick adjustment and pulling gel quite a few times. Especially with pulling gel, it works and is something that should be kept as an option. Not your best option but useful to have available.
with the theatre i deal with, we come up with a set and light design concurrently. however, we then build the set first and set lights afterwards. we don't complete the set before we start lights, just get the walls etc. up. this allows us to make sure the actors get as much time on set as possible. is also makes sure that the lights are set where we need them. i am also a big fan of scoops with diffusion gels. when you put all of the other instruments in place there is usually shadows. some of these we keep for "older" buildings etc. but the ones that we don't want go magically away with the proper placement of scoops to wash everything out. with the right combination of light position, levels, and gels you can do amazing things with and without shadows.

Users who are viewing this thread