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The Theory and Practice of Stage Lighting. Gordon Hughes SCDA Workshop – Feb 2010. Background. These slides were originally used for a workshop at St Serf’s Hall given in Feb 2010 for the SCDA .

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the theory and practice of stage lighting

The Theory and Practiceof Stage Lighting

Gordon Hughes

SCDA Workshop – Feb 2010

  • These slides were originally used for a workshop at St Serf’s Hall given in Feb 2010 for the SCDA.
  • The workshop was highly practical, and the slides only indicate the structure of the talk, rather than a complete training course.
  • After the talk this presentation has been extended to include other useful information in line with the discussions at the workshop.
  • The dominance of Strand equipment in the presentation reflects the equipment available in Edinburgh Theatres.
  • Introduction
  • Theory of Stage Lighting
  • Coffee Break
  • Lighting Design in General
  • Lighting for the SCDA 1-Act Festival
  • Questions and Wrap Up
  • Stage Lighting has been around since the beginning of theatre, and used the lighting technologies of the period
    • Sun
    • Candles / Fire torches - floats
    • Oil / Paraffin
    • Gas - size of lighting bars
    • Electricity
  • Equipment
  • Budget (money)
  • Time (design time + theatre time)
equipment resources
Equipment Resources
  • Theatre lanterns available
    • Lanterns owned by the theatre
    • Group or Personal lanterns available
    • Borrowed or Hired lanterns available
  • Number of dimmers + control circuits available
  • Other equipment required
    • Accessories (depending on Lantern)
    • Coloured Gel
    • Rigging equipment
    • Cabling + Adaptors
types of lantern
Types of Lantern
  • Flood Lights
  • Par Cans (and Birdies)
  • Spot lights
    • Soft edge – Fresnel Spots
    • Hard edge – Profile Spots (fixed or variable)
    • PC Spots and Beam Lights
  • Intelligent Lights – multiple controls per lantern
    • LED based technology
    • Moving Head and Moving Mirror
  • Effects
  • See also:
flood lights
Flood Lights
  • Optical system of Lamp + Reflector
  • Covers a wide area
  • Limited control over shape/area covered
  • Good for
    • Colour washes
    • Lighting cyclorama (from top or bottom)
    • Working lights
examples of flood lights
Examples of Flood Lights
  • Old Strand Patt 137 + Patt 60 + Patt 49
  • Newer Strand Coda/Nocturn 500/1000
  • Grouped together to form Battens for lighting cycloramas or acting area washes
par technology
Par Technology
  • Appeared during the 1970s when range of sealed lamps with Parabolic Aluminium Reflector were developed.
  • Made popular with pop concerts, then started to appear in theatres
  • A cross between a flood light and spotlight
  • Asymmetric bright region
  • Different sizes and powers available
examples of par lights
Examples of Par Lights
  • Par 64 – 1000W
  • Par 56 – 500W
  • Par 16 – Birdie
  • All lamp sizes available with different beam angles
  • Now available with LED based white lamps
soft edge spot lights
Soft Edge Spot Lights
  • Addition of a low quality lens
  • Light gives a bright area and a spill area
  • Control over area covered by moving lamp position relative to the lens
  • Bright area can be shaped by barn doors
  • Used for general lighting
  • In larger theatres also used with wide angle beams like flood lights
examples of soft edge spots
Examples of Soft Edge Spots
  • Old Stand : Patt 123, Patt 223, Patt 743
  • Newer Strand : Patt 803
  • Recent Strand : Prelude F, Cantata F,

(also Quartet F, Harmony F, Alto F, etc.)

  • Many others makes including CCT Focus Spot range
hard edge spot lights
Hard edge Spot Lights
  • Profile spotlights
  • Better optical system to give a well focused beam
  • With multiple lenses can give variable beam
  • Accessories such as Iris or Gobo or shutters
  • Used for:
    • Highlighting action
    • Projection of gobos
    • Follow Spots
examples of hard edge spots
Examples of Hard Edge Spots
  • Old Strand: Patt 23, Patt 264, Patt 764
  • Newer Stand: Prelude, Cantata, Alto, etc.

Prelude 16/30 + Prelude 28/40 at St Serf’s

  • Recent Strand: SL range

(fixed and variable beam models (e.g. CHT))

  • ETC Source 4 – more modern profile range
other types of spotlight
Other types of Spotlight
  • PC Spotlights use a Prism-Convex lens and can offer a wider range of beam angles. The Festival theatre has some, as well as a number of schools, but they are not common.
  • Beamlight or Pageant lanterns give a very intense soft edged beam of light. Adam House Theatre has some old Patt 58 ones.
intelligent lights leds
Intelligent Lights - LEDs
  • Allows colour change control + flashing
  • Many options available for number of control channels used
  • E.g.
      • 1 – Red Intensity
      • 2 – Green Intensity
      • 3 – Blue Intensity
      • 4 – Preset colour settings
      • 5 – Strobe Control
      • 6 – Sound to Light control
intelligent lights movers
Intelligent Lights - Movers
  • Moving Head
  • Moving Mirror
  • Come in soft and hard edge versions
  • All use multiple control channels
lighting effects
Lighting Effects
  • Mirror Balls
  • Fire Flickers
  • UV Tubes and UV Spots
  • Disco Lights
  • Practical Lights (e.g. Standard Lamps)
  • Read the Script
  • Discuss with Director
  • Discuss with Designers (esp Set Design)
  • Results of Research into time or location
  • Limited Number of Circuits
  • Limited Number of Lanterns
  • Limited Power available (per dimmer)
  • Limited Power available (total)
  • Limited Budget
  • Limited (unrealistic) time schedules
  • Communications Issues
outputs from design process
Outputs from Design Process
  • Lighting Synopsis – what effects and moods are required during the show
  • Lighting Plan –
    • what lanterns are required
    • where are the put
    • what will they do
    • what colour will they be
    • what accessories are required
making the plan a reality
Making the plan a reality
  • Physical/Engineering
    • Rig – mount on the rig (2 mounts/lantern)
    • Cable – connect each lantern to a dimmer
    • Colour – Add colour and other accessories
  • Artistic – likely to need input from director
    • Focus – Make each light point as required
    • Plot – record all states required for by show
effect of angle of light
Effect of Angle of light
  • The angle at which the light points towards the actor or the stage will affect the mood created by the lighting (examples in reference books)
  • Beware of actors facing downwards where all the lighting is from above, e.g. most raised stages where audience look upwards
  • Remember to consider where the spill from the light will fall (examples of effects from the recent drama festival)
general lighting
General Lighting
  • Idea of Splitting the stage into areas and lighting each area with one or two spotlights depending on resource.
  • 9 Areas (3 x 3) typically used at St Serf’s for SCDA Drama festivals.
  • Floods or Pars to produce colour washes
  • A “special” is any light which is used for a special purpose, usually a special effect, in other words that is not part of the general lighting. E.g.
    • Highlighting actors or items of set
    • Projecting images such as gobos
historical bibliography
Historical Bibliography
  • 1930s
    • C H Ridge and F S Aldred: Stage Lighting Principles and Practice, Pitman 1935
  • 1950s
    • S Selden and F S Sellman: Stage Scenery and Lighting, Harrap
  • 1960s
    • F Bentham: The Art Of Stage Lighting, Pitman, 1968 (2nd ed 1976)
  • 1970s
    • R Pilbrow: Stage Lighting, Studio Vista, 1970
    • F Reid: The Stage Lighting Handbook, Pitman, 1976 (2nd ed 1980s)
  • 1980s
    • T Streader and J A Williams: Create Your Own Stage Lighting, Bell & Hyman, 1985
other information on line
Other Information on line
  • Wikipedia: Stage_lighting_instrument
  • The Strand Archive
  • Beware that some on-line resources use American terminology which does sometimes differ from European terms.