Stage lighting is used in presentations of all kinds from subdued, small-scale theater to high energy, showy concerts. It is also used to light art installations, parties and films. Film lighting can be considered a category of it’s own because film lighting needs to accomidate the camera, but it and stage lighting share the same basic principles of design and the same basic technology in light fixtures.
The history of stage lighting follows generally along the lines of the history of lighting in general. First there was the sun and performances were held outdoors at the time of day that best reflected the mood of the story.
Then performances moved indoors and there were candles and oil lamps.
Then there were gaslights, and always there was someone making the best of the technology. Lighting designers and stage technicians love technology. This gas lantern uses the Argand burner principle where gas flows through a pierced ring-shaped burner, making it hotter in the center and making the air move through faster. The improved the flow of oxygen from the faster moving air creates a brighter flame with less soot—less soot is good. Less to clean up.An early type of light that was used in the theater was called a lime light because the flame was created by burning a cylinder of quicklime (calcium oxide). Limelights were used through the 1860s and 1970, and used in follow spots, which is why we have the term “in the limelight.”
Towards the end of the 19th century gaslights were replaced with electrical lights and dimming the stage lights became much easier.
With the advent of electricity the dimming of the lights got much easier. Stagehands did not have to go about snuffing out candles or adjusting individual gas flow jets. All the electricity to the lights could be control by dimmers. In the beginning salt water was used to reduce or increase the voltage to the lights. Now most dimmers use an electromagnet and electronics to change the voltage flow and dim or brighten the light.
Stage lighting is all about the control, placement, and focus, of lighting fixtures. A good lighting design illuminates the people and the stage while creating an atmosphere to support the story being told. The people can be actors, musicians, award ceremony speakers, or auctioneers. The stage can be an elaborate set, a drum kit and guitars, or one draped platform.If your lighting design is good no one will notice it. These 5 qualities of light are what you can effect to make a lighting design.
The distribution is the quality of the light, how the light rays are distributed by the fixture. Each fixture uses a combination of lenses and reflectors to create various distributions or qualities of light.
The direction of the light is controlled by where the designer places the light in relationship to the person of thing being lit. McCandless set the basics, for a nice clear three-dimensional illumination, but many designers tweak this in order to illicit certain moods from or give certain images to the viewer.
Light from below tends to look scary and make the viewer feel small and vulnerable. Light from behind only tends to push the person or thing forward at the audience. Side light accents the movement of the dancer across the stage. Dance and installation lighting often uses extreme directions.
Warm and cool are subjective, but typically when someone says warm they mean ambers, reds, etc. and when they say cool they mean blues, greens, and purples.
Intelligent Fixtures are any fixture that can be changed remotely in a way other than it’s intensity. Intelligent fixtures use non-dimmable lamps, usually HMIs. They have shutter mechanisms to control the dimming of the light and color wheels to control the color. Intelligent fixtures are hung manually, but the beams are focused by remote control. The fixtures have either a moving mirror or a mechanical yoke that is controlled with DMX signals and moves the focus of the light beam.
The first controllers were the stagehands working the candles and the gas jets. Then there were dimmers just off stage and stagehands could work them to change the intensity. The invention of electronics made it possible to separate the dimmers and handles, and move those big, hot dimmers into far-off, unused spaces. The handles were replaced by sliders on a small electronic board which sent low voltage information to the dimmers. Moving the sliders up or down sent signals to the dimmers to increase or decrease the flow of electricity to the fixtures.
buttons and sliders on computerized light boards are used to control intelligent fixtures.The low voltage information sent by light boards is configured for DMX512, which is a protocol for sending digital values between 0 and 255 to specific addresses between 1 and 512. Each dimmer and intelligent fixture has a specific address, and all the dimmers and fixtures are connected to the light board via DMX cable.
The invention of computerized electronics made it possible to replace the small electronic boards with big lighting consoles that have customized interfaces of dials and buttons and sliders. These computerized light boards can be programmed to remember combinations of low voltage information, and recall them at the touch of a button.
By someone who likes the way light shines on things.<br />Stage Lighting, briefly described.<br />
History<br />First there was the sun.<br />An amphitheater where the sun is the stage lighting.<br />
History<br />Candles and oil lamps<br />A row of candles as footlights.<br />
History<br />Gaslights<br />Gaslights along the side of a flat.<br />A gaslight up close.<br />Thanks to www.stage-lighting-museum.com<br />
History<br />The first electric lights<br />The Paris Opera House after all the gaslights were replaced with electric lights.<br />Thanks to www.stage-lighting-museum.com<br />
History<br />Dimming<br />An old salt water dimmer.<br />A modern electronic dimmer.<br />Thanks to www.stage-lighting-museum.com<br />
Design<br />The 5 qualities of light<br /><ul><li>INTENSITY—how bright is the light?
DISTRIBUTION—is the quality of the light beam clear and direct or fuzzy and diffuse?
DIRECTION—does the light come from the front, the back, or the side, up high or down low?
COLOR—is the light blue, or red, or amber, or any combination of these?
MOVEMENT—does the light change intensity, distribution, direction, or color?</li></li></ul><li>Design<br />Distribution<br />Ellipsoidals throw a well defined, easily manipulated beam.<br />Fresnels throw a soft, diffuse light with an adjustable beam.<br />Cycloramas throw an even, diffuse wash of light.<br />PARs throw a bright hazy beam that cannot be manipulated.<br />
Design<br />Direction<br />Stanley McCandless asserted that lighting should come from three places.<br />Two from the front-sides at a 45 degree angle so the person is not flattened back.<br />One from behind so the person is separated from the background.<br />
Design<br />Side light<br />Side light is often used in dance to accentuate the form and movement of the dance.<br />
Design<br />Color<br />WARM colors, such as ambers, reds, and oranges create feelings of intimacy and safety.<br />COOL colors, such as blues and whites create feelings of isolation and distance.<br />
Intelligent Lighting<br />A moving head, or intelligent fixture, as it looks when hung from overhead.<br />A music event, where you will almost always find movers.<br />A mover, or automated head, as it looks when placed on a flat surface.<br />
A Brief History<br />Controllers<br />A manually controlled electromagnetic dimmer. <br />An electronic control board that sends digital signals.<br />
Controllers<br />DMX Explained<br />A control cable goes from the controller to the fixtures or dimmers.<br />A controller sends out a value from 0 to 512 on a single channel of DMX.<br />Conventional Dimming<br /> A single channel correlates to a single dimmer.<br />0 = light off, 512 = light at full.<br />Intelligent Fixtures<br />Multiple channels send information to one fixture.<br />One channel for color, one for tilt, one for pan, etc<br />0 = red or straight up depending on the channel<br />512 = blue or straight down depending on the channel<br />
Controllers<br />Computerized Controllers<br />The DMX is invisible.<br />The fixture profiles allow for intuitive control of intelligent fixtures.<br />The controller can store different sequences and looks<br /> The operator can “grab” a fixture and control it “on the fly”<br />
The End<br />Remember the sun will always put on a better light show than you.<br />What is the difference between God a lighting designer?<br />When God said let there be light, there was light.<br />