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Stage Lighting

ExhiCon Events Archives
This month onwards we will bring you the most read archives of ExhiCon Events

Stage Lighting
Most important features of Stage Shows and Events

From : ExhiCon Events Sept. 2005 issue.
Lighting has become one of the most important characteristics of modern stage shows and events .Its hard to imagine a stage show without proper lighting and lighting effects everywhere we see large amount entities on the stage which need to be highlighted on proper time so that it evolves out the beauty of stage and its other compositions .Stage shows and events have propagated a lot of potentialities for the creative capability of industry professionals.  This  had such an effect on the whole show that Modern stage lighting has become a flexible tool in the production of theatre, dance, opera and other performance arts. Several different types of stage lighting instruments are used in the pursuit of the various principles or goals of lighting.

Stage lighting has several functions, although to allow for artistic effect, no hard and fast rules can ever be applied. The functions of lighting include:

  • Illumination: The simple ability to see what is occurring on stage. Any lighting design will be ineffective if the viewers cannot see the characters; unless this is the explicit intent.

  • Revelation of form: Altering the perception of shapes onstage, particularly three-dimensional stage elements.

  • Focus: Directing the audience's attention to an area of the stage or distracting them from another.

  • Mood: Setting the tone of a scene. Harsh red light has a totally different effect than soft lavender light.

  • Location and time of day: Establishing or altering position in time and space. Blues can suggest night time while orange and red can suggest a sunrise or sunset. Use of gobos to project sky scene, moon etc.

  • Projection/stage elements: Lighting may be used to project scenery or to act as scenery onstage.

  • Plot (script): A lighting event may trigger or advance the action onstage.

  • Composition: Lighting may be used to show only the areas of the stage which the designer wants the audience to see, and to "paint a picture".

While Lighting Design is an art form, and thus no one way is the only way, there is a modern movement that simply states that the Lighting Design helps to create the environment in which the action take place while supporting the style of the piece. "Mood" is arguable while the environment is essential.

Qualities of Lighting:-

The four main qualities or properties of lighting are intensity, color, pattern and focus.

Measured in lumens and foot-candles. For any given luminaire (lighting instrument or fixture), this depends upon the power of the lamp, the design of the instrument (and its corresponding efficiency), the presence or absence of color gels or gobos, distance from the area to be lit and the beam or field angle of the fixture, the colour and substance to be lit, and the neuro-optics of the total scene (that is, the relative contrasts to other regions of illumination).

Color temperature is measured in Kelvin, and gel colors are organized by several different systems maintained by the color manufacturing companies. The apparent color of a light is determined largely by the gel color given it, but also in part by the power level the lamp is being run at and the color of material it is to light. As the percentage of full power a lamp is being run at drops, the tungsten filament in the bulb glows orange instead of more nearly white. This is known as amber drift or amber shift. Thus a 1000-watt instrument at 50% will appear far more orange than a 500-watt instrument at full.

Pattern refers to the shape, quality and evenness of a lamp's output. The pattern of light an instrument makes is largely determined by three factors. The first are the specifics of the lamp, reflector and lens assembly. Different mounting positions for the lamp (axial, base up, base down), different sizes and shapes of reflector and the nature of the lens (or lenses) being used can all affect the pattern of light. Secondly, the specifics of how the lamp is focused affect its pattern. In ellipsoidal reflector spotlights (ERS) or profile spotlights, there are two beams of light emitted from the lamp. When the cones of both intersect at the throw distance (the distance to the stage), the lamp has a sharply defined 'hard' edge. When the two cones do not intersect at that distance, the edge is fuzzy and 'soft'. Depending on which beam (direct or reflected) is outside the other, the pattern may be 'thin and soft' or 'fat and soft.' Lastly, a gobo or break up pattern may be applied to ERSs and similar instruments. This is typically a thin sheet of metal with a shape cut into it. It is inserted into the instrument near its aperture. Gobos come in many shapes, but often include leaves, waves, stars and similar patterns.

Focus, position, and hanging
Many stage lights hung on a batten focused in several directions

Focus is a term usually used to describe where an instrument is pointed. The final focus should place the "hot spot" of the beam at the actor's head level when standing at the center of the instruments assigned "focus area" on the stage. Position refers to the location of an instrument in the theater's fly system or on permanent pipes in front-of-house locations. Hanging is the act of placing the instrument in its assigned position.

Lighting designer
Using lighting to affect the audience's senses and evoke their emotions. The lighting designer is familiar with the various types of lighting instruments and their uses. In consultation with the director and the scenic designer, and after watching sufficient rehearsals, the LD is responsible for providing an Instrument Schedule and a Light Plot. The Schedule is a list of all required materials, including color gel, gobos, color wheels, barn doors and other accessories. The light plot is typically a plan view of the theatre in which the performance will take place, with every luminaire marked. This typically includes approximate focus (the direction it should be pointing), a reference number, any accessories required, and the specifics (or channel number) of its connection to the dimmer system or lighting control console.

A Lighting Designer must be accustomed to working around the demands of the director or head planner. Practical experience is required to know the effective use of different lighting instruments and color in creating a design. Many designers start their careers as lighting technicians in theatres or amateur theatre groups. Often, this is followed by training in one of the many vocational colleges or universities around the world that offer theatre courses. Many jobs in larger venues and productions require a degree from a vocational school or college in theatrical lighting, or at least a bachelor’s degree.

Lighting instruments
In the context of lighting design, a lighting instrument (also called a luminaire) is a device that produces controlled lighting as part of the effects a lighting designer brings to a show. The term lighting instrument is preferred to light to avoid confusion between light and light sources.
There are a variety of instruments frequently used in the theater. Although they vary in many ways they all have the following four basic components in one form or other:

  • Box/Housing - a metal or plastic container to house the whole instrument and prevent light from spilling in unwanted directions.

  • Light source (lamp).

  • Lens or opening - the gap in the housing where the light is intended to come out.

  • Reflector - behind or around the light source in such a way as to direct more light towards the lens or opening.

Additional features will vary depend on the exact type of fixture.

Most theatrical light bulbs (or lamps, the term usually preferred) are tungsten-halogen (or quartz-halogen), an improvement on the original incandescent design that uses a halogen gas instead of an inert gas to increase lamp life and output. Fluorescent lights are infrequently used other than as work lights because, although they are far more efficient, they are expensive to make dimmed (run at less than full power) without using specialized dimmer ballasts and only very expensive models will dim to very low levels. Most instruments are suspended or supported by a "U" shaped yoke, or 'trunion arm' fixed to the sides of the instrument, normally near its center of gravity. On the end of such, a clamp (known as a hook-clamp, C-clamp, or pipe clamp—pipe referring to battens) is normally fixed, made in a "C" configuration with a screw to lock the instrument onto the pipe or batten from which it is typically hung. One secured, the fixture can be panned and tilted using tension adjustment knobs on the yoke and clamp. An adjustable c-wrench, ratchet (US) or spanner (UK) is often used to assist the technician in adjusting the fixture.

Most venues ensure crew and performer safety by attaching a safety cable/chain (a metal wire or chain with a locking carabiner) to the fixture. In the event that the fixture's clamp(s) were to fail, the cable would arrest the fall of the fixture before it could come in contact with a person. Some larger fixtures can weigh over 100 lb (45 kg) and are suspended very high above performers heads. Many venues place strict guidelines regarding the use of safety cables.

All lights are loosely classified as either floodlights (wash lights) or spotlights. The distinction has to do with the degree to which one is able to control the shape and quality of the light produced by the instrument, with spotlights being controllable, sometimes to an extremely precise degree, and floodlights being completely uncontrollable. Instruments that fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum can be classified as either a spot or a flood, depending on the type of instrument and how it is used. In general, spotlights have lenses while floodlights are lensless, although this is not always the case.

Lighting control
Lighting control tools might best be described as anything that changes the quality of the light. Historically this has been done by the use of intensity control. Technological advancements have made intensity control relatively simple - solid state dimmers are controlled by one or more lighting controllers. Controllers are commonly lighting consoles designed for sophisticated control over very large numbers of dimmers or luminaires, but may be simpler devices which play back stored sequences of lighting states with minimal user interfaces. Consoles are also referred to as lighting desks or light-boards.

For larger shows or installations, multiple consoles are often used together and in some cases lighting controllers are combined or coordinated with controllers for sound, automated scenery, pyrotechnics and other effects to provide total automation of the entire show. See show control.

The lighting controller is connected to the dimmers (or directly to automated luminaires) using a control cable (e.g. DMX512) or network, allowing the dimmers which are bulky, hot and sometimes noisy, to be positioned away from the stage and audience and allowing automated luminaires to be positioned wherever necessary. In addition to DMX512, newer control connections include RDM (remote device management) which adds management and status feedback capabilities to devices which use it while maintaining compatibility with DMX512; and Architecture for Control Networks (ACN) which is a fully featured multiple controller networking protocol. These allow the possibility of feedback of position, state or fault conditions from units, whilst allowing much more detailed control of them.

With the use of modern gadgets and technology stage lighting is evolving out more rapidly as a profession and expert industry professionals are making rapid pace and progress with every passing day to create a more better set up for providing wide variety of effects and features on the stage shows and events .Experts like Sam Kerawalla , Dhiren Merchant ,Viraaf Pocha, Atul Sonpal  have created a marvelous feat in this industry in Indian event lighting industry .This is to be noted day by day more and more people are turning towards this trade to display their creative skills in the event lighting industry .Since there is a need to provide more and more professionals in this industry because more and more people are turning towards event management .Be it exterior or interior events, stage lighting has become one of the most important feature of stage nourishment and typify certain qualities which need to stand out for the proper relationship with the audience.

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