What Do You Want From On Stage Lighting? – Interactive

Last Updated: July 6, 2008 - Your Stage Lighting - by:

Rob is a Lighting Designer and Lighting Programmer and currently Senior Lecturer in Technical Theatre Production. He is also the Editor of On Stage Lighting and teaches stage lighting practice.

On Stage Lighting is 1 year old today. We are asking our valued readers what kind of things they want, so come on and let us know what you would like to see here in the future.

Your Stage Lighting Interactive

Since launch last year, the On Stage Lighting community has grown quickly, with an international following of visitors all with a common purpose. To learn more about the theory and techniques in modern stage lighting.

On Stage Lighting is not an industry-back-slapping-new-kit-pushing site and we keep trying to produce high quality content, which takes time. There is plenty of interesting stuff in the pipeline and lots of things that we haven’t got around to creating/releasing yet (what with working full time in the lighting industry an’ all). While still publishing helpful articles on stage lighting basics, we also have plans to expand including:

  • Interviews with industry professionals, relevant to learning.
  • Lighting desks video tutorials such as the MagicQ PC and Avolites Pearl/ Tiger .
  • Beyond the basics of stage lighting – more advanced help.
  • A Learn Stage Lighting community.

Your Stage Lighting Interactives are about you, the On Stage Lighting readers and this one centres on what you are keen to read and learn about in the next year.

So, put your comments and requests in the box.

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48 Comments

  1. Monique:

    Des- I ended up figuring out the exact DMX channel. It was programmed through two lines A and B. Thanks for the response..

  2. Rob:

    Hello….

    I was wondering if anyone could offer their professional opinion about question I have.

    Is is possible to effectively “blacklight: a large outdoor area? Picture a marching band standing in a formation measuring approximately 60 feet across and sixty feet deep. It is an evening event in the winter so the sky is dark. The only ambient light would be that which comes from normal “street lighting” (street lamps in an urban setting).

    Is it possible to “blacklight” the band’s performance so that their uniforms (which contain a whole lot of fluorescent materials and colors) and their fluorescent face makeup will effectively react to the blacklighting (glow)? Or, is that not possible in a 60′ x 60′ outdoor, partially lit (street lights) seting?

    Any advice or info would be appreciated.

    Thanks

    Rob

  3. Des:

    Hi Rob.

    I have only ever black lit an internal stage, however if it helps, I have noticed that using blue LEDS as a wash without any other lighting, does have a slight UV reflective effect on fluorescent materials, but this was in a total blackout. I can only suggest that you experiment prior to the event.

    Des

  4. ken turner:

    I am working with live art on stage and looking for a hand held light beam that concentrates in one spot to highlight objects and people’s faces.
    Is there such a torch light available?

    many thanks
    ken

  5. Des:

    Hi Ken.

    There is a battery powered pin spot available from American DJ, which would be suitable for your needs, but it is quite bulky and not what you would call subtle! They may be other makes available.

    I did light a production where a small choir of children came on stage during a part of the performance, when only the soloist was lit by a follow spot, and so each of the choir held a small 3 bulb LED torch below the chin shining upwards onto the face, which was fairly dramatic.

    Hope this helps.

    Des

  6. ken turner:

    Thanks, I have ordered a LED torch to see if this works and it would be good if it was fixed to a stand to avoid lights moving indiscriminately.
    Regards
    ken

  7. John:

    We are small theatre group who perform in a village hall and have 10 spots in font of stage with 5 old spots on the stage. I want to replace the old spots on the stage with LED lights to allow some colour and overhead light to stop shadows. Any suggestions – I used similar effect in a theatre in Glasgow. There were LED’s around the stage and were all connected together working from a small control box to allow fade and colour change plus other effects. The LED spots had about 100 small LED’s on each light
    Working with a £400 budget for lights and controller.

  8. Des:

    Hi John.

    LEDS are ok for a wash, but I would advise retaining the spots as well as they are much more flexible and have a greater impact. There is nothing wrong with old theatre spots as long as the lenses are intact and safe electrically. Unless you mean domestic spots, in which case replace them with a number of theatre spots. You can buy a number of PAR 36 LEDS and a contoller on the internet for well inside your budget. Try Thomann or Stage Electrics, etc, there are many others, for both spots & LEDS. Finally, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with shadows as they are an important part of the visual impact.

    Regards

    Desmond

  9. John:

    Thanks for the reply.
    I dont think the stage light are actually spot lights, my mistake.
    They are large square and hollow with a large bulb in it. You cant adjust them and they fill the stage.
    Thanks for the info and I will look for the LED’s you suggested

    Regards

    John

  10. Ralph:

    i left a question before we have a celco light board and would like to go pc controlled do you have any products we can purchase from you thanks ralph

  11. Des:

    Ralph.

    Try researching into, as an example, MYDMX by American DJ, although there are many other systems on the market. Use search terms such as; PC. Software. Lighting. DMX. Control. You need to consider what you want to achieve and what is the capacity of the PC you are going to use. Tip: Download a few manuals from the internet and read them cover to cover to ensure that what you need is what the system will provide and that your PC memory and drives can handle it. All this costs in time, and could save an expensive mistake.

    Des

  12. oli:

    Hi all
    I´m a lighting designer from Argentina
    Anyone know LIGHTFACTORY? (www.lifact.com)
    Or reviews for this software?
    Looks good
    Thanks

  13. Michael:

    I have a fairly simple question, maybe even stupid. Sorry. I’ve been doing some lights at some clubs around LA and I’m pretty new to it. When sliding a slider up to get to a color I want on an LED, it goes through all of the colors and drives me nuts. I might want to get to blue, but sliding it makes it scroll through all of the other colors before I get to it, and makes me feel like an idiot. Is this an attribute of the LED or the console? (I assume console.) And when I’m using these boards (Elation Scene Setter 2, Leprecon LP-X24 or Elation Scene Setter 48), can I change that? Thanks! Awesome website.

  14. Rob Sayer:

    Hi Michael

    The issue sounds like the way that the LED attributes are being handled by the board (HTP vs LTP) and the simple fact that fading between two colours using an RGB colour mixing LED HAS to go via some other colours. If you are fading from Yellow to Blue, all Red and Green LEDs fade down – and the Blue LEDs fade up. At the mid point, you have all colours at 50%, creating a dirty white colour and all stages in between create a range of often horrid colours.

    The easy solution is to create quick blackout cues in between each fade, so one colour fades down, then the other fades up – if you are using faders by hand, just fade one out, before pushing the other one up.

    Another solution if you don’t want a blackout is to put additional cues that make a nice job of it using colours that you like. If going from Yellow to Blue, you might say Yellow > Red > Magenta > Blue or another way you like. The key is to make staged changes to the RGB channels that avoid nasty colours.

    Thanks for your question, make sure you check out the LED articles at On Stage Lighting using the Search box.

  15. Rob Sayer:

    There is a slightly more complex answer within the article: LEDs, Colour Mixing and Crossfades. Cheers

  16. Michael:

    Thanks so much for the (quick) reply. An article too! As I said I’m fairly new, so bear with me. It will take a bit to digest your info. But I’d like to ask, are you saying it’s possible to adjust the order the lights come on in the LED? For example,with one LED on one slider, moving the slider from bottom to top it might go from orange to yellow to red to blue. Can you change that order? And are all of those colors a different channel, whereby you could cut some out? Again, my big issue is say I want the blue at the top of the slider, without going through everything, and hoping that when I quickly slide it there I get right to blue and not stop a smidge too short or far landing on a color I didn’t want, frustrating and humiliating myself. I guess what I’m sort of asking is can you make those LED’s act like a par 64 (i.e., only give off one color). I won’t even ask right now how is it that on one club’s board that three different sliders change the colors of the same LED, depending on the position of another the sliders in relation to one another. (First 2 sliders up, third down=blue. First down, next two up=yellow…) Thanks again. I’m going through the site backwards and forwards. Been unemployed forever, but I will send beer money soon.

  17. Rob Sayer:

    Hi Michael,

    It seems that you are still learning how the colours are produced: Using 3 different coloured light sources that are additively mixed to produce the final colour (Red + Green = Yellow, for example). This has a huge bearing on what and what isn’t possible.

    No, it’s not really possible to adjust the fading order when simply using 1 fader, particularly on the desks you describe. In the article, I discuss techniques that either use multiple cues or the colours are mixed by hand – with Red on one fader, Green on a 2nd and Blue on the 3rd, faded in by different amounts. That sounds a bit like the kind of thing you are describing with the club’s board, where a few faders control one set of fixtures. Essentially, you are adding different amounts of different stored colours and they all add up to a final colour.

    The issue is that if you want the LED to behave like a single colour PAR properly, the desk ideally needs to treat the colour attributes as LTP, Latest Takes Precedence, and the LED also needs to have a Dimmer or Intensity attribute that deals with the fading on and off. Then, you set the colour and simple use the fader to turn the Intensity of the LED up and down. But this is straying into the realms of a lot better understanding of lighting equipment and control.

    If you want a similar effect, you should set up a fader with your preferred colour on it, and other ones with other looks or colours you want. Then, always fade the running fader all the way out, before pushing the next colour up. No crossfades, only one fader up at a time. That’d pretty much do it until you become more confident in what you are dealing with.

    Cheers

  18. Michael:

    Thanks. You’ve given me an idea to work with. Next time I’m at that club I will set up the LED color I want and just fade it up and down. As long as those sliders don’t control anything else when I’m changing scenes…heh heh…Thanks.

  19. rick olcott:

    rent lighting for small local festival – have used 24 par 56 cans for show – thinking about switching to LED panels – rental company hasn’t been much help in
    – how many do I need to get equivalent lighting
    – how to control each light for color/effect
    They gave me a “user manual” equivalent to 2 3×5 cards – looking for reading material/software/? to help minimize the learning curve (and relieve my anxiety)

    Thanks

  20. Derek Morgan:

    Hello,

    I wonder if you could give me some advice as I think I kow what would be ideal froim my point of view but I don’t know if such a thing exists. The scenario is as follows:

    It’s a church congregation but we don’t meet in a traditional church building instead we use a community hall. This hall is used to staging amateur dramatic shows, pantomimes etc so has a proper stage with a ceiling mounted lighting rig infront of the stage with about 10 par cans arranged as you would expect for a stage performance.(The hall seats about 300)

    The band that plays music during a service are set up on the stage but the guy who is doing the preaching uses a small raised staging area on the floor infront of the main stage.

    My problem is that whilst there is plenty of light on the stage this raised area on the floor infront does not have sufficient lighting and I want to correct that. I want to buy some new lights rather than move the existing ones. I’m concerned that if I buy a theatre spot (which is what we have at the moment) and mount it on the rig pointing down at the preacher it will be really bright in his eyes and becasue of the angle of the lecturn won’t properly light that up either.

    What I am thinking is if I had two spots mounted on the side of the rig pointing down at the lecturn than because the light source is at the side it will not dazzle the preacher but should hit the angled lecturn. (It doesn’t need to be mega bright just nicely illuminated).

    I am not sure of the capabilities of LED lights but (and this is where I don’t know if such a thing exists) my ideal would be to have the LED lights set to give a white light with a narrowish spread and more importantly it can be turned On and Off and dimmed via a handheld remote control.

    Would you be able to tell me if such a thing is possible and if not, tell me what you would advise.

    Very many thanks

  21. kaylea young:

    hi im looking at getting into the lighting industry like the concerts and that but dont now how to i use to do lighting for partys along with music and would love a full time job doing lighting how do i do this

  22. B J McComis:

    Hello We have a Red Devil canto 1200th Follow spot but I don’t know if it will take a gobo. I have gobos but I can’t see where they go or what to do. Can you help me. BJ

  23. vb:

    Hi, i have 8 lights on my lighting rig for a tiny stage. they are just basic lights ad a spot light. The lights turn on and then 5 6 7 and 8 flick on and off in a sequence continously. I cannot get 1 2 3 or 4 to come on. The lights do not have any controls on them and do not respond to the lighting deck. When i uplug the deck the continue so i have to unplug them from the rig to turn them off. Please help as i cannot gain control of them and they were fine when last used!

  24. Torben:

    Hi

    Im making stage and light for a mini festival for upcomming bands.

    I would like to make a effect on the scene, with a fan casting shadows on the floor – Just a slow rotating fan and some white light.

    Im wondering if you have any ideas how I could make this?

    Thanks for a great site!

    TC

  25. Benjamin Mills:

    Hi Torben,

    The effect you want is normally created by a gobo (the shape of the shadow) in an intelligent light. I don’t know what kind of system you have set up there but you’d need a desk that can control the light as well as some kind of intelligent fixture. Try check a DJ equipment place, those would probably be the cheapest if not most controllable.

  26. Torben:

    Hi

    I have 16 Martin Mac 250+, 48 Par 64 and 12 spots – All controlled by a Pearl 2004 desk.

    I know I can make the effect with gobos, but I actually want the fan on the stage. So the stage look kinda industrial.

    Best regards
    TC

  27. Morten Torbensen:

    LED FAN Noise!

    Hi Rob
    Many thanks for a most useful website!

    I’m in charge of lights in a church housing 70-100 concerts a year. We have just purchased 16 stairville par 64 led cans with which we are very satisfied for their light output. However, we are cheapskates and bought cheap lamps. They are fitted with a constant running fans, which are delivering noise output to our dissatisfaction. Many of our concerts are chamber music. I have disconnected the fan and installed a max/min thermometer in one of the lamps. I have conducted trials with different loads in 8 hour runs, and have measured a max temp of 54 deg celsius. Thats not quite uncommon in electronics. Is it safe to leave the fan off?
    I’m thinking of installing thermoswitches to turn on at 45 deg celsius. Is it needed? Does anyone have any experience with these things?
    Is this maybe stuff for an article ( the DIY approach to cheap lamps)?

    Sincerely your grateful reader

    Morten

  28. Rob Sayer:

    Hi Morten,

    I’m not aware of anyone making such mods, it’s a risky business as you are aware. Perhaps the OSL readers might have some experience of it though. Let us know how it goes.

  29. L.K. Beckler:

    What do we need to convert older digital 96 rack ( Electro Controls Catalog number 0420-31) to DMX control. Thanks Dim Witz

  30. James Chen:

    Hi I have a question

    Is there a filter that is 2 colors? What I mean is that When I sit in the theater and look at the lights, the light appears to be yellow. But when it hits the stage, it’s actually red light.

    I have white LED lights and I would like it to shine white. But from a distance, I want the white light to appear more pleasing, not white….maybe a dim color that goes well with green.

    Thank you
    James

  31. Benjamin:

    No, gels (filters) can only be one colour. What you’re seeing is the difference between the colour the gel reflects and the colour it creates. Some gels, especially colour correction, ie white gels, often look a different colour to what they will produce through an open white light. But they only will ever make the light one colour. The best easy I know to tell what colour a gel is, is to look at it in front of a bright light, our even better, look at the colour light it gives with light shining though it.

  32. Jeremy:

    We are looking to build a new team of engineers who have competent skill in electro-mechanical and structural, to develop a new range of automated lighting here in a new facility at Panyau, Guangzhou, China. Knowledge in DC and 3 phase stepper motor control, belt control systems, gearing, IC programming, LCD interfaces, variable DC power control, optical and magnetic sensors, and thermal management.
    If you have skills as listed above we would like to hear from you.
    Accommodation and travel expenses paid, negotiable salary.
    With kindest regards,
    Jeremy Guest-Smith
    Director
    Greenlight Lighting
    jeremy@greenlightlighting.com
    108 Tsueng Kong Wai
    Ha Tseun , NT HONG KONG SAR
    Vice President
    Entertainment lighting division
    Neo Neon International Ltd.
    China +86 15546846306
    HK Office+852 24422131

  33. Jack Mountain:

    I am the owner of Music Mountain, a new 36 acre Live Music & Arts event park in Maine USA. I have a 200 amp service for the stage. How many amps should I designate to the stage lighting system and what do you recommend for lights. We will have all genres of music except Rap, Disco and Hip Hop. I am so glad I found your site through a google search.
    Thank you for your help.
    Jack Mountain

  34. Michael:

    Hi Rob. Maybe you can help with this. Using an Elation Show Designer 2 at a club last night I had this issue: If I had some LED’s set to a color, then went and worked on a scene or maybe different light fixtures using the same sliders, when I went back to the same LED fixtures, if I moved a color slider they wouldn’t change. I would have to tap the shutter slider, even if it was all of the way open, which would unfortunately make the lights flash, to get them to respond again. (Sometimes this happened or all of the time, I’m not sure.) I have a feeling it may have something to do with HTP vs. LTP, but I’m not sure. Also, other issues could be that the SD 2 is really meant for moving lights and a lot of the fixture profiles on the board did not match the lights they were controlling. Any advice would be appreciated. The band I worked for wants me to be their lighting guy and we’ll probably play that club again. Thanks.

  35. Daniel:

    Hi, this is a simple one.

    Just looking for pointers for shooting concerts in an outdoor environment during the daylight. I know there are many limitations, but seeing if there’s anything else I can add to my bag of tricks to make the show more exciting.

    Thanks in advance,
    -D.

  36. Benjamin:

    Just in terms of personal insight, I’d use a lot of lighting that will be easily noticed by the audience such as backlighting or lighting up set pieces and also lots of colour. Basically cuz it’s outdoors and during the day, the sun will do a lot of the general lihting for you. If the shows during the evening though or if the stage casts uneven shadowed areas you might want to consider a general wash, otherwise focus mostly on your effects. The audience is more likely in this case to see the light than what you’re lighting. A hazer could also help to.make the lighting effects clearer

  37. Michael:

    Hello. I have a couple of questions. If I bring a couple of lights to a club and want to add them to what is already there, can I just stick them between any lights, and connect via the dmx cable? Of course then I’ll have to add them to the board. Also, if I bring my own board with my own lights to a club/theater, is there a way to connect through the console that is already there, so I can use the existing house lights as well as the ones I brought, or do people just leave the house console alone and connect their own lights to their consoles and run the two boards. I’m asking because I anticipate going on the road with a band and I don’t know if I should bring my own lights and console or just the lights. Of course I don’t even know if there’s money to bring anything. Thanks for your help, and (again), great website.

  38. Jim:

    Hi Rob
    I run a theatre company on Ireland called Monkeyshine . I am operating sound in upcoming show. I have used Qlab to run the show and have now got the main cue list loaded on to Qlab 3.0.14. I have purchased short term license to validate audio and video cues . I have learnt to patch cues using older Qlab version the same as on your demos on you tube to get rid of red x indicating invalid file . Using preference bottom etc..
    I am wondering how to do this in Qlab 3.0.14.
    Would be greatful if you could help
    Regards from not very techy jim

  39. Rob Sayer:

    Qlab 3: to patch audio and video output devices you either go to View / Workspace Settings OR just hit the cog icon on the bottom right hand side of the Qlab pane. This flips Qlab over so you can see ‘around the back’. HTH.

  40. Rob Sayer:

    Hi Michael, yes you can usually add additional DMX fixtures between existing ones, as long as there are free channels on the DMX universe and you aren’t trying to make that particular DMX feed deal with more than the 32 fixture limit on one discreet line.

    If you take in your own desk, you have the option of either running the two side by side or patching up your console to fit the house rig and just plugging their kit into the DMX outputs (or other data streams) from yours. Given the choice, I would always take a desk with my own programming (and one that I can use). It is easier to integrate a DMX based rig into a console that I know well, rather than trying to make a show every night not only using strange fixtures but also whatever-the-hell console the place has. Either way, technical details of the venues are your friend. Ideally, you’d go with a show file already patched for their rig and with any luck all the programming done for your own kit.

    I wouldn’t generally run ‘through’ the house desk unless there was a really good reason to have to. I’d just label and unplug the data cables and reinstate them after the show.

  41. Michael:

    Thank you. One follow-up. Are most clubs/theaters going to have an available DMX line already in place? I guess it only makes sense a venue is going to have available cables already in place for all the consoles passing through…Thanks!

  42. Rob Sayer:

    If their system uses moving lights in the rig and they have a common controller, then there is likely to be access to DMX infrastructure. Some places may use network control at the console end including things like sACN, Pathport or ArtNet but generally at the moment you are more than likely to find good ‘ol fashioned DMX hardware and cabling.

  43. Dominic:

    I run a pop up cinema and we do some cool and interesting stuff with our films.

    We have a Romeo and Juliet gig coming up next week and we have a live Choir singing along with some of the songs in the film.

    You seem to know what you are talking about when it comes to QLab and they don’t seem to be getting back to me and normal tutorials are not helping.

    We want to play the main Video file which is the film with the normal sound, this will be coming out of the main speakers for everyone to hear.
    We also then want to have a click track for the choir to hear which we want to come out of a different output into some in ear packs which only the choir can hear.
    We have an edited audio track which is the same length as the film and were hoping to play them both at the same time and then re route the audio tracks.
    One to the main speakers and one to just the in ear speakers.

    Is this something you think can be done? Would you be willing to give us some advice? I am really stuck as to who to ask and like I said you seem to know what you are talking about.

    Any help would be MASSIVELY appreciated.

  44. Chris Wemyss:

    Hi, I’m part of the team that run Stowed Out Festival in the Scottish Borders. We are a tiny organisation and do our lighting in-house. (including training local youngsters in the mysteries of basic DMX programing) We have a mix of traditional Par 64’s and led floods controlled by a cheap 48 channel desk. We run chases and washes. Some times illuminating a thin white backdrop creating complete back drop colour changes. Shows are beefed up by running “bomb” a free sound activated fractual generator software program projected behind the bands and a fog machine. This year we managed to raise some cash and purchase our first moving lights(18 channels of DMX). It is now obvious that our desk is no longer up to the job. In this world of fast moving technology can any of your contributors make some up to date suggestions about upgrading our desk. New/Secondhand/laptop based
    Thanks
    Chris

  45. kal:

    hi do you know if there isa any short courses in the Uk for stage lighting? thanks

  46. Bernard Haste:

    I wonder if I can ask for advice?

    I`m looking to light a model railway about 10 metres long, and with a depth of 2 metres(approx.) maximum.

    The layout is taken out to shows and it is important that as little weight as possible and certainly as little voltage and current as possible be present wherever the viewers may stand.

    I wish to create the effect of the sun rising in the east and then developing into bright sunlight overhead and then fading away to darkness in the west.

    Is this possible and if so, how might it be achieved?

    Many thanks,

    Bernard

  47. Rob Sayer:

    Sounds like an interesting project. Although LED may not represent proper sunlight or daylight, it would give you a compact,lightweight and low current draw solution. The tricky part will be how to change the angle of the sunlight throughout the day period. And avoiding shadows of the viewers falling on the layout.

  48. Rob Sayer:

    As long as you light along the layout and they view from either side, the shadow problem can be reduced.

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