Some thoughts on Lighting Design

As a lighting designer you have a vision for your design and how it will fit in with the Directors vision. So you have “the look” in your mind, now to translate the vision into reality. Now there is a whole range of lighting gear out there that you can use. The secret of good lighting is that you use the lantern that creates the look you are after, even if it not usually used for that task. Now the various types of fixture all have certain functions that you use them for. Let us look at profiles – designed to give a sharp-edged beam that can be shaped, but you can put it out of focus, remove a lens, stick a gobo in it. You can do all sorts of things. Fresnels could have their lens removed to create a different effect. You do not even have to use traditional theatre lanterns to achieve your vision. Just look around yourself – I am sure you can see an interesting light source that might come in useful as a light source.

Thalia Theater Hamburg by Andreas Wüst

Thalia Theater Hamburg
by Andreas Wüst

Now you also do not need the latest and greatest new fixture to light your production, the old equipment like the humble Patt 23 still has a lot of us in theatre. Do not use a lantern just because it is there, use it because it will give you the look you want. You do not need to use moving lights all of the time, or the latest LED profile because you can and it is there. I have often heard from people doing their first designs asking for the latest desk and fixtures, and bitch about the old gear we might have at the venue. A Strand Patt 23 maybe 50 years old, but if it is maintained it still puts out light that is very usable. Another thing to remember is that lighting can be subtle, try to not draw attention away from the performance to your lighting, that is not the aim of your lighting design.

Behind The Scenes at Oldbury Repertory Theatre by Nick Lockey

Behind The Scenes at Oldbury Repertory Theatre
by Nick Lockey

As a lighting designer be aware that you may end up doing something similar in every design, like using the same colour in every production etc. There is nothing worse that someone looking at a lighting design and say “I recognise that designer”. They are recognising it for all of the wrong reasons, so try not to develop a signature element. Try and keep each design fresh. Go outside your comfort zone, you will be surprised at the results. Many of us can fall into this trap of lighting certain elements in the same way as we know it works, so lets think about it in an new way. Remember that you are creating a vision to work along side the production not dominate the production. Also look around you at the real world and if you see something interesting take a picture, this is were cameras with phones in them are handy. Keep a file of all tof the interesting ideas you have even if totally un-related to the show you are currently working on. An opurtunity will arise one day when you can use that idea.
So go an design great shows and experiment and have fun with it.

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