Stage Lighting 101 — Everything You Need to Know

The art of stage lighting exists. It is used to create effect at events by illuminating performance spaces, directing attendees’ eyes, and modifying the atmosphere. A lot may be learned about stage lighting. In this article, we’ll go over some stage lighting fundamentals that are important for everyone working in the live performance industry to comprehend.

What Does Stage Lighting Want to Achieve?

Stage lighting has more than one objective in mind. Theatrical lighting may improve a stage production in a variety of ways and aid in grabbing the audience’s attention. The ideal lighting for a stage can:

The primary goal of stage lighting is to illuminate the actors, scenery, and other props so that the audience can see all that is intended to be seen onstage. A production can suffer from poor lighting. For instance, dull lighting will make it more difficult for audience members seated near to the stage to see the players’ facial expressions. For the performers to see where they’re going and the other dancers, actors, or musicians, lighting is also crucial.
Point out various areas: You can also use stage lights to guide audience members’ attention in the right directions. In the most dramatic situations, a stage may be largely dark with only one spotlight blazing on the main focus point. In many other situations, the lighting designer can begin with a wash, which fills a large space with light and serves as the foundation layer. They can then use accentuation to draw the audience’s focus to a specific region, such as a speaker in the foreground.
Set the scene: Lighting can assist you in achieving the desired visual in a situation. In certain cases, this entails using lighting to produce optical effects. You can make the stage black as an actor turns on a prop light switch in a room or use a moving light to make it seem like the sun is rising. Backlit scrims can also be used to simulate a fire, a starry night, or a sunny day.
Control the atmosphere: Stage lighting may significantly impact the atmosphere. The purpose is to encourage the appropriate emotions in the audience by matching the lighting to the show’s content. In a play, this may imply a gentle, warm glow for a joyous scene, or dim, chilly tones for a somber ballad at a concert. Different moods are connected to particular hues. As an illustration, the colors blue and red are frequently linked to strong emotions like love or aggressiveness.
It helps to become familiar with some stage lighting terms for objects and ideas that are frequently used in this field in order to comprehend the subject of stage lighting:

Lighting for a Stage Terminology

Stage lighting units are also sometimes referred to as lanterns, even if you may only hear them termed lights or lighting fixtures. The word “luminaire” is more frequently used in Europe.
Lamps: In the context of household lighting, a light bulb may be referred to as a lamp. The light bulbs that go into light fixtures are always referred to as lamps in stage lighting.
A wash, sometimes referred to as a fill, is a broad area of lighting that consistently covers the whole stage. A wash is often produced using floodlights.
Lighting experts refer to the brightness of a stage light as its intensity when describing it. A brighter light will use more electricity. The intensity of the light decreases as the electrical source is reduced.
Diffusion: The process of distributing light to soften it is known as diffusion. An concentrated beam with sharp edges is the antithesis of a diffused light. To soften the light, lighting designers can employ diffusion material, which resembles a colorless gel.
Barndoors: To cast a wide, gentle beam of light, barndoors are groups of two or four metal flaps attached to the front of a stage light. In order to prevent the beam from illuminating places that you would wish to stay dark, the barndoors shape the light and produce a harsher edge where it stops.
Barndoor-like shutters are integrated into ellipsoidal lighting fixtures. They are comparable to barndoors. You may control the light’s form and block off specific sections by sliding the shutters.
Lighting experts adjust the color of a light beam using a gel, commonly known as a color filter. Gels are made of translucent colored plastic sheets sandwiched in the middle of clear plastic sheets. The same light can throw a variety of colors by using different gels that can be put into the color frame on the lamp.
Gobo: A gobo, also known as a pattern, is a tiny metal disc with a stencil-like design cut out of it. The light will throw a pattern on the stage if you place the gobo in a holder in front of a light source. This pattern could produce a picture, such as a city skyline, or it could just give the light some texture.
A snoot is an opaque, cylindrical item that you may put over a light to cut down on flare or stray light that may emanate from lighting fixtures. It is sometimes known as a top hat because of the way it looks.
Cyclorama: A cyclorama, often known as a “cyc,” is a huge fabric backdrop that is utilized on a stage. Usually concave, it curves around the stage from one side to the other. You can project light or images onto the cyclorama using lighting equipment.
Stage Lighting Fixtures Types

In stage lighting design, a variety of lighting fixtures are frequently used. Since each type is created for a specific function, most stage lighting arrangements will include a variety of lanterns. These fixtures could consist of:

Ellipsoidal 1.
A front lighting fixture with an ellipsoidal reflector creates a bright, clearly defined beam of light. Shutters can be used to change the form of the lighting, soften or sharpen the emphasis, and prevent light from leaking into spaces that should be dark. These lights can also accommodate gobos and gels, allowing you to use them to make patterns and colors.

Followspot 2.
A spotlight called a followspot casts an intense, focused beam of light to draw additional attention to a performer moving around the stage. Since they are typically operated manually, these lights are especially helpful when you are unsure of the direction a performer will follow and need to react in real-time. The operator can quickly change the color using built-in panels, as well as the size and intensity level of the beam in addition to where the followspot is positioned.

Fresnel 3.
These lights have the name of Augustin Fresnel, who created them. These lights stand out due to their lens, which is constructed of concentric circles. The light is strongest in the middle of the ring and becomes softer as it approaches the edges. Although they can also produce more focused, narrower beams of light with a softer edge, these lamps are a suitable option for washes. On these lights, shutters and patterns are not permitted.

Four. PAR Can
Stage lighting is a mainstay, and parabolic aluminized reflector (PAR) cans are common. PAR cans are cylindrical metal cases that house sealed-beam lights. These lights have a straightforward design and resemble car headlights. You can adjust them to produce horizontal or vertical beams, but they don’t provide you precise focus or zoom options. Standard and LED alternatives are available, and colorful lights can be made using gels.

Floodlight 5.
A floodlight is a substantial object that a user may tilt vertically or move horizontally. Floodlights’ characteristics are exclusively defined by their reflector and lamp type because they lack lenses. Light is equally dispersed above and below the lamp’s horizontal axis in symmetrical floodlights. Asymmetrical floodlights have a horizontal axis where the light spreads much more widely in one direction than the other. Floodlights, like PAR cans, are limited to color gels and diffusion and cannot accommodate patterns, beam modifications, or other accessories.

Cyc Light 6.
Keep in mind that a “cyc” is a big fabric backdrop. A cyc light, then, is an open-faced fixture that casts a consistent wash of light across a cyc or another kind of vertical surface. To properly cover the backdrop in a sheet of light, these lights can be placed on the floor or hung not far from it.

Strip Light 7.
Although strip lights are wider than most cyc lights, they can also be utilized as cyc lights. They are made up of several lamps arranged in a row. Many lighting designers may utilize a strip lamp to give a stage a lot of color coverage. You may also be able to blend colors with them. There are both conventional and LED versions of these lights.

Positions for Lighting

Lighting placements are among the fundamental stage lighting ideas to comprehend. Lighting designers take into account the following main stage lighting placements while creating their designs:

Front lights: The main lighting for a performance comes from the front lights. You’ll frequently use front lighting to give the entire stage a wash. Although they are a good place to start, fixtures that face the actors’ faces will make them look uninteresting.
Backlighting: You also need downlighting and backlighting to give the actor a more three-dimensional appearance where they stand out from the background. Backlights are positioned behind the performers, behind the rear of the stage. Backlights can be positioned vertically at a variety of angles. For backlighting, PAR can fixtures are particularly effective. To create a unique look, you can alter the hue and intensity.
Downlighting is another technique for giving stage lighting depth. The brightness of downlighting might differ. Be aware that while some designers use the phrase “downlighting” to describe lights that are placed at the feet and direct light upwards, others use it to describe lights that are placed above the stage and direct light downward or downward at an angle.
Lighting that is placed at the stage’s horizontal boundaries is also necessary to provide artists with side and high side illumination. High side lighting especially refers to side lighting that is set up high enough to beam on the shoulders and heads of performers. These lights are essential for clearly displaying actors’ facial expressions.