Time of Day
Early morning, interior
Direct one of your brighter fresnel lanterns horizontally through a window in the set using a peach coloured gel. Light the set normally but dim the general lighting to about 80%. This effects looks best if the shadows of the bars in the window frame are visible against the set.
Early evening, interior
Direct one or two fresnel lanterns horizontally through a window in the set using orange coloured gels. Light the set normally but dim the general lighting to about 80%.
Use any available lanterns at 45° or more, directed through windows or external doors in the set using diffuse steel coloured gel for a moonlight effect.
Decide on the direction of the moon and soft focus a number of lanterns at 45° or more, using diffuse steel coloured gel for a moonlight effect. Depending on what other light source is supposed to be available (e.g.: streetlight, or even none) dim the general lighting so that the actors faces can still be seen, without the stage appearing too bright. Make any key areas a bit brighter or use carefully focused lanterns to catch the actors faces. To emphasise the night time effect you can add some heavy primary blue light from all angles. This blue haze is unrealistic but is accepted by the audience.
It is never a good idea to have the stage totally dark unless your stage crew are on stage. In some productions scene changes, with suitable lighting, can be a part of the performance and look far better than complete darkness.
Depending on the requirements of the script you can approach this several ways:
- If the room has or appears to have windows; dim the general lighting so that the actors faces can still be seen and spill light through windows or open doors so that these appear to be the source of light. You can also use some backlighting to highlight the actors. Make any key areas a bit brighter.
- If the room has no window and you cannot have a door open, dim the general lighting so that the actors faces can still be seen and add a partial silhouette effect, so that the upstage wall has some light and the actors can been "seen" against the background. You can also use some backlighting to highlight the actors. Make any key areas a bit brighter or use carefully focused lanterns to catch the actors faces.
If you are not sure that a particular lantern is bright enough, as a general rule increase the brightness by half of one unit (assuming the faders are on the scale 0 to 10) or by 5%.
Passage of Time
Audiences will be familiar with the idea that briefly fading to black, then fading the picture back again in a film or television program means that some time has passed by. You can achieve the same effect on stage. Simply dim to blackout and after not more than a second bring the lighting back up again, possibly at slightly different levels if it is a different time of day. This is more effective if it is accompanied synchronised changing of other elements, e.g.: music, or the actors being in different positions.
Use several red/amber/yellow lamps connected to a disco light controller set on a random pattern. Some larger modern lighting boards have a fire flicker effect control built in.
Direct a number of different coloured lamps connected to a disco light controller set on a random pattern, but not necessarily so that there is always a light actually lit.
Time of Year
Light the stage to give an adequate overall level of light. Use some subtle backlighting and light from the sides of the stage. Avoid using 100% level on all of the lanterns, this will help give a general warm glow.
To emphasise sun light you can saturate the stage with lanterns, mainly without gel, but use pale yellow tint in some lanterns to give a sunny feeling. Use backlighting, without dazzling the audience, possibly with pale to mid yellow gel.
Light the stage to give an adequate overall level of light. Add steel coloured gel to some lanterns, and use subtle backlighting.
For a cold or bleak effect avoid using light from lots of different directions, concentrate on lighting the stage from front of house positions. Add steel coloured gel to some lanterns, and possibly use steel gel in backlights. To vary the intensity of some lanterns use neutral density or diffusion gel to reduce the brightness of the light. If you try and reduce the intensity using the lighting dimmer controls the lamps will start to give a warm glow that will spoil the effect.
To create a realistic overall effect of lightening is difficult, camera flashguns give a bright flash but it is too short and lightening needs to flicker for a while. One reasonably successful way is to use floodlights fitted with Photoflood lamps, they give a whiter light than conventional tungsten lamps. Assuming the stage will be less brightly lit than normal about four photofloods randomly operated in quick succession will provide a reasonable effect.
copyright Leigh Graham 1997-2010.