Know your genre and the simple principles behind coverage in that genre. The standard play contains a great deal of dialogue. The audience’s ability to understand the dialogue is directly related to the visual connection to the faces of the speakers. Make sure there is plenty of light focused on the actors’ faces.
Dance is when the most important thing is body movement. The best light will be from different angles that emphasize the fluidity of movement. Experiment with light that falls from the side. Try different heights and different angles.
Musicals are an amalgamation of both genres, as they have elements of both drama and dance. Usually the principles of both genres are combined in one lighting design.
Concerts are a play of colors and balloons with effects. Often you will use flesh-colored spotlights that follow the performers, but most of the rest of the lighting will be colorful, moving and with effects. Think symmetry, bold colors, and wash type spotlights.
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Evaluate the venue. This will help you determine how many spotlights you need and where to place them. Look at where the lighting is located. This will give you an idea of where to hang your stuff. Can you place lighting on stands on the floor? Or install a vertical tube, and hang spotlights on different sides?
Look at this to see what you have available. Most venues already have a basic set of equipment. Make sure you know what the equipment is and what it does. Don’t get into the technical maze if you’re not sure what they mean, there are two of the most important differences: FRENEL lights are ‘wash’ type fixtures. They have special types of lenses (called Fresnel lenses) that cause the light to have blurred edges. This causes them to illuminate a larger area. You can often adjust the size of the spot, but the edge will always be blurry. These spotlights tend to be shorter than PROFILE spotlights. PROFILE spotlights are usually used when you need to illuminate something specific – a person in a particular spot, etc. They have a clear edge. Some have a ‘zoom’ feature, which means you can change both the size and the edge of the light (blurry or clear). They are usually longer and thinner than FRENEL lamps.
Taking into account the type of event
Think about your scenario, dance, type of music, or type of concert. In particular, think about the mood, atmosphere, location, and time of day in the scenario. Light can help reinforce all of these things.
Figure out how you need to light everything. Lighting is the science of angles, especially in productions and at dances. By angles, we mean the direction in which the light comes out, and in which it falls on the subject. Take a small directional light – a torch, for example – and see how lighting from it at different angles creates a different atmosphere around the subject. Consider how these angles can help your performance, and where you can use them in your script.
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Consider how colors can help create mood and atmosphere. Dark blue light for a night scene (especially when used from above or behind the actors as a ‘filler light’), yellow for warm sunny scenes, etc. You should buy a color sample book from any store that sells theater equipment and choose your colors.