What Makes Big Concerts So Cool? The Dynamic Range of Light:

Aug 23, 2023

You might know what dynamic range is in the audio world; it’s the difference between the loudest and softest sound.

Good bands vary their volume level drastically, dropping to draw you into a slow song and maxing out on an upbeat song for the encore.

The lead singer whispers into the mic on a slow song, but then is shouting and jumping 15 minutes later during an epic song.

For a band, part of making a great show is having a huge dynamic range.  It helps people stay engaged, and makes your show the most memorable it can be!

As the lighting designer (Yes, that’s you!), paying attention to the dynamic range also matters, and can really help you create a show that rocks the audience’s socks off!

What is The Dynamic Range of Light?

Just because you have 20 moving lights doesn’t mean that you need to have them all on all the time.  Or maybe it’s the 40 LED pars behind the band.  Or maybe it’s just 4 lights total.
Using only backlight to help create great dynamics during one portion of the show.

Either way, you can create a much more exciting and interesting show if we turn many of these lights off at various times.

For big numbers, you can really create a lot of impact by using all of your fixtures at once.  Get them moving, chasing and changing color for maximum impact.

But then, when things slow down, you have an amazing opportunity to make art.

Try using only backlight or sidelight during an appropriate time in your show.  Or just turn on 1-2 movers or pars to light the whole stage for a ballad.

Focus deeply on what the band is doing and watch them from the perspective of an audience member.

It’s perfectly okay to have a static look for a whole (slow) song, and it even makes the rest of your show look better by giving people a break from the flash!

How to Work Dynamic Range into Your Show or Service:

Any angle of light used by itself is very dramatic.

When I’m designing a rig, I try to get as many different angles of light into play, because I know it’ll give me a lot of dynamic range to work with.

In my mind, each “element” of your rig adds a little bit of dynamic range, allowing you to follow the band as they vary the sound level and complexity of their music, making them look very, very good.

Once you have your rig designed (or you walk into it and have to use it), you can now use any 1 or 2 of these different attributes to make a change on stage:

  • Intensity – What lights are on/off, how many lights are on?
  • Focus – Where is the lighting making my eye go?
  • Color – Can you change the colors on stage?  What if you don’t use any color for a song?
  • Beam – Can you use patterns in your lights?  What patterns do the many beams of light form in the air?
  • +FX – How can you create movement in your lighting, even if you don’t have moving lights?

Any way that you are able to make the stage look different is another tool in your dynamic range toolbox.

When you work hard to turn lights off at times and use different attributes of light, you can make even a really small lighting rig really shine!


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