How Do I Plan My Stage Wash and Specials for Theatre Lighting? – Learn Stage Lighting .com
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How Do I Plan My Stage Wash and Specials for Theatre Lighting?

By Kari / a couple of months ago

If you’re new to getting started with theatre lighting, knowing what type of lighting to focus on setting up is a fantastic start for you. In this post, we’re going to walk through the basic lighting techniques for theatres and how you should plan your theatre lighting.

Theatre lighting can be a bit intimidating especially if it’s your first one. But with setting up the basics and knowing what you need to get started is a great way to get on track for producing a great show.

Here are a couple of great articles to read on getting started with theatre lighting.

The Basics of Theatre Lighting

What Lights Do I Need for a Basic Theatre Show?

Basic Stage Lighting

Your first priority when lighting for the theatre is to focus on the stage and actor lighting. While other forms of lighting, this may not be the case but with theatre lighting, this is definitely a must.

To do this, you want to create an even wash throughout your stage. How do you do this? You do this by creating zones on your stage. A zone is basically two identical lights, positioned at the same height, and set at the same angle.

I have a great article on how to create an even wash for your stage, be sure to check it out.

Having your front wash set up right is really the key to getting you started and it’s the most important piece. What types of lights should you use?

Traditionally, theaters use lekos or ellipsoidal lights but now that doesn’t need to be the case. You want to use a light that can create a beam and a spot , that will do the trick. Realistically, using the same type of lights for your entire front wash will keep you stage wash even all the way through.

Once you have your stage wash set you can then move on to the extra lighting such as backlighting and specials.

Basic Back Lighting

Now that you have an even stage wash lighting set up, you can focus on other parts of the stage such as the backdrop. There’s a couple of different options you can go with such as a smooth backdrop or even a textured backdrop.

For the lighting, you can set lights on the ground and have them pointing up at an angle to the backdrop. You can even set the lights up high and have them pointing down your backdrop. Either method will work just fine.

From there, you can add the extras such color or gobos.

Special Lighting

I saved the special lighting for last because this type of lighting is more of an extra and if it’s in the budget for the theater, it’s nice to have handy.

“Special” is a term used to reference a light(s) that highlight certain parts of the stage or a certain moment in the performance. This would be used to isolate a part of the stage and direct the audience’s attention to that area.

First, determine if there are any lights that you already have set up that can used as a sepcial light. Perhaps, you have a moving or beam light available to use even if you’re pulling it from a wash light or a backdrop light.

The special lighting is when you want to make a tight impact but you don’t need a super unique light to accomplish this. Whether you get a specific light for this purpose or use a light from another source you just need a light that shine and focus on a specific spot on the stage.

That’s why the front stage lighting and the backdrop lighting come before the special lighting. The most important lighting for theatre is getting the stage wash evenly set. Then, you can focus on the backdrop. Lastly, you can either use what you have or if the budget allows you can have a special light to highlight a certain part of the stage as needed.

There’s a lot more to theatre lighting but as for the basics of getting started and what lighting you want to focus on, this would be it.


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