A question that lighting and stage designers often ask is where and how should you start laying out your lighting? Regardless of the location and circumstances my approach is generally the same with every lighting project.
In this series we’re going to focus on ways to design and setup your lighting rig so that you can the most out of your lighting.
In this article, we’re going to get started with the basics. The focus when getting started is how to find the right angles and positions for your lighting.
If you’ve been here for a while, you have probably heard the term “Even Stage Wash” and that’s still applicable when designing and setting up a lighting rig. (How to Create an Even Wash of Stage Lighting)
My first step is always setting up the front lights. The front lighting is very important in any setup as it is the highlight of any event. Whether it’s for a band, conference, or the church you absolutely have to have your front lighting setup to light the main focus on the stage.
My general rule of thumb is two front lights up high and pointing down at the center stage at a 45-degree angle. If you aren’t able to set up lights above the stage then you want to consider bringing in trusses or lighting stands.
With trusses or stands you can set two lights at the front corners of the stage or even a few feet out in front of the stage if it doesn’t get in the way of the audience.
The next part of lighting that I focus on is the back lighting. If it is an option, you can set up lights above the stage that will sit a little higher that your front lights and have them pointed at a steeper level than your front lights.
When setting up the back lights be sure to watch for where the back lighting is pointed and make sure it’s not blinding your audience that would be in the front row.
Other Lighting Effects
Once you have your front and back lighting setup, now you can focus on the other lighting and using what lights you have left over. This include your LED Pars, moving lights, or even a spot light.
Depending on the stage and event, you can use the moving lights or LED pars to create different lighting effects on your stage. You can set up your extra lights on the sides of the stage or even turn down your back lighting and set up blinders to bling the audience at the appropriate time.
If you have LED Pars or moving lights you can use these lights to help fill in any voids you might have on your stage.
When laying out your lights and positions be sure to consider the general angles that will be needed for the stage. Keeping your lighting simple with front lights, back lights, and effects will keep the layout simple and effective.
2 Ways You Need To Think When Designing a Lighting Rig
In the first half of this post we covered different types of angles for the front, back, and even the sides of the stage. Setting up the angles right in the beginning are very import.
In this second half, we’re going to discuss two different aspects to consider when designing your lighting rig.
When you originally set up your angles for the back lighting, you want to consider different techniques that you can do with back lights other than just creating an even wash for the stage.
With back lighting, if you have moving lights, you can use these as temporary blinders and even create some beams in the air. With a haze or fog atmosphere, this look can be very appealing for your stage.
When setting up backlights, you want to consider having your backlights set up high enough so that when they are set on the band members it’s not blinding the audience. But not so steep that you’re limited on what you can do with those lights.
In certain cases it’s okay to “blind” the audience but only temporarily and certain instances. So, you really want to consider the height and the angles that your back lights are going to be set at.
Creating Different Looks
Once you have the lights set up where you needed you can have the ability to create some fun looks for your stage. Such as x lights, fans, beams, etc. As I’ve worked in lighting I’ve found that it’s about finding a balance between lighting the people on the stage and lighting the environment.
I suggest, setting up your lights to properly light those that will be on the stage but keeping in mind the angles that you can use to create different effects. Regardless, lighting the people on stage are the first priority and then the next priority is creating different looks for the stage.
It’s okay to scale back slightly on trying to light the people perfectly to gain some ground on creating graphical looks for the stage.
How Do You Lay Out a Lighting Truss, Pipe, or Stand?
While it may seem like a very basic step, it can easily be overlooked on different ways to utilize your trusses. In this section, we’re going to cover my top tips on how to lay out your lights using trusses, pipes, or stands.
One of my top tips for setting up your lights is alternating your fixtures. For example, if you have spot and wash fixtures. You can set them to spot, wash, spot, wash, ect. What this does is create a very unique look for your stage.
Another neat trick as you can see in the image above, is using multiple colors. Using the magenta, yellow, and blue creates a great look for the stage and alternating fixtures.
This type of setup can help you first be able to program your lights very quickly as well as the opportunity to use your fixture’s strengths. Such as using less saturated colors for your spot fixtures. Wash fixtures are better with saturated colors and using those strengths to make your stage look really good.
Another tip when using trusses, stands, or pipes is creating layers for your stage. When you’re able to create layers, you can definitely use this method to your advantage.
For the top truss in this example, you can use blinders, beams, or even LED bars that can flip and reflect lights on the back wall. By adding a lower layer, they can add depth to your stage. You can even use a stand that will allow your lights to it 8 feet above the ground.
Depending on what you have available and the type of venue you’re working with. You can have the ability to create layers with your lighting and different looks to your stage by setting your fixtures to different heights.
My last tip is if you have multiples of one type of fixture, you can use this to your advantage. You can set those fixtures to create a triangle type of look on your stage.
If you have different layer of trusses, you can alternate your fixtures with your trusses or mixing your fixtures with other fixture types. For example, if you have a top truss that is spot, wash, spot and the second level can be wash, spot, and wash.
This helps offset and create a triangular type of look on your stage. The best thing to do is try to stay symmetrical, consider creating layers, and testing to see what layouts will create the best look for your stage.
I hope this article gives you some great tips to begin laying out a design for your stage! When it comes down to it, laying out lighting for a stage isn’t rocket science – when you follow these tips you’ll be on your way to great lighting!