Help me learn about concert lighting so I can do great things with it!
May 15, 2011 11:39 AM   Subscribe

I am all of a sudden an art director for a concert next week. What do I need to learn to learn to best understand the lighting system / communicate most effectively with my lighting engineer?

I've sort of worked in this capacity before, but there I had a couple months to prepare and had a lot more to work with than just the lights. With such a short deadline we need the lighting to carry a lot of the show.

I may not have access to the lighting board until early that day, so how can I figure out what the possibilities are? I don't want to sketch/envision things that aren't possible.

What methods can I use other than just showing up and asking the LE to try different things until I see ones I like? I'd like there to be at least a few majorly different looks, so this is a bit more involved than just "switch to green."

Or, to rephrase, how do I quickly become a lighting director?
posted by Brainy to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The best thing to do is to trust your technician and ask for suggestions. If you are lucky enough to get a good one, everything will be fine.

...asking the LE to try different things until I see ones I like?
That is one way to start out.
posted by ovvl at 12:16 PM on May 15, 2011

Response by poster: Ovvl, it is a good way to start, but I'm worried it won't be efficient enough. We won't have access until the day of the show. He is good though so I'm feeling much better.
posted by Brainy at 2:00 PM on May 15, 2011

Best answer: IANALD (lighting designer), but I used to do theatre lighting about a million years ago in college. Some important questions:
- What kind of music? More importantly, do you have access to a recording of the songs or their scores?
- How many pieces? Are they long or short?
- What kind of board?
- Do you know what kinds of lighting instruments you'll have access to?

This site does a decent intro into the major aspects of design. Start with the music, making notes as to rhythm and mood. Make note about what kinds of colors might work, and how saturated they should be (rock/pop music will tolerate much more saturated colors than classical. Generally. Depends on venue and audience). When thinking about color, consider what you want your key (strongest/brightest/main light) and fill (softer light used to fill in shadow).

Get a copy of the stage plan. Find out how the group sets up. Consider what areas of the stage you want lit and which bits you want in shadow, and when. If you have a lot of time on your hands, consider angle (front? down? high side?) and quality (hard/soft/patterned) of light. This site has good info, although for the purposes of this one-off event, I'd stick to the "Principles of Composition" through "Lighting Angles" as your LE should be able to manage the actual logistics of getting the lights up in the air and working out which instruments will produce the effects you want.

Then do a few dozen (or more) close listenings of the songs on something with timecode so that you start to work out actual cues for big moments (shifts from verse to chorus, huge crescendos, key changes, etc.).

...All this is assuming a pretty basic set up, and not considering oh-so-sexy-but-oh-so-expensive intelligent lighting instruments, color changers, gobo rotators or the like. If you have any of these lovely toys at your disposal, add them in last. Having a cool motion effect means nothing if most of the stage looks like crap.
posted by smirkette at 3:30 PM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Smirkette! That's so perfect! Reading now!
posted by Brainy at 7:23 PM on May 15, 2011

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