Light ’em Up… with Front of House Lighting!

In all my years of doing audio visual rentals and designing installed systems, Stage Lighting seemed to be one of those requests that were few and far between. Like projection, it is a controlled beam of light, so I used to think this was pretty straightforward. Well, I was wrong; it actually takes a bit more math than I left high school with. When I was in high school, general math was all I needed to graduate. Now, needless to say, calculators are my friend. In this post, I will focus my attention on Front of House (FOH) lighting. Now let’s light ’em up!

There are three steps and several tips to consider when designing or setting up a Stage Lighting System.

But first, here is the definition of what you are actually trying to do with Stage Lighting. I like the way Russ Behrens put it:

“It is my opinion that the basic function of stage lighting is to be the final glaze of the visual elements of a theatrical production. It should stylistically support the piece as a whole by creating the environment in which the action happens. It must be consistent with the level of reality of the whole production. You must also be able to control what can and cannot be seen. Artistic choices are not set in stone but I find if I keep those three thoughts in mind while I make my choices they tend to work in a very satisfying, cohesive way.”

Step One
Ask all the right questions. It is proven that we can’t read minds so don’t try. The customer or director of the event has a desired outcome so let them talk and you listen while you take notes on the purpose of the lighting. This could be to just add illumination, dramatic effect or just a subtle accent.

Step Two
Remember placement is King. The lighting system will be a fail if it’s not installed in the correct location and the risk can be disastrous! Yes, you can shine light on the stage pretty much from anywhere. But once the performers get on stage, you could blind them, or be blocked by a curtain and or prop, which would be a show stopper. Use “The 45 Degree Rule” (see below) which is optimal to keep the fixture from blinding the performers and get good coverage of the object. Note: this is not intended to be strictly accurate for every situation. See illustrations.

Step Three
Measurements are Key. Get a laser measurement device. It will help you get all the correct numbers plus you’ll look really smart.

Tony’s tips and tools for onsite use:

What steps, tips, and tools do you use to make sure you “light ’em up?”

Shine on!

Tony, the AV guy


Commercial Audio Video Equipment Integrator, Designer and Project Manager.

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