Key points to bear in mind about lighting design

The theatre and stage industry is one of the key sectors we serve with our electrical power distros here at Rubber Box, and our rubber boxes are frequently used for lighting setups. With lighting design, just like with music, there is no single ‘right way’ of doing it. It requires some knowledge of the basic fundamentals of how light works, but there’s a creative element to lighting design too. You must first however, understand the basic principles of lighting, its purposes, and its effects. Once you’ve got this nailed down, along with the technical details and how to correctly use the equipment, you can experiment more with creative lighting and bring the stage to life.

The main purposes of lighting design

– To create a visual path for our eyes, directing the audience to the performers onstage. Light draws the eye, so we can use light to bring attention to people or details onstage.

– To create mood and ambience and dimension. Different coloured lights and the strength of the beams, as well as the shadows created by light, can all help to build atmosphere onstage. Consider different angles, colours, intensities and effects, to heighten performances. Lighting can bring out a performer to make them enlarged and stand out, or it can flatten someone, make them appear more 2D, or wash them out.

– To narrate the setting. Lighting can provide valuable information about a setting, such as the time of day or even the period in history. They add plausibility and realness to the perceived setting of the performance and help bring a set to life.

The different types of lighting

There are so many different kinds of lanterns and lighting fixtures, but as a basic guide, these are some of the most widely used and known kinds:

– Floodlights: These are simple fixed beams of light which provide a soft and even wash of light over a large space. They are ideal for lighting sets, but not for lighting specific performers or speakers on stage.

– Fresnels: Fresnel lighting is a nice medium between floodlights and profile spots, as it provides a large beam, but with soft edges, making it easier to blend the lighting.

– Profile spots: A focused beam of light that can easily be moved, this is commonly known as the ‘spotlight’ and used to highlight a single performer.

– Par cans: Par cans produce a conical or oval-shaped light, with high intensity. This lighting is commonly used at concerts and rock shows.

nightclub scene

Lighting positions

The angle of lighting is very important, and also the number of beams. You can experiment with this on yourself by directing light beams at your face from different positions and see how the shadows move across your face.

Front lighting can help to highlight facial expressions, and it’s important for actors and speakers. Side lighting can be used in dance to highlight the body, while backlighting might help to illuminate props and add separation between performers to add dimension to a play, and down lighting can provide an even wash to the whole performance.

For most performers and public speakers, it’s important to highlight the face and upper body, whilst trying to eliminate shadows on the face. Ideally, you’ll want the light to be directed in favour of the audience’s view, so 3-point lighting is useful for this to give a good view of the face without flattening out the features. For a concert on the other hand, you’ll want lots of moving lights and colours to add energy and spotlights on each musician.

This should give you a few helpful starting points – and if you’re looking for the right electrical distribution equipment for your setup, that’s where we can help here at Rubber Box! As well as our standard range of rubber boxes, we also offer the option to choose bespoke power distros, so if you can think of it, we can build it! Feel free to give us a call on 01282 677 910, and we’ll be happy to see how we can help.

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