Thoughts on creating events that exhilarate
The mood of the theater crowd turned melancholy as the character of Alexander Hamilton, played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, sang the desperate lyrics of “Hurricane” in a scene in Hamilton. The audience sat transfixed as the whirling lights seemed to drown the main character in a flood of purples and blues that mirrored the raging emotions within him. So effective was the lighting that it helped the artist sink his teeth into his role.
Later on, he said that the lighting effects were so powerful that they were unsettling. Such was the impact of the stage lighting used in Hamilton. While Miranda played the title role to perfection, so did the lighting designers and engineers.
Aaron Rose, the American artist best known for directing the art movement film Beautiful Losers, said that “in the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.” Lighting for shows can make or break any stage event, be it a product launch, trade show, annual conference, or corporate gala. As critical as lighting is to the success of your next corporate event, you need not feel overwhelmed. Read up on our pro guide on stage lighting basics to throw some, well, light on your subject.
The importance of great stage lighting
Light travels faster than sound, and your message or narrative will make its impact visually before the audience hears it. Lighting, therefore, plays a key role in presenting the action on stage.
Light creates the architecture in the air that provokes thought and induces emotion. Optical illusions, moving lights, shadows — leverage all these to create the desired mood or atmosphere.
With so many different things happening all at once in the live performance space, you’ll want to have control over what is going on. With the right accenting, you can play it up or down as you desire, guiding the audience to where you want them to focus, even as you harmonize all the other parts of the stage.
Authenticity is key to getting your message across. If the audience doesn’t believe it, they won’t buy it. Lighting creates plausibility by setting the location and time of day and by creating depth and dimension, so the setting is realistic, and the performers on stage can come to life.
How is light controlled in stage lighting design?
Stage lighting design is a delicate balance between the precision of science and the passion of the arts. So much is at stake with stage lighting that designers need to consider many factors to make artistic decisions, such as the controllable elements of light.
The lighting design team determines the point from which the lighting instrument is hung and at what point the light hits the stage. The angle of the light should be able to drive the eyes of the audience to the focal point. Heightened visual acuity will allow for greater appreciation of all the action on the stage, add depth with shadows, and increase overall visibility of the details, even the facial expressions of the presenters or performers.
How bright or dim is your light? That’s intensity. This will dictate how dramatic or light a moment on stage will be. Lighting engineers turn up the heat on the stage by using intense beams with hard edges, such as when a conference theme is unveiled, or bring the brightness level several notches down to signal the transition to the next speaker.
Movement is any change in the intensity, direction, or color of the lights. A couple of ways you can create movements through light are through moving heads, lanterns that move with the actors, and a series of lights that are lit up in sequence. One frequently used trick is the use of Gobo rotators. With the creative use of such creative devices, engineers can use light to show action through shapes.
Color was leveraged to the hilt in the Broadway play Moulin Rouge, where fantastic red washes saturated the spectacular red-light district scenes. The flamboyant lighting effects effectively depicted the gaudy ornateness and bright yet empty artifice of the infamous 19th-century cabaret. To properly create the right colors that would evoke a period theater feel, lighting designers used the powerful Chroma-Q Color Force.
Any Industry Tips?
- Safety first
You can’t underscore the importance of safety. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s specifications. Installation should be done by a qualified professional. See to it that safety cables are wrapped around fixture handles and around the pipes or trusses attached to them. Typically, fixtures should have lighting clamps when attached to steel pipes or trusses.
- Be bold with your imagination
Push your creativity to the limit; don’t be afraid to experiment with a variety of devices. How about using hanging paper chains that are clustered and lit to create a spectacular yet budget-friendly chandelier? What about a cube set-up or origami cut-outs for an interesting stage backdrop? The possibilities are endless.
- Technical rehearsals are critical to success
Without such rehearsals, lighting engineers will not be able to check on the accuracy of the lighting plot, cue with the audio team, and make the necessary adjustments or equipment changes.
- Lighting cues can be one too many
Just like with company presentations with too many distracting and unnecessary animations, too many lighting cues can detract from the clarity of the message and the authenticity of the event.
- Be wary of oversaturation
It is difficult to resist playing with too many colors if you have a whole spectrum to choose from. Restrain yourself. You wouldn’t want to confuse the audience with the psychedelic colors of the ‘60s when you were originally aiming for a more serious and polished setting to usher in the director’s speech.
All the world’s a stage, and everyone in it, a performer. Get your act — or corporate production — together by keeping these stage lighting basics in mind.
Or better yet, trust the experts to ensure the luminous success of your next corporate affair. Whether for an in-person gathering or a virtual event, we at Carlstrom Productions can create that captivating and immersive experience for you and your company. Let us put you in your best light yet. Give us a call today!
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