Posts Tagged ‘theatre lighting’


As many of you know we just lit the 17th Annual Column Awards at the Granville Arts Center in Garland, Texas. The tech process was a little grueling to say the least. The Granville is a seriously busy touring house that also houses several local arts groups so time was never on our side. We were limited on load in to one night from 7pm to 11pm which with over thirty moving lights and over thirty other intelligent fixtures, a four hour load in was seriously pushing it as far as time goes.


The rest of the week we had one night of rehearsals for 10 musical numbers plus one night for special numbers plus the opening dance sequence. Luckily for us I’ve been doing this a long time and have serious knowledge of the board and the lights we were using. We were able to pull off a good show for the limited time that we had.

What should a producer think about then, well let me give you some insight on it. When you as a producer decides to build a production be smart about time. Figure out the best way to get it done. This means look at your load in, your tech time, and finalizing the process. Load in cost includes the rental space plus the labor. Now I’ve done shows where the producer offers people to help to save money. Here’s the thing about that, the inexperienced labor will generally double the time to load in because they don’t know what they are doing. So like with the Column Awards, a 4 hour load in took almost eight hours due to the fact that I had to go back and fix everything that was done wrong. This personally is more of a waist of money due to the fact that those extra 4 hours which could have been spent programming was lost which could have an impact on how your show looks.

Cost is always a factor but your tech time is imperative. I was talking to one of my friends that was out with Bon Jovi and the tech process for integrating the video alone was a four month process for eight songs. Video is another beast we can talk about later but moving lights are just as labor intensive to use. The shows I build are extremely lighting intensive as far as integration goes. I build lights in a song to A. go with the music, B. light the talent, and C. flow with the choreography. The movement of the lights for me must flow and follow the actors choreography which entails building an extensive focus palette library for your convenience. It also means you have to have the time to build effects that go along with whats happening on stage. So as far as time goes what should a producer think about. Remember each song can take up to four hours of programming depending on the intricacy of the number. So if your show has ten numbers plan on 40 hours of programming time. This seems like a lot right? Well that number is most likely going to be smaller due to the fact that as you go along you will build focus, beam, and color palettes as you go along which you will use in other numbers making your cueing time a little smaller.


Sticking with time here is my most important thing that I can’t stress enough. Give your designer the time to clean up his work. There are too many shows that rent spaces and don’t want to pay for a full day mid week to give the designer the chance to fix and finish. This is the time that I sit with video from the rehearsals and fine tune the show I’m doing. A1 most important thing for a designer. If you restrict your designer to only working during rehearsal time you’ve tied his hands and most likely you wont be impressed with the final product. Plan on paying for a full day for your designer so they can make your show the best it can be.


You Get What You Pay For. I love when a producer comes to me with a plan, we discuss what they want, I quote them a price, they think it’s too high and they hire a less experienced designer to save money. Meanwhile they sit and complain that the show looks bad and don’t understand why. YGWYPF. The designer you pick will come with everything they’ve done before. I travel with a flash drive and some disks that have just about every show I’ve ever done on them. I can import effects from past shows or even remount a show that I had done over the past 20 years. Pick a designer that’s appropriate for what you’re doing. My background is theatre but I toured doing concerts for years so my lighting is usually more music based. That doesn’t mean I wont do a play but it does mean that I’m not going to be the best person to do a non musical. I use a ton of saturated colors and I usually do plots that are unorthodox or very abstract. I trained under Tom Skelton who was extremely strong in dance lighting and a lot of my lighting will reflect that. (Stanley McCandless my ass) It’s not going to work out well for you or the designer if you throw them into a show that doesn’t fit the way they design. Now Lighting Designers are whores so we’ll take anything you give us but that doesn’t mean it will turn out well.


The integration of video along with lighting means more time. Plus it means being prepared to do it. Let your designer know that there will be projections and let them know what projector your using. In my past dealings with video the smaller shows tend to not have the budget to get a projector to compete with the stage lighting so the designer has to become creative in how to make both work together. We just recently did a concert where they used a heavy amount of projections which for that venue meant we had to refocus their entire plot. The space was narrow and their house plot consisted of either front light or back light which washed out the projections like mad so we had to make a side light system to avoid hitting the cyc. Talk to your designers early to have a game plan and schedule enough time to fix what needs fixing. Just because there’s a house plot doesn’t mean it will work with your show.


Get your designer what he needs. This doesn’t really apply to the majority of theatres around. I mean most theatres have purchased a light board and lights that they are expecting the designer to use. Most of us will work around that with minimal complaints. But if your building a touring show listen to your designers needs. I like the Jands Vista board for concerts as well as the Hog 4 or Avolites Sapphire Touch. For theatre I prefer the ETC EOS or ION due to ease of use for a board op. Every designer is going to have a different preference. Remember what I said earlier about the designer comes with his past. Well I always request a Jands Vista board so when I get there all I have to do is load my last show and it has every effect I’ve ever written on that board which in turn makes it easier to do bigger shows.

12778665_10156584825555305_7460656429512086884_o So there it is my little blog about making a show. Remember the entire production team is there to make the best show possible but it starts at the top. Make it easy on your design team and you’ll smile all the way to the awards show.