Theatre stage lights are crucial for creating an engaging and immersive theatrical experience. They illuminate the stage and help set the mood, highlight key moments, and enhance the overall production.
Knowing where to start can be overwhelming for those new to stage lighting. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the basics of theatre stage lights, including the types of lights you’ll need for a basic show, their purposes, lighting positions, and how to use colors and textures effectively.
Let’s dive in!
Types of Stage Lights
There are several types of stage lights commonly used in theatre productions. For a basic show, you’ll want to consider the following:
These versatile lights provide a soft, even light wash, making them ideal for general illumination and blending colors on stage.
Ellipsoidal Reflector Spotlights (ERS)
Also known as Lekos, these lights produce a sharp, focused beam that can be shaped with shutters or gobos. They’re perfect for spotlighting actors or highlighting specific set elements.
Short for Parabolic Aluminized Reflector, these lights create a strong, concentrated beam that’s suitable for stage washes, backlighting, or adding color to the stage.
Energy-efficient and versatile, LED lights can be used to create a wide range of colors and effects, making them a popular choice for modern theatre productions.
What are Stage Lights Used for?
Each type of theatre stage light serves a specific purpose in a production:
- Front Lighting: This lighting illuminates the actors’ faces and costumes, ensuring they’re visible to the audience. Typically, Fresnels or ERS lights are used for this purpose.
- Side Lighting: This lighting highlights the actors’ depth and shape, creating a more three-dimensional look. PAR cans or Fresnels can be used for side lighting.
- Backlighting: This lighting creates a sense of depth by separating the actors and set from the background. PAR cans or LED lights are often used for backlighting.
- Special Effects: Lights like ERS or LED lights can be used to create special effects, such as gobos, patterns, or color washes, adding visual interest and enhancing the production’s overall mood.
Understanding lighting positions is crucial for achieving the desired effects on stage. Here are some essential lighting positions to consider:
- Front of House (FOH): Lights placed in front of the stage, such as overhead or on balcony rails, are used for front lighting and spotlighting actors.
- Onstage: Lights placed on stage, either on the floor or mounted on overhead battens, provide side and backlighting, as well as special effects.
- Overhead Grid: Lights mounted on an overhead grid can create a consistent wash of light across the entire stage, ideal for general illumination.
Using Colors and Textures in Theatre Stage Lighting
Incorporating colors and textures into your stage lighting can greatly enhance the overall production. Here are some tips for using colors and textures effectively:
- Choose Colors Purposefully: Select colors that complement the scene’s mood, theme, or emotional tone. For example, use warm colors (reds, oranges, yellows) for intimate or emotional moments and cool colors (blues, greens, purples) for calm or mysterious scenes.
- Use Gels or LED Lights: Gels (colored filters) can be placed in front of conventional lights to create different colors, while LED lights can be programmed to produce a wide range of hues.
- Experiment with Gobos: Gobos are metal or glass templates inserted into an ERS light to project patterns or textures onto the stage.
Let Your Career Goals Take Center Stage
At the Beonair Network of Media Schools (with campuses located in Miami, Chicago, Colorado, and Ohio), students in our Film & Video Production program gain an in-depth understanding of the many skills and techniques used to create compelling television and movies. If you have a passion for the art of theater, your next step could be a career in TV or cinema – and we can help!