Open Forum

What are your lighting challenges?

  • 1.  What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 16 days ago
    I'm curious-do you have specific challenges when it comes to teaching lighting?
    Or recurring challenges with the lighting for your productions?
    I'd love to hear them and brainstorm solutions!


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    Benjamin Pilat
    Director of Education
    Stage Lighting Bootcamps
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  • 2.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 15 days ago
    One of my current challenges is that I have a fairly current light board (ETC Ion), but my lighting instruments are old - a few Source 4s, but lots of old Fresnels and even some ellipsoidals from the '70s.  I also have the problem that some of my channels don't work for one reason or another, and my floor pockets were all destroyed in a flood in '08 and never replaced. My auditorium is scheduled for renovation this summer, so I'm hoping many of my limitations will go away. That only leaves my own limitations of lack of lighting knowledge - I have enough to make me dangerous, as they say.

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    Kevin Welsh
    Auditorium Director
    Columbus IN
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  • 3.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 15 days ago
    I'm a set designer, not a lighting designer, and not a teacher. However, one of the things I've noticed over the years, with some set design classes, is that the class touches on the parts of the stage itself briefly and then moves right into flats and construction. And some of the students seem to be far more interested in this than in the creative part of design.

    A friend who's a former professional lighting designer and now teaches at a college has mentioned that a lot of his lighting design students are more interested in the controls and the equipment than in the creative use of lighting to create moods and define atmospheres.

    Given both of the above, I would think a "challenge" might be to get the students to look at the design part and the tech part separately.

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    George F. Ledo
    Set designer
    www.setdesignandtech.wordpress.com
    www.georgefledo.net
    http://astore.amazon.com/sdtbookstore-20
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  • 4.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 12 days ago
    Edited by Benjamin Pilat 12 days ago
    Kevin- What a bummer about the flood!

    On the bright side, you've got a great light board. It's the theatre standard in the US and if a student learns the Ion, they know how to use half a dozen other ETC boards that use exactly the same software (Element, Eos, Gio, Nomad, etc... they're all basically the same thing in different hardware packages. Think: built-in touchscreens and motorized, faders, etc).

    And exciting news about the renovation! Are they keeping you in the loop? Sometimes you need to push hard to get equipment lists and drawings. I'd encourage you to run it by someone you trust and/or post here. Some architects have NO idea what actually goes on day-to-day in a theatre. The good ones do, or they hire a theatrical consultant for assistance. Renovations are a great opportunity to expand technical possibilities, but beware: whatever you end up getting, you'll probably have for a long, long time.


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    Benjamin Pilat
    Director of Education
    Stage Lighting Bootcamps
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  • 5.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 15 days ago
    I have found that there is a dichotomy between being creative/imaginative and understanding how to use your equipment. When I first introduce my students to the light board, I often have them record two color washes, when they then play them, they react to the transition as though they just created something magical. That magic diminishes considerably when we start talking about fixture functionality, programming and the like.

    I have yet to find the right balance in teaching both elements.


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    Dana Taylor
    MSD of Mt. Vernon
    Evansville IN
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  • 6.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 15 days ago
    Back in college and grad school, our set/lighting/costume design classes were totally separate from the tech classes. In the design classes, you designed and in the tech classes or the labs you did tech.

    This actually had a good although probably unintended effect in that it helped the students understand whether they were interested in design or in tech. Both of my schools were considered professional training programs and most kids went right on to the entertainment industry, having a very good idea of what they wanted to do.

    In my own case, I started out as a diehard techie until one professor, especially, made me realize I was more interested in design than in tech. Forty years later, I'm still happy with that decision.

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    George F. Ledo
    Set designer
    www.setdesignandtech.wordpress.com
    www.georgefledo.net
    http://astore.amazon.com/sdtbookstore-20
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  • 7.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 14 days ago
    To echo Kevin, I know enough to be dangerous.  Nothing at my school works like it is supposed to.  And, nothing is user-friendly.  We don't have enough dimmer modules or fixtures to fully-illuminate our stage, so that's a fun challenge.  I purchased a super-cheap LED system that we use for color wash (as our strip lights are hung upstage of our cyc...) and to fill in dark areas.  To focus anything, I have to go up on a lift, which is AWFUL and so time-consuming.  Our source 4s are "junior" fixtures and they have no lenses, so that's fun, too.  We have Fresnels that are so old, it's incredibly difficult to find lamps to put in them, and the lamps the school (finally) ordered for me for our ETC source 4s don't fit!  So, there are essentially too many lighting challenges to name.  The good news, is that two years from now, there will be a brand new school and a brand new auditorium.  Hopefully, that will come with a black box classroom...
    I feel that there is a critical need to help teachers with their technical needs.  We come from such varied educational backgrounds and, often, the way we learned is no longer applicable.  My method has been a mix of trial and error (after error after error) and drafting interested students into looking up tutorials on YouTube to teach me!
    I think the most frustrating thing with the lights is that there's no one above me in our county (like a theatre specialist or an auditorium facility manager) who really knows what we have, when it was last maintained, and how to help the teachers when issues arise.

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    Lisa Dyer
    Henrico VA
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  • 8.  RE: What are your lighting challenges?

    Posted 13 days ago
    In terms of lighting our productions, we have very few instruments with which to work - almost too few to provide even a decent wash for the full stage.  The district made some renovations to our vintage-1953 auditorium in the early 1990s, and then added a few more instruments in the early 2000s, but neither the school nor the district has really maintained those lighting upgrades, which were minimal in the first place.  My troupe co-director and I - neither one of us tech mavens - have offered to work with a theatrical lighting company in town and a tech professor at a local college to improve the situation, but the district has waved us off, saying that their maintenance personnel need to be behind everything.  (Under a low-bidder rule, the last time anything was done to improve or expand our lighting capacities, the contract went to a company whose principal line of work was sound systems for churches.)

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    Jeff Grove
    Theatre Teacher, Aesthetics Department Chair
    Stanton College Preparatory School
    Jacksonville FL
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