Illuminati Creative Technology, Colchester UK

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Stage Lighting: A basic technology manual.

Using your Dimmers Creatively

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Using dimmers creatively

All the nice feel - goodness  and subtlty of a lighting cue is at the bottom end of the scale.  Thats one of the reasons why fader curves are usually  an s-shape to give lots of control at the top and bottom ends and less in the middle where they eye is more forgiving.

It's not the level of light that affects our psychology so much as the dynamics of the way it changes.  The human eye is incredibly sensitive to luminance changes at low levels and this has a  profound  effect on the way we feel. Changes of light level between  imperceptible (at the concious level)  to about 30 percent,  are one of the great controllers of mood, emotions and feeling  in an audience. A slight drop or raise can cause a feeling  to sweep like a hurricane through an audience - or an innapropriate  bump of light at this level can kill these feelings stone dead, and distract an audience out of the mood that you and the actors have painstakingly created. Warming the filaments gives you control over these tiny levels and prevents bumping in, also ensures that you have control of
the red colour shift and therefore  the light warmth at low levels. And it does prolong lamp life.

The other reason is to make the lamps of different wattages fade in together.  Imagine a cue consisting of a 2K sunlight through a window, a domestic table lamp and a 500w covering fresnel, all plotted at levels and fading in over 7 seconds.  Because of the different filament characteristics and cold resistance.  this will look like a three part fade. The tablelamp will come on first followed shortly by the fresnel and after a perceptible pause the 2k follows. Warming the 2k filament will help prevent this .

You can build your warming into the previous cue if you are clever. or you can set the bottom trim so nothing ever goes below about 0.5 percent, but thats a bit drastic.

I like to use manual; control wherever possible. That way you have utter control over what you see on the stage. My article The Dynamics of Lighting control explains the way the eye and the hand and the smooth movement of a physical fader create total control in the same way that a steering wheel will get you safely around a bend, and if necessary to get you out of trouble. Besides its much mnore satisfying, as it makes it possible to contribute to the show like an actor.

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