Illuminati Creative Technology, Colchester UK
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Stage Lighting: A basic manual of the art.
Texturing Light - Tricks with Profiles
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For information of the various types of lantern take a look at Jon Primrose's excellect Stagecraft page Types of lighting units or Bill Williams' fighting fixtures Page and then use the back button to carry on here.
A profile ( or in the US this is known as an Episoidal) is fitted with simple, but quite clever optics which operate on a similar principle to a slide or film projector in that they have a focal plane (the "gate") and the image of anything placed in that focal plane will be projected by the lens. Generally, of course, there is nothing at the focal plane so you get a very sharp edged circular beam of light. These lanterns, however, usually have beam-shaping shutters (four of them) which can be pushed into the focal plane so that you can change the shape of the beam to square, rectangular or triangular. You can also place a gobo in the focal plane and, depending on the ability of the particular unit to handle heat, slides.
In a simple profile spot, the lens can be made to physically move back and forth with can provide a degree of focus. Beam angle can only be varied by changing the lens barrel or in the case of older units such as the Strand Pattern 23, the original profile state-of-the-art workhorse, the beam can be widened by adding a second lens. The front lens needs to be turned round so that the two lenses are ball-to-ball.
In more sophisticated units ( zoom profiles) two lenses are provided, both of which can be moved, giving a greater degree of focus and beam size. Generally speaking in the US designers prefer to specify the correct lens from a range of interchangable lenses for a particular job rather than use a zoom.
The Shutters: modern shutters can be used at any angle, but the shutter can still be pulled right out, and are very difficult to replace on certain makes, which should know better. On others the shutters are very close to the trunnion arm and can sometimes get bent during focussing sessions. Shutters should be used with care or they can create dark and ugly lines in the lighting which can show up as annnoying flickers as an actor passes from one beam boundary to another. Shuttering, like barndooring, should be use on existing architectural features where possible. Front of house units should always be shuttered along the stage front and if necessary, the prosc arch. Where shutters really come into their own, is where a particular object such as a painting is to be lit, accurately masking light from the frame.
Here are Dorian's Fun with Profile tricks
1) Obviously, the profile is ideally suited to the entire range of available colour media. However if you poke an irregular hole in the middle of the gel, you will get a nice hot spot in a slightly paler version of the same colour which lights actors faces beautifully without losing colour feeling. Some saturated colours in certain makes of colour media will bleach out in the middle and create a similar effect, but you will need to replace these regularly.
2) Colour in conjunction with a Gobo (for types and styles of Gobos go to DHA/Rosco's gobo catalogue), the effect is very dependent on the proportion of open areas to metal and how it is focussed, But there will be a certain focus setting which is called "brown" where the chosen colour will appear as fringes to the main pattern which can look very interesting. Using a split colour ( two halves in different colours split vertically) is effective. More than two colours looks messy.
3) A couple of gobos in open white focussed brown from the FOH make a very good and atmospheric 'brown-out' or scene change light at low levels.
4) Gobos used with animation wheels are effective and give a great, but resticted sense of movement.. But if you dont have an annimation wheel, try the old fashioned "fireplace trick". Put a small profile behind a fireplace, add colour and a fairly open gobo, like a large leaf breakup and fade it up. Commandeer that indespensible piece of kit, a stagehand or ASM and hand them a "flossie stick" - a piece of stick onto which you have affixed several long wispy pieces of fabric ( fireproof of course, everything has to be) and get them to gently move it back and forth in a sensitive fire-flickering sort of way in the beam, varying the speed according to the mood of the piece. Looks brilliant. You could do it with any lind af luminaire actually, but the profile/gobo combo is ace.
5) Gobos are not just for image effect- try using them for general lighting: I did a spectacular version of Hamlet, which used over 100 profiles, all of which except three were fitted with one kind of breakup or cloud gobo or another. None of them were used as traditional image projection elements, but were focussed "brown" and used with colour as textured actor lights. They perfectly conveyed the disprate moods required, spooky moonlight, dark candlelit and smoky interiors, the bleak northern aspects of the graveyard, the chapel, the bedchamber.
6) Irises. Dont buy very cheap ones and never try to oil them. Just dont. That's all. Believe me.
7) I once worked on a production where the Director wanted 'streaky lighting with bends in it'. Simple I just took all the lenses out of all the profiles. Very streaky, very bendy, and stragely satisfying.
8) Moonlight: gobos from side backlight focussed quite hard in conjunction with a little overall frensel backlight also in open white are just brilliant at creating a mood. Make sure that the actor's positions are well marked and repeatable and you can add another profile and gobo from the opposite side front, positioned precisly that an open section of a breakup just grazes the faces. get the balance right and be prepared to give the actor ( however eminent) a bit of grief if he can't find his light. After all you can only be fired....