Lighting Help and Tips for Performers

Lighting Help and Tips for Performers

As a performer you are often asked to fill in a tech sheet, and while sound cues, song choices and prop detail are all pretty straight forward, sometimes the thought of lighting details can fill a performer with dread: “I’ve devised my concept, choreographed my routine, made a costume and now you want me to design my LX as well?!” We’ll we’re here to say it really is quite simple…

Venue Lighting
While some venues, like a function room, etc, may not be equipped with specialist lighting and the most you can hope for is one ‘state’ (that’s the configuration of lights used), other venues you may perform at may have a whole wealth of lights, gobos, follow spots and more… While you won’t need to know what type of lamp, the type of lighting instrument (parcan, batten, flood), it is handy to know the basics.

Back Lights:
These are lights positioned upstage (ie: the back of the stage) with the focus pointing downstage (towards the audience). They will light up the back of the performer (you can create some halo effects and sillouettes with these.)

Foot Lights:
These are small lights positioned at the foot of the stage at the level of the performer’s feet. They have a shield on the audience side and cast the illumination upwards from foot level

Spot Light
A spot will light up a certain part of the stage. Sometimes these can move (follow spots) but mostly they are a static light. Remember you will need to stand towards the front of the spot on the floor (until you can feel it on your face) to be lit in a spot. It might be worth checking in your tech run – if you really need a spot – where the point that you are in the spot is.

Front Lighting
The direction of lighting, positioned in front of the stage, to pick up all the action and faces of performers.

‘General Cover’
Where the engineer has placed a mixture of all the lights to cover all areas of the stage.

Now we’ve got the basic lights sorted, we’ll go a bit more in-depth with the ‘states’. Remember a state is the combination of lights to make up one ‘tone’. In theory you can have as many different lighting states as you like in a routine, but you’ve got to remember that in an act of roughly 4 mins, is it going to be effective? Here’s a couple of things to think about: use lights to create a mood, use lights to flatter your skin tone… Never use blackouts in your act, they will break up the action and make a 4 min act look very stop/start…

Creating a mood…
If you have an act that needs a little bit of help to create a mood – ie, it’s winter outside and your act is a summery, beach themed you can create this with LX (golden tones)! Obvious! The same goes for if you are creating a cold mood (blues, violets, etc). but don’t just limit this to the weather conditions… You can tie in the LX states with your character’s moods – eg, your character is evil, hence reds, your character is jealous, hence greens…

Complementing your skin tone…
All skin looks great with amber, light pinks and peach lighting… these colours make the skin appear healthy. Avoid yellows and oranges as these can wash out the skin.

Dimming the lights
Also very effective if you are using lights in your costume or you are doing fire work. The LX engineer can dim the lights at a given point to make your illumination stand out…

Changing the state…
You can combine moods in your routine but we would suggest you only do this once or twice during your routine… The lighting engineer will need a cue to do this (remember he won’t know your music or the lyrics so if you need to give him/her a cue then it’ll need to be obvious, like a track change or a visual cue from yourself).

Complementing your costume…
As colouring your act can be detailed, we thought it deserves a whole section on it’s own. In general, if your costume is blue and red, never ask for blue and red lights as the can bleed out your costume and swallow the colours up… Follow the youtube link below for a great example from when we (DeeDee and Lilly) used to perform as the Bay Belles (footage copyrite to Ministry of Burlesque). Here you can clearly see the consequences of wearing red and blue and asking for red and blue LX!

In general, the most flattering colours for a costume are the opposite colours on the colour wheel… So green costumes are flattered by a red tone light, purples by yellows, etc. but beware of the colour mixing you learned whilst at school – ie a yellow costume under a blue light might look green!

Always ask for your chosen tone as accent lights as used on their own, they can do strange things:

Red Lights:
If using blood products on stage, red glitter etc… beware, asking for red lights to match your ‘mood’ will just swallow up the colour, it will also vanish lipsticks and most other make-up.

Purples / violets will make any warm tone colour (reds, pinks, oranges) appear redder. it can also make red tones appear blacker – eg lipstick and any blusher or shadows on the face.

Blue light will complement most of the orange toned costumes but will make skin look ‘zombiefied’. It’s great to use as a setting for nighttime or as an alternative for dimming. white costumes look fantastic with blue lights – it really makes the white zip out, the same with pale pinks (which look slightly violet under a blue light).

As with any colour mixing, a yellow costume under a green light will look greener. In general, green is not a good colour for the skin, ubless you want to achieve a mysterious, I’m in a witch’s cavern look!

Some performers forget all about white light – its great for all coloured costumes especially for metallic fabric.

If in doubt…
Most producers would rather you gave them the colour of your costume or the required mood… it’s okay to fill in a tech sheet with ‘my costume is mostly gold so something to flatter this please’ or ‘Can I have a lively, sexy mood for LX please’ as theatres will often need to plot in the show lights ahead of time and will then have some idea of what you want. They can always tweak your lights on the night. Tweaking is much better than plotting a whole show, which can take a while and eat into everyone’s tech time.

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