As a stage lighting pro, nothing will set your teeth on edge like an unexpected shadow during a performance. Having a presenter, speaker, or performer seemingly disappear into the darkness can be panic-inducing for you and incredibly distracting for the audience. That’s why creating an even wash of light on stage is so important.
Even if you have all of the right gear, if it isn’t being used properly, you can end up with dark areas that aren’t purposeful design choices. Luckily, by using the right approach, creating an even wash of light on stage is practically guaranteed. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here’s how to tackle the setup.
1. Choose the Right Fixtures
When your goal is to create an even wash of light on stage, consistency is your ally. Ideally, you want to use a series of the exact same fixtures, each fitted with matching lenses, gels, or other additions you plan to use. This ensures that every light has aligning capabilities, making it easier to keep everything even.
As for which fixtures to use, that may depend on your final goals. You may prefer conventional or LED fixtures, for example. In some cases, Leko lights might be your go-to, especially because they are so adaptable.
What matters most, in the end, is consistency. By ensuring every fixture you use to create an even wash of light on stage is essentially identical, you can increase the quality of the final outcome.
2. Position the Lights Evenly
Along with having the same fixtures, you also want to make sure they are positioned consistently. Not only should each one be the same distance away from the stage, but they should also be evenly spaced from each other.
The main reason for even positioning is to control light intensity and overlap more effectively. If your fixtures are different distances from each other, some areas of the stage may have more light layers than others. If they aren’t the same distance from the stage, some spots may end up brighter or darker.
Precisely where you’ll need to put them depends on the number of fixtures at your disposal, the width of the light beams, and the intensity of the light from each fixture. If you’re using par lights, you also want to make sure each of the lenses is in the same position, usually either horizontal or vertical, to create even more consistency.
If you aren’t familiar with the capabilities of each light or simply want to use the most methodical approach, position one in the center as a starting point. Next, adjust it and the resulting light beam until the illumination on the center portion of the stage is about where you want it. In most cases, you’ll aim for slightly dimmer than what you want to achieve at the end, as new fixtures will create a few feet of overlap, brightening up that area.
At that point, you can assess the width of the beam. Finally, use that to determine how far apart your fixtures need to be to achieve the perfect end result.
3. Focus the Lights Systematically
As you add lights, you want to focus them systematically. It’s always best to adjust them one at a time, ensuring that the overlap and brightness are appropriate and that dark spots are being eliminated.
Adjust the shutters or tilt to keep the light beams level with each other. Work them one at a time, making minor adjustments until you get a clean, even wash of light on the stage. If you get it right, you should be able to head to your control border, bring all of the faders up to the same point, and have a consistent look without any dark spots.
4. Try a Light Meter
If you want to take things to the next level, you can also try using a light meter. This allows you to measure the brightness of different areas of the stage, giving you a heightened level of precision.
For many stage productions, this may not be necessary. However, if video recording is also part of the plan, it may be worth the time and effort.
5. Preparing for Multiple Washes
If different color washes are part of the production, then explore each one individually regardless of whether the same fixtures are involved. If you’re using fixtures with color-changing capabilities, as you shift hues, you may have slight variances in the light quality, color, or intensity from each fixture. This could make small adjustments necessary to ensure an even wash of light on the stage after every change.
If you’re using different lights for each unique wash, then you’ll need to repeat the setup process for each color. For productions that can mount lights to separate rigging, you can use essentially the same process, starting with one light at the center and moving out.
For productions where you share the rigging, you can still get an even wash of light on the stage, though it may require more experimentation. Figure out the width of the light beam first, then position it so that an overlap occurs evenly on center stage. That way, the final look still feels consistent.