Lighting technology has come a long way in recent years. One consequence is that the number of instruments has risen drastically. On large shows there is simply not enough time to hang all the lights used individually, so various strategies are used to speed the process.

Instruments used to be packed and trucked in crate. Each was hung one at a time on house battens. That is now rare. Instruments now arrive pre-hung on light bars fitted with quick locking C-clamps. The bars are stored on "meat racks", rolling carts with pipes attached. The bars are hung for transport on these pipes.

An alternate approach is to attach instruments to aluminum truss, which is hung from house battens or more often from chain motors. This is especially common in arena shows, where there is no overhead house rigging, but it is a rare theatre show that does not use a few lighting trusses for the heavier electrics.

Cabling can be time consuming, and is expedited by permanently pre-wiring the instruments on the truss or bar with fan-outs (see Cable), then connecting the fan-outs to the dimmers with multi-cables.

Moving lights are becoming quite common. Each "wiggle light" can replace several individual units, and can be quickly focused from a console & can be "re-focused" cue to cue.

The "Electrics", battens that hold lighting instruments, tend to be hung and flown before most of the carpentry goes in, as it is difficult to hang them afterwards. Electrics, like the battens, are numbered from the proscenium. The Electric furthest downstage is the First Electric, the next upstage is the 2nd, etc. Similarly the front beam in the ceiling of the House closest to the proscenium is the First Beam, the next out is the 2nd Beam, etc.

Many of the lights on the Electrics point straight down as Top lights, but the lights at the offstage ends of the battens, the "Pipe Ends", are really High Side lights. These are all hung and circuited before the scenery is placed.

Sometimes various devices are added to an electrics batten to adjust it to fit between scenic units, etc. Bumpers are sets of rings placed in the batten to deflect other battens from the electric as they pass. Stiffeners are a pipe and clamp assemblies clamped to a batten and ties to the flying cables to keep the pipe from rolling by an off-axis load. A breast-line is used to "breast" or move a batten up or downstage from its normal hanging position. Loft blocks of the rigging system can also be "kicked" up or down stage to do the same thing. Pick lines are used to support a cable swag to carry it offstage before dropping to the deck. An extension may be added to a batten if it is too short and a bridle (a support rope) added to hold it up.

As soon as on-stage electrics are hung and flown, the Carpenters take the stage and the electricians move on to the side lights and the FOH, which are usually hung while the carpenters are placing the deck and the scenery in position. Booms are vertical hanging positions in the wings which hold the side lights offstage. Balcony Fronts are hung immediately off the front rail of the balcony rail. Beams are in the ceiling, and Coves are positions in the side walls. The Box Booms are the side positions immediately downstage of the proscenium, and provide side lighting to the Apron area, These will all hung while the carpenters are setting the scenery.

Meanwhile, the Sound crew has been stacking speakers downstage and placing monitor speakers downstage for the actors to hear themselves and the orchestra. Amplifiers and the Monitor Mixing Desk are placed offstage, and the Audience Mixing Desk is placed in the Audience. The sound system is usually wrung out and levels set when the other crews go to lunch, because pretty much NOBODY else can do much while the sound crew is running "pink noise" at high level while EQing the House.

Once the scenery is in place and ready, the Electricians take the stage again and lights are focused. The Assistant LD usually directs the focus; the Lighting Designer is NOT typically out with the tour. On stage, an electrician goes up in a man-lift and focuses the lights one at a time, while other electricians move the lift along. (Legally, the genie should not be moved while elevated, as it is too easy to tip an elevated lift over.)

The ALD directs where to point and adjust the fixture. If the unit is a PAR can, the LD may tell the electrician to "spin the bottle". That means the electrician should reach in the back of the PAR and rotate the lamp inside, which will rotate the oval shape of a PAR's beam. On an ellipsoidal spot, the shutters will be adjusted and the lens "run" to sharpen or soften the beam by putting it in or out of focus. Fresnels will be "flooded" or "spotted" by moving the lamp further from or closer to the lens. The LD may ask the electrician to "flag it", to wave his hand in front of the beam to make the light flicker and so stand out from the rest of the light. The LD then directs the electrician to "lock it", or tighten all bolts so it won't move.

Focusing the "wiggle lights" is expedited by the fact that most moving light consoles now set position according to a "home" position. Instead of needing to reset every light in every cue, the operator can set the show in a new venue by re-setting the "home position", and all cues for that unit are automatically updated so that the pre-recorded cues will work.

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Copyright © 2002 Mick Alderson