There are a lot of technical considerations to make when designing a stage lighting set-up; do you need a dimmer switch, what kind of shadows will the lighting cast on the stage, what angles do the lights needs to be set at in order to maximise the space they’re illuminating and so on.

However, perhaps one of the most important considerations you’ll make when designing a lighting rig isn’t technical but rather emotional. Specifically, you’ll need to consider the emotional reaction your lighting will instill in your audience, be that an enthralled throng of theatregoers or a reserved group of suited business types.

Lighting and colour can trigger any amount of emotions in a person and all can influence how an audience perceives the particular performance or presentation you’re giving them. A speech by the Dalai Lama (a peaceful chap if ever there was one) could, for example, be completely compromised by the introduction of harsh strobe lighting, which would disorientate and alarm the audience.

There are a few general rules when it comes to people’s reaction to certain lighting. Harsh, bright lights will make someone alert but also make them feel uncomfortable whereas as soft, dim lighting will have the effect of making someone feel relaxed and laidback. The pulsing of lights can also be used to inhibit a reaction in an audience – fast pulses and flashes, like those of a police car, will make a person alert and excited whereas slow pulses can lead to an almost trance-like state.

Colours can also have quite the effect on a person too and suggests certain emotional states to someone, even if they don’t necessarily realise it. You’ll probably be familiar with these already; red suggests anger or lust, green suggests envy while blue can suggest tranquillity and calm.

Knowing how different lighting effects can affect an audience can help you determine what’s right for your particular space. For example, you might think that a presentation space would benefit most from soft, comforting lighting. However, this lighting can induce tiredness which isn’t what you want, especially if the presentation being made is particularly tiresome already!

A compromise between the harsh and soft would be the most appropriate with a dimmer installed so you can alter the lighting according to the particular presentation being made. In terms of effects, you probably won’t need pulsing strobes and LED lighting unless you happen to be hosting the Annual British Trance Music Artists conference!

For theatrical spaces, versatility is the key as the chances are you’ll be hosting a lot of different performances tended to instill different emotions in an audience. The best way of doing this is to install an easy-to-use lighting effects board, allowing you to design specific lighting patterns for each performance. A diverse range of colour filters is also essential.
Of course, it isn’t just the effect of lighting on an audience that you need to consider; you also need to think about whoever’s on stage. While seasoned theatrical performers will be trained to perform no matter what the stage design and will be hardened to the effects of strobe lighting, a first-time presenter may struggle if your lighting is too harsh or too soft – especially if it affects their ability to see their audience.

Once you’ve determined the kind of effect you want to have with your particular lighting setup, you can then begin with the actual technical design of your system and build a solution according to your budget and space! For more information on stage lighting, as well as stage sound systems and stage curtains, give PG Stage a call on 0161 830 0303.


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