Entering the world of stage lighting for the first time can be a terrifying and daunting experience; while there are some fantastic resources out there for the learning the basics of technical stage lighting, a lot of material on stage lighting descends into a mish-mash of technical jargon and abstract lighting concepts. It’s all very interesting for the connoisseur, no doubt, but usually enough to send the amateur stage lighting enthusiast cross-eyed.

This makes determining exactly what you need for your own school stage lighting set-up seem quite difficult, when in fact it’s actually a relatively easy process. In fact, unless you really want to, you often won’t have to spend days with your nose stuck in a technical stage lighting manual just to figure out how to light your primary school production of ‘Toad of Toad Hall’.

So if you’re planning to install a stage lighting system in your own school but aren’t really sure where to start, what kind of considerations do you need to make?

Type of Lighting

Pick up a stage lighting catalogue for the first time and you’re bound to be mystified by the sheer amount of different stage lights on offer. Determining what the difference between two spots is based on technical specifications, while easy for the hardened stage lighting techie, can be difficult for a first timer.

An easier way to think about the type of lighting you’re going to need is to visualise the kind of performances that are going to take place on your stage. For most school setups, a couple of floods and a spot are generally standard, with gels and filters for different coloured lighting. These lamps are usually attached to a fixed rig and adjusted pre- and post-performance. Strobes and LED lighting are also popular amongst schools, but whether or not you choose these for your own setup will often be dependant on your budget.

The intensity and power of the lighting you choose will largely come down to the size of the area you are lighting; a small stage in a small room will require less-powerful beams, while a grand hall will require more power. The distance between the lighting rig and the stage  will also play a part in the specifications of the lighting you choose, although the precise calculations behind this will often be carried out by the team designing and installing the rig.

Location and Position of Lighting

The space in which your lighting will be installed plays a big part in determining the size of the rig you install and the specifications of the lamps that make up the overall rig. It’s not as complicated as it sounds; a smaller performance space will require less lamps to illuminate the stage, whereas a larger stage might require multiple lamps pointing in different directions to cover the stage.

The position of your lighting in relation to the stage will also play a part in the design of your lighting rig. Generally, lighting rigs are placed front and centre as this offers the best coverage of the stage; however, it may be that space or simply preference determines that the rig be placed to the side of the stage or at an angle. Again, this choice will influence the intensity and power of the lamps in your setup.

The Control Board

Stage lighting control is often overlooked when it comes to presenting a vision for a stage lighting setup but the control board you use is as important as the lamps the board will control. On the whole, most schools won’t require the kind of vast control boards commonly found in theatres but it’s still important to consider what you want to be able to do with your lighting. Knowing exactly what effects you will require  makes the manufacture and design of your particular control board a lot easier.

And that’s about it for the basics! If you’re thinking about installing stage lighting at your school or college but aren’t quite sure where to start, get in touch with PG Stage; we’d be more than happy to help!

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