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Profile of BBunnell
This is hard to explaine and I hope I do it ok. I am working on how to make the back area of my stage darker than the front or in other words more difficult to see beyond the lights to the back. I have noticed that some lights shine down on the stage and it looks like a "beam of light" which makes it hard to see past the light to the back of the stage. Is it as easy as just a bit of fog from a fog machine?

Any suggestions would be great.
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Ray Pierce
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Los Angeles, CA
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Profile of Ray Pierce
Boy, this could be tough but I'll do the best I can to explain it.

There are so many ways you can control light to create emotion, texture, shadow and contrast on a stage. The direction and angle of the light has a lot to do with how well the background is lit. For example if you are using a largely front lit stage, you will be lighting the performer and the background from the same angle. If you have a very high steep down light, you can light the performer and not the background if the light is focused. If you're using a floodlight or light that is very broad, even if the angle is very high you might still be lighting up the background. The first step is to restrict your lighting to a sharper angle to keep the light off of the backdrop. You will need lights that you can control such as Source Fours or other focusable type instruments. To really suspend the performer in space, the only real spot is called a Shin Buster position. It's using an instrument like a source four about 18 inches off the stage in the wings shooting straight across to the opposite wing. In this way you can shutter the light off the floor and the other legs and simply light the space the performer's in without any light getting on anything else that is seen.

This will serve to light you and simultaneously keep lights off of the backdrop and everything else. In recent years it has been discovered that you can use lighting as scenery by using a hazer which floats oil or glycol-based particulate in the air that reflects the light. It appears invisible but makes the beam of light show up where it wouldn't normally. In the example above with two Shin Buster's lighting you on stage, without the hazer you would simply be let and nothing else would show around you. By adding the hazer you would create a virtual wall of light filling the stage. It would be the same if you had rays of lights shooting across the space from upstage to downstage. Because of the hazer these beams of light would show up in addition to the spots where they were terminating. This can be used to fill the stage with color and form where before without the hazer, you would only see the end result of where the light hit.

The real question is how advanced of a lighting package do you typically work with? These techniques are very simple to do in a theater with a full complement of focusable lighting. The other secret is to keep the backdrop as far upstage as possible to keep any ambient or reflected light from falling on it. In our normal shows we always work in the front third of the stage and seldom go further back than halfway in order to keep the lighting off the backdrop. We have backlights and moving lights that shoot forward to fill the space with color and rays of light that the hazer amplifies to create a wall of texture.

I hope this makes sense. It is not complicated for most lighting designers but it can be very difficult to do in smaller situations depending on how much control you have over all the variables. If you're doing a platform show and a ballroom, it could be next to impossible.

Let me know how it goes!
Ray Pierce
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Profile of hugmagic
Nice post Ray. I would also add that if the floor is not black which happens more and more these days, it is much harder to keep the light from bouncing unto the backdrop area.

The bottom line is design your act so it can play anywhere with any lighting and staging. Figure out the most basic and less complicated set and lighting you can. Then work up variable to add in quick if available.

As Ray said, a good house with focusable lights and good technicians can work wonders,,,but don't plan on having it always.

BTW, do you have a lighting plot to hand the techs. Or even a little quicktime movie to show them what kind of look you are going for?

Richard E. Hughes, Hughes Magic Inc., 352 N. Prospect St., Ravenna, OH 44266 (330)296-4023
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Profile of BBunnell
Thanks for your suggestions. The info is very useful and I can see how I can enhance my show with them. I do have a lighting plot for the techs when I am performing in certain local theaters. They are more than willing to help me but being smaller, we are somewhat limited to what we can do. I am sure we can implement some of the suggestions.
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Profile of abrell
Maybe you mean the effect called light curtain. Some very narrow focussed beams with high intensity can block the view of the spectators. Traditionally a svoboda ramp was used for this effect. Josef Svoboda designed this luminaire for ADB - 9 lamps with 24 volts and 250 watts in line together gave a bright luminaire with 2250 watts and 216 volts which fits the standard European mains voltage. Due to the higher mains voltage of 240 volts today there are now versions with 10 lamps. So a svoboda ramp is the combination of 9 low voltage parabolic narrow beam spots. The advantage of that design is that no transformer is needed.

An audience blinder is a similar construction. It is build with ACL´s - aircraft landing lamps. Lamps for that purpose have a very narrow beam - you have to light the runway when you are far away. For a smaller magic show audience blinder with several PAR 36 lamps should be suitable. There are also fixtures with 2 or 4 or 8 PAR 36.

There is also a special type of PAR 56 with a 100 watts 12 volt bulb and an integrated transformer. I like that luminaire very much because it is small and has a very nice sharp beam. Several of those also give a light curtain. I have used them very much when those parabolic 24 volt 250 watts were not available; they are quite oldfashioned these days.
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Profile of chleby
One thing that will help you is to have a wont obstruct the view of the audience but will make the beams more visible and block the back more.
Lighting Designer- Dan Sperry MAGIC SHOW Times Scare NYC
Lighting Designer- Dan Sperry Spring 2011
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Phoenix, AZ
476 Posts

Profile of Fitz
I agree that a hazer would be very useful. I HIGHLY recommended the Unique from Look Solutions USA.


P.S. Fog week is coming soon to the FitzMagicShow
I have a daily web show all about magic at
Kevin Ridgeway
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Indianapolis, IN & Phoenix, AZ
1829 Posts

Profile of Kevin Ridgeway
I second the Unique from Look Solutions. We have had ours for almost 10 years now and it's a champ.
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