Written by Mike Graham, product manager for CHAUVET Professional.
Building up anticipation is a powerful tool. You hear it in music with the lead up to a crescendo, you see it in a suspense movie, you read about it in great works of literature. But…you are supposed to also see it in lighting.
I. Start small, go bigger:
One of the things about a great light show is to create a sense of anticipation in the audience. The key to this is to not give away all of your tricks in the first 10 seconds of the show. Take your time. Bring in effects slowly over the course of a show. I’m not saying to make the beginning of your show boring. On the contrary, make it dynamic with moving heads with sharp focus and no gobos positioned at contrasting angles. Use your static fixtures in primary colors. If you are using video panels, keep the content basic. As the show goes on, start adding in effects slowly. Add in gobos to the movers, start using mixed colors in your pars. Always hold something back to be used at the right moment. Having spinning gobos and prism wheels for the entire show is going to get really old quickly for the audience; however, using it when it makes sense is really effective.
II. Effective effects:
Adding effects when the time is right is really important. If a song does not call for a strobe effect, don’t use it. You have to make sure that your design ideas make sense. For example, having massive color changes and your moving heads in an offset can-can for a dramatic slow song is a really bad idea. However, you can do a nice blue stage effect with some red or purple overtones — this will look really nice. Add in a few break-up gobos on the backdrop and now you have something really sweet. If you are covering “Pinball Wizard,” then having the movers going crazy with massive color changes makes perfect sense.
III. Cue structure:
Cueing is really important. Or at the very least, make sure that you know what material you are lighting, so that you know when to make a change. For the lights to match the subject you are lighting, you have to have motivation from the stage colors to change. I’m not saying that the cues have to be predictable, but if your talent is standing stage left, making the lights move to stage right is not a good idea. You have to wait for the time to be right. Hitting “go” at the wrong time can really mess up a show. This is particularly true for magic acts, acrobats, and jugglers. If you mess up one of their cues, it could mean a trip to the hospital. Again, anticipation of a lighting change is a powerful thing. You are creating an imaginary experience for the audience. It is up to you to accent what is happening on the stage. The light has to convey the right message to the audience and it has to match the action on the stage.
All in all, the idea of good lighting is to make sure that something that is happening on stage motivates you to create a lighting look. Using that motivation will ensure that you have created a design that will make the audience appreciate the show that you have worked so hard to design. Let the show content guide you in your design and you will almost never be wrong.