Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

Steps to More Effective Lighting Design

Lighting design can be one of the most fun and creative forms of artistic expression, especially in the church. To have fun with it, though, we need to continually improve our skills. Here are some practical tips:

One of the most often overlooked tools in lighting is being intentional about dynamics, both within a song or piece, and throughout an entire presentation. By dynamics I mean be intentional about making low moments low and big moments big. Look for places to use as little light as possible. What is the lowest moment? The darkest moment? The deepest moment? The most reflective? Also, look for opportunities for the highest highs. When talking to one well respected lighting designer he told me about his "spastic chaos" cue. He usually has one moment where hit literally throws the whole rig into chaos. What's the the one huge moment? What's biggest explosion of energy? Where is the climax? Of course we must than pay attention to everything in between. No where each cue falls on the dynamic scale. If you entire show has one 10 moment (spastic chaos) and one 1 moment (darkness), where do the other moments fall? Did you program any 8's or 9's? How about a 3?

Commonly we fall into a trap or programming everything in the middle. Stretch the dynamics of your programming.

When you're programming, you HAVE to know your content well. Everything you do must match the content. In reference to our first tip, if you run spastic chaos when the band is on a reflective introduction, it obviously won't work! If your lighting matches the moment, everything will gel. That's how your get the magic. In rehearsals, think hard about the content. Consider what's happening and make sure the lighting is matching. Color, intensity, movement, should all support the content taking place. The better these line up, the more effective it will be.

Great lighting - great art - is often said to be complete once there is nothing left to take away. That is, don't approach your designs thinking, "how much can I add to this". Approach thinking, "I should use only what is needed, nothing less and nothing more". Consider what can be removed from cues to make them more effective. Might a particular lighting look be more effective with only two colors instead of one? Maybe a look would be more effective with all white light and no color at all. Don't make things too complicated and don't add anything that doesn't need to be there. Remove elements until everything that is left is both essential and beautiful.

A few basic lighting gobos or patterns can create some amazing additions to any lighting design. Never forget that texture (gobo or pattern) is an effective visual tool. If you don't currently use any of these, consider adding a few basics to your designs. Maybe some circles or triangles or some sort of "breakup" patter. If you do currently use them, consider adding some new looks. Sometimes one or two new gobos can make all the difference.

Know your color theory. Know what colors compliment each other and what they convey. This is too deep a subject to tackle here, but the information is readily available with a simple Google search. Get a good basic knowledge of how to effectively use color to communicate. If you already have a good working knowledge of color, start exploring new ways to use color. New ways to combine color. Start exploring trends in color use and how other lighting designers are using it. If you are using fixed color fixtures like conventional pars with gels, consider switching out to something new. If you have movers with a color wheel, look into getting some new colors to work with. Again, like pattern and texture, this can make a significant difference.

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