The Process

There is a process that is involved when it comes to lighting goals. These are going to help to move forward in being a lighting designer for any production.

You will need to know the material. This may seem to be simple, but if you do not know the piece of artwork, the dance, or know anything about the play, etc. that you are lighting, then you are doing it blind. How are you going to be effectively able to design something without having a clue about what it is about? Understanding if the performer is needing to be hiding from the light or in a shaft of light, is how you can effectively know what the scene is all about. You will have to know the piece in order to understand the full intent of the scene and what this particular moment is going to mean for the viewer or audience. If you are not able to hold a strong conversation with the rest of the artistic team about everything about the production, then you do not know it well enough.

You have to research it. Take your time and really get to know the piece. Learn the history about it. Look at images from other productions. There should be nothing about it that you do not know. Directors find it really frustrating to work with a lighting designer who has no idea or clue about the piece that they are working on. There is no shame in checking out YouTube to see other productions. Do not steal the ideas, but use it to inspire your own ideas. Was there something that you thought was a good idea, but you believe it could be done much stronger? Did you notice something that can be done with some technology that has been improved and you can improve it more?

Take time and have a production meeting. This is where you will get into all of the details of the show. Once every single person has a good idea about what the piece is and what style needs to be used in order to support the story or dance, then take time to sit down and have a meeting and discuss how it can be done. Then each department will go to their own working areas and begin to plan out the work. Eventually, everyone will need to meet back up and share what they have been working on and what they will be doing, so that things can be improved or worked on.

Next, you will need to write out a concept and then an outline. This is a really great step that all lighting designers use and start differently. Some will write a formal and conceptual document that they call the concept. It is a great educational tool that will take all of the information from the steps above and then puts them on paper. This helps to ensure that all thoughts are organized.

Take time to make a lighting scene synopsis. You will want to go act by act, scene by scene, and write down every single environment and the time of day that is needed to tell the story. You will need to make a note for any type of special lighting needs that are placed within the script. Mark the script for cue placements. You will want to mark each place so that you know that you need to have a lighting change with a Q for cue. Don’t number it as there are plenty of additions. You are just looking for what is needed within the script. After that create a list that shows what you need such as need sunset outside, need a kitchen light within the kitchen during night, etc.

Here is where you will meet up with everyone again. This gives you a chance to see what everyone is working on and how they are doing. Check out the directions of the color palette of the show, especially when it comes to costumes and set design. It is by this point that you have scenic plans from the set designer. You will need to discuss if there are any special needs such as placing lighting in hidden areas, or if there needs to be a maintaining access to light that a set piece could be blocking. Make compromises to get the best look in the production.

You will also need to draw up some paperwork for the electrician. You will have to communicate all of your technical needs to the people who are going to help you to create it. There are a lot of fancy names for this person, but they are called the Production Electrician. This is the person who will take what you have written down and send the information to everyone it needs to go to.

Now you will have to draw your light section or plot. The light plot is your ground plan that puts the lights where they need to go. Basically, it is just going to show where lights have to be mounted or placed. This section will show the side views, so they know how high it needs to be placed.

You will also need to place all of this information into a program that will program every single light. The computer is doing what once was done manually. This input is for the channel hook up which is a listing of every channel that has what lights are going to be used, the color, the purpose, watt, type and other special data.

Then paperwork will be passed on to the producer and then you will need to watch the run-throughs and attend to the load ins. During this whole process you will have to focus on the show. Take a few moments and make a magic sheet. This is just a quick guide that will help you to find the channel numbers for certain lights. Some use a list, while others use a ground plan that is drawn out.

Fix any issues during the run through and then attend opening night. This is a perfect chance to see the reaction to your work and to be there to help with any glitches that can happen.