Showing all posts tagged #lightingdesign:


Four basic elements of lighting that enhance story

Posted on January 8th, 2017

When lighting a scene, you need to consider the emotional message that you wish to convey.

1. Color - Choose a white balance. This is key to both mood and helps clue the viewer to the time of day. The opportunity to experiment with saturated light can provide seemingly countless options to get creative with steering mood.

Do you want to have a realistic scene in an office or do you want to break reality with musical theatre? What about concert lighting?

Remember that some scenes benefit from deep saturation, while others require the realism of only minimal color correction. Either way, color is extremely important.

I typed it first, here because yes it can be key to setting the scene, but more so is the foundation of subject light:

2. Intensity - Light’s intensity denotes how subdued or blown out the light is. Intensity can denote such differences as mid-morning sunshine in a field or the mood under a street lamp in the middle of night time.

The later example not only would likely use significantly lower intensity to create the scene, but would likely use two colors, the cool blueish moonlight, and the warm sodium colored lamp light.

3. Angle - This refers to the direction of light and how it strikes your subject. There are many terms, both from theatre and cinematography (ex. three-point lighting, special pool, key light, fill light, back light, side light, shin-busters, footlight, hair light, rim light, etc.)

Many of us are familiar to such terms as Rembrandt lighting or a butterfly lighting setup - those simply are two common setups that photographers use when shooting portraits.

The unique mood of each scene is steered in dramatically different ways by the angle of the light source or sources on the subject.

4. Quality - The softness or hardness of the light plays another role in the mood. Do you want defined shadows or smooth even light that seems to wrap around your subject. A large source of light is soft. A small source of light is hard. A source of light far away from your subject will produce strong shadows—an example of hard light. The closer the source of light that to your subject, the less pronounced the shadows that are produced.

Imagine difference between a 5º spot light from the corner of a theatre’s catwalk vs. the look of a model posing next to french doors with sheer drapes.

In addition to hard or soft lighting, consider the mood enhancement that can happen when a breakup pattern is between the light source and the subject.

With breakups we return to the hard or soft lighting. Is there a defined shadow of a bare tree branch or is there soft texture from an abstract theatrical breakup? So much can be done with texture. Perhaps another post should be written about texture alone!




The Justice Conference 2016 Production Design

Posted on June 14th, 2016


I know you’re asking about it. I hope to fill in the details of this post soon


FILO 2016 Production Design

Posted on May 23rd, 2016

One week ago, we were finishing load in and initial programming for 2016’s edition of the FILO Conference. It was an honor and privilege to be the Production Designer (responsible for Scenic and Lighting Design) for the conference. It was a scurry of a few days so I never really had time to post anything. Here are a few of my favorite moments from the event:


Some of you took my Scenic Design Concepts breakout class. For the rest of you, here’s the story behind how I landed on the final version of the design. These are the notes from the slide where I talked about "Branding (and the iterative process of design) …and Metaphor"

The O in FILO seemed to be the best part of the brand to play off of…
PlexiDiscs (something that I have in storage that’s not being used)
They set up easily enough (tie-line and zip-ties)
They can give depth to a shallow stage
They easily fit in my hatchback!
We concept designed about building a pretty cool set piece that we chose to say no to. (the builder, time, money, space on stage, etc.)
The iterative process - never settle for the first idea, if you stay disciplined to the process, the best idea will eventually be revealed. (certainly the idea at the greatest intersection of creativity and stewardship)
Metaphor
The 40 O’s represents each of us who are FILOs. Some of us are lone guys, some of us are part of teams. Coming together we can encourage each other with our beauty as we come together. Together we can find a chorus of a “new song" (Psalm 40) to carry with us as we go back to support and enhance the sharing of the good news that Jesus loves us.

The lights, I selected for a few reasons.
First, the B-EYEs are a light that every church tech nerd has seen the videos of and dreamt about having in their venue. I thought that giving a chance to see could be beneficial.
The opportunity to have access to the use some great hybrid fixtures in the Mythos was an amazing bonus.
Finally, the Aura XBs had a primary use of lighting the scenic. However the bonus of such a great light is that we created a number of presets to give us several bonus looks!

For the whole design I played with clusters that followed the Fibonacci sequence. I wanted to have the thought of each part of the design to have a beauty on its own and contribute to the beauty of the whole in a way that felt like it fit...

Thank you to Ryan and ILC for providing the amazing lighting gear. Thanks Jeff and Brian CCC for being perhaps the most hospitable hosts an any venue I’ve ever had the chance to work with. Thanks Nate and Chelsea for the logistics, leadership, and vision. Thanks to Michael and Nic for helping us set it all up, troubleshoot issues, and Nic especially for that great catch with the B-EYEs' profile issue. Thanks Alex (whom I met as we were both on the LD panel discussion breakout) for guest designing Session 3 as I was putting finishing touches on the Keynote presentation for my breakout.

Special thanks to Patrick for being my partner in the project. Having a guy on the console who knows how to interpret the ideas of my mind almost even before I say them is the dream for an LD. A best friend with me for the journey to and from Chicago is a bonus.

Thanks most of all to Todd for inviting me to play a small role in your vision. It was a privilege and an honor.


Dealership Production Design

Posted on October 29th, 2015

Last night we transformed one end of the dealership to celebrate momentum. Red, silver, and white branding is maintained for this main event stage and the rest of the dealership.

VIPs are enjoying catered small plates. The president and others just completed their speeches. Guests are about to experiment the main event.

Pre-show look. Lights are slowly strafing across the ceiling above the “stage" that we made. Truss warmers are twinkling white on the silver sticks of vertical truss and anticipation is in the air (or is that haze?)

I prepared myself in position at lighting control (my Jands Vista S1 - I and/or my console are available for hire/rent) back stage. I transitioned the lights as the intro video played and encouraged the talent to break a leg...
Actually, I took this shot well after the event just before we tore down - through the veil of the CrushedBlack fabric, you can see the car already on stage - in the moment I was too busy firing off a barrage of lighting effects; as well as cuing dancers, actors, and a driver for their moments of the production.
I’m really bummed not to have any photos to share of the live number we performed. Hopefully I can get some shots or video from one of the guests. I wish I had thought to set up a GoPro or few to record.

After the event, I hurried to offer photography to guests as they all wanted to pose with the cast. I managed even to get a #castandcrew shot taken of me (in the coveralls that was part of the branding) with the performers. These guys are great, by the way. If you’re looking for actors and/or dancers (and/or hamsters?) contact me and I can refer you to some great Metro Detroit talent.

One of my other responsibilities was to take photos of the president and leadership holding their awards at the corporate stage for earlier speeches at far end of the room. This is my view walking back toward the main stage. I share it to give context of the space. Even at the end of the night, the mood still feels good in the transformed dealership.
Interesting to contemplate that two hours later, everything is packed up and the morning crew will be able to bring cars back into the space for normal operations.

I think this image is hilarious; this pair of hamsters remained at the ready long after every guest had taken photos and the catering had been cleared.

It was a fun event. It always is when a producer tells me they want to drive a car on stage!

Strive for beauty with depth and layers

Posted on September 25th, 2015

Strive for beauty. Create with depth and layers.

Here’s a *slide from one of my Production Design Theory talks that I give. It was great spending time with FILO friends in Denver, Dallas, and Chicago this year as the conference met in each of those cities.

If you were part of those breakout trainings, please let me know what was helpful and what I should improve on. Also, please let me know if you have any followup questions that I might tailor an answer specifically for your unique context.

*It was cool getting to sub in the new photo from the Leadership Gathering

Leadership Gathering

Posted on September 7th, 2015

So I finally spent the time to pull images from my camera. Here are some of my favorite moments.

Intermission between sessions the first night. I love tables and chairs for a conference.

From the opening medley - I hope Michael Jackson would have been proud.

From the opening medley - covering Hey Ya by Outkast.

From the opening medley - I believe this was Shake It Off.

A shot from house right showing a bit of the room. We really have transformed the old warehouse. I remember doing our walk-through when we first purchased this space. It used to have columns in the middle of the room. Oh, and dirt floor with vile things growing in the puddles...

I like this shot during worship that also shows some of the table decorations that I helped braintrust the design of. Please forgive the odd looking text on the screen due; to the fact that I snapped the photo exactly on the CG transition.

The Kensington founders and their wives on stage together. It’s a beautiful encouragement to see them still be close friends 25 years later.

I love how my friend Michael Duggan programs lights. It’s fun to see my plot come to life!

It was an honor to get to run audio for day two of the event. Here’s the view I had of the keynote speaker teaching from the B-stage in the middle of the room.

A panoramic shot of the room. I wish I had taken a reverse angle of the room in use. The best I can do is the following photo.

My view of the room from above the stage while working on projection.

I need to share more about the load-in and set build process, but I’ll share this moment at least. This is day two. 24 hours prior all we had was the arch in place and the wrong size fabric. RoseBrand had sent us the wrong width due to a mis-labeling error in their sewing department. They overnighted us the correct size and we were able to work past midnight to get everything ready for doors to open the next morning for another event that was using the room. The team was great as we flexed through the setback and found other useful things to do with our time on day 1 and the first half of day 2. Thankfully we had kept a second day of setup on the schedule; if not, we would not have had a chance for the vision to have turned out as you see in these images.

a note to producers about the lighting cue sheet

Posted on August 30th, 2015


I've had multiple conversations with worship arts directors in the past few months where I've shared some of my thoughts on this subject. As a designer and live production artist, my personal preference loves to create "live," "Spirit led," and "in the moment." I usually do at least some amount of live busking when I operate; some shows more than others. For theatrical productions that repeat a linear story multiple shows I live in a single fully mapped timeline; a worship concert I am almost fully live. Regardless, I always have a road map sketched out (at least in napkin sketch format - see image below) if not fully built in Excel (see other image below) in some format or another. Even if I audible live, at least I'm making a change from something.

Anyway, the thoughts here were built from a copy/pasted note to one of the artistic producers I was consulting with recently. The thread had included his question of if a cue-to-cue would be something I'd recommend to their process. My answer to these questions are about finding best practices for being one in vision and trusting each other to bring the best thing we each can do to create a moving experience.

A cue-to-cue might prove to be beneficial to your process and your product. However, remember that without the context of the live music being played and the musicians on stage in their light, it’s very difficult for someone besides an experienced lighting designer to accurately know how to interpret what they see. I’ve experienced numerous cue-to-cues with producers where they make changes to what the LD designed and then later they ask for follow up changes during the dress rehearsal that end up very close to what was originally created. If doing a cue-to-cue, make sure you know what you're reviewing.

I suggest what is more beneficial is to spend the time making sure that you’re clear in the vision that you have for each moment of the service. Communicate that to the SM and LD. If they understand your vision, they’ll support/enhance the moment visually. Again, a cue-to-cue walk-through isn’t bad - the dialogue to check in and make sure you’re on the same page is really important. Simply heed my caution to not to make changes out of context. Make sense?

The greater importance is trusting each other to all be on the same page. Have you communicated vision for the story clearly? Does your LD have a plan for how to support and enhance? I suggest a meeting to talk through a cue sheet is the better use of everyone's energy. After knowing that you're on the same page, then you can each work on the tasks that you're best at.

Unless you see a specific vision for mapping out the details of an element, I don’t recommend going into detail of builds and changes in each song. Aside from the potential build (referenced with an ellipse) it simply shows the base cue guide for each moment. Feel in the room can and should lead to adjustment in each nuanced moment. Trust the LD to design beauty and magic that supports and enhances the experience.

At Kensington, we use Planning Center Online as our hub for every production we do. It’s great for scheduling teams and making sure that everyone is on the same page. I can give coaching in another post about how I suggest it might be a useful platform to incorporate into your process. Anyway, it’s a very useful tool for us in laying out the flow of elements in a service. As a PM, I love being able to think through what each discipline (Audio, Lighting, Multimedia, etc.) needs to be doing at each moment of the service.

In each cue the notes in the lighting column give the road map for what lights will be doing in the format of:
"SUBJECT LIGHT | SCENIC LIGHT | HOUSE LIGHT"
Subject - the communicators and artists on stage
Scenic - everything behind and around the people - soft goods, lights through haze, etc.
House - as simple as basic intensity, but often can include environmental lighting

As an LD, I map out the visual story pretty intentionally. Sometimes a show calls for a fully detailed cue sheet with specific intensities and focus patterns for each instrument along with fade times for each transition. A cue sheet can also be as simple as a napkin sketch. Having these notes shared with the Stage Manager is really important as they're the hub for helping everyone stay true to common vision. Again, I suggest using PCO (or another cloud based service) to make sure everyone can stay updated with any changes along the way...

Do these thoughts make sense? Do you have ideas grow in how you might evolve your process? Please let me know!


Danny Cox Album Release Concert

Posted on April 25th, 2015

It was such a privilege to be part of this event! My friend Danny released his recent album “Fighting for the Beauty" last night. I was honored to be asked to be Production Designer for it.

I reprised some of my favorite ingredients for this show:
  • Persian Rugs (various sizes and colors from (5’x7.5' all the way to 12’x23')
  • Gothic Chandeliers (custom made for Easter’15)
  • Gothic Lanterns (custom made for Easter’15) on the floor and atop our Iron Candle Stands (custom made many years ago for a Good Friday)
  • ADJ Z7s (LED zoom mover - I love the value of these instruments) atop our custom moving light cages (ask me about these cages sometime)
  • Black Tergalet and Silver Batiste (Rosebrand)
  • Elation 300s (profile mover) and 60s (LED wash mover)
  • And a very generous demo (thank you Advanced Lighting & Sound) of some ADJ beams

Here’s a phone pic of a nice moment near the end of the set. Hopefully I’ll add a few more from my real camera soon.

Create something beautiful today

Posted on March 27th, 2015

Create something beautiful today.
Whether a photograph, a spreadsheet, performance art, or leadership moment.
Make sure to care...

Thoughts to Remember When Creating a Space for Worship

Posted on September 30th, 2014

I rattled off a stream of thought in response to my friend asking me what things I think about when designing. He took that email and compiled it into this list; which his organization now uses this as part of their planing meetings. Perhaps it is a helpful guide for you to consider as well...


Thoughts to Remember When Creating a Space for Worship

  • The end goal of the services that happens in the space.
  • The vibe/feeling you want to help communicate.
  • Who is the target demographic?
  • Who in the audience will be reached regardless of the branding, environment, and artistry? These are not people to design for. Do not be influenced by them.
  • Who might only be opened up to the communication by the environment you present? This is who you must go after.
  • How might you use resources you already have available to support your vision?
  • What alternative ideas might convey such themes with increased beauty/power/depth?
  • What ideas might work well because of how clear the symbolism might be?
  • What of those ideas would be so cliché that it would actually turn off the artist in the audience?
  • What metaphors can you weave into the design to add depth of beauty (and meaning) ...even if only for you?
  • How long do you want to live in the look? A series? A season? A weekend? Indefinitely?
  • How will you light the set? How will you light the art and communication? Will the lighting on both feel unified?
  • Make sure to design scenic elements that will be enhanced with the lighting tools available. Also, design scenic with consideration of who is designing/operating lights. Try to play to their strengths.
  • It needs to look good in the room, to be certain. Are you broadcasting ever - stream, IMAG, record for later release?
  • Lighting for video requires thinking beyond what looks good to the naked eye; and lighting for both video and still having everything look good in the room requires some real finesse…
  • Think through positioning of each person who will be on stage. Where they stand/sit/dance should feel like it connects with the scenic elements and help visually connect the guests with the communication on stage. Break the 4th wall.
  • What scenic and/or lighting might be considered in the room? In the lobby? Before and after the event with advertising, social media, etc. How does the branding transcend the stage experience?
  • Think through everything that people might see. Certainly do not let anything be a distraction; also push into every opportunity to help enhance the story...

Eric Wolfe

Visual Artist. Production Designer and Consultant. Developer of Ideas. Maximizer of Resources. Strategic Thinker. Creative Innovator. Husband. Father. Philosopher. Photographer. Backpacker. Athlete. Cook. Artisan. Catch Eric’s sporadic musings at egwolfe.com or follow him on social media platforms as @egwolfe