How To Light A Small Stage To Achieve Best Performance

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The way a stage is lit has a major impact on how the audience perceives the art being performed. Lighting can convey a deeper sense of feeling that cannot be communicated by the art alone.

Every Lighting Designer should follow these four basic principles while deciding how to light a small stage.

Lighting that complements the performance

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to lighting a stage for a performance. The lighting should be tailored to compliment whatever art is being performed.

1). Dance Lighting: It should be as simple as possible as the only purpose is to illuminate the movement of the performers. The whole performance area should be well lit. Sidelights are an excellent choice because of their ability to highlight movement and tone. It is best to use black drapes as a backdrop.

The mood and atmosphere can be set using colored lights. The Lighting arrangement also depends on the dance form.

Classical ballet and such dance forms require a completely different sort of lighting when compared to modern dances.

2). Play Lighting: Play lighting is more than just visibility. It is used for reinforcing the story and creating the perception of time and place where the story takes place.

The purpose of the light is to reveal the form of the actors and to make them stand out from their background.The lighting should be very realistic.

3). Live Music Shows: Setting the lights for music shows is a bit challenging. The lights should change according to the music. The more exciting song means more exciting lighting.

The lighting also depends on the style of the musician. Do they stay in a single spot or do they like to move around and use up the entire stage? Bold colored lighting is ideal for setting up the mood for live music shows.

Understand the lights

Each lighting fixture has a unique function and you need to choose ones that fit the needs of the performance.

While working on a small stage always be conscious of the space you and choose your lights accordingly. It is ideal to skip heavy light fixtures.

1). LED: LEDs are perfect for creating dozens of color combinations with merely a push of a button.

They are economical and do not produce much heat. They are ideal for lighting music shows. They are lightweight and can be effectively used for small stages.

2). Par can: Originally developed for concerts, these no-nonsense instruments can produce an intense pool of oval light. They are basically car headlights in a metal casing.

3). Fresnel: They cast soft lights and are mainly used for washing the staging in color. They are placed close to the stage to cover a lot of areas.

4). Spotlight: Usually set up in the balconies, these lights are used for keeping the performers on the stage well lit. They are also used for highlighting a single performer.

5). Floodlight: As the name indicates, they produce a flood of lighting.

6). Moving Light: They are technologically advanced lights whose movement can be controlled using a joystick. They also come with motorized shutters and focus controls.

Understand lighting positions

Space is the deciding factor when it comes to lighting positions. The lighting designer will have to experiment with different lighting positions to create the appropriate setting for the actor, for the scenery and for creating special effects.

For a small stage, the lighting can be so arranged to give an illusion of space.

Let’s have a look at the four basic lighting positions:

1). Front Lighting: The basic function of front lighting is visibility. The front light hits the subject from the front. This type of lighting eliminates shadow.

Everything is evenly lit and the spectator might lose the perception of depth. The front lighting is usually placed under the ceiling or on the balcony to give a basic sense of depth.

2). Side Lighting: The subject is lit from a side, casting the other side in a shadow. Side lighting can be done from both sides, giving rise to a play of shadows and lights. This type of lighting is ideal for dance stages.

3). Back Lighting: The light source is placed behind the subject. Backlight places the subject in a shadow.

Only the silhouette will be visible, casting the face and body in shadows. This creates a dramatic effect and can be used to induce an unnatural atmosphere.

4). Down Lighting: This type of lighting is used to effectively light up the whole performance area.

Make decisions based on the script

The Ultimate objective of stage lighting is to condition the emotions of the spectators and be a part of the story being told. A Lighting Designer should be artistic as well as technical.

It is the task of the Lightning Designer to work with the Director to arrange the set lighting that is tailored to the performance genre.

A small stage should not be a constraint for achieving the best possible results. Stage lighting can be done by manipulating the four controllable qualities of light.

1). Intensity – is the brightness of the light that can range from painful bright to total darkness.

2). Color – is a major player in setting the overall mood of the stage Nearly any shade of color can be created electronically or using lighting gels.

3). Direction – is the angle in which the light reaches the stage. It also includes the distribution of light around the stage.

4). Movement – is the physical movement of light or change in other three parameters.

Before making decisions about lanterns and lighting positions, the following points must be considered.

5). Selective visibility: Show lighting can be used to enhance or subdue parts of the stage, props, and actors. What must the audience focus on? Lighting should also keep the light off what should not be seen.

6). Mood: Is the atmosphere appropriate for the emotions being conveyed? The mood can be manipulated using well-placed color filters.

7). Naturalism: The lighting should be appropriate from the performance point of view. The placement of lanterns around the stage should create a natural look for the setting unless it is intentionally unnatural.

Stage lighting can be a complex endeavor if you are not an expert. You need to have a firm grasp of the dynamics between space and performance, and the technical nuances of lighting to properly light up a small stage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any benefits of providing good lighting on a small stage?

Yes, there are many benefits of providing good lighting, even on a small stage. One of the benefits of good lighting is that it ensures that every audience member can view the stage without difficulties. Proper lighting will allow them to fully enjoy the performance. 

Good lighting engages the audience. Many people fail to realize the power of good lighting on a stage. If there’s an area you want to direct the attention of the audience to, lighting can do just that. For example, you can use a spotlight to have the audience fixed on a certain spot. 

With the right lighting, you can also evoke emotions within the audience. If you want the viewers to feel rage, you can put on red lighting and have it in a position that evokes the feeling. 

Good lighting enables the audience to know the roles of the performance. If there are multiple people on the stage, it might be hard for the audience to know who the main character is. But when you spotlight a person, the audience has a better grasp of the roles of each individual.

Good lighting also enhances sound effects. Sound effects and good lighting complement each other allowing for a realistic performance. If you have a melancholy sound, you can use lights that go with it.

One of the most important benefits of good lighting on a small stage, especially during plays, is the realism it creates. Lighting can project images, emotions, tones, and hold the focus of the stage. It makes the audience in tune with the performance by making it real. 

What are the best instruments for lighting effects for a small stage?

Go Between Optics (Goes Before Optics/Gobos) and a beam projector are the best lighting effects for a small stage. Gobos can be useful on a small stage to create focus. It is a round disc of glass or metal that is useful in lighting to create a pattern or image. 

The light shines through it to project an image onto a surface. During events on stage, you can use it to highlight a message, place the audience’s focus on a logo, or create patterns.

A beam projector is an instrument that creates small beams on stage. It doesn’t use lenses, and it spreads rays on stage by using two reflectors. The main one, which is a parabolic reflector, places the light into parallel beams. While the other reflector, which is the spherical reflector, stays in front of a lamp to reflect the light to the main reflector.

Does lighting on a small stage have to be expensive?

No, lighting on a small stage doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t need a lot of lighting on stage except the ones that go along with the performance. However, despite your budget, you should not compromise on good lighting because it’s very important for great performance.