The Light Plot, Section,
and Support Paperwork
The basic document of almost every lighting design,
and the basis for the initial paperwork packet, is the
completed light plot. Without the visualized graphic
of a plot, it’s almost impossible to define a basis for
the remaining information. The finished lighting sec-
tion is usually the companion document to the plot,
graphically showing how many of the lighting sys-
tems relate to one another, and how the components
of the light plot relate to the surrounding production
elements and the performance facility.
The graphic representation of the instruments
in the light plot often displays only a portion of the
information about each instrument. The detailed data
about all of the instruments comprise the lighting
database, which can be sorted into different reports,
collectively known as support paperwork. These
reports almost always include the instrument sched-
ule and the channel hookup, and may also include the
circuitry schedule and the dimmer schedule.
If elements on the stage change focus, color, or
channel identity during the production, color cards
and floor cards are created to direct and document
the progression of those changes.
The components of the light plot often need to
be reduced to a list of raw numbers defining the ele-
ments required to install the lighting package. The
cut color sheet lists the number of gels required at
each hanging location, for each color frame size in
the light plot. The template sheet lists the templates
required at each hanging location, for each template
holder size in the light plot. Manufacturer’s cut sheets
that were used while the systems were constructed are
still included in the back of the production notebook,
along with any manuals detailing information about
the use and configuration of the different electrical
devices and components of the lighting package.
THE LIGHT PLOT
The finished light plot is the map showing all of the
lighting instruments and electrical devices, their con-
trol assignments, as well as their relative hanging loca-
tions in the performance space. This version of the
plot serves to graphically communicate the number,
location, and types of lighting instruments used in the
production. It may also furnish information about
the color, circuitry, and focus of each instrument.
Though it doesn’t need to be as detailed as the scenic
designer’s groundplan, the light plot often includes
the spatial information about the architecture, mask-
ing, scenery in the air, where (and when) important
scenery or properties are located on the stage, and the
numbers and types of backdrops.
As the document’s creator, the lighting designer
has a choice about the amount of information that
is shown on this published version of the light plot.
The map can provide as much, or as little, informa-
tion as he or she sees fit. Some designers insist that
the less basic information shown on the plot directly
translates into the greater number of questions that
require an answer during the load-in. Others believe
that the graphic outline of the instrument, and its
unit number, is enough data to include on the plot;
more text makes the plot look messy, and the rest
of the data can be found in the support paperwork.