A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO STAGE LIGHTING
mounted on vertical booms, adjacent to the sides of
the goods. In that arrangement, the same instruments
are then collectively called vertical toning strips, or
If the goods consist of an opaque painted drop,
the entire overhead striplight electric and the strip-
light groundrow are shifted to the downstage side
of the goods, in order to light the face of the drop.
Sometimes a short constructed flat, called a scenic
groundrow, is placed immediately downstage of a
drop to hide the silhouettes of the striplight ground-
row and their light leaks. If no adjacent room for
striplights exists downstage of a drop, illumination
must come from other sources.
Generally speaking, the remaining choices are
either low, medium, or high. Low positions include
cyc troughs, footlights, or lighting positions in the
orchestra pit. Medium hanging possibilities include
instruments on stands in the downstage leg openings
or the FOH balcony rail. And high choices include
overhead electrics, or FOH hanging positions. Almost
all of these hanging positions aren’t close to the drops,
so the lighting instruments used are no longer strip-
lights, they’re other types of lighting instruments.
Lighting downstage drops means the goods are
closer to plaster line, and therefore they might be lit
by more hanging locations in the FOH. In most cases,
lighting drops from the house usually translates into
instruments hung on the balcony rail or somewhere
that shoot “straight in” to the drop. Since there is no
need to provide three-dimensionality, the instruments
are usually positioned so that they focus straight into
the goods. While frontlight positions might be consid-
ered, the lower the position, the easier it is to provide
light as high as possible on the drop, up under the
In many cases, regardless of their hanging posi-
tion, any instruments primarily assigned to provide
illumination onto a backdrop or goods is still often
called a drop wash.
Overhead Template Wash
Other systems are named using a direction and a mod-
ifier. A template wash refers to a system of light that,
rather than a smooth blended wash, is “broken up”
or textured. A template wash can be focused towards
a piece of scenery or a backdrop and assigned that
name: the “mountain template wash,” or the “sky
temps,” for example. It might also be assigned to side-
light booms or the balcony rail. But an overhead tem-
plate wash almost always implies a wash designed to
focus down and cover the performance surface.
These days the word “template” refers to many
objects and devices that can be inserted into the
optics of an ellipsoidal lighting instrument. For many
old-school designers, the term still refers back to
the original object, a thin piece of metal with holes.
Once inserted into an ellipsoidal, the light beam is
reshaped to mimic the design of the holes. Since tem-
plates “break up” the light coming out of an ellipsoi-
dal, they’re perceived as producing “textured” light.
Depending on the angle, direction, color, intensity,
and movement, templated light can define a location,
provide dimensionality, establish a time of day, or
evoke a feeling. They’re usually used in four main
First, templates can be focused from overhead
positions to produce textured light on horizontal sur-
faces, like a stage. A templated ellipsoidal, equipped
with a window template, produces that pattern of
light on the floor, and can define the scene’s loca-
tion as an interior. If, instead, the window gobo is
exchanged for a tree branch template, that pattern
will be projected onto the floor, re-establishing the
scene as an exterior. An abstract “breakup” pattern,
on the other hand, might project mere blobs of light
onto the stage, and affect the audience’s perception of
the scene, rather than the placement.
Second, templates can be used to add texture
and dimensionality onto vertical scenery. If a lake is
painted onto a backdrop, a templated instrument can
be focused onto the water. After being shuttered to
the boundaries of the water in a soft-edged focus, the
mottled spots of light will add texture to the lake.
The movement of a film loop (inserted into the same
instrument) in the same focus can increase the illu-
sion. If a scenic design consists of several walls, on
the other hand, a system of templated instruments
can be focused high on the walls. At a reduced inten-
sity, the breakup pattern can visually add texture and
subtle interest to the flat surfaces.
Third, templates can be used to supply texture
and dimensionality to animate or inanimate objects on
the stage. One example of this is templates inserted in
low-hung sidelights. When focused as part of a typical
boom sidelight wash, the “mottled” light can be seen
on the sides of performers’ bodies as they move about
the stage. Another example is when templates are
projected onto a unit set centered on the stage. When
templated light is projected onto the scenery, it adds
dimension to the otherwise flat surfaces.
Finally, templates can be used to apply texture
to the air. When haze is used in a show, it’s often not
seen until light beams strike the particles in the air.
Light beams, otherwise unnoticed, can change the
look and perception of an entire scene, shaped by
the different shafts of light now seen by the introduc-
tion of the haze. The number of beams (defined by the
number of holes) from a templated unit can give the
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