The Load-In and Setup
Once there, they are often equipped with a tape mea-
sure, all of the channels are turned on, and the over-
head striplights are flown out to trim. Keeping them
all turned on allows the designer to see how they are
spreading on the goods as they fly out. It also allows
everyone to see if, for some reason, a circuit unplugs
on the way out to trim.
Striplights that make up the groundrow are preset
much the same way. Again, matching the instruments
to each other is of prime importance. Almost every-
thing is the same between the two positions, regard-
less of the unit type. The usual difference, though,
is in the way they prefocus. While overhead strips
usually prefocus straight down, groundrow strip-
light bodies are typically preset slightly tipped, facing
upstage into the bounce, or downstage into the trans.
Because they tip, it’s more important that the color
frame holders slots are “up,” so that the color frames
can’t fall out. The other main difference is one of tim-
ing and preset placement. If the groundrow’s playing
position is directly under the overhead striplights, it’s
often assembled some distance upstage or downstage
of its final placement. That way a ladder, if need be,
can move back and forth in its absence to focus the
overhead position.
Using zoom ellipsoidals can be another element
that may impact the speed of the focus. Trying to
determine the positions of both lenses while on a lad-
der, especially for folks not familiar with the units,
can slow a focus session to a crawl. Presetting the
lens positions of zoom ellipsoidals (or the beam size
of fresnels, for that matter) can be accomplished
while the instruments are being hung. Typically, this
technique is most useful when zoom instruments are
plotted for entire systems of light. It requires a little
homework on the part of the lighting designer, which
is done prior to the load-in. First, a sectional beam
drawing defines the actual throw distance for each
instrument from each hanging position. If the zooms
are used in a lot of different systems hung at different
distances, some time will be spent constructing the
drawings. As the hang is taking place, a single zoom
is placed some distance from an un-obscured wall.
The actual throw distance for each instrument or
system is measured from the instrument to the wall.
Likewise, the desired beam pool size is measured out
on the wall. The sample zoom is then moved to each
measured location, and its focus knobs are adjusted
to match the desired diameter. The knob positions
(or the number of rotations for fresnel instruments)
are recorded for each actual throw distance, and then
applied to each system’s instrument in the hang.
Once the instruments are hung, plugged, colored,
accessorized, and prefocused, the hang is complete
and the instruments are ready to be tested.
Final on-site positions for sidelight booms are often
defined by a combination of four elements: the initial
plan, combined with the specific environment sur-
rounding each location, personal experience, and gut
The ideal system is created when all of the
positions are located equidistant from centerline,
safely secured and hidden from the audience, and
each system on the combined booms provide an
even blend of light, covering the entire depth of
the performance space. In order to achieve that
even blend for each system, the lenses for all of
those instruments on the booms are placed at the
same distance from centerline. Presuming all of the
instruments are the same type and the same watt-
age, the light beams in that system should then be
matching intensities.
On and Offstage
The distance from centerline usually begins with
a distance far enough offstage to be concealed by
masking legs. That distance is then checked against
the beam size produced by instruments focused on
the near side of the stage. Usually, the field spread
of those instruments is large enough so that light
from the “near focus” instruments splashes the near
masking legs. Often this means the instruments
lenses are placed somewhere between 8-0 and 12-0
offstage of the onstage edge of the black masking
After that initial placement, however, the ele-
ments of the surrounding environment have to be
considered. One element that may alter this location
are the side sightlines from the audience. Common
practice dictates that the lenses of the instruments
should not be visible to the audience, and booms may
need to move farther offstage to be concealed from
The length of the overhead battens can also
affect the distance. When sidelight booms are located
under overhead electrics, they’re often positioned
offstage of the end of the batten pipe, so the elec-
tric can still be lowered to the deck without hitting
the sidelights. Often, however, the battens are just
too long, and extend too far offstage. If the booms
are moved far enough offstage to clear the battens,
they may become ineffective. Often, the choice made
is to place the boom directly underneath the overhead
electric in that opening. The calculated gamble is that
the electric batten will less likely need to be lowered
to the deck than any adjacent battens, which may be
weighted with scenery.

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