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A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO STAGE LIGHTING
director asks the lighting designer if the electric can
be raised. If the electric is raised too far, focused light
from some of the instruments may splash onto the
#1 black border (lineset 14), which has already been
trimmed. In addition to that, the increase in height
may hamper the focus range of any instruments tar-
geted to focus points downstage of the portal border.
To provide an accurate response, the lighting designer
first consults the light plot, determining the farthest
upstage and downstage focus points assigned to the
instruments on that electric.
Since the instruments have not yet been focused,
the section is also consulted. According to the light
plot, the farthest upstage beam edges will be the first
electric frontlight system controlled by channels 6 > 8
and 16 > 18. According to the section, those beams
will land at 20-0 upstage of plaster line. That mea-
surement is in line with the #3 black masking legs.
The lighting designer then crouches so that his or her
head is at that location on the deck, and looks up at
the first electric. If the lenses on the electric can be
clearly seen, then the electric may be raised. If the
lenses can’t be seen, then either the #1 black border
will have to be raised, or the electric will have to be
lowered. If the electric is lowered, then the portal
black border will have to drop in as well to conceal
the first electric. When the lighting designer looks up,
the lenses can’t be seen. Rather than lower the down-
stage goods, the #1 border and the first electric are
raised, until the lenses disappear behind the black
portal border from the carpenter’s viewpoint in the
sightline seat and the lighting designer can still see the
lenses of the first electric crouched at the 20-0 mark
on the stage. Since the #2 and #3 black borders are
still at their original trim, the height of the stage pic-
ture is preserved. Once the lighting designer checks
to confirm that beams from the first electric pipe end
instruments will still be able to focus “under” the
portal border to any downstage focus points as well,
the current status of the battens is declared satisfac-
tory, and both battens are locked off.
This process of negotiation continues upstage
until all of the electrics are hidden, the focus of each
lighting instrument is retained without being blocked
by black borders, and the vertical height of the
stage opening mirrors the drawn intent as closely as
possible. Once the sixth electric is trimmed so that
the MR-16 striplights are even with the system pipe
of the translucency, the entire stage picture is viewed
from the sightline in the audience to confirm that
everything is hidden. Once declared that this is the
final trim, the flyperson then places spike marks on
the operating ropes, marking the performance posi-
tions of all of the goods. After all of the spike marks
have been placed, the trim session is complete.
Shelley’s Notes:
Trimming
Although concealing the electrics is often the ideal,
in reality that may not be possible. In the initial dis-
cussion, one realistic possibility was that the audi-
ence seating was too close to plaster line; successfully
hiding the electrics from the designated sightline seat
was counterproductive to the overall visual design of
the production. In that situation, the choice is often
made to retain the integrity of the stage picture for
the majority of the audience. While the first or second
row may look up and see the instruments’ lenses, a
seat in the second or third row is designated as the
new on-site sightline seat.
If a midstage drop is involved in a quick tran-
sition during the production, its low trim is often
established after the trim of the black surround has
beencompleted.Droppingthegoodssothebottom
pipe loaded in the drop hits the stage then visually
confirms that the top of the drop won’t be seen. Once
the in-trim has been spiked, however, the drop may
merely be flown out for storage. This may result in the
system batten possibly being taken all the way to the
grid. If this isn’t noticed, when the cue is given for the
drop to fly in during the transition, seconds will be lost
before the bottom of the drop is seen under the bottom
of the borders. The overall time spent for the transi-
tion may be needlessly increased. To avoid that, once
the drop’s in-trim is spiked, the drop should then be
flown out only until the bottom of the drop is above
any instrument’s focus and the masking border hides
the bottom of the drop. Once hidden, the “out-trim”
spike for the drop can then be marked.
When the midstage drop is lowered to establish
its in-trim, and the top of the drop (and its batten) is
revealed, the next black border immediately down-
stage of the drop may also have to be lowered in
order to cover the top of the midstage drop. A second
spike mark will also then be placed on the black bor-
der, and it will move in tandem with the same fly cues
that lower and raise the midstage drop.
If the show has several pieces of scenery flying
in and out during the course of the show, it’s wise to
establish and check all of the trims before telling the
fly crew to spike the trims. Asking folks to do the same
task again begins to chafe at their interest factor.
While electrics are being trimmed, the decision
must be made whether to attach the measuring tape
to the lens of the instrument or to the system pipe.
I prefer now to attach the measuring tape to the
pipe. It’s easier to remember. When I was younger,
I attached the tape to the lens of the longest instru-
ment. People change.

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