A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO STAGE LIGHTING
of each beam of straight frontlight have been
placed along the apron, or on the seating in the
house, or webbings have been taped down.
has been defined. Or, if the performance surface
isn’t installed before the focus session begins,
spike marks have been placed to indicate the
future downstage edge.
Where’s the Downstage Edge?
Sometimes the frontlight gets focused before the per-
formance surface can get installed. If the downstage
edge of the frontlight will require a cut, the planned
location of the downstage edge of the performance sur-
face may become important to the lighting designer.
Why? If the performance surface is black but
doesn’t cover the light-colored apron, the frontlight
may make the exposed apron glow like neon. Or the
shadows from the backlight, otherwise undetected,
may be seen on the apron, and might steal stage focus
from the performers. The typical solution for this sit-
uation is to cover the surface of the exposed apron
with velour or material matching the color of the per-
formance surface. If the downstage edge of the per-
formance surface ends up nowhere near the location
agreed upon, on the other hand, alternate choices
may have to be made. In most cases, efforts to mask
the exposed apron will be faster and better for the
show than changing the focus of the backlight. Better
yet, if the downstage edge location can be determined
prior to the focus, the appropriate cuts can be made,
and the additional effort can be avoided altogether.
Whenever possible, avoid situations in which the
entire electrics department is on hold, waiting for the
downstage edge to be determined by being physi-
cally installed. I have memories of focusing electri-
cians, sitting on ladders, surrounded by folks ready
to move them, waiting at the edges of the stage, while
I’m haggling with the production carpenter about the
placement of the downstage edge. A conversation
that should have taken place long before that partic-
ular moment. I remember that, and when it happens
again, I now instead make a conservative estimate
based on my best judgment, and move on. Stop wait-
ing for the downstage edge.
In a larger sense, it’s just as wise to define the
location of the downstage edge of the stage prior to
the focus session. Many theatres are equipped with
hydraulic pit lifts, which can be lowered to increase
the size of the orchestra pit, or raised to increase the
size of the apron. If the decision is made to keep the
pit lift in the “up” position for the show, then the
frontlight can extend downstage onto the apron.
This additional light may be useful to illuminate per-
formers who cross downstage of the light line during
the bows. If the pit lift’s position is lowered after the
focus, however, the frontlight focus should be imme-
diately checked. The bottom beam edges may now
be splashing onto the front edge of the stage, gaining
much more visual attention than desired.
Straight Frontlight Focus
The Hokey light plot has two straight frontlight
washes on the FOH truss, colored in Roscolux 33
and Lee 161. Instruments hung on the first and sec-
ond overhead electrics provide the upstage zones for
Figure 12.3 shows channels 1 > 5, the instru-
ments highlighted inside rectangles on the FOH truss.
Colored in Roscolux 33, they’ll be focused as the first
zone in the pink straight frontlight system for Hokey.
The apron spike marks, along with the front zone 1
centerline spike mark, provide the triangulation for
the focus points. The same focus will be duplicated
for channels 11 > 15, the Lee 161 blue frontlight
wash. The first instrument that will be focused is unit
#6, which will be focused on centerline.
Figure 12.4 is an abbreviated focus chart. The num-
ber in the small circle, located in the upper left-hand
corner, is the channel number. The text under the circle
is the position and the unit number. The large circle
in the middle of the drawing represents the unshaped
beam of light (seen as if the viewer were standing behind
the instrument). The text inside the circle indicates the
X and Y coordinates of the focus point. Lines running
through the circle indicate shutter or barndoor cuts.
The small rectangles on the right side show the barrel
softness of the instrument (Soft, Medium, or Sharp).
In this case, truss unit #6 is controlled by chan-
nel 3. The focus point is on centerline, 3′-0″ upstage
of plaster line. The barrel will be moved to provide a
medium soft beam edge. The upstage shutter cut will
be 20′-0″ upstage of plaster line or at the #3 leg line.
The downstage cut will be out of the orchestra pit or
to the edge of the performance surface.
Figure 12.5 shows channels 1 > 5, after the five
instruments have been pointed. Channels 1 and 5 will
require side cuts to keep light off the black masking
legs. All five channels will require top cuts off of the
scenic stack (or the #3 leg line), and bottom cuts to
the edge of the performance surface.
Figure 12.6 shows channels 1 > 5 after the shut-
ter cuts have been executed. To achieve side-to-side
blending, all of the barrels are medium soft. Though
these diagrams show all of the instruments pointed,