A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO STAGE LIGHTING
Usually the top row is focused first, to reduce the
chance that there will be dark spots between the top
row and the bottom row. If the bottom row needs to
be raised to achieve smooth coverage, facial front-
light may fill in any darkness at the bottom of the
drop. After all of the instruments are pointed and
locked, Figure 12.14B shows how the shutters would
be cut to the shape of the drop. When the shutter cuts
are made, no tiny circular edges from the beams will
be left in the corners of the drop.
While the drop is now evenly lit it’s worth point-
ing out, however, that the hanging position is so low
that anyone standing in front of the drop will cast
his or her shadow onto the drop (Figure 12.14C).
If there will be extensive performer activity, it may
make sense to consider raising the focus of the instru-
ments (or consider a higher hanging location).
Figure 12.15A shows the focus of what will be
a partial drop wash. The focus points have been
raised so that after shuttering, more light gets out of
the instruments (Figure 12.15B). This provides more
light on the drop, and reduces the amount of shut-
ter burn inside the instrument. When shuttered, the
bottom cuts are above the performer’s head (Figure
The drop should be investigated before the plot is
constructed, and examined before the focus session.
If the drop has a painted sky or some other design
element, Figure 12.16A shows how a reduced drop
wash using only three instruments might be pointed.
Figure 12.16B shows the bottom cuts shuttered
in to blend into the horizon line of the drop. After
the shutter cuts are complete, the top “sky” of the
drop is illuminated, and the bottom cuts are above the
performer’s head (Figure 12.16C).
Leg Wash Analysis
Unlike black legs that try to disappear, scenic legs
contain a design element that’s intended to be seen.
In most cases, scenic legs are hung equidistant from
center, so that each pair of legs provides the same leg
opening width. Lighting scenic legs can be frustrat-
ing. Attempting to illuminate the legs with instru-
ments hung directly downstage on the balcony rail
will result in lighting only the first leg and leaving the
rest of the legs in shadow. If the same instrument is
panned across and focused onto the legs on the oppo-
site side of the stage, however, all of the legs receive
light. To light as much of the legs as far offstage as
possible (and reduce the chance of shadows being cast
on upstage legs), the instruments used for a leg wash
often get hung as far from centerline as possible, and
focused as cross-shots, across the stage.
The same light, focused onto the opposite legs,
will also cast light on the proscenium or borders,
causing sharp shadow lines on the legs. Because of
that, the lowest border is often viewed as the verti-
cal constraint. The top shutter, cutting light off the
border, eliminates the sharp border shadow. Once the
Figure 12.15 A Raised Partial Drop Focus Before and After Shuttering
Figure 12.16 A Reduced Drop Focus Before and After Shuttering