The Focus Session
Depending on the relative trims of the electrics
and the borders, it may be necessary to cut the shut-
ters even more. If light is hitting the back of a bor-
der, it should be shuttered to eliminate that spill.
Although some light may be lost, it will prevent light
from bouncing off the back of the downstage bor-
der, onto the next border upstage of the electric. Not
shuttering the light would reduce the effect of a clean
black environment. More than that, however, it’s also
a matter of safety.
Shelley’s Golden Rule: Cut
Light off Close Combustibles
Sometimes instruments are hung in locations so tight
that the units are close to soft goods or other objects
that can burn. Flame-retardant products can be
applied to fabric to reduce the chance that the heat
from an instrument could start a fire. In addition,
several different fabrics that are constructed of heat-
insulating material can be draped between the instru-
ment and anything combustible.
As the lighting designer, you shouldn’t have to
worry if the hanging location of the instruments is
close to soft goods or scenery. From a perspective
of time management, however, it’s wise to watch
for these potential problems. Unnoticed, fixing fire
safety issues can later consume time that was sched-
uled to complete electrical tasks. Setting the trims
can be delayed when the electrics have to be low-
ered down to the stage so heat-resistant material
can be tied to the batten. Worse yet is losing focus
time while the focusing electrician ties heat-insulat-
ing material to the batten in the air. If there’s no
material to insulate the instrument, it may be neces-
sary to rehang the unit, the electric, or just turn the
instrument off.
In addition to the heat of the instrument itself,
the heat of the beam coming out of the unit can be
intense enough to start a fire. As such, beams splash-
ing on soft goods close to the instrument can not
only be a visual distraction, they can, more impor-
tant, be a potential fire-starter. Overhead sidelight,
downlight, backlight, and boom sidelight are all sys-
tems that may require an additional shutter cut to
be certain there’s no chance that their beams could
make the masking smolder. During the focus, be
aware of this hazard and address it. Never allow
carelessness on your part contribute to a disaster.
If you’re not convinced, look up any of the num-
bers of tragedies involving fire in the history of theatre.
It’s sobering, and often the fire’s cause was eventually
traced to a thoughtless person. As a member of the
theatrical community, matters of fire safety should be
burned deep in your mind. As one of the people in
Figure 12.30 The Focused Overhead Sidelight Pools After Shuttering
1 PIPE #2
2 PIPE #2
4 PIPE #2
5 PIPE #2

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