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Theatre Lighting and Cinematography


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#1 Justin W. King

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Posted 24 September 2006 - 09:40 PM

I am a lighting designer, and plan to go to graduate school at NYU, to study design for theatre and film. instead of joining the film program. What are your thoughts about making a transition from theatre lighting to film cinematography. I have shot several short films, have a solid grasp of lighting for video and film. What recomendations would you make about working in both fields.

Justin W. King

Edited by Justin W. King, 24 September 2006 - 09:42 PM.

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#2 Maggie Cerminaro

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Posted 25 September 2006 - 10:32 PM

I am a lighting designer, and plan to go to graduate school at NYU, to study design for theatre and film. instead of joining the film program. What are your thoughts about making a transition from theatre lighting to film cinematography. I have shot several short films, have a solid grasp of lighting for video and film. What recomendations would you make about working in both fields.

Justin W. King

Hello Justin,
Our film festival, www.ojaifilmfestival.com is featuring two workshops with Laszlo Kovacs. I am trying to get the word out to film students who would benefit from a close encounter with a cinematic giant. Can you help me out? I am offering free tickets...805-640-1947
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#3 Oscar Godfrey

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 12:29 PM

I am about to join a theatre group to learn about lighting, writing, directing and everything really. I think it will be an excellent way to learn many of the base skills needed for film making. Of course there are differences but still i think it will be good and i like theatre anyway. I don't know how the skills will transfer but i'm sure it will be helpfull.
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#4 Matt Workman

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Posted 01 October 2006 - 11:58 PM

Hi Justin,

I have been working at my schools theater department quite a bit. I'm taking a class on lighting and electricity and I'm working as an electrician. I get to see the lighting designers plot which is always interesting and I'll be hanging and focusing for about 2 days straight.

I think "theater" lighting can be used in a derrogatory way in film sometimes. Think: super-blue moon light, spot light reveals and dims, super saturated color washes, rotating cookies, dichronic filters etc.

I've been learning a lot about working in a studio and various motivations for lighting in regards to narrative and mood. I think that if you understand light in any fashion you can transition into shooting.

Check out some of the pictures from my school black box theater. Its similar to the Soundstage @ NYU.
http://www.mattworkm...wforum.php?f=21

University of Rochester : Todd Theater
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NYU : Todman Soundstage
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Similar raceways and dimmer boards. Same type of flats. Different lights though.

Matt :ph34r:

Edited by Matt Workman, 01 October 2006 - 11:58 PM.

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#5 Justin W. King

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Posted 11 October 2006 - 11:47 PM

I first began lighting working with television for speakers, then transitioned to theatre, but I watched movies to learn to light thatre. Now I am thinking of making the transition back to film.

I first began lighting working with television for speakers, then transitioned to theatre, but I watched movies to learn to light thatre. Now I am thinking of making the transition back to film.
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#6 Bob Hayes

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Posted 12 October 2006 - 01:03 AM

I spent quite a lot of time studying theater lighting and it was great. I had a great lighting teacher Lee Strasburg at UCSB. I learned to diagram lighting, color theory, how to run a dimmer board, how to light areas, and how to create mood with light. Also because I was involved in the theater department I was exposed to many different forms of drama instead of just screenplays. It was great.
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#7 Justin W. King

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Posted 26 October 2006 - 11:59 PM

I spent quite a lot of time studying theater lighting and it was great. I had a great lighting teacher Lee Strasburg at UCSB. I learned to diagram lighting, color theory, how to run a dimmer board, how to light areas, and how to create mood with light. Also because I was involved in the theater department I was exposed to many different forms of drama instead of just screenplays. It was great.


That is cool. After studying theatrical lighting there, what direction did you move in? Is it possible to work in both theatre and film? I am planning on graduate school in New York, which has a lot of both. Do I need to go to school, or can I continue learning the rest by reading, and practice. I have had some experience with 16mm film, and videolighting/cinematography. I just wanted to know what your experience was like.
Thankyou,
Justin W. King
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#8 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 01:56 AM

I am a lighting designer, and plan to go to graduate school at NYU, to study design for theatre and film. instead of joining the film program. What are your thoughts about making a transition from theatre lighting to film cinematography. I have shot several short films, have a solid grasp of lighting for video and film. What recomendations would you make about working in both fields.

Justin W. King


If you have a background in both theatical and Cinematic lighting then you should know they're two different animals. Theatrical lighting tends to be dynamic, moving and flowing from scene to scene as the play progresses. Cinematic lighting tends to be static and much more precise with reguards to color, temprature, direction and spill than theartical lighting. Theatrical lighting rarely takes into account reflected light and the use of daylight as a tool were as cinematic lighting utterly depends on it in many instances. Terminology is different for each disapline though there is some crossover. The equipment for each is different as well, though again, there is some crossover. I have done theartical lighting for several plays and have also working as a lighting grip on a few movies. I can say without hesitation that being a lighting designer in the theater will not give you the nessesary skills to light a movie and vise-versa. You will have to learn both disaplines to work in both feilds. B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 27 October 2006 - 01:57 AM.

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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 06:35 AM

Hi,

I grew up around theatres, my parents are both involved.

As far as the equipment goes, I have some useful contacts in the local theatrical and club lighting scene, and I use theatrical lighting gear all the time. I don't see that there's a problem with doing that; something like a Source 4 is the same item anyway. After a certain point, a light is a light.

But the technique is somewhat different, yes.

Phil
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#10 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 01:51 AM

Light is not light, that's why they have flicker free ballests and half silks. Cinematic lighting eguipment have precise color tempratures and very differnt lamps. You will never see a 2K HMI, Mole fay, 4x4 checkerboard reflector, Kino or 1K Nook used in in the theater and it is very unlikely that you'll see a 6' ellipsodial, or follow spot on a movie set. Lighting requirments for the theater and film set are very DIFFERENT. You might put a light orange gel on a Fresnel in the theater but no one is going to refer to it as a 1/4 CTO. Likewise you'll never see a full flag on a C-stand bring used in a summer stock production of Death of a Salesman. In the theater you will be using a dimmer board but on a filmset it'll be a Variac. If a movie comes into town try and get a job on the crew. You will see right away what translates from your theatrical expirence and what does not and you WILL be amazed at how little DOES translate. B)
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#11 Chris Keth

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 03:46 PM

Light is not light, that's why they have flicker free ballests and half silks. Cinematic lighting eguipment have precise color tempratures and very differnt lamps. You will never see a 2K HMI, Mole fay, 4x4 checkerboard reflector, Kino or 1K Nook used in in the theater and it is very unlikely that you'll see a 6' ellipsodial, or follow spot on a movie set. Lighting requirments for the theater and film set are very DIFFERENT. You might put a light orange gel on a Fresnel in the theater but no one is going to refer to it as a 1/4 CTO. Likewise you'll never see a full flag on a C-stand bring used in a summer stock production of Death of a Salesman. In the theater you will be using a dimmer board but on a filmset it'll be a Variac. If a movie comes into town try and get a job on the crew. You will see right away what translates from your theatrical expirence and what does not and you WILL be amazed at how little DOES translate. B)


Light IS light. The approach and exact tools are different as you state. Think of it like being a pianist who plays both classical music and jazz. The notes are the same but the thought process and requirments are entirely different. Some people can understand this and can do both, some can't.
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#12 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 09 November 2006 - 04:10 PM

Light is not light, that's why they have flicker free ballests and half silks. Cinematic lighting eguipment have precise color tempratures and very differnt lamps. You will never see a 2K HMI, Mole fay, 4x4 checkerboard reflector, Kino or 1K Nook used in in the theater and it is very unlikely that you'll see a 6' ellipsodial, or follow spot on a movie set. Lighting requirments for the theater and film set are very DIFFERENT. You might put a light orange gel on a Fresnel in the theater but no one is going to refer to it as a 1/4 CTO. Likewise you'll never see a full flag on a C-stand bring used in a summer stock production of Death of a Salesman. In the theater you will be using a dimmer board but on a filmset it'll be a Variac. If a movie comes into town try and get a job on the crew. You will see right away what translates from your theatrical expirence and what does not and you WILL be amazed at how little DOES translate. B)


Sorry James, but light IS light, it's just the lamps that differ. Dimmer boards are used all the time on films, and 1/4 CTO is just that. The theatre lighting techs I know have practically memorised the LEE swatchbook, and would never confuse Orange with CTO.

I use Source 4's all the time on music videos, and have used all kinds of theatrical lights in the past - if it looks good, it gets used.
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#13 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 16 November 2006 - 02:17 AM

Light IS light. The approach and exact tools are different as you state. Think of it like being a pianist who plays both classical music and jazz. The notes are the same but the thought process and requirments are entirely different. Some people can understand this and can do both, some can't.


And when was the last time you hear Eddie Van Halen blast out the Moonlight Senada though a Marshell amp. It IS ALSO NOT the same if Isack Perilman fiddles out Hot for Teacher on a Statavarious. Light is NOT light, I KNOW, I've HAVE done BOTH. I'm not saying you can't DO both, I have so I know you can, I'm saying you will have to learn both to DO both.

Sorry James, but light IS light, it's just the lamps that differ. Dimmer boards are used all the time on films, and 1/4 CTO is just that. The theatre lighting techs I know have practically memorised the LEE swatchbook, and would never confuse Orange with CTO.

I use Source 4's all the time on music videos, and have used all kinds of theatrical lights in the past - if it looks good, it gets used.


Maybe in your nick of the woods but I've been on 5 films as a lighting grip and haven't seen one yet. In fact when my friend who owns a pair of lighting and grip trucks wanted to use a dimmer board for a video shoot of extravigant party where the lighting had to be both for the event it's self and also accomedate video of the event, he borrowed MY lighting board and power pack because in ALL that 3/4's of a Million doller equipment he had on the trucks, there wasn't a SINGLE lighting board to be found because, WE NEVER USE THEM FOR FILM. I never said a competent theater tech would confuse the orange and 1/4 CTO, just that they PROBABLY wouldn't CALL it !/4 CTO because theatrical lighting IS NOT movie lighting.

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 16 November 2006 - 02:22 AM.

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#14 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 16 November 2006 - 02:28 AM

I use Source 4's all the time on music videos, and have used all kinds of theatrical lights in the past - if it looks good, it gets used.

As for you using Source 4's, you use what ya got, that doesn't make it right for the job, besides who's going to notice a little light flicker in a music video, try using it for a feature shot on 35 for theatrical release and you'll change your tune.
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#15 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 16 November 2006 - 05:25 AM

As for you using Source 4's, you use what ya got, that doesn't make it right for the job, besides who's going to notice a little light flicker in a music video, try using it for a feature shot on 35 for theatrical release and you'll change your tune.


I use Source 4s precisely because they ARE right for the job. They're not forced on me, I use them when appropriate.

As for them being used on features, it happens all the time. Mauro Fiore used a lot of them on 'The Island' and Matty Libatique uses theatrical lamps frequently. There are many other 'A' list DPs that use them. It's whatever is right for the task in hand.

Just becasue you've never seen it, doesn't mean it doesn't happen.
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#16 Hal Smith

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Posted 16 November 2006 - 06:47 AM

The river flows both ways, I use the Rosco CC series of gels all the time in my theatrical lighting designs. I've also been known to use fractional CTO's and CTB's from time to time. Haven't used a minus green yet - but I will some day. Color is color and the Cinematography gels are a little more "scientific" to use. I still use the more traditional theatrical gels but not as much as I used to.

I'm curious as to where the "flicker" and color temperature folklore got started. Modern theatrical fixtures use the same tungsten halogen lamps as movie fixtures. If I use an HPL575 or HPL750 in Source Fours or BTR/BTL's in 6" Fresnels un-dimmed I'm going to get 3200K and no flicker. It's not uncommon to see long life lamps like HPL575X's in use in S4's but a quick look at their datasheet will show they aren't 3200K, they're 2950K or so because any long life bulb runs the filament at a cooler temperature. My Cyberlights run MSR1200/2 lamps (MSR is Phillips' version of HMI). When reasonably fresh they're 5600K and just like HMI's CT will sag as they age. They have magnetic ballasts and would require flicker safe frame rates if used for filming.

Dimming does lower the voltage and therefore warms the color temperature. The dance of CT and gel color exists in the theatrical world also. I lit a one woman show a couple of months ago where I used a ton of fixtures to get soft lighting. I went in knowing I'd be running everything dimmed at about 40-50% and selected gels accordingly. Wide open and with gels pulled I would have had about 500FC on stage - and probably would have set my Broadway star leading lady's hair on fire. When a local Videographer taped it for a local interest segment on OKC's NBC affiliate he simply white balanced to a white set piece on stage and his video looked just fine on the air.

If they weren't so darn expensive I'd use scrims onstage to keep the CT up when I wanted to lower intensity but not CT. That would be handy lighting with highly saturated colors where I wanted to maintain the blue spectrum but didn't need full intensity. ND works but I like the idea of using scrim sets.
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#17 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 16 November 2006 - 11:10 PM

What are your thoughts about making a transition from theatre lighting to film cinematography.

Justin W. King


When comparing the two I keep "the man" Vittorio Storaro in mind. After shooting a few features and already being a much respected cinematographer, he decided to take a few years off to do theatrical lighting and really study the psychology of color.

If you watch certain films of his (namely "One from the Heart" and "Goya in Bordeaux") you can really see his theatrical influences.

So I think learning theatrical lighting and getting to see on a nightly basis what colors influence what emotions in an audience can be an extremely worthwhile experience and can carry over very well into lighting for film.
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#18 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 12:13 AM

I fully agree that you CAN LEARN both disaplines and that one can influence and complement the other, HOWEVER, you cannot be a cinematographer and walk into a broadway theater expecting simply conjure up the skills needed to light a revival of Cats without any previous expirence nor can you step onto a film set of a major motion picture after only having lit up plays and expect to do the job of a cinematographer. You have to learn BOTH disaplines to do BOTH disaplines.

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 17 November 2006 - 12:16 AM.

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#19 Hal Smith

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 01:31 AM

I fully agree that you CAN LEARN both disaplines and that one can influence and complement the other...........

One huge difference is how different a stage design is from a series of movie lighting setups. The stage design's equipment doesn't move around. The idea in a theatrical lighting design is to have all the "looks" you need in one fixed design. There may be intelligent fixtures involved that can vary their focus position, color, etc. in real time but all the gear itself is bolted down and stays there. Even Broadway tours are increasing using prerig setups where the lighting equipment is bolted into modular truss sections and goes on and off the trucks that way. With modern lighting controls the actual running of the lights is pretty simple, smaller productions commonly have an assistant stage manager running the light cues, even on Equity shows.

And as we all know, in the movie business the lighting equipment is constantly being changed around setup by setup. The crew requirements are totally different, a stage crew is good at getting it hung for you and focused - but then you don't need them until strike. But obviously on a film set one constantly needs a good, quick crew of gaffers and grips. Film is not unlike when I stage managed and TD'ed a kiddies opera based out of NYC where I was going into a different house three and four times a week and had to re-invent the lighting constantly.

An afterthought: I had chance to ask some questions of and have a conversation with Peggy Eisenhauer a couple years ago on how she and Jules Fisher found working with Dion Beebe on "Chicago". She spoke very warmly about how Jules and herself enjoyed the experience. They were responsible for the theatrical look of the dance and fantasy lighting but worked under Dion's supervision since he knew what his camera needed. The Theatrical and Film Gods were both well served.

(If you don't recognize the names, Jules has won six Tonys of his own and Peggy and Jules have won an additional two together. Jules was Bob Fosse's favorite lighting designer, Bob even cast him as the LD in "All That Jazz".)
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#20 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 02:16 AM

Ah Hal, my wingman. You have eloquently stated what I have been struggling to get across. I was facinated with the kiddie opera thing, the idea of kids sing La Traviata blows my mind :D . We did an original play I had written a while back that was commissioned by the Equil Opportunites office of the US Army. It was about a timetraveler who goes back to research the lives of prominate women in American history. We had built this elaborate kind os sled affair for the time machine, a kinda high tech looking version of H.G.Wells' Time machne that had a flashing lights and fog machine incorperated into it. We had to come up with a way to make the machine transition from one time piriod to the next for the audience, so having remebered the bazzilion sci/fi movies I'd seen, I hit apon using a cascade of flashing, swirling colored light focused into a tight area around the machine with very soft, defused edges, as the rest of the stage lights dimmed and strobed during the scene trasition. In conjunction with the fog machine spewing a carefully engineered blast of shaped smoke and the errie sound effects we used, it was quite effective. I have to truely give the credit for that idea to all those great old films I'd seen. Cinematic lighting had influenced theatrical design.
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