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When it comes to stage lighting, shadows can be tricky! Shadows have a tendency to appear where you don’t want them and can be difficult to create where you do. There are, however, some tricks to understanding shadows in stage lighting and using shadows to enhance your next production.
The good news is that light is predictable. Light travels in straight lines. Therefore, bending light to fit an onstage set may sound like magic. With the right understanding, however, you can make this aspect of stage light work for you and not against you.
Each element pointing to the stage or away from the stage is also casting a shadow. Therefore, the more you try to light, the more shadows you actually create. The answer to fewer shadows is not found in more lights. Burning more elements will only give you more shadows.
Instead of using more lights to eliminate shadows, the answer is in strategically placing shadows. Shadows are inevitable, but you do have some control in making shadows less obvious when trying to avoid them altogether. Remember that each subject being lit creates a shadow. When you plan for lighting your subjects, you have to account for each accompanying shadow.
Once you have all shadows accounted for, you can create a plan to either eliminate or accentuate the shadows. The light that falls outside of each object illuminated will either be reflected by another object on set or will create more shadows. This is where adjusting barn doors can be more effective than adding additional lighting from another element.
The use of shadows can give you an effect unattainable by using more lighting. Using the straight-line theory of stage lighting, you can actually plan for shadows ahead of time to create emotions and an atmosphere that only comes from the use of dark spaces. For example, if a moment in your production calls for contrast, ignoring the traditional standard of three-point lighting can help create this effect.
Similarly, if the aim is a silhouette, then forgoing the key and fill lights for a scene will help to create the desired effect. Diffusing backlight so that it becomes less intense during a scene will also allow for a deeper shadow cast by the subjects on stage.
This all may sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be! For help in determining the best equipment to either create or eliminate shadows in your production, call SSRC at (864) 848-9770 or use our online contact form. Our team of talented and experienced theatrical distribution professionals are ready to assist you with all your theatrical lighting needs.