Theater lights are just as important a factor in the design of an auditorium as acoustics, seating, and the stage itself. If the lighting is bad, all the other elements can be perfect, but the audience will still have a negative impression of the auditorium—and of the performance. Poor lighting is simply amateurish.
DOING THEATER LIGHTS RIGHT
When planning lights for an auditorium, the following tips can help you achieve professional-caliber results:
- Pay attention to how light will “spill” and glare on the audience. Consider not just the lights themselves, but also any reflective surfaces.
- Use architectural finishes that are dark and have a matte finish to cut down on reflections.
- Remember the audible hum emitted by some lights. When designing lighting positions, the effect of this noise on acoustics should be taken into account.
- Buy the highest-quality control and dimming systems that you can.
- Think about all the ways in which the auditorium will be used (e.g., plays, musical performances, lectures), and make sure the design of your theater lights is able to accommodate all those uses.
- Order enough lights so that production designers have plentiful lighting options.
- Buy appropriate accessories, such as color changers, moving lights, and fog machines.
- To keep light from entering the auditorium as late arrivals enter, use vestibules, double doors, or tunnel entrances if feasible.
- As much as possible, hide catwalks, ladders, and other support structures.
KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON
Once you have a quality lighting system in place, you need to take care of it. There are several things you can do to keep your theater lights working as they should:
- Make sure the lights are being used properly by the people who will operate them or direct their use. Train in safety and maintenance—as well as in how to use the lights for the best effect.
- Develop a communication system among the lighting designer, control board operators, and others involved with the lighting.
- Follow a regular maintenance and inspection schedule for each piece of equipment.
USING SPECIALISTS TO LOWER COSTS AND IMPROVE RESULTS
Building a lighting system isn’t something a typical general or electrical contractor will have much experience with. It’s best to seek out a company that specializes in auditorium lighting.
A good theatrical lighting specialist will coordinate all aspects of the design and installation process. They will balance technical details (e.g., where to place connector strips and wall boxes, what rigging setup to use) with performance and aesthetic considerations—all the while making the most cost-effective decisions.
Working with one company to manage the project also gives you a single point of contact, so you don’t have to worry with multiple manufacturers, dealers, and service companies. (Most companies that specialize in theater lights provide equipment from multiple manufacturers—often in stock.)
A theater lighting company will also ensure integration of all the equipment. This integration can be quite a challenge to those unfamiliar with theater lights.
Specialists also often offer ongoing trouble-shooting, maintenance, and inspection services.
Selecting, installing, and maintaining theater lights is a complex process that’s critical to the overall quality of an auditorium. This process requires careful consideration of how the lights will impact the audience and the stage. It also involves cost considerations, safety issues, and maintenance responsibilities. Companies that specialize in auditorium lighting can creatively and efficiently manage the entire process to make sure your theater lights are the best they can be.