Lighting Design on a £0 budget

By Jordan Porter


I’ve been the lighting designer for 4 shows whilst part of Backstage and each one has had no budget left for lighting (if you exclude the odd smoke machine and Glaciator). For the LUU Fringe that took place a couple of weeks ago I was in this position yet again. Fortunately in the Riley we have enough lanterns and gels to be able to pull off a great looking show without spending a single penny! All it takes is a bit of careful planning.


Before you start designing where you’re going to position your lanterns it’s important that you get as much information as you can off of the performing society you’re working with, about what they want to create. For the Fringe for example I was able to find out that the Vertical Fitness society wanted to be able to light each pole individually, ideally with a single spot. This was the starting point of my design, positioning two Source 4 spots along LX 2 (the second bar from the front of the Riley stage). For other performance societies I then added other fixtures to my plan such as using Par Cans along LX 3 and 4 to backlight performers and then use more Source 4’s to create a centre spotlight.


From there I was able to fill up the rest of the bars with lighting features I thought may be useful for this show. Since I knew there would be a number of different dance societies and dance numbers in the show, I positioned Fresnels on the far ends of the bars to create some form of side lighting. Listening to some of the music used in the show helped me decide on the rest of my design, such as the strobe light from listening to street dance, and the mirror ball (because everyone loves a good sparkly mirror ball!).


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Above you can see my rough plan for where I would position my lanterns (if you can decipher it!). If you need help deciding where to position different lanterns there are plenty of guides online which will tell you where to place them to achieve the effect you want. Generally though, backlighting is good for making performers ‘pop’ out of the background, and, used on its own, produces a dramatic effect. Side lighting is great for dancers, helping to highlight their body movement. Top down lighting is useful for only lighting single performers but will produce long face shadows (unless that’s the effect you want to achieve). Face/front lighting shouldn’t generally include strong colours to avoid washing out skin tones (again, unless that’s the effect you’re going for), leave the darker colours for your backlighting.


And that’s basically it for the design of your rig! For more information on general rigging and programming of your lighting design check out the Lighting pack on the Members Resources page on this website. The programming for each show you do will be different, whether you’re making cues during a plot or busking it on the night, for even more tips on this check out the manual for the Orb ( Fringe overall was a huge success and went off without too many problems (lets just ignore the brief, unscheduled blackout…), check out some shots of the show below!


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Photo credit Rob Palin, for more photos from the show check out his Facebook page

Posted on 4th November 2015.