A platform of inspiration
Hectic work days, tight deadlines and many hours in the studio are nothing new to us lighting designers. So following the motto: “work hard, play hard” we ought to balance them out with inspiring and invigorating activities in our time outside the office to keep the creativity and energy flowing.
With my background as an event assistant stage lighting for concerts and gigs has always fascinated me. These temporary installations use the medium of light to put emphasis on the artists and create a real sense of drama around them. With London being one of the main cultural hotspots in Europe, or even the world, there’s a huge variety of artists who come to play here. Depending on how famous the artist is and the size of the venue, your experience at each gig is totally different, even when it comes to lighting.
Undiscovered artists and small venues rely on very traditional stage lighting equipment. Good old PAR cans are still used to wash the back of the stage setting the main atmosphere. A play of coloured light alternating in the background can change the feeling and mood within the same event. And, wash lighting from the back of the stage towards the artists creates an interesting play of shadows and silhouetting….
Narrow beam spotlights focused on the artists highlight their importance and give them the necessary attention to entertain the audience. Lively gobo-projections from rotating projectors onto the stage and into the venue itself enhance the whole movement of the concert. Also, with the use of speedy stroboscopic lighting the crowd gets animated to dance, becoming immersed in the ambience and supporting the musicians. All these effects come into play as soon as the general lighting dims down and darkness overcomes the venue.
Similar to architectural lighting design the lighting equipment for events is getting more and more advanced. This in turn is allowing for more creative stage sets and lighting designs. One seriously innovative and experimental show was FKA Twigs’ Congregata show at Camden’s famed Roundhouse in 2015 – it was a mix of concert, musical and freak show. The lighting design supported the choreography intensively.
The centre piece of this show was a circle of vertical red laser beams shining from the ceiling to the stage floor, enhanced by the use of ol’ trusty fog machines. A virtual cage was created on stage and gave the singer and dancers an amazing set on which to perform. The final touch was a blue wash of light to the back of the stage contrasting the red beams – it totally enhanced the drama of the whole thing. This gig was more of a theatrical performance than a, let’s say, normal concert. All in all it was a stunning show…mainly down to the incredible lighting effects.
Even though it’s almost impossible to use these theatrical and spectacular lighting effects in the world of permanent architectural lighting design installations, it’s a GREAT way to get inspiration for future projects and to keep the mind open to new ideas.
Words and images: Johannes Stahl