An art. A design. An Emotion. How stage lighting equipment can impact a theatre production

Stage lighting can truly impact the audience experience by helping to evoke different emotions.

Posted in Light + Stage

Whether for a professional or amateur production, the quality of the stage lighting equipment and how it is used can have a huge impact on a theatre performance. Theatre lighting can have the ability to evoke emotions in an audience, using clever techniques to draw a crowd in, arouse suspense or intimate fear. Stage lighting is an art in itself which adds as much to a production as the set design and costumes. It should provide context, emotion and subtext to a true theatre performance.

Since the clever use of candle shadowing during yesteryear’s performances, theatre lighting has come a long way. Today intelligent or automated lighting control systems and any number of different lighting fixtures are used to enhance the theatrical performance at a show, with the lighting designers acting out their own performance as the lights dance to their task on stage.  The team at Prolight + Sound Middle East takes a quick look at the significant developments in stage lighting equipment and how theatre lighting has become an integral component of any live stage performance.

The principles of stage lighting have remained unchanged since Ancient Greek times. The lighting should enhance the production and be an integral part of the show as it ensures the correct element of the stage is brought to the audience’s attention at exactly the right moment. Lighting designers are tasked with creating a display that sparkles using any number of lighting fixtures and adeptly positioning and focusing the lights at key moments of a performance. 


In the very early days of the performing arts, a production would be staged outdoors during daylight hours, negating the need for difficult lighting solutions. As the art evolved, performances began to move indoors or were performed into the evening dusk, heralding a new era for stage lighting equipment. In the days before advanced technology, theatre lighting relied on the ingenuity of candles, torches, flames and other light sources created from a naked flame. At the time special cloths, covers and shadowing effects were used to project light at different angles and intensities.


Today, an amazing combination of technology and creativity shapes theatre lighting. Intelligent or automated lighting controlled by lighting control consoles allow for highly advanced lighting capabilities that can truly impact a theatre production. From the clever use of dimming controls to distinguish between night and day to the use of vivid reds and other colours to induce fear, theatre lighting has come a long way since the candles of yesteryear.  

Not only do today’s lighting designers have to be hugely creative and adept at using different technology and controls in order to professionally light within the performing arts sector, they also have to have their own dictionary of sorts for the vast thesaurus of associated lingo. Fresnels, spotlights, follow spots, cue lights, par lamps, reflectors and beam projectors are just some of the jargon one must be au fait with when working with stage lighting equipment.

A helping hand

Launched in the 1990s, Field Templates were introduced by Steve Shelley to lend a helping hand to the stage lighting designer. Essentially an entire set of theatrical lighting stencils, the tracing techniques made possible by Field Templates make the entire drafting process of a scale light plot easier.  

Sophisticated digital lighting systems can provide dramatic effects by altering colour, pattern and intensity. There can be upwards of 300 lights used in a major production which are meticulously programmed by the lighting designer in any number of technical rehearsals executed prior to a live performance.

Visit Prolight + Sound Middle East to learn about the stage lighting equipment readily available in the region and stay abreast of the latest trends in the entertainment, event, media and creation industry.


Register to visit Prolight Sound Middle East 2018