Tuesday, December 26, 2006

HickoryDickory Wrap-Up: Lesson 1

Well, it's been a long time since I've posted; I've had a very busy semester (gee, what's new?), so spending hours typing up blog posts wasn't high on my list of priorities. Next semester doesn't seem like it will be any different, since I will be doing three shows (possibly four or five).

For now, however, I'm on winter break, and I plan to write all the posts I should have written over the past several months.

To start, I'm going to cover HickoryDickory. When I last left you, I had just started writing cues with Bill. I don't remember too much about the process itself, but I do have some overall lessons that I learned. Some are more general than others, but I think they were all valuable. I'm just going to post one per day, so that way I can space out my content over a longer period of time.

First Lesson:

Lighting is about contrast. Those of you with more experience than I have are probably saying "Duh," to yourselves, but that was a lesson I had never really had an opportunity to see for myself until now. This was my first show done on a box set, which meant that this was the first time I ever had to deal with walls.

Walls, unfortunately, reflect a lot of light. In dances, walls aren't a problem because most of the light comes from the sides, so it never hits the back wall. In a black box with no set, the curtains soak up all the light, so it never reflects even if it does hit them. However, the walls on a box set are usually much more lightly colored than black, so they reflect more light. This isn't really a problem, until the walls start reflecting more light than the actors' skin.

Once the walls reflect more light than the actors, a strange effect happens: no matter how much light you throw onto the stage, the actors always seem to be a little bit dim. This is because given the same amount of illumination, the walls reflect more of it back to your eyes than do the actors, so when your eyes adjust to that brightness level, the actors end up looking underexposed, so to speak.

In the case of HickoryDickory, the walls were a muted yellow, which was almost exactly the same brightness as a typical pale white American. Bill thought everything looked okay, but I was constantly frustrated by how dark the actors looked.

There's no easy solution to the wall/actor problem, but the best thing I found to do was to use light from angles that hit the actors but not the walls, such as from the sides or from a very steep angle from the front. Angles like that create shadows in weird places, like in the eye sockets, so I had to fill those shadows with light from the front, which lit up the walls, but since the actors were already mostly lit, I could use the wall-hitting lights at a lower intensity. Since this lowered the illumination of the whole stage, I was in esssence tricking the audience's eyes into overexposing the well-lit parts of the actors in order to see the dimmer parts, rather than underexposing the actors because everyone's eyes were adjusting to the bright walls.

No comments: