Blending New and Old Technology From a Design Point of View

Theatrical lighting equipment has changed so much over the last century. As in our personal situations, stage technology is changing at an exponential level. Some people will say it is great and others are not happy about it at all. Suffice it to say that change is here and it will always be here. Either embrace it or become obsolete.

ETC Four Ellips

Old spot technology


New spot technology

I think having the ability and artistic sense to be able to blend technologies is incredibly important. Years ago I was designing a series of A Christmas Carols at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson NY. A Christmas Carol is a story that lends itself to magical moments and visual interest. Much can be done with good old fresnels and lekos. Choosing the right color, shape and direction can help set the environment that moves the story along. Can they be helped with adding some new technology? Hecky Doo – YES! Back then, having color scrollers was “new” technology. Imagine it though. Now instead of that light only having one color, I could choose between ten or fifteen colors. Then what about this new swanky thing called a gobo rotator? Now I can have Marley being sucked into his world of hell with a spiraling gobo instead of just a red or green light uplighting him.

Check out this very informative video to see more on today’s new spot technology.

With today’s technology you can add variant color and movement like these pictures to enhance your look.  It can go well beyond just simple color changing.

With today’s technology you can add variant color and movement like these pictures to enhance your look. It can go well beyond just simple color changing.

My point to this story is that in the productions I was doing, I went ahead and invested in some actual moving light spots. With these units I was able to have the Ghost of Christmas Present glow every time she gave a blessing. The Ghost of Christmas Past was able to walk around at all times surrounded by an aurora borealis effect. Then when the Ghost of Christmas Future came out, I was able to have so many lightning bolts happening in so many varied places that could never could have happened before. Those sort of effects greatly helped the show. Those sort of effects are also fairly obvious.

In today’s world of Broadway, LED Wash Units and Moving LED Spots are common place in the rig. It is the designer that uses them with the idea of correct style that really impresses me. Recently I saw Ken Posner’s lighting for Cinderella. Now what I am about to say is not because I know Ken. I actually haven’t seen him since undergraduate days. His work is elegant. He blended the sensibility of Rogers and Hammerstein’s music with today’s, and yesterday’s technology. If you are a lighting student or just someone who loves lighting, please go see it. Sure, everyone thinks the costume changes are the star of the show, and yes they are amazing, but Ken’s work is just wonderful. Each and every scene is visual excellence.



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An example of new wash light technology

Altman 6inch

An example of old wash light technology


My point to this blog is that you can use the color options of the LED’s and the moving options of moving lights without them just being a Rock Concert. If you’re careful in your choices, you can make them match any style you need to do. Just because a LED fixture can put out a really saturated dark blue with huge vibrancy doesn’t mean you have to use it. I guess the real trick always comes down to understanding style.









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