16th June 2021
The Global Media Site for Entertainment.

Theatres: Standard Lighting Rig or Not?

Standard Lighting Rig
By Stephen Dean - Ramblings of a Techie

This is a thought that often crosses my mind. Should venues have a standard lighting rig, and then clients have to work with that basic design and then add only a few specials to create their lighting design? Or should it be a total black box and each company rigs and de-rigs their lighting requirements?

Both options have their benefits and problems. So is one more correct than the other? This is a thought process I have gone through quite often over the many years I have been in the game. Every time we have a new client I get the question, is there a standard rig? Most of my clients are really happy that they can build a light plot that works best with their show. But what about shows that are in for only one or two nights at the most? Now we do not have many of these, but for venues that get a lot of this type of booking, is the standard rig better for them? You can see the dilemma. If the venue has a mixture of bookings then what is the best solution?

From a lighting designer’s point of view it is very nice to start with a blank slate, putting lights where I want them to be.

It is much harder designing around a lighting rig that is in place. Trying to fit what they have decided is the best for their venue. It can at times stifle creativity as some designers will take the easy way out instead of asking if the rig can be stripped. Or cause there is the cost in re-instating the rig.

In the total black box situation, I have been asked by clients about the standard rig.  When I reply that we don’t have one and that they need to start from scratch, I sometimes get the statement “Can you put one in for us?” That idea often fades when I mention that we have to add the cost onto them. Occasionally they think the venue should pay to put it in and then remove. If the client wants to pay to have a standard rig installed I am happy to do so, but then I say why not pay me to put up your lighting design? That does illicit interesting responses. Some companies have no lighting designer, they just want someone in their company to program and operate the lights, sometimes just operate and attempt to use any programming that is still in the desk.

So it all depends on the type of productions that will book your venue. It also depends how, as a venue, you want to operate. What is your core market?

If you are aiming for the independent theatre companies and professional theatre areas, a black box approach is the best. The client installs the rig they want. The director’s vision is then adhered to. With a standard rig you have to compromise. As a lighting designer, this is not the compromise I like but I have to deal with it.

Published in Collaboration with Ramblings of a Techie

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Stage Lighting: The Science of Colour & Light

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