you are here [x]: Scarlet Star Studios > the Scarlet Letters > exploring light
<< before birthday card: maija prakash
after >> biplane through history

November 24, 2009

exploring light

by sven at 12:33 pm

ichbonnsen in blue

In stolen moments I've been exploring strategies for lighting my stopmo stage. I'm particularly inspired right now by the lighting designs of contemporary operas.

LED pen light

In previous work I've simply tried to flood the stage with as much light as possible. Now I'm taking the approach of starting from blackness and adding just a little bit of light at a time.

I think LED lights are very promising. They're bright, they're small, they're cheap… Perhaps most importantly, they don't get HOT!

I just bought a few at Radio Shack, and have started researching how one goes about wiring them. Looks like there are going to be resistors and circuit boards and whatnot.

spotlight stage center

I'm interested in doing some film experiments that mimic black box theater. Let the puppets act -- leave most of the world they live in to the imagination. The theater has embraced anti-naturalism; stopmo often delves into fantasy -- yet typically in a naturalistic way. It seems there's a niche yet to be scratched…

So, I wanted to start out by simulating a single spotlight trained on the stage.

stepping into light

I fiddled with camera settings until I figured out how to have Ichbonnsen step from darkness into the light. Very dramatic.


Modern operas often have the backdrop be a giant swath of luminous color. You can do so much to change the environment simply by manipulating light…

Here I have a piece of crumpled red tissue paper being backlit by a GE 40 watt soft white bulb. I like the dramatic possibilities suggested by having the puppet just be a silhouette.

separation of planes

A big part of what I love about opera set designs is the sense of grandeur. Some of that is just the scale -- acting on an enormous set. Some of it is the bold use of color -- luminosity and saturation. Another part of it is depth of space…

One way to accomplish depth of space is by separating visual planes. Make the foreground pop out from the background… If possible, use light and form to establish several midground planes, too.

Here I'm hand-holding a LED penlight covered with a blue gel, so I can separate Ichbonnsen from his background.

obscured by burnished acrylic

Lighting is mostly about how you're projecting rays and using the contours of objects to cast shadows… But I'm also going to mention here that I'm interested in obscuring images.

In live theater, scrims can be used to put actors behind a haze, or they can be used to catch projections, or catch shadows. The burnished sheet of acrylic I used here probably wouldn't count as a proper scrim… But it illustrates a direction I'm moving in.

posted by sven | November 24, 2009 12:33 PM | categories: stopmo