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Creating Footlights - on Budget


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I have been set the task of creating footlights for Victorian theatre style pieces, along with a A level devised piece.


There is no budget , but can use any lights on the rig, (500W Fresnels, 575W Source4 zoom, Floods, Codas, Profiles, or Par Cans.)


However, the play is devised in the round, but it is more of a diamond not a circle. But it means putting footlights infront of audience's feet on the front row and blinding the opposite side.


Any ideas on the easiest way to create these, whilst also not blinding or harming any of the audience ?

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If you can only use what u have, I would suggest using the floods. U will get the 'proper' footlight effect required and wont need to have them on that brightly to warm up the faces from below.


I know you say you have no budget, but see if you can squeeze a v small amount of cash to get a sheet /s of light diffusion - which will soften the light somewhat and not make it so harsh and also some blackwrap - which you can afix on the top and bottom edge of the lamp like barndoors and might take the glare away from people eyes sitting opposite.


Hope that helps...

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Then you director or whomever came up with the idea of putting it in the round should be shot!! ( Stick to fresnels with barndoorsto keep the light out of eyes opposite eh?)


Go read something on victorian lighting and theatre......... you will find a superb book on lighting in the age of gas which explains all about "floats" the progression into electrical light and how for the first time the audience was "removed" from the action by putting them in darkness with the ability of dimming the house lights..... the fourth wall was in affect created.


There is alot of interesting reading out there and should go a long way of proving your research skills and perhaps even helping you with your mark!?

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I must admit that I am struggling with this one too Paul.


The Director / Teacher wants to do a Victorian style piece. All very Laudable - Many would argue that the victorian Era was the golden age of "Modern" theatre.


As you rightly point out, the whole style back then was procenium arches, and that fourth wall, separating the actors from the rabble (And back then, it was often a rabble) of the audience!


Theatre in the round has also got it's place. I fully support it, but in my experience - Not massive I will admit, there seems to be a compulsion in Drama lessons these days, to ONLY do In the Round stuff, and procenium / fourth wall theatre seems a dirty, old fashioned word.


As an example, my old school - I was there 20 years ago - Had a great hall, with an enourmous pros arch stage. We put on some incredible shows there, thrusting into the audience as and when required


They have recently been granted performance arts status, and in their subsequent refit. the small hall, (That was perfectly suited to in the round, got turned into a cafeteria, and the main hall kept it's stage. and all the F.o.H lighting bars were rotated 90o so that they now run the length of the theatre.


Okay, this may be turning into a rant on my part, but my point is that there seems to be a mindset within the Drama education sector, that we must do theatre in the round because it is the modern way to do things, and anything else is uncool. Maybe, just maybe the "Old Fashioned" ideas are the best for the job in hand?


After all, isn't the whole idea of the perfoming arts to select the best production style to suit the piece?



However, to answer the OP's question. (Well have a good stab at it anyway)


As you so rightly point out, the danger is blinding the audience on the other side. I would suggest that you go for the idea of illumination, rather then the illumination itself...


Perhaps a 2" high wooden batten painted to suit, just to give an idea of a barrier, possibly painted in footlight colours that the opposite audience can see?


Apologies for the rant!



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Hmmm... ©


To be frank, the illumination from Victorian gas footlights was likely not particularly bright - certainly nowhere near the output of any modern halogen lamp.


Does this director want to actually light the cast with these lanterns, or are they to be just set dressing (and it would be 'nice' to have them light up as well)...?


If just set dressing, then maybe look at a small investment in some small candle bulbs, and some BC lamp holders, and make up a batten with these spaced along it's length - using offcuts of hardboard/MDF/whatever, make up some profiles of a footlight design (see the relevant books for what they looked like) and attach those to the batten. et voila.


OK - you'll need some budget t do this, but not a huge figure - my response to any director who says "I want THIS but don't have any money for it" is a polite "I'll see what I can do, but I'll let you know what I can do it for, then you can decide which way you want to proceed".


Little in this life comes free...!


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I've worked on a fair bit of "in-the-round/promenade" stuff and using footlights defeats the entire object by introducing barriers that the concept is all about destroying. As Paul and Jim have said it is possible that whoever is asking has not fully understood the principles.


If you use any of your existing luminaires then that will, in itself destroy any illusion of footlights by their size and visibility to each "half" of the audience. Using them at a low power level would help both with glare and colour temp, but they would then be even more noticeable as "not footlights".


The questions previously put are relevant. Are they Lighting Design or Set Design? Is it the impression of footlights or their effect that is required? Do they need to work? You need to find out. It may be an S.E.P. ( somebody else's problem).


I absolutely love low angle, front/side lit theatre, some of the effects are amazing, but I can envisage lots of difficulties with what you have been asked to attempt. Audience/cast safety with cable trip hazards, electricity supply in a public area, blah.blah.blah will be compromised.... and where the audience is on the same floor level or above the actor then you could end up with some interestingly ghoulish effects from footlights. I don't know, like I said, you just don't put lamps on the floor in the round so I have no experience of the results.

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Sorry kerry - dont agree with what your saying about 'you dont put footlights in the round'.


Ive done 'round shows and had a nice ring of Birdies around the entire circumference. It works well , and they dont have to be on full belt to acheve effect. Trust me, not irritating the eyes of the auidence was number one concern - and on every state change I walked around and sat at different heights in the space to check for this - with no problems.

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Maybe the project kind of got morphed into something that it isn't? If it's based around the historical elements of Victorian theatre, then the footlights can work, by recreating the illumination, but there's not much you can do with them. States? Apart from up or down, or maybe a little colour mixing, that's about it if you stick to historical accuracy. If it has become an 'in the round' staging, then visually, it's going to be difficult. With conventional in the round lighting, you can highlight areas, and focus attention - you can't do this with floor uplight. The big snag is simply going to be shadows and masking.


I'd guess it's just an idea that's got out of hand a little.

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Go read something on victorian lighting and theatre......... you will find a superb book on lighting in the age of gas


Fabulous book.


Theatre lighting in the age of gas / [by] Terence Rees.

Author: Rees, Terence.

Subject: Stage lighting -- History.

Published: London : Society for Theatre Research, 1978.

Description: x, 238 p. : ill., facsims., plans ; 25 cm.

ISBN: 0854300252

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Hi Rob


I personally would use the floods around the edge and put some leigh 'Full diffusion' in front which is basically a sheet of white gel, this will soften the output of the unit to make it look a little more like the footlights of old.

Also it may be worth putting some Lee 245 in to give the slight green tinge that the gas lights sometimes gave off.

Only a suggestion, but ultimatley up to you to see what looks and feels right for your production.


Best regards


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thanks people

the ideas are very useful and I can show this to the director especially with reasons why not to use them in this show. Hopefully I can get marks for justifying why I did not use a particular lighitng style.

bridies or similar seem to be the way forward, although I will expeiment with floods.


The m ost rediculous idea posted by my director was have some floods, under the seats used by the cast?! I dont think so.

Anyways, in our school "in the round" is hardly used although we have a drama studio and hall with stage. All main productions are played on the stage, or across one end of the studio.

The in the round for this production is only to involve the audience.

Many thanks for the help and I will go and talk to the director and see what they say =]

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