How To Wash a Stage!

3 light zone lighting

The Simplest Way to Create a Quality Stage Wash is by using Three Point Lighting. Three-point lighting is a technique used to produce a balanced lighting look that captures focus. It is widely used in photography and film and is the simplest way to create a vivid look that avoids shadows.

Step One:

Split your stage into zones. Having individual control of these zones will allow great flexibility in creating distinctive lighting scenes. A zone should be a circle with a diameter of around 10 feet. Your zones should overlap so there is no place without coverage. 

Once you have your stage split into zones, it is as simple as applying three-point lighting to every zone.

Start with your Key Light

A key light is your main source of light. It should be the brightest and most focused of the three. Place it to the side of your zone coming at it from an angle. We find it helpful to have someone standing in our zone when we are aiming lights. Just have them be careful not to look into them.

The fill light should hit from the opposing angle and eliminate shadows. It should be less bright than your key light (this can be accomplished by dimming or by placing them farther away). They should be less focused and provide more of a wash than your key light.

The backlight is what really brings everything together. It should be placed behind your zone at an angle. Its purpose is to create contrast and capture focus. It allows people and objects in your zone to look three-dimensional, highlighting their edges. Backlighting is especially important when you intend to film or live stream your event.

What Angle To Use

45 degree lighting angle

3 Point lighting utilizes 45º angles. This means that your 2 front wash fixtures lighting your zone should be tilted 45º inwards towards your zone. Your fixture should also be vertically hung at a 45º angle so that they are being tilted 45º downwards at your zone as well. While you may not be able to hit these angles exactly, it is a good guideline to aim for, for the creation of an even, flattering wash.

Additional Tips

  1. The use of haze wouldn’t make sense with just 3-point lighting. If wanting to enhance your event with haze, we recommend adding some color to your backlighting and some on-stage fixtures. Ideally, moving lights with Gobos that will emphasize the haze.
  2. Zones should overlap in such a natural and even way that the audience would not even be able to identify that they exist. One way to do this is to focus your fixtures to have soft edges. When using our Spatial Wash COBs, you do not even have to worry about this. Our Spatial Wash COBs have been designed to blend together evenly for a beautiful wash that is flicker-free for use with film.
  3. Ellipsoidal fixtures are a great wash light due to their ability to shutter and to adjust the softness of the edge of their field of light. Shuttering is important when your zone borders elements that you don’t wish illuminated like projector screens. Controlling the softness of your fixtures’ field of light is useful for overlapping your zones.

Recommended Front Lights

Recommended Back Light

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