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Old October 27th, 2003, 08:45 PM   #1
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Gel advice

Okay, this has nothing to do with DV, but I'm attempting to help a friend with the lighting for her play, and I have no idea how to go about it. We're talking real simple, guerrilla theater here. The stage is about 15 feet wide and maybe seven feet deep. There is a power strip for track lighting running the length of the stage, and two other perpendicular strips at either end. There's room for maybe 15 lights altogether, which they have, regular tungston bulbs of about 100 watts each. Can I put gels over the lights, and use bailing wire or something to hold them in place, or will they catch on fire? I know nothing about this. Like I said, this needs to be real quick and dirty. She just needs some kind of mood lighting that isn't completely harsh and white like she'd get from the bare bulbs. It's a play about a couple who have just had sex, and then do a lot of talking afterward. It should look kind of dim. I'm hoping for advice on what color gels to use too. It doesn't need to be perfect. This isn't a professional show or anything.
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Old October 27th, 2003, 09:21 PM   #2
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I've never know a gel to catch fire, but I have seen them melt.

Usually, the gel is placed in a frame and is several inches from the bulb.
But when the fixtures do not support a frame, then you have to make do. I've been known to duct tape gel in front of Lowe's clip-on hardware lights...

The biggest problem is preventing light spillage if you are dealing with essentially bare lights. Not the best of situations.

Are the lights at all dimmable, or individually controllable?

As to colors, Blues, ambers, straw, all will tint the light and prevent a washout. I'd try to emulate the color and look of bedroom lamps... And maybe spillage from a light outside a window, or even the glow of a TV. Obviously you won't be able to do all that from overhead track lighting.
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Old October 28th, 2003, 11:29 AM   #3
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I don't think you will have a fire problem with 100 watt bulbs, and I don't think they will melt either (but don't sue me if either of these things happen! ;-) Now of course it depends on what sort of gels you're using also. The major suppliers are Rosco, Lee and GAM. Unfortunately Rosco has a frame-based website that won't let me post a specific link, but go to http://www.rosco.com and follow the links to their color filters. Roscolux is probably what you'll want. You will find a color chart online. Note the transmission graphs next to each color. Rather than trying to really absorb all this, the important thing for you is the percentage of light transmitted. For example, if you click on the graph for R02, Bastard Amber, it says "Trans=78%". That means 78% of the light will pass through the gel, which is pretty much.

But now click on R80, "Primary Blue" and note that only 9% of the light will make it through this dark blue gel. So keep this in mind, considering that you are using pretty dim lights to start with. If you gel them with R80 hardly anything will show through the gel! Try to pick some colors that pass a high percentage of light.

You should find similar info on Lee gels at http://www.leefilters.com/home.asp or GAM at http://www.gamonline.com/. Now lighting design is really much to complex to offer you much meaningful advice here. Considering your situation it would be ideal to just experiment around a bit. It will get expensive for you to buy lots of full sheets of gel for this however. If possible, try contacting somebody in the technical department at a local university or resident theatre. You can usually find helpful people if you try. Maybe they will be nice enough to give you a bunch of left over used gel cuts, I know we always have them laying around, sometimes they're faded and not useful anymore to us, but they would be fine for you. This would give you a chance to experiment and learn.

Again, considering your limited wattage I would stick with pretty pale colors and forget anything too saturated. Also, we use a trick to help keep gels from overheating sometimes and punch lots of tiny pinholes in them. The usual way to do this is with something called a "pounce wheel". This is a little tool that has a wheel with sharp spikes on the end. Just roll it around the gels. The little pinholes don't let enough light through to be a problem but they allow air to circulate. You should be able to find a pounce wheel at a craft or fabric store, they are used to transfer dress patterns through paper to fabric.

Hope this helps, and good luck with the show. Once upon a time I started off with equipment even more modest than yours (built in my basement when I was 12 years old! ;-)
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Old October 28th, 2003, 07:24 PM   #4
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Thanks both of you. Boyd, I was hoping I'd hear from you, as I'd say you're more than amply qualified -- it's a little like shooting a duck with an Uzzi.
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Old October 28th, 2003, 09:02 PM   #5
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Glad to help in any way that I can. I see you're in Albany... you can probably find some help through the theatre department at SUNY.

If you're interested in lighting and other technical theatre topics you might check out the "stagecraft mailing list". There are lots of helpful people there from all levels, ranging from high school, community theatre, universities and professional. Check out the archives and join the list at this website
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Old October 29th, 2003, 10:47 PM   #6
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Great links thanks!
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