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       Art of Rock Concert Lighting

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Showcase » Psychedelic Lighting Workshop 1997 Intro


Contemporary rock concert lighting has its stylistic roots in the psychedelic experience of the late 1960s. The visual environment of what became the  rock-n-roll event evolved simultaneously in the ballrooms of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury and in the clubs of London's Underground.  Influenced from such disparate visual elements as theatrical Happenings, modern dance, and planetarium shows,  the lightshow became an essential part of the 60's musical experience. A unique and influential visual style emerged that would significantly influence not only the development of concert lighting, but all visual media. 

Our goal in creating The Psychedelic Lighting Workshop was multi-faceted. Students with relatively little technical experience in lighting technology would be able to experiment hands-on with lighting equipment just as the early pioneers of concert lighting did. At the same time, students would become  lighting designers, synthesizing research and experimentation, and applying it  to a specific design objective. The specific objectives were to create a liquid-oil projection, psychedelic (ultra-violet) lighting, conventional (theatrical) pattern/color projection, and  "other visual environments" that included such elements as strobe lighting and mirror ball effects. A fifth group of students was assigned the task of adding other essential elements to the workshop such as period music, incense, and lava-lamps.
Jim adjusts a 6X16 to light a mirror ball

Each group of three or four students was given a workshop session to set up equipment and experiment with various technologies and effects from the lighting department's inventory.  Workshops took place in various classrooms on the second floor of the Dept. of Drama. Each group was successful in creating exciting lighting environments as evidenced by the oohs and aahs of those walking by in the hallway. A natural fascination with color and motion in light was obvious from the moment the workshops began. This extended from the students in the group to other lighting students peeking in on the projects, and to faculty and students passing by in the hallway.  

Each group effectively filled the room with their environment, leading to a decision to move the presentation day into the Helms Theatre to allow a much greater space. 

Putting It All Together
In preparing the Helms Theatre for the event the 30'x30' performance area of the theatre was cleared. Approximately ten 20amp circuits were dropped from the grid to the floor to supply power to the lighting equipment. The lighting control console was relocated from the control booth to the floor to allow for convenient intensity control over individual circuits/lighting elements of the workshop.  

A CD player/ stereo was provided for music, and two white flats were provided as a surface for the liquid oil projection. All of the equipment for the individual projects was moved into the theatre and set up by the students.

A view from the main entrance of half of the space


experiments in UV painting

» Continue on to "Create a Liquid Light Show" »