Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013

In mid August, the Canberra branch of the IES was treated to a behind the scenes tour by Adrian Rytir, the lighting designer for The Phantom of the Opera.

Adrian took us through the life of a theatre lighting designer which included a 4 day setup prior to the first show. He walked us through some of the terminology such as a ‘practical’ which is a piece of the set that functions like an illuminated lantern, and a ‘scrim’ which is a piece of fabric that operates like a 1 way mirror.


The installation for this production included a few items that were out of the ordinary. The set was deeper than the standard, which required additional illumination for a large task area. Some scenes required fog, which used special refrigeration units to allow for control and repeatability. Snow was produced by releasing hole-punched paper from containers above the stage.


The show also had some peculiarities. The story was written in the early 1900s when lighting technology was in its infancy. For this reason, Adrian used flat lighting throughout the set to simulate gas lighting. For ‘after show’ scenes he used bright but bland lighting. This was in contrast to the action and character scenes which employed up to 40 moving lights and colour changing LEDs. Each lighting scene relates to the story. For example, in one scene all the lights focus on ‘Carlotta’ the female lead soprano as she relates her self centered ideology to the audience.


When discussing the lighting technology used in this production, Adrian specified LED as a preference when colours were required. His preference overall is for halogen due to the quality of light it produces and its flexibility through dimming.

For lighting the actors, Adrian uses 45 degree angles to fill in the shadows of faces, and backlighting to give the actor three dimensionality. One of Adrian’s aims in lighting the actors is to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

Adrian’s overall aim is to create a look for each scene that matches the emotional requirements and feel of that scene, not to replicate reality.


text : Scott Leslie-McCarthy