Time to Focus – The Realization of A Little Dark and Quiet


An excellent lighting discussion took place a few days ago on The Light Network about “focus time” for lighting designers and how it gets squandered by other departments – occasionally you just get whined at the entire time, if not bombarded by 120db of pink noise while you have people climbing around truss.  This specific conversation discusses entertainment lighting, but architectural lighting also has situations where dark and quiet are needed.  If you’ve been on the road and/or done lots of one-offs, you probably know the wonderment of trying to get dark time to either focus conventionals or update moving light focus palettes before the show whilst load-in is occurring.  You know, vital, aesthetic changing lighting production elements that need to be given time to be performed.  It’s not without resistance though – from being blasted by the PA while trying to communicate with electricians to people complaining about having work light.  Dark and quiet are our friends – but we’re the only ones.

Now don’t get me wrong – no matter what the genre of lighting design, when you have to interrupt the work or change the method of getting something done with darkness and noise suppression, it’s not always going to be a popular thing.  I do get a kick out of those touring situations where at 2 PM (or whenever PM) the lighting department gets dark and quiet onstage every day, yet people still bitch about it.

Tim Olson, a user at The Light Network, had a great comment about this very subject during the conversation.  I’ve pasted it below.  Thanks for letting me post this again, Tim!

I try to be accommodating during loadin when I can. I frequently do a focus with full house lights blasting away at me, but that only roughs things in and requires tweaking after you do get darkness, especially when you’re close to vid screens.

that being said, if you’re a stagehand and not used to having a flashlight and working in the dark, what world have you been in?

things that do matter: safety. if heavy stuff is being built on stage, they need to be able to see for safety reasons. practical: if full overheads will allow the work to be done in 15 minutes, and darkness would make it 2 hours – blast away w/the overheads, and go get a cup of coffee, or work on something else for a while.

audio – it NEVER FAILS, no matter how early or late I am, as SOON as I start focusing and need to be able to speak to the person in the lift or across the room, it’s time for the audio FOH engineer to put 120DB of pink noise in the room. maybe this is my own personal karma, maybe not. I will get in the engineers face if me or someone that works for me gets nailed when they are working in front of the PA. this can have long-term effects on personal health and is not acceptable in any way shape or form. Production Mgt has always backed me up in this.

I understand that MY attitude can set the tone of the room, therefore I always approach other departments with humor and respect, the same way I want to be approached. it’s a guarantee, if you come at someone with a full head of steam, defensive walls pop up and even if they listen and do what you want, they won’t like it and will find ways to mess with you. If my way of being promotes teamwork then that attitude is “catching”. if my attitude is “F U” than THAT is catching as well.

give it a test for yourself: the next time you find yourself thinking “that guy is a jerk” (which can happen in the first 2 seconds of a gig), try adjusting the way you think about someone. Recognize the power you have to set the atmosphere of the gig, and that if you start actively thinking that someone’s a jerk, you are re-inforcing THAT atmosphere all day. if you like working in a war zone, go right ahead.

when I catch myself going in the “he’s such a jerk” direction, I immediately start thinking things like,

“I bet he really wants to do a good job”
“I bet he really has some good skills”

that small of a shift in your thinking can change the entire room. give it a shot next time and see what happens.

The Light Network is a great place to belong if you’re a lighting professional.  LN folk are good folk!

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  1. Hey Jim,

    With load in times and budgets ever tightening, the days when the venue wasn’t chock full of the world and his wife all sawing, hammering, motoring, noising, beeping and shouting, seem to be long gone. As for the luxury of an even dingy room (let alone a B/O), forget it! The old excuse that the darkness was needed to line up the Barcos doesn’t cut it now the screen guys are working with such bright sources themselves.

    Come to think of it, with such bright projectors it seems like any kind of blackout is near impossible without using to the lens cap.

    So we all get along. Noise boys have headtorches, lampies have earplugs and develop an elaborate system of hand signals. The situation is a bit skewed against us in lighting as sound is so pervasive and mentally stimulating it can be hard to think straight with Constant Craving blaring out of the line arrays for hours on end ;-).

    I do my bit by trying not to “waggle” too much in other peoples faces – LOL

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