How to: Lighting Over Walls

Here’s a common problem: you’d like a system of high sidelight but there’s a wall or scenery in the way. What should you do?

Well, sidelight is fairly straightforward on a bare stage; it light look something like this:

But as soon as we add scenic side walls, there’s clearly a problem.

There’s no way to keep that exact angle without cutting holes in the wall, but there’s a good workaround that looks roughly the same—cheat the angle closer to downlight near the wall.

But won't the audience notice that it's sidelight on the SL side of the stage and practically downlight on the SR side? Surprisingly, no. It's a fairly convincing trick, especially when paired with other angles of light, like back light and front light.

Let's take a closer look at the individual focuses; it's easier to see what's happening from overhead. The furthest offstage light is hung directly over the wall and it's shooting to center. The middle light is the near shot and the light closest to center shoots far.

Traditionally—when there aren't walls in the way—the offstage light shoots near, the middle light shoots to center, and the far light shoots far. With our walls in the way, you'll notice that the offstage two lights swap their focus. The middle light is the near shot so its got plenty of room to get down the wall.

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