EARLY STAGE LIGHTING
Stage lighting design is probably as old as formalized theatre. The early Greeks built their theatres as open air spaces and orientated them in relation to the sun, so as to use natural light for stage lighting. They would present their plays at different times of day, to take advantage of the different types of natural lighting. This type of planning was in essence, early lighting design. The Theatre of Dionysus (Athens, about 330 BC) and the theatre at Epidaurus (finished about 340 BC) are examples of these early public theatre facilities.
Lighting for the theatre developed over the centuries, using both natural sources then artificial sources. The sun, candles, torches oil, gas, electric arc and lime lighting, all have had a place in early stage lighting. During the Renaissance period in Italy, many of the principals of modern lighting design, were firmly established.
MODERN STAGE LIGHTING
Modern stage lighting design began to flourish with the development of the incandescent lamp in the late 1800's. This invention allowed for the development of small, safe, portable lighting fixtures that could be easily placed anywhere around the stage, and then controlled by a remote electrical dimmer system. Previously during the gas lighting era, complex stage lighting did indeed exist however, it was limited by this awkward smelly technology, with its many inherent problems. During the gas lighting era, a great numbers of theatres were destroyed by fire.
During the early 1900's as stage lighting continued to develop, certain parallel lighting industries began to evolve, borrowing many basic principals from the field of stage lighting design. The modern fields of display, photographic, film and television lighting design all have evolved and developed from the fundamental roots of early stage lighting design. Today stage lighting design is recognized as a field merging science with art.
FUTURE STAGE LIGHTING
The future of stage lighting is tremendously exciting. After the electric filament lamp, stage lighting was revolutionized in the 1930's by the development of the ellipsoidal reflector (Leko) fixture. The development of the SCR dimmer in the 1960's provided another radical change. Now the automated lighting fixture (first introduced in the 1970's) is revolutionizing the lighting industry again. New technology has recently produced colors, never before seen in lighting design. New light sources are developing including; Xenon, Metal Halide, Fluorescent, Induction and Sulfur lamps. The use of fiber optics as a carrier of both 'light' and 'data' and the further development of liquid crystal projection technology are all part of the exciting future of entertainment lighting design.
Design software for the computer will continue to evolve and eventually allow the designer complete artistic 'interactive' control over his 'visual' technology. Lighting software now provides assistance with design, drawings and paperwork. Design software in the future will use both 'touch screen' and 'speech recognition' technology. Can the mental control of lighting systems be far away?