Posted in education on September 8, 2015 10:29 am EDT

Inspiring Emotion with Light

Words of wisdom from the lighting designer to the specifier.

Graphic from Church Designer Sept/Oct 2015, Lighting Design Issue.











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TAGS: architectural lighting, avl design, led, lighting design, worship space,


By David Martin Jacques

Every lighting atmosphere is connected by a human emotion, and the change of light in that atmosphere causes psychological changes in emotion.

For as long as I have been a lighting artist, I believed in and felt the power that light has over emotions. Every lighting atmosphere is connected by a human emotion, and the change of light in that atmosphere causes psychological changes in emotion. This is one of the primary keys to understanding live entertainment and architectural lighting design.

As music has the ability to audibly evoke emotional responses in the audience, lighting holds the visual power to do the same. The combination of the two creates a very powerful emotional tool. These are the tools that I use to create evolving atmospheres and emotions.

David Martin Jacques, Professional Lighting Designer, Architectural Lighting Consultant, Head of Stage Design at California State University Long Beach

I first experienced the unique connection between music and light during my early career as a composer for musical theatre. Both art forms are created over time. They are flexible and can change with the emotion of the moment. They both share compositional elements like preludes, conventions, tempo, climaxes, and crescendos. They share artistic qualities like: Intensity and loudness, color and mood, and texture and timbre. Music reveals and creates audible space, and light reveals and creates dramatic space. They share the powerful compositional elements of contrast, dynamics and change, rhythm and speed. They utilize dynamic changes such as accelerando, crescendos, ritards, decrescendos, key changes, time changes, and most importantly, the ability for improvisation.

Fresh insight

Manufacturers have finally clued in on this special relationship of music, light, and emotion. New powerful lighting fixtures are being created that have unique qualities that a lighting designer may wish to use for a specific emotional moment. When I choose the lighting equipment for a project, I approach my task as if I were choosing the instruments in my orchestra—to create the emotions of the music to my audience. The difference between a MAC Viper Performance and a Clay Paky B-Eye is no closer than a violin and a tuba. Yes, they both project light (and music), but the quality of the light (and music) is radically different. I choose my lighting instruments specifically to create an ensemble to offer me the most flexibility in emotional expression.

There are many manufacturers that create generic models, trying to cover all the bases. These fixtures can be quite useful when you are unsure of where the final production may end up. Songs can be added throughout the rehearsal week, so a more generic fixture may be the best choice for a quick decision on how to light the emotions. It’s not unlike using a piano or guitar, instead of being limited to an oboe. The oboe is a beautiful instrument, but it’s not as versatile as a piano. The same holds true for, say, the difference between a Clay Paky Sharpie and a Vari-Lite VL3500. The Sharpie has a super intense tight beam of light, but if you need something that can offer a small beam of light and still zoom open to cover a large group of people on stage, then you may be better off specifying the VL3500.  continued >>