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Lightning and Lighting Bring Monster to Life

Thomas H. Freeman • Answer Box • March 21, 2008

Working on big shows can mean big changes

In the current Broadway production of Young Frankenstein, Peter Kaczorowski spares no effect in his lighting design when the monster is shocked to life by a giant bolt of lightning. Dramatic flashes of lightning also blaze onstage during Young Frankenstein’s opening scene. All these visuals are achieved by a creative combination of projection, conventional and moving lights — but the projection demanded some tweaking of the lights. 

“With projection,” explains Josh Weitzman, moving light programmer for Young Frankenstein, “you can’t change the color temperature of the lightning bolt; you’re limited to the tone the image is. So, we layered the moving lights on top of the video projection. That gave us a great deal more control — in intensity of color, in terms of strobing. I could make the light linger beyond the image without having to re-render the whole video. Similarly, in the play’s hayride scene, we were able to enhance the image and effect of the moon — deepening its tones, changing its textures, all by controlling the light that is layered over the video projection.”

Young Frankenstein’s
extensive light plot is based around a mix of 120 Martin Mac 2Ks — including Performances, Profiles and some washes — and is controlled by an ETC Eos system.

This is a musical, of course, so the pacing of the lighting must also complement dance numbers. Says Weitzman, “Eos was a big part of making that work easily. We were able to group fixtures together into parts of a cue. And then when they made an inevitable change in the choreography, and we had to change time or something like that, we were able to do that quickly and easily without affecting what the rest of the rig is doing.”

The amount of interaction between the lighting, sound and music departments on Young Frankenstein was extensive — to coordinate things like lightning bolts, thunder effects and crescendos in the music. Weitzman used ETC’s new Net3 Show Control Gateway software to ensure that all devices could interact successfully. “Eos is often controlling the sound board, firing the sound effects, and the sound board is sometimes controlling the light board, and then they’re switching back and forth,” says Weitzman.

After all, it takes the right tools — and lot of artfully applied lightning and light — to bring both monsters and shows to life.

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