May 19, 2019

Layout night lighting, and op sessions


New layout lighting:

So, I've planned from the beginning to try adding some theatrical lighting to the layout, with the goal being more directional lighting.  The existing lighting (and most layout lighting I've seen) provides a classic 'cloudy day' look, but that's a little boring, if functional.

Real lighting outdoors has lots more - directional sunlight, blue reflections from the sky overhead, bounce from sunlight off trees, grass, water, etc.  I've replicated all of this on stage over the years, when I designing lighting for various productions, and I wondered if it was possible on a layout.

The answer so far... sort of.  There isn't nearly the space, power, or equipment to duplicate what I have to work with in most theatres, and the general lighting is bright enough that adding directional light would need more punch that I can easily create - especially without adding a lot of heat.

The answer, after some experimenting, was to focus instead on evening or night-time lighting.  Here, the levels are lower (ie - I don't need super bright / large / hot lights), and the effects are a little easier.  It'll also provide a dramatic change for operators, and allow for some fun with structure lighting.

So, I first installed a bunch of LED blue bulbs (we lighting design types call them 'lamps' usually), into the recessed cans I already had.  When I built the room, I kept a couple circuits of these with this purpose in mind, and there's located mostly above and/or behind yards or towns.  This creates light, but purposely keeps the front sides of things in shadow.

Here's some cheap bulbs I picked up:

 And here's a test shot of what that overhead / backlight approach looks like.

OK, so now how to add directional lighting?  Color-changing theatre-level fixtues?  Sure!  Oh wait - they need a DMX control signal, and probably a small lighting console, plus power and data wiring.  And, um, the color quality would need to be excellent, which means Red / Green / Blue / Amber (RGBA) or Red / Green / Blue / Lime / Amber (RGBLA).  Those exist, even in the size I need.  Something like...
Prices for that quality start around $380.  Per fixture.  I'd  need a dozen at least, 2 dozen maybe.  Um, probably not.  :-)

I ended up going old-school with some very small PAR fixtures (just 8 for now), and a simple white LED lamp in each.  Not real bright, color is good 'ole theatre gel, but cheap enough and practical.  At least for trying things.

Initial results were ok... I tried some side/front lighting angles, especially onto the rockworkm, for an early evening look.  It didn't really work that well. Yet.  I later changed the gels to pale blues and lavendars, and just used that for a full night look, with directional moonlight.  That worked better, and we even used for about 5-10 min of operations - mostly for the novelty of it.

Here a few shots... quality is marginal, since low-light photos are difficult, and these were just quick test shots with my phone.

More to come on this as I find time to play with this aspect more...

Recent op sessions:

And some shots from recent op sessions!