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The General Purpose of Lighting

So many different types of fixtures exist that it is easy to feel overwhelmed when looking through a lighting catalog (or even your inventory). Fixtures can be classified into two different uses or purposes. Once you understand these purposes, it is much easier to sort through all of the different types of fixtures.

Accenting

This concept entails making certain areas of the stage brighter than others so that the audience will direct their attention to that particular spot. For example, if you have two characters talking on a crowded street, you want the audience to pay attention to those two actors, not the rest of the crowd. By highlighting their area (and/or dimming the rest of the stage), the audience's eye will be drawn to those two people.

Washes

A wide area of coverage or "wash" is used to provide color or tone to the performance area. This can be done with one or more fixtures as in a color wash. Where the highlights do not reach, it may be desirable to use wash lights to fill in the shadows with softer light. These fixtures can be used to fill in the dark spaces of the stage. Wash lights are also used to provide additional lighting on actors. Wash lights provide a less directional beam of light than those used to accent.