Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, January 31st, 2016 - Music Hall / Variety Meets Tekumel On The Game Table

The 'vertical extender'; I like running three-dimesional games.
(I was shooting some photos for the book...)

IKEA 'Ledberg' cabinet lights, in place and on.
But why the colors? Read on, and find out.

The Underworld tiles in place; no 'set dressing' yet.
I have a huge collection of stuff for this... :)

The tiles are 1/4" MDF, painted;
I am debating inking a stonework pattern onto them.

It's been a nice quiet week, here at The Workbench, and things are moving along nicely. I happened to have the vertical extender up on the game table - it made shooting some photos a lot easier - and it came to me that I should mention the LED lighting that's been installed...

Originally, the solid deck on the extender - there's also a transparent Plexiglass one for doing underwater games - was equipped with IKEA halogen under-shelf / cabinet lighting. I really like the lights, but they run pretty hot and I occasionally got little burns from brushing up against them while running games. I have several of the IKEA 'DIODER' light sets, which we used to great effect at Phil's memorial as the glowing backdrop to his Temple of Vimuhla model, and while they are very nice sets - they change colors, both manually and automatically, and look pretty darn cool - there are a lot of wires to have to deal with. I wanted something simple that worked reliably, and the IKEA 'LEDBERG' sets were just the thing. They come in red, blue, and white, which was just what I was looking for.

Huh? All three colors?

Why, yes, actually. I've done a lot of lighting work for both theater and video production, so I keep an eye out for new equipment and techniques. Which leads me to Jon Pertwee...

(Yes; that Jon Pertwee.)

The Missus, you see, is a Doctor Who fan from way back; she was a good friend of Anthony Ainley, and knew quite a few of the cast and crew from various conventions where she'd shoot rolls of film and give the photos to them for their use. She got me into doing some of these shows, and I was finishing the lighting set-up for one of them when I got a poke in the ribs: "You're a video guy, aren't you?" It was Jon Pertwee, and he was hugely amused at my lighting choices. We had a lovely time, talking about theater and cabaret work - most of which was right over the heads of the fans listening in - and about lighting.

In American lighting practice, especially in video work, the usual 'fall back' / 'default' is to use a color called 'bastard amber' in the lights to bring out the tones and highlights in people's faces; really intense colors are used for specific lighting needs and cues. It's really popular for video work, as it's usually a pretty safe way to light the set and the talent for the cameras. Jon told me about British practice in cabaret and theaters that host various acts in the course of a night; as there's no time to change the lighting rig between acts, one 'stock set' has to serve for all of them. Normally, this is done with fixtures that have several lamps - for redundancy's sake - and several fixtures all in line; each fixture gets one of: reds, blues, or clear for white filters. The performer gets 'lights up, lights down', and a nice wash that looks good on stage. Highlights and cues are normally done with follow spots, as these are manned lights and very flexible.

So, when I went to design the lighting for the table, I went with Jon's advice and lit the playing area with the British method. I think it looks really quite good - I like the lighting level, in terms of brightness, and the visually reddish-blue 'twilight effect' that this lighting gives. Certainly much nicer then the halogens, which I thought were a little too harsh in their effect - not all 'underworld'-like!

What do you think?


  1. That's pretty cool. I live in Las Vegas and have lots of friends who are in stage production.
    I will have to run this lightING technique by them.
    The set up also looks great.

    1. Thank you! This is older practice, I am pretty sure; I used to use cyc lights this way for shows. I'd love to hear back, if you find anything out! :)

      (I removed the duplicate comment, by the way.)

    2. No problem, some times my phone double posts.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Well if you can't take the Doctor's advice.... Awesome story. He's my favorite Dr. Who as well. The set up looks very atmospheric and moody. I keep expecting things to pop up from the tiles!

    1. Thank you! That's the effect I was looking for. I had to use black drapes on the platform, originally, as the halogens really blasted the room with light. I think this is a lot more 'gentle'... :)

  4. Very impressed by your Jon Pertwee story (my first Doctor; my earliest memories of the show are his encounters with giant maggots in The Green Death).

    As has been said by others, you have to listen to your Doctor ;-)

    That's a magnificent lighting set-up you have there, really has a subdued, slightly creepy feel to it. I can just imagine exploring caverns lit like that and jumping at every sound!