In the ever changing world of technology, there are countless options for stage design. From simple to eclectic, modern to rustic, and everything in between. Stage design has gone far beyond simply a space that the artist or speaker stands on and has bridged the gap to the audience through physical presence, lighting, video, and special effects.
We’ve seen a lot of great stage designs and a lot of, well… not so great stage designs. So, what makes for a great stage design? Let’s check out what I would say are 5 key elements to consider when creating a stage design.
Stop for a second and consider what it is that the stage will be the focus of. Is it a solo artist, band, visual element, or canvas? What are you trying to get your audience to see and experience. Define what that is and build your stage design around that piece. If it’s a solo artist with a backing band you’ll want to design your stage to draw attention to that artist while leaving the band members and set pieces as support elements to point the audience to the artist. If you’re showcasing a speaker or artist (such as a painter, illusionist, etc) you may want to create multiple areas of focus that draws the audience around the stage as the story is being told.
2. Stage Layout
I can’t begin to tell you how many events, concerts, or services I have been a part of where something or someone is blocking the main entrance/exit for the stage. It might sound silly, but always remember to carefully consider where stairs (whether portable or permanent) need to be placed in order for the performers, speakers, etc. to easily get on and off stage. Also, be flexible with the stage layout. I know that you’ve spent hours creating that killer drawing on your favorite CAD program and you think everything is just perfect…and then the artist or pastor walks in and says they can only come on stage from the other side or the back…not the front as you envisioned. Be flexible and humble to make the changes. But first, walk through the design with the whole team ahead of time. Sketch the options out with pencil and paper and if possible, walk the space. It’ll save you time and effort in the end if you already see the vision of all parties before hand.
Lighting is one of the easiest ways to create a mood or environment. Today more then ever before, lighting can do things that no one could have dreamt 30 years ago. From moving fixtures to video integration, lighting is changing everyday. Be intentional with the elements you utilize. Think outside your standard white stage wash and consider how you can use lights to create depth and different points of focus.
Probably the coolest show I’ve been a part of was a concert a few years back. The lights went dim at the start and the artist appeared on stage at a grand piano with a single light focused on her. She sang a killer ballad by herself in front of a black curtain. Simple, inviting, intimate…all words that described the evening and what the artist wanted to portray. She wanted to be close to the audience and invite them into the evening and the story she wanted to tell. After that song, the curtain dropped to reveal the full stage set with moving lights and tons of video. The team who worked on that created an atmosphere free of distractions and pulled the audience into the focal point with a simple slow reveal.
Of course we’re kind of biased with the vast array of potential that video offers your stage design. Scenic elements can be replaced with high definition video screens or LED panels. The down-stage edge can become a canvas for visual story telling. Screens can bring the audience closer through the use of IMAG and imagery. Always remember to coordinate your video and lighting elements to work together. When you mesh those two visual elements you can ten-fold increase what they can do separately.